Daily Press Briefing - August 25, 2010

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Negotiating Team to Sudan / Ambassador Princeton Lyman / North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement / Humanitarian Situation
    • WikiLeaks
    • Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf Trip / Media Interest
    • President Carter's Humanitarian Trip / Mr. Gomes
    • Nuclear Facilities / Concrete Actions
    • Floods in Pakistan / U.S. Assistance / Texting
    • Bodies Found
    • Journalistic Freedom / Bilateral Conversation
    • Mine Disaster / Request for Assistance / NASA
    • One-Year Timeframe / Getting the Process Going
    • Nuclear Liability Bill / Issue for Indian Parliament
    • U.S. Security Assistance to the Lebanese Army
  • IRAQ
    • Transition Period / Progress on the Ground / Confidence in Iraqi Security Forces
    • Growing Afghanistan's Security Forces
    • Reconciliation / Afghan Led Process
    • Viktor Bout / Thai Legal Process
    • Uranium Smuggling Attempt / Thwarting Nuclear Smuggling Cases / FBI Involvement
    • Defense Agreement / Bilateral Issue / Minsk Group
    • Elections
    • Delegation Visit / Meeting at the State Department
Mark C. Toner
Acting Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 25, 2010


1:39 p.m. EDT

MR. TONER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. TONER: We’re of the same mind. Very quickly, just at the top, on behalf of Secretary Clinton, we’re pleased to announce that retired United States Ambassador Princeton Lyman will serve as a part of an expanded United States negotiating team being dispatched to Sudan. Ambassador Lyman and his team will augment and complement the efforts of the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and the U.S. Consulate General in Juba as our diplomatic mission to Sudan assists in the final elements of implementing Sudan’s North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Ambassador Lyman will join a robust U.S. leadership team deeply committed to improving the security and humanitarian situation in Sudan, and his efforts will directly support those of U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Major General Scott Gration, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, as well as Chargé d’Affaires Robert Whitehead in Khartoum and Consul General Barrie Walkley in Juba.

That’s all I have for you. I’m ready to take your questions.

Yeah, go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: So, Mark, are you aware of any former presidents currently on private humanitarian missions anywhere in the world?

MR. TONER: Well, if you mean – I’m not going to deny the obvious. Obviously, we’ve all seen press reports and pictures and film from Pyongyang. I’ll just say that President Carter is on a private humanitarian mission and I’m not going to comment more beyond that.

QUESTION: He will go to meet with Kim Jong-il?

MR. TONER: Apologize. Excuse me, I didn’t hear you.

QUESTION: Jimmy Carter, President Carter will go to meeting – Kim Jong-il in North Korea?

MR. TONER: Again, he’s on a private humanitarian mission and I won’t get into details of his trip.

QUESTION: Did he come to the State Department and ask for any kind of help either getting there or permission of any sort? Anything like that beforehand?

MR. TONER: Again, private trip and I’m not going to talk about any details –

QUESTION: But that’s not the trip itself. That’s the pre-trip, the planning. (Laughter.)

MR. TONER: Which is always prudent, I know.


QUESTION: It’s a humanitarian mission to North Korea. I mean, you want to spell that out.

MR. TONER: Right. A private humanitarian mission to North Korea. And obviously, it’s his trip, his agenda, so I’m not going to get into details. I’m not aware of any contacts he had with the State Department prior to the trip.

QUESTION: Do you know how long he will go to stay in Pyongyang?


QUESTION: Have you checked or you just don’t know?

MR. TONER: On his contacts with the State Department prior to the trip?

QUESTION: You said you’re not aware of any contacts. Yeah.

MR. TONER: I’m not aware. I can (inaudible).


MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Does his trip have anything to do with a detained American in North Korea?

MR. TONER: It does – well, again, it’s a private humanitarian trip. Obviously, it’s a mission to secure the release of Mr. Gomes, but we don’t want to jeopardize the prospects for Mr. Gomes to be returned home by discussing any of the details. So I’m not going to get into any more details.


QUESTION: Can you say whether he’s carrying any sort of other message with him on other topics at all?


QUESTION: Can I just ask you --

MR. TONER: Not to say no. I’m not going to discuss details. But again, it’s a private trip and you’ll have to talk to President Carter about it.

QUESTION: I understand that. I was curious whether he’s carrying anything from you on his private trip.



QUESTION: How about – is he being accompanied by any State Department personnel, translators or otherwise?

MR. TONER: Not going to get into details. We might be able to talk a little bit more when the trip’s over.

QUESTION: I think Mr. Gomes is speaking Korean still here?

MR. TONER: I don’t know that.

Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: Did North Korea assure that they were going to release Gomes after Carter’s meetings?

