1:50 p.m. EDT
MR. CROWLEY: Beginning part two of our briefing today. Obviously, we have discussed with you over recent days American response to help the victims of the devastating floods in Pakistan. And today, we're announcing an additional contribution of $25 million in assistance to flood-affected areas of Pakistan bringing our commitment to $35 million thus far in specific assistance. In addition to that, obviously, and as Dan Feldman will outline in a second, considerable effort being doing through our military in the region, assistance being provided across the border from our forces in Afghanistan to Pakistan. But just to explain the aid in a little more specificity and also the situation on the ground, we have Dan Feldman, the Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Mark Ward who is the Acting Director of USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.
MR. FELDMAN: Thanks very much, P.J. The U.S. is responding very rapidly as Secretary Clinton and Dr. Shah showcased yesterday in a whole-of-government response to this crisis including not just State and USAID, but also DOD and other federal agencies, all of which are working together and engaged in a comprehensive and coordinated effort both on the ground in Pakistan and in Washington to support the Government of Pakistan and deliver assistance to those in affected areas.
The State Department under Special Representative Ambassador Holbrooke's lead is also actively working to mobilize other nations to join us. We have already started receiving a number of significant contributions from the European Commission, from the UK, from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Japan, many others which were just at the beginning of the process in coordinating. And we're also engaging a broad range of other actors including the private sector, the Pakistani-American business community and other Pakistani-American organizations throughout the U.S. As one example, the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America, APPNA, has received $5 million in pledges.
With regard to the private sector, we just concluded a very successful call with the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council. We're launching daily calls to the Pakistani-American diaspora community. And examples of initiatives by the private sector that have just come out of this include Pakistani International Airways announcing that they'll transport donated items free of charge for flood relief. They have flights out of Chicago and New York and their embassy here in Washington has announced that items can be left with them and they'll get them to PIA.
The Government of Pakistan and the Pakistan cellular phone industry have invited Pakistanis to contribute to the prime minister's fund for flood relief by texting the amount of their donation. And the Coca-Cola Corporation for Pakistan and Afghanistan has announced a $500,000 donation. In the U.S., as Secretary Clinton highlighted yesterday, Americans are contributing to Pakistan's flood relief by texting the word "SWAT" to 50555, which results in a donation of $10 to the UNHCR flood relief effort. Every $10 helps provide tents and other emergency aid to displaced families.
Just as a brief update on current operations as of today, six U.S. Army helicopters have begun humanitarian assistance operations. The four Chinook helicopters and two Black Hawk helicopters are operating in partnership with the Pakistan Government throughout the flood-impacted areas to deliver much needed relief supplies and provide transport to people who urgently need emergency assistance. Today they evacuated more than 800 people and transported 66,000 pounds of relief supplies. More than 436,000 halal meals from U.S. stocks in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region have been delivered to civilian and military officials in Pakistan – the contribution of over $3 million. Twelve pre-fabricated steel bridges have been made available as temporary replacements for highway bridges damaged by flooding. And U.S. helicopters assigned to the Pakistani Ministry of Interior's 50th squadron are continuing their operations. They've rescued close to 1,000 people. We have 983 people counted and airlifted over 30,000 pounds of supplies. Four Zodiac inflatable rescue boats are currently being used. We've got two water filtration units being used and we are continuing to work very actively with both international and national partners on the ongoing humanitarian programs. And as one specific example of the U.S.’s continued contributions in this area, I'll turn it over to Mark to highlight USAID's announcement.
MR. WARD: Dan, thanks very much. P.J., thanks for the opportunity. I want to give you some details on how we intend to use this additional $25 million that has been announced today. USAID on the ground, the Embassy on the ground, is working very closely with the National Disaster Management Agency, a Government of Pakistan agency that was set up a few years ago. We are trying very hard to follow their lead, respond to the needs that they identify as a responsible agency in the government.
Secretary Clinton, as you know, announced the – over the last weekend, an initial contribution of $10 million for grants to international NGOs that are already working in Pakistan to supplement the work that they're doing so that they can start responding to the flood as well. This additional 25 million that we are announcing today will basically do two things: It's an additional $10 million to plus up the work that is being done by these NGOs that were already on the ground working in Pakistan before the flood hit in some of the flood affected areas and give us an opportunity to spread what they're doing to other parts of the country. As you know, the flooding is moving to the south as well along the Indus River. So this additional funding will allow us to expand the scope of what some of those NGOs are doing to expand to a wider geographic area.