MR. TONER: Again, I’m not going to talk about the details of the trip. I can’t talk about the details of the trip. It’s a private humanitarian mission by President Carter to North Korea, and beyond that, anything else would jeopardize his trip.

QUESTION: Can you just refresh us on the State Department’s view on Mr. Gomes’s detention there (inaudible)?

MR. TONER: Well, absolutely. We’ve long called for his release on humanitarian grounds. As you’ll recall, we sent a team of consular medical officials to Pyongyang August 9th to 11th and they conducted a consular visit with Mr. Gomes. And then, most recently, the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang visited him on August 19th, and that was at the request as well of the North Korean Government.

QUESTION: Mark, just a question. When everybody, including President and Secretary, they all were asking for his release from the North Koreans and they refuse, now they were asking that when President Jimmy Carter will come there they might release him. I mean, is there some kind of a deal? Why they are not releasing directly to the State Department or to the U.S. Government, but on a private visit when somebody goes there? In the future then all these things will continue – kind of deals. I’m sure there will be some kind of deal with President Carter and not just humanitarian.

MR. TONER: Goyal, it’s a legitimate question, but again, at this point in time, I’m really not going to get into any specifics about the trip. I’m not going to talk about any arrangements that may or may not be made. I’m going to let the trip run its course and afterwards we may have more details for you.

QUESTION: But you approve all these kind of trips in the past and also in the future and now this one.

MR. TONER: We have stated repeatedly, and I’ve just stated again to Courtney, that we’re looking for Mr. Gomes’ release on humanitarian grounds.

Go ahead (inaudible).

QUESTION: I just want to clarify. So you haven’t had any contact with him before he left?

MR. TONER: With President Carter?


MR. TONER: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: But I’m just kind of confused by that, because you’ve been trying to secure his release, Gomes’ release, for a long time, but you had no contact with President Carter before he left? Isn’t that --

MR. TONER: Again, I’m not aware of any contact that we had with President Carter before he left on his mission.

QUESTION: Isn’t the paid $700,000 for U.S. money for – North Korea asked for the fine for $700,000 for the release.

MR. TONER: That’s a detail I can’t – or I’m not aware of and I’m not able to discuss.

QUESTION: You said that Carter is on a private humanitarian mission and it’s a mission to secure the release of Mr. Gomes. How do you know the purpose of the mission if he didn’t contact you? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Good one.

MR. TONER: We’ve seen it in press reports. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can anybody take out $700,000 out of U.S. without U.S. Government knowing about it? (Laughter.)

MR. TONER: I’ll defer – or refer you to law enforcement authorities for that question.

In the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. South Korean Foreign Minister Yu called on North Korea to restart disabling its nuclear facilities and (inaudible) --

MR. TONER: To resume? I didn’t hear the question.

QUESTION: Restart disabling its nuclear facilities and reinstate IAEA inspectors before the resumption of the Six-Party Talks. And he also said North Korea’s apology for the Cheonan sinking is not a precondition for the Six-Party Talks. So do you support him?

MR. TONER: Well, I’ve nothing really to add to his remarks. I haven’t seen his remarks. But we’re looking for – and we’ve said all along we’re looking for some concrete actions on the part of North Korea. Certainly, those sound like they’d be in the context of those types of concrete actions. But beyond that, I can’t really speak to what he said.

QUESTION: And do you expect China’s chief nuclear envoy Wu Dawei will visit United States to discuss the Six-Party Talks? Because he is visiting Seoul and Tokyo this week.

MR. TONER: I’m not aware of his – I’d refer you to the Chinese Government. I’m not aware of any visit.


QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Do you think the conditions that South Korean foreign minister mentioned today in Seoul, do you think that’s enough condition to resume Six-Party Talks? Does U.S. agree with that?

MR. TONER: Again, I haven’t seen his remarks, so I’m wary of commenting on them directly. But as I just said, we’ve asked for concrete actions and those sound like the types of concrete actions that would be positive. But are they enough? Are they sufficient? I’m not going to say.

Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you just update on floods in Pakistan? And also, according to some reports, when P.J. said yesterday that clear-cut they don’t know who is coordinating, who is the chief, as Dr. Shah was in Haiti, but many visits are taking place there, like Ambassador Holbrooke, Senator John Kerry, and so on. Do you have any idea now – Dr. Shah is also there – why he was not appointed as the chief negotiator, chief coordinator there? Because some Pakistan did object to it because he’s an Indian American.

MR. TONER: P.J. addressed this, I thought in great detail, yesterday when he said that we’ve got a robust interagency response working in coordination with the Pakistani Government and that is key. It involves assets from the U.S. Agency for International Development, it obviously involves military assets as well, and all are being brought to bear working in coordination with our Embassy in Islamabad to bring as much relief as quickly as possible to those affected by the floods in Pakistan.