It will also give us an opportunity to respond to the food gap in the country. As you can imagine, when a flood hits, people are cut off, food becomes an urgent issue. We're delighted that the military was able to provide almost 500,000 halal MREs, ready-to-eat meals. But the long-term solution, obviously, is to reestablish food mechanisms in Pakistan. And so with a contribution of $15 million USAID is making to the World Food Program, we're going to be able to start buying local source agriculture in the country to get it to the people that have been cut off as well as bring forward some food that we have in a warehouse in East Africa.
Some of the other specific things that USAID is doing in addition to what Dan has already mentioned, we have six of our best disaster relief experts now on the ground. You've heard about we initially sent four Zodiac boats. Another 14 are on the way from our warehouse in Dubai. We sent initially two mobile water filtration units, four more are coming. Given the magnitude of the crisis in Pakistan, we've basically emptied out our warehouse in Dubai for those items that the Pakistanis have said can be useful. Our primary focus at this time, if you – given that we're supplying boats and water filtration – is trying to prevent a public health crisis on top of the flood. This is a real concern. So we're focusing as much as we can with the Pakistanis on what we can do to get people, to get fresh water, clean water and food to the people as quickly as possible, so that as with the tsunami, as with the Pakistan earthquake, we can avoid a public health crisis on top of everything else that the Pakistanis are having to deal with.
Dan mentioned the terrific support that we're getting from some of the mobile phone operators in Pakistan. In addition, one of the NGOs that we fund, called Internews, is also using a mobile network, an FM network, to get messages out to the people about the relief effort, so that they are getting up-to-date information from the NDMA, from the Pakistanis, about what the response is and what they should do to prepare for what may be coming.
So just two quick points in conclusion, and we'll take a couple of questions. It's important that all of us in the international community – and Dan mentioned that we're reaching out to the international community – follow the Pakistanis' lead on this. There's a terrific agency that was set up after the earthquake to respond to disasters in Pakistan, and we're doing our best to respond to the needs that they identify.
And then, secondly, just to assure the Pakistani people – we're going to be there for a long time. You will see our response to this crisis is a robust one. At some point, the relief phase will end, and we will get into a longer-term reconstruction effort. USAID and other parts of the U.S. government will be there for that as well. The USAID mission, the U.S. embassy there and other parts of our government were there before the floods, are busy now, and are going to be there for a long time afterwards helping out.
MR. CROWLEY: Lalit.
QUESTION: Do you have any figures for the number of people who have – Americans who have used – made the text messages and made donations for the Pakistan relief efforts?
MR. FELDMAN: We don't have any numbers as of the last 24 hours. I know in the first 24 hours it had started to raise already several thousand dollars, but we haven't had an update over the last day. But we'll continue to monitor that, especially as news of the resource gets out there and more widely disseminated. But it's exactly that type of mechanism that we're showcasing on these calls to the Pakistani-American diaspora community, to the Business Council, and as word of it travels, it's – the numbers are obviously going up.
QUESTION: And do you also believe that you are competing against Islamic charities inside Pakistan for the relief work to win the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan?
MR. FELDMAN: We're doing the humanitarian relief work that we would do in any crisis like this. We certainly welcome the support of the international community of both domestic and international NGOs. We're not working directly with those charities, as far as I know, on the ground, but there's certainly quite a bit of work to be done.
QUESTION: Would you coordinate with these charities to ensure that it goes (inaudible) and the effort is not duplicated?
MR. FELDMAN: You can probably better answer.
MR. WARD: Coordination is a challenge when a big disaster hits, as many of you know. And this is why it's so important to stay behind the lead of this – of this disaster management agency in the Pakistani government. They are having meetings every day on a different sector, and USAID and all of the other big donor country agencies are there to be sure that exactly what you talk about doesn't happen, that we don't have duplication and that where we see gaps, they can be filled. Coordination is critical, but we're in a very good place with this new agency and under the leadership of General Nadeem who, frankly, was one of the heroes in the Pakistan earthquake.
QUESTION: You said we are going to be there for a long time. Would you like to define we and the time period? (Laughter.)
MR. WARD: I can speak for USAID. We had ongoing programs in the country that are large and are growing. They were growing before the floods hit. What we – what you will see as the flood waters recede and as the relief effort dissipates, there will be a handoff of the focus from OFDA, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, which I lead, and our emergency response, to a longer-term effort which will be conducted by and led by the U.S. Embassy and USAID that have – that are on the ground in Islamabad and that have other resources available to them to take on longer-term projects. For example, very often after a disaster there is some need for reconstruction, for physical reconstruction of infrastructure. That is the kind of work that could be undertaken by a longer-term USAID presence in the country because construction, as you know, takes longer. So those are the kinds of efforts that could be undertaken by USAID, the mission that's there in the future, and those projects can go on for years.