QUESTION: And now one more quickly. Can you say now that as far as food and medicine and other basic needs are now reaching directly to the people?

MR. TONER: Well, you’re right; that’s a legitimate question in the sense that we’ve seen reports that we’re having trouble – that international organizations are having trouble getting assistance to the people. All I can say is it’s a massive, complex natural disaster and we’re making every effort to get those types of assistance to the people who need it most. And frankly, the helicopters and the air capacity or capability that the U.S. forces – the U.S. military brings to bear in a crisis like this is invaluable.

QUESTION: Do you have any concern or comment about the ITU, the International Telecommunication Union, which is a UN agency, issuing an appeal for people – individuals to donate money and to – for flood relief directly into the Pakistani prime minister’s fund and also a Swiss bank account that the ITU controls?

MR. TONER: Matt, I’m not aware of that story, so I’d have to look into it and get back to you.

QUESTION: Well, Dr. Shah, I think spoke to it in Pakistan and --

MR. TONER: What was his comment? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I don’t --

MR. TONER: All I can say is that we’ve got several texting options and we would just encourage folks to use them. For example, the U.S. --

QUESTION: You would encourage people to use --

MR. TONER: We would encourage people to – I mean, you’ll have to go to the UN. I’m not aware of the story you’re talking about. I’d have to look into it. But as we’ve said many times from this podium, U.S. individuals can send $10 through mobile phones by texting "FLOOD" to 27722. But as to those specific complaints, allegations, whatever, I just don’t know any details.


QUESTION: New topic?

MR. TONER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: WikiLeaks has posted a new document today from the CIA. It was apparently a report from February of this year about concerns that the U.S. may be viewed as an exporter of terror given the number of Americans who have gone abroad to join terrorist movements. Do you have any similar concerns here at the State Department?

MR. TONER: Kirit, I’m not going to comment on the contents of classified material that’s put up on WikiLeaks. I don’t think I can.

QUESTION: Did anyone ever – from WikiLeaks or any news organization ever come to you, to the State Department, before this latest release today to try and vet any of the information? It seems like it was all CIA, but the State Department --

MR. TONER: The vetting – I’m sorry, did anybody from WikiLeaks contact us? Not that I’m aware of, no.


MR. TONER: Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: This is a different topic.

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: The AP and Mexican media are reporting that the 72 bodies that were found yesterday by the Mexican Marine Corps were Central American immigrants traveling head north to the United States. Do you have any reaction to this tragic news?

MR. TONER: Other than that it’s a horribly tragic event, but I don’t have any reaction to the details. I’d have to investigate more into it to give you a reaction – official reaction. But obviously, a great tragedy.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: About Argentina, Argentina Government has accused the two main newspaper of crimes against humanity. The opposition says that this is a coup against the freedom of the press. I would like to know if the U.S. has any concerns about the freedom of the press in Argentina today.

MR. TONER: Well, we have concerns about journalistic freedom all over the world and certainly, there’s a strong domestic debate occurring right now in Argentina. We’re paying close attention to developments and it’s a part of our bilateral conversation.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: The fact that Ambassador Vilma Martinez was not present yesterday when the president did announce these accusations and formalize them, how do – should we interpret? Every ambassador was there but --

MR. TONER: Yeah. I’m afraid you’ll have to ask the Embassy in Argentina. I don’t know. But obviously, we take journalistic freedom and concern – issues of journalistic freedom very seriously.

QUESTION: Can you take that one?

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Because it is, after all, the State Department and the ambassador reports to you guys.

MR. TONER: I will, yeah. I can take that, Arshad.

QUESTION: So it would be interesting to know if it was a deliberate snub or --

MR. TONER: Absolutely. I just don’t know, but --


MR. TONER: -- yeah, I can certainly look into it.

Charlie, and then --

QUESTION: On an unrelated but regionally close issue in Chile, the mine disaster, do you know if the Chilean Government has asked the U.S. for any kind of help in the rescue effort?

MR. TONER: That’s a good question. I don’t believe they’ve come to us specifically yet, but we obviously stand ready to assist them.

QUESTION: Hold on a second.

MR. TONER: But I don’t think they have approached us with any specific --

QUESTION: Well, they have, in fact. NASA says that they have and they said that the Chilean request came through the State Department. I will read you what it said. Well, actually, I can’t, (inaudible) --

MR. TONER: Well, that’s okay, then. Then I think we would --


MR. TONER: -- then assess it and be willing to assist them. Obviously, it’s a --

QUESTION: Well, NASA is referring all questions about this to the State Department. Did they not tell you that you were going to get these questions?