QUESTION: Just --
MR. FELDMAN: Just on that point, from a broader political vantage point, that we have continuously said we have a very long-term, sustained, comprehensive commitment to Pakistan. This is what you've seen in the Secretary's trips there over the course of the last year. It's what we've briefed about, Ambassador Holbrooke and others, regarding the Strategic Dialogue and the breadth and depth of the relationship that we're continuing to build with them.
And it is absolutely incumbent in the Kerry Lugar Berman money, which tripled civilian assistance there over the course of five years. And so many of these activities that we're starting now will ultimately segway into initiatives that are ready, underway, that are planned in terms of infrastructure work, energy work, water work, and (inaudible) reconstruction. And the vantage point of that is a very long-term perspective.
QUESTION: Just to follow up. You said that for a long time – next year there will be floods. So this effort will it go on before the next floods? How are you – when you were talking about the next five years, but what about the next year floods?
MR. WARD: I think if you look back over the last couple of floods, we have also provided assistance. As General Nadeem has said in the press, and I'm sure you've covered, these are the worst floods they'd ever seen in 80 years, when all three of the major rivers flood at the same time. This is unprecedented. By working closely with the NDMA, we are building its capacity so that it will be able to lead on floods in the future. But yes, we will be there to play our part.
QUESTION: I just have a small, basic question. But can I get the spellings of your family names, and Dan, what's your title?
MR. FELDMAN: I’m Deputy Special Representative. I'm one of Ambassador Holbrooke's deputies. It's F, like Frank, e-l-d-m-a-n.
QUESTION: What was the second word? Frank?
MR. WARD: My last name is Ward, W-a-r-d.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Your first name was Frank?
MR. FELDMAN: No, first name Daniel.
QUESTION: Can I ask one question? In view of the massive relief work that you are doing over there, what impact do you think it would have on the war against terrorism inside the border areas of Pakistan? Pak army is there. It's gone to Karachi now to quell the violence over there. Do you see any impact on this or the diversion of attention from the war against terrorism and --
MR. FELDMAN: In the which? I'm sorry.
QUESTION: From the safe havens of Pakistan, where Pakistani army is (inaudible)?
MR. FELDMAN: Well, clearly, I mean, this is an area that there was already significant activity in. We were already trying to do humanitarian assistance work in this area. As the flood waters continue to come south into Sindh and other areas, it's going to increasingly overlap with projects that we've already been involved in. But I'm not sure if I understand the core of the question, but this is in sync with our previous activities and we're trying to make sure that we are doing this as efficiently as possible.
I don't know, Mark, if you've got thoughts on –
MR. WARD: No.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay. You have a question on – one more?
QUESTION: No, I'm fine.
MR. CROWLEY: Okay, gentlemen thanks.
MR. FELDMAN: Thanks.
MR. CROWLEY: And finally, just to reiterate a couple of things from earlier today, you heard from Secretary Clinton and Nigerian Foreign Minister Ajumogobia on their discussion of Nigeria's upcoming elections and the next steps for the U.S.-Nigerian Binational Commission. The Secretary reiterated U.S. support for Nigeria's important election process; 2011 elections will be critical to Nigeria's efforts to sustain and advance their democracy. And the Secretary and the foreign minister also discussed the launch of the Niger Delta and Regional Security Cooperating – Cooperation Working Group, which will meet in Washington, here, next month. The United States plans to provide $1.5 million in technical support to help meet Nigeria’s power sector priorities.
The Secretary also alluded in her comments to the – strong indications that a majority of Kenyans have supported fundamental change in their country. I think the Kenyan Government is beginning to release official and final figures on the constitutional referendum, province by province. But we are very encouraged by the signs that indicate the majority of Kenyans have approved this new constitution. Constitutional reform is central to Kenyan efforts to deepen its democracy, stability, and prosperity. Kenyans are to be commended for turning out in large numbers and participating peacefully in the referendum on this critical matter.
We had the African Growth and Opportunity Act forum in Washington earlier this week. The ministers have moved now to Kansas City and today they’re meeting there with business people. Site visits today have included a coffee processor, a large farm, an animal health products producer, and the Kansas City Board of Trade, having the opportunity to discuss commercial investment needs and, in fact, do some business.
And finally, today, the President’s forum for Young African Leaders is wrapping up here in Washington. The 115 young people participating in the forum this week are actually now meeting in open time on their (inaudible) at the Newseum. Earlier today, Under Secretaries Maria Otero and Judith McHale co-hosted “The Way Forward” plenary to give delegates an opportunity to share with them ideas and plans of actions that are developed as a result of this forum.
QUESTION: Also today at the opportunity – the press opportunity with the Nigerian foreign minister, Secretary Clinton talked about these technical and expert talks with the UAE and others on the Blackberry issue. Do you have any more details in terms of what other countries the U.S. will be meeting when it talks about this Blackberry issue?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as I indicated yesterday, as we have indications that countries are raising security concerns to Blackberry, we have – we are reaching out to those countries – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, India, and others – to understand the security concerns and see if we can’t work collaboratively to find solutions. So that’s a process that is ongoing here at the Department of State. I’ve got no announcements to make at this point.
QUESTION: Well has it gone anywhere beyond what you said yesterday?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes. And we are also – we’ve been –
QUESTION: So how has it gone beyond what you said yesterday?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve been in touch with RIM, the company that operates the Blackberry network worldwide. We're going to have follow-on meetings with RIM to try to understand fully the issues that have been raised to the company and see if we can't determine how to meet both the security needs that these countries are expressing and also ensure the free flow of information as we are advocating.
QUESTION: Can I – Elise was asking about this yesterday and the day before, and at the time, I wasn't convinced that it was that thrilling a line of inquiry. But now I kind of – now I've changed my mind – not that you need to know that.
MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Why are you advocating on behalf of one company in particular? Is it because U.S. government officials rely heavily on this company and its product to communicate?
MR. CROWLEY: The United States Government is not unique. Many of us in government do have Blackberrys. But as I said yesterday, this is not about one company, one network. There are legitimate security concerns and genuine complexity at the heart of the issues that various countries have raised with the company and with us.
As the Secretary has said, we have interest in trying to ensure the free flow of information using technology to expand the knowledge that's available to people and business people. If some of these companies – some of these countries follow through on what they've announced it would have an impact on the U.S. Government and our diplomats operating in different countries. So we are directly affected by what is – has been suggested. But, obviously, we know that both American businessmen, American citizens traveling abroad, the citizens of other countries would be affected as well.
So we have seen, in recent days, several countries have indicated publicly that they've got concerns, and we are actively reaching out, both to the company and these countries, to fully understand the issues involved and see if we can't, working collaboratively, find solutions.
QUESTION: And as you do this, would you say that any progress has been made in finding a solution?
MR. CROWLEY: I would say that we are going to have a number of meetings and conversations in the coming days and weeks, and we'll see what progress can be made.
QUESTION: And have you mentioned about – you mentioned about --
MR. MR. CROWLEY: All right, hold on. Hold on, one at a time.
QUESTION: Have you actually spoken to any government officials from these countries, India, Afghanistan? And if so, who are you talking to?
MR. CROWLEY: The short answer is yes. I can't be more specific than that, but we are actively engaged with a number of countries.
QUESTION: You mentioned about businessmen and traveling to other countries. When one goes to South Korea, the phones do not work there. You have to take their phones; you have to rent them.
QUESTION: No, not anymore.
QUESTION: In North Korea – (laughter) – in North Korea, they don't work.
MR. CROWLEY: I know. I do not consider myself a technical expert, but I do believe that networks in South Korea are among the most advanced in the world.
QUESTION: Do you have security concerns about Blackberrys inside the U.S.? What about terrorists use those Blackberrys' network inside the U.S. for sending messages?
MR. CROWLEY: Do I --
QUESTION: Can you access those messages? Do you have a --
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I mean, on that score, yeah. I mean, we use Blackberrys here within the Department of State and we – I'm not here to make an endorsement of a particular country –
company. As I’ve said, this is not in itself about – some of the issues revolve around one device and one technology, but our advocacy for employing technology to expand information and knowledge to more people around the world is certainly about more than any one company or any one network. But I'm not here to make an endorsement of a particular company or device.
QUESTION: These countries have concerns about terrorists being – using these Blackberrys for sending messages, secure messages to their people over here. Isn't that a concern to the U.S. inside --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, there are security issues involved here. There are regulatory issues involved here. There are information – there are technological issues involved here. We're –
given the issues that have been raised recently, we have a process under way to try to understand fully what's involved and how we might be helpful in identifying solutions.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can we move on to another topic?
QUESTION: You can’t say whether you’re talking to the foreign ministries of these other countries or their commerce departments? You can’t comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, these are crosscutting issues. We have people within the State Department who are engaged in technology and innovation strategies. We have people who are involved in information technology and the regulatory issues. We have people who are involved in economic and commercial issues. So it cuts across --
QUESTION: Is that a way of saying that you’re talking to --
MR. CROWLEY: These are issues which cut across ministries and governments, not only in our government, but in others. So we will – are engaging in a broader conversation. And as this has come up this week, we have begun a conversation with technology experts and the company itself, and we're going to see what we can – how we can fully understand what's involved here, and that could very well draw in people from different areas.
QUESTION: Have you lobbied other governments, like France or England, to help you in this effort? And how many Blackberry users are there in the government, the USG?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not know. And I'm not aware that we – right now, the conversation that we've started is with those governments that have indicated that – a specific concern about this particular network.
QUESTION: Is that (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: All right, hold on.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Blackberry to accommodate these governments, maybe (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: At this point, as we've said in the past couple of days, we are gaining information and perspective at this point, then, once we understand all of the issues involved –
and there are technology issues involved, there are security issues involved, there are regulatory issues involved. Once we gain a better understanding, then we'll see what we can do about developing and suggesting particular solutions.
QUESTION: So are you talking – but you are talking to Blackberry. I mean, not necessarily – in terms of --
MR. CROWLEY: We have had conversations with the company, yes.
QUESTION: And are you telling them to be sensitive to the countries’ – these different countries’ security concerns?
MR. CROWLEY: I don't think it's for the State Department to give Blackberry or RIM particular commercial advice.
QUESTION: Why is it (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: Look, again – I can say it one more time, more loudly, if you wish. We have had a conversation – conversations with the company. We are reaching out to a number of governments. We're going to try to understand the issues that are involved here. And then we'll see what we can do about suggesting solutions that might meet the security concerns and the informational and aspirations that we have, not only for our people, but for people around the world.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. This morning, the Wall Street Journal reported that the State Department is in advanced negotiations with Vietnam on a nuclear deal which would allow Vietnam to produce enriched uranium on its own soils.
And the paper actually quoted nonproliferation experts as saying that this is a roll-back of the Administration's nonproliferation efforts. What's your comment on this? And do you – are you concerned that countries in the region might be pursuing the same thing, enriching uranium on their own soil, such as Thailand and all those countries?
MR. CROWLEY: A lot of questions there. The United States and Vietnam are engaged in a so-called, "123" negotiation that would involve civilian nuclear technology. That negotiation is ongoing, so it's hard to cite at this particular point what the specifics of an agreement would be. That's – these are still issues that are under discussion.
In terms of concerns that were expressed in the paper, we work directly with specific countries. We evaluate their energy needs and on a case-by-case, country-by-country, region-by-region basis. We have completed a successful agreement with the UAE. That agreement is what we would consider to be the gold standard. And in that agreement, which is very important and very valuable, the UAE pursuing its own interests, decided that it would forego the right of enrichment that every country in the world has.
We certainly want to see other countries make that same kind of decision and that same kind of agreement in their own interest as the Administration pursues its nonproliferation agenda. But again, these are discussions that we're having with countries that are interested in this kind of agreement, and while we will pursue our nonproliferation objectives through these kind of discussions, obviously the interests and needs of particular countries will vary from one to the other.
QUESTION: What other countries are you talking to?
MR. CROWLEY: I don't have a specific list in front –
QUESTION: You’re talking to Malaysia, aren’t you?
MR. CROWLEY: -- but there are a number of countries that are interested in pursuing these kinds of so-called 123 agreements. Obviously, we reached one with India. We reached one with UAE.
QUESTION: You can't remember one that's sort of in the middle of negotiations? I'm sure you could think of one.
QUESTION: Like Malaysia.
MR. CROWLEY: I'll see if I can – I'll see – if there's great interest, I'll see if we have a list.
QUESTION: Now, P.J., that was a very long answer that didn't really answer the question. Are you considering an agreement that would allow Vietnam to enrich on its own soil?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again –
QUESTION: Let me finish. The Vietnamese – at least the officials who negotiated the MOU that began this process, say that they’re not interested in it.
MR. CROWLEY: All right. Just to rebut the accusation that I wasn’t responsive to the question that was raised –
QUESTION: Well, the question was: Are you negotiating a deal that would allow them to enrich uranium? And you basically danced around and said we’re negotiating a deal.
MR. CROWLEY: We are in the midst of a 123 negotiation with Vietnam. Because we’re in the midst of the negotiation, how we arrive at a final agreement and the specifics of that agreement, is something I can’t comment on at this point because the negotiation is ongoing. As I did say, country-by-country, we will pursue these kinds of agreements. Some countries will determine, as the UAE did, to forego a right of enrichment as part of its pursuit of civilian nuclear energy.
And under the – enshrined in the nonproliferation treaty, as we’ve discussed here many times, is an inherent right to pursue enrichment. We would like to see more countries make the same kind of decision that the UAE did. Whether Vietnam will reach that decision is ultimately a decision for Vietnam, but is something that we are discussing with Vietnam as part of this ongoing negotiation.
QUESTION: Well, they say that you’re pushing them – that you are pushing them not to have – to forego the right of enrichment. Are they pushing back and saying they want it? Because we’re on a counter to what they (inaudible).
MR. CROWLEY: We certainly would – as a broad policy objective as we discussed earlier this year in the nonproliferation treaty conference in New York, we do want to see fewer countries enriching uranium around the world. We definitely want to see the evolution of an international system where there are guaranteed sources of enriched uranium and under appropriate international supervision.
Certainly, for a country that may well still pursue civilian nuclear energy, obviously there are safeguards that are built into any agreement to work collaboratively with the IAEA and meet all international obligations.
So we are, obviously, interested in promoting the appropriate use of civilian nuclear energy under strict international supervision, but certainly a part of our long-term objective here is, as countries exploit civilian nuclear energy, fewer countries make the decision to enrich.
QUESTION: So it’s possible that this agreement could allow them to enrich?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m not going to comment specifically on what’s being negotiated, because that negotiation is ongoing.
QUESTION: P.J. what – is there any --
MR. CROWLEY: No, hold on.
QUESTION: Can I ask a teeny-weeny question?
QUESTION: The paper said that the United States didn’t consult with China first. And so what’s your comment on this particular detail?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have a negotiation going on between the United States and Vietnam. That does not involve China.
QUESTION: Why is it so difficult to say yes that part of what’s being negotiated is whether Vietnam would retain the right to enrich on its own soil?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, if Vietnam chooses, as part of its own self-interest and exercising its right under the NPT to enrichment that is a decision for them to make. It’s not a decision for the United States to make.
QUESTION: Well, except that it’s a decision --
QUESTION: But you also --
QUESTION: Elise, hold on a second. You said you wanted to change the subject a minute ago. What are you – but it’s a U.S. decision whether to go ahead and sign a 123 agreement. It’s not --
MR. CROWLEY: Right. And those are two separate issues. It is the right of any country, including Vietnam, to determine whether or not to – in pursuing civilian nuclear energy, whether it wants to enrich or whether it wants to obtain processed fuel from an international source.
QUESTION: So you’re willing to – you would be willing to have a 123 agreement with Vietnam that allows them to – in which they do not give up their right to enrich?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, enshrined in the NPT is a right for any country --
QUESTION: I understand that.
MR. CROWLEY: No, let me – all right, you asked the question. Now it’s my turn, okay. We recognize and we certainly would encourage countries to make the same decision that the UAE has made. At the same time, not every country is going to make that decision. If a country decides to pursue nuclear energy, and a country decides that it chooses to enrich on its own soil, then we would prospectively work with that country; number one, to make sure that their pursuit of nuclear energy meets all international safeguards; they work cooperatively with the IAEA. And we believe that that also would provide the kinds of security assurances that we think are important to make sure that any country that pursues nuclear power does not become a potential source of proliferation.
There’s not going to be any – we would like to see the day where there is an international regime and that fewer countries enrich. That is our broad policy goal, but we recognize that a particular approach is going to be different country-by-country or region-by-region.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Lebanon -- today, a Florida congressman, Congressman Klein -- I think he sits on the Foreign Relations Committee – suggested that he’s going to bring up the issue of stopping military aid to Lebanon.
Are you in discussion with this congressman in particular or on this very issue?
MR. CROWLEY: I'm not familiar with those -- with those comments.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, hold on. Obviously, we should just point out, you know, UNIFIL did chair a meeting with Israeli and Lebanese officials yesterday evening. The meeting was professional. Both parties indicated their interest in maintaining calm in the border area.
And since, there was a question yesterday about the nature of U.S. support to the Lebanese armed forces, we have provided more than $600 million to the Lebanese armed forces and internal security forces under a variety of programs. Much of this support is in the form of training through international military education training, so-called IMET Program.
We have provided some equipment through foreign military financing, so-called FMF aid. In any U.S.-origin equipment that's been provided to Lebanon, we have very strong end-use monitoring to make sure it is used appropriately, and we have no indication that U.S. equipment played any role in this incident earlier this week.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow up. Yesterday, you expressed the United States support to Lebanese sovereignty. I guess that is an indication that you will continue to aid Lebanon militarily and so on. If Congress should decide that they would want to cut off aid to Lebanon, military aid, in the sum – you said – cited $600 million and so on. What will you do in this case?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let's not get beyond, the comment of any particular individual. We provide support to Lebanon because it is in our interest to do so. We do so in close cooperation with the international community for the express purpose of improving Lebanon – the Government of Lebanon's security capability, protecting its sovereignty, and contributing to broad security across the region. And it is in our interest to continue that, but obviously if individual members of Congress have questions about the nature of this aid, we'll be happy to have those discussions with them.
QUESTION: But you are -- you are sort of confident in the Lebanese army's fidelity as a national force and not being manipulated by any particular political group?
MR. CROWLEY: We are, as we've said many times, we're in support of the civilian government in Lebanon, and we think improving the capability and performance of the Lebanese Government, both across the government, but including in the security sector, contributes to stability in the region and is in our interest.
QUESTION: On the WikiLeaks, the Pentagon said that it is asking WikiLeaks to return all of the documents that were handed over to them. And I'm wondering if that was a joint request from the State Department. Are you talking to the organization about returning any cables that it has of yours? Are you encouraging other governments to ban the site for the national security interests?
MR. CROWLEY: Certainly as a government, we would like to see all documents returned, whether they're military cables, whether they're State Department cables. This is classified information that WikiLeaks does not have a right to possess. We would like to see if – we would love to see this material not released any further. If that involves a return of files to the United States government, I think that would be a positive step.
QUESTION: And then, what about – are you encouraging other governments to block the site for national security interests?
MR. CROWLEY: We are obviously not the only government that has concerns about – about WikiLeaks. I can't cite any particular conversation that we've had with other governments, but I think we collectively have the same interest in protecting classified information.
QUESTION: Do you have any – do you have evidence that the stuff that WikiLeaks says it has that it has not yet released is, in fact, classified and does, in fact, include State Department cables?
MR. CROWLEY: We continue to investigate what prospectively WikiLeaks has. And to the extent that we can identify documents that are ours that perhaps have migrated from government networks out, we are actively reviewing those cables to determine and assess potential – the potential damage to our national security.
QUESTION: Well, but wait. That’s different than – I mean, you said initially that – you said this was classified information that WikiLeaks does not have the right to possess.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, we are – yes.
QUESTION: You’re talking --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, we are investigating this, as you saw not only in the released documents that have already been provided to news organizations, there were classified documents there. We believe that – WikiLeaks says they have additional cables.
QUESTION: Right. But does your --
MR. CROWLEY: And --
QUESTION: -- has your investigation turned up proof that what has – what they have but have not yet released includes classified material and also that it includes classified State Department cables? Not all cables are classified.
MR. CROWLEY: Not all cables are classified, do – I mean, WikiLeaks has said that they have additional --
MR. CROWLEY: All right. Look. WikiLeaks has said that they have additional documents, including State Department cables. We are investigating that claim. I'm only being careful because part of the process of investigating the release of these documents is actively involved in an investigation of the source of this leak.
But, you know, do we believe that WikiLeaks has additional cables? We do. Do we believe that those cables are classified? We do. And are they State Department cables? Yes.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, you mentioned that a couple days ago that WikiLeaks chief is not an American citizen, so you cannot talk to him and you cannot – and you do not have any power on him.
But the New York Times is one of the parties which is going through the documents. Have you spoken to them about it?
MR. CROWLEY: Have we spoken to The New York Times?
QUESTION: Yes, because out of the three newspapers, it’s one of --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, a variety of us had conversations with various news organizations prior to the stories that emerged about these documents.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Philippines, there was an attack today in, I believe, the southern part of the country, and the ambassador was supposed to – Ambassador Thomas was supposed to go look at a variety of USAID projects in the area and canceled his trip. Do you have any information?
MR. CROWLEY: I don't. I'll see what I can find.
QUESTION: On another topic.
MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead. All right, one, two, go.
QUESTION: Venezuela's Government called a remark of nominee ambassador, Larry Palmer, unacceptable and say it has – it’s (inaudible) request an explanation to the U.S. Government before taking final action.
What is your comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: Repeat the question.
QUESTION: Venezuela’s Government called a remark of nominee ambassador Larry Palmer unacceptable and say it has request an explanation to the U.S. Government before taking on the final action. What is your comment on that?
MR. CROWLEY: What final action?
QUESTION: Maybe not accept Ambassador Palmer.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, Ambassador Palmer is our nominee to be our ambassador in Caracas. He has answered a number of questions as part of the nominating process, both in the hearing that was held on his nomination and in additional questions for the record that were submitted from individual senators.
He has conveyed his answers to the Senate as part of his nominating process. They convey our best judgment on issues between the United States and Venezuela. We want to see Ambassador Palmer confirmed. We value having an ambassador in Caracas to have direct conversations with the Venezuelan Government to try to clarify issues between us and improve our relationship.
We think that this is – it will be very important to have an ambassador on hand. We hope that he'll be confirmed by the Senate soon. And we hope that Venezuela will accept his credentials and begin a more robust dialogue with our representative there than has occurred in the past.
QUESTION: Are you aware – has Venezuela withdrawn agrément?
MR. CROWLEY: I'm not aware that they've withdrawn agrément?
QUESTION: But actually the Senate has rejected the nomination?
MR. CROWLEY: I don't think that's true.
MR. CROWLEY: The – I'm not – the Senate has yet to act on his nomination. I do not believe that the Senate has voted on his nomination yet.
QUESTION: What will happen if this will be the case?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Senate is still in session. We hope to see a large bloc of our nominees confirmed by the Senate today, and we'll see if Mr. Palmer is among them.
QUESTION: In the meeting --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, you're right, you're right. One, two.
QUESTION: It's on Brazil. There was just a delegation, a joint delegation from State and Treasury in Brazil this week to discuss implementation of Iranian sanctions. And they – in South America (inaudible) they’re only in Brazil and Ecuador. And I was wondering if Brazil was picked specifically because of the disagreements the Brazilian Government has had with the U.S. on the Iranian nuclear program. Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: I'll take the question. I actually am not specifically aware of the composition of the delegation. So let me find out more.
QUESTION: On the briefing yesterday of Assistant Secretary Valenzuela and Cardinal Ortega --
MR. CROWLEY: Yes. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can we have something today?
MR. CROWLEY: Assistant Secretary Valenzuela did meet last evening with Cardinal Ortega. I think he might have spoken to a couple of you afterwards. The meeting was held at the papal nuncio. They talked about the current state of events in Cuba, the release of political prisoners. They talked about the prospect that Cuba will release more prisoners. Secretary Valenzuela reiterated our goal that all political prisoners be released from Cuban jails. During the course of their conversation, Arturo did also encourage the cardinal to continue to help us make the case for the release of our U.S. citizen in Cuban custody.
QUESTION: Well, there is such a difference. The last time when the cardinal was here, he also had meetings – nothing was reported (inaudible) this time, and he was very open. Why?
MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) That’s a good – this is the second time --.
QUESTION: In a very short time.
MR. CROWLEY: -- that the cardinal has come to Washington. Each time he has met with Assistant Secretary Valenzuela.
QUESTION: He also had a meeting yesterday, I believe, with the Chinese vice foreign minister. Assistant Secretary Valenzuela, if I remember correctly on the calendar, he had a meeting with --.
MR. CROWLEY: I'll follow up on that.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: There are reports of a new missile being developed by China, the Dongfeng 21-D. Are you aware of its capabilities and what impact it could have on the region?
MR. CROWLEY: That's a perfect question to ask the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Several world elders, including Kofi Annan and Desmond Tutu, have issued an appeal yesterday requesting India, China, and the United States about Sri Lanka to repeal of emergency laws in Sri Lanka, and letting UN go there and (inaudible) human rights violations or (inaudible). Are you aware of the issue? Is the U.S. doing something on this?
MR. CROWLEY: Let me see if we've – if we've seen that appeal.
Hold on. We've got a couple more.
QUESTION: I was asking about the protest in the State Department today -- the (inaudible) American protesting about (inaudible) and problem with Egyptian officials, they’re trying to threaten the Egyptian Government because of the river (inaudible) something they did. And also they protesting about the American and Ethiopian relationship and then terrorism this morning. And did you really – what do you think the American government does on this --
MR. CROWLEY: I don't know anything about these protests.
QUESTION: I have a follow up. What was your role on Nile River Basin cooperation would take place on May 14. It was signed by five African countries. And what was – I mean, do you have any role on that or do you have any --
MR. CROWLEY: We'll take that question and post the answer.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Yesterday, it was brought up about a Travel Warning to Spain that was taken down off the State Department's website. Was that prompted by reports, the April 2009 reports from the Spanish Group (inaudible)?
MR. CROWLEY: I can't --
QUESTION: The initial --
MR. CROWLEY: I can't cite a particular report. Let me see if I can get something more for you.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: -- there is no Travel Warning for Spain. Is that correct?
QUESTION: Not anymore.
QUESTION: No, there wasn't one on Tuesday or Monday, either. There's a -- there's a Consular Affairs...
MR. CROWLEY: There was – it was a reference --.
QUESTION: Yes, I understand that. But is there a travel alert or a travel warning – was there for Spain?
MR. CROWLEY: I don't believe so.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:44 p.m.)
DPB # 130