MR. TONER: I have not talked to anyone from NASA today, but obviously, we --

QUESTION: Will you look into it and make sure that this isn’t a continual loop of disconnect, because it --

MR. TONER: I will look into it. However --

QUESTION: The bureaucracy is getting a bit --

MR. TONER: -- I don’t think that there’s any – there’s anything to --

QUESTION: NASA said yesterday – or this morning or yesterday that the Chilean --

MR. TONER: If the Chileans have approached us with a concrete ask on this, then we’ll evaluate it and get back to them. And I think our posture on this is a willingness to help them and to help free these miners.

Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: A different topic. Avigdor Lieberman is quoted as saying that it will be virtually impossible to reach a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians within the one-year or the about-one-year timeframe that was announced last week. Are such pessimistic comments like that from a senior Israeli official helpful heading into next week’s talks?

MR. TONER: Well, I would just say that President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and others have all expressed confidence in the one-year timeframe. And we’re just looking to next week and beginning the talks and getting the process going.

QUESTION: You wouldn’t be – you wouldn’t prefer it if Israeli officials weren’t saying things like that?

MR. TONER: It’s not a matter of my preference. We’re looking for good discussions, all topics, all issues on the table next week. And I’m not going to get into the position of evaluating remarks into the run-up.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: How do you view the new nuclear liability bill which is being passed by the Indian parliament and which is – Indian – U.S. companies consider it as a key to do business – nuclear business with India?

MR. TONER: Obviously, we think – this is the nuclear 123 agreement with India? I’m not aware of this most recent bill – legislation, but obviously, this is – the issue or the legislation writ large is obviously a good thing for civil nuclear development and for U.S. and Indian businesses.

QUESTION: Well, if you’re not familiar with it, how do you know that?

MR. TONER: The legislation – the 123 agreement is what I’m saying.

QUESTION: This is not the 123 agreement. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: No, it’s the liability portion of – that allows – that sets the caps for, if God forbid, there were an accident, how much money an American company that might invest in India get – have to pay out.

MR. TONER: Right. But that’s an issue for the Indian parliament, so I’m not going to – this is under discussion in the Indian parliament right now.

QUESTION: It just got passed. The lower chamber just passed it.

MR. TONER: It just got passed, the lower chamber? Well, then I’m not going to discuss on pending legislation.

QUESTION: And secondly, one Indian man, Vijay Kumar, was arrested in Houston last week with materials all for Islamic fundamental – al-Qaida materials, booklets, and other things. Do you have anything on that? Is he cleared of the charges? Did he have any terrorist connections?

MR. TONER: I’m aware of the story and would refer you to DHS on specifics.

QUESTION: Well, could you check on the --

QUESTION: The DHS or Houston police?

MR. TONER: Was he not arrested boarding a flight by customs officials?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) boarding (inaudible).

QUESTION: Can you check on whether you have anything to say about the liability legislation’s progress? The reason I ask is that the – and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think American officials have, for years now, been encouraging the Indian Government to move forward on the liability legislation, which --

MR. TONER: Which is --

QUESTION: -- which is vital to any American company actually being able to do anything there.

MR. TONER: To do business, right. I’ll check into it, but I’m – I am aware of the issue and I’m just – I think we would probably refrain from comment while it’s still under review.


MR. TONER: But I’ll check.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: What’s the U.S. reaction regarding Iran providing weapons to the Lebanese national army?

MR. TONER: Look, no real comment. I mean, it just speaks to what we’ve said in previous weeks, which is U.S. assistance – it underscores the importance, both to our national security and the security of the region, to continue with our security assistance to the Lebanese army.

QUESTION: So you’re not worried about this hold? You don’t think it’s a bad idea?

MR. TONER: The hold --

QUESTION: The hold from Congress on the $100 million?

MR. TONER: Well, again, we’re looking – we’re reviewing the program that’s underway and we hope to conclude that soon and renew assistance.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on the arrest. There is a growing trend in the U.S. – yesterday, I met up with someone who was here visiting from India – on collection of money for Hindu terrorisms and terrorists in India. Are you aware of it? Is there anything you would like to comment? Are you keeping a track of the money going into the saffron terrorism?

MR. TONER: Yeah, I’d probably refer you to counterterrorism experts as well as law enforcement officials who track those kinds of things.

In the back there.

QUESTION: Mark, thanks very much for taking my question. This is John Terrett from Al Jazeera Television. Can you just say something about how – this is about a troop drawdown question. Can you just say –

MR. TONER: In Iraq?

QUESTION: In Iraq, yeah.

MR. TONER: In Iraq, okay.

QUESTION: Can you just say something about the Administration continuing to hang onto the line that things have changed in Iraq, that the ballots and politics have taken over from warfare sufficiently to allow the complete withdrawal of all combat troops by next week? And yet today, almost 50 people have died in what looks like almost 20 coordinated attacks in the country.

MR. TONER: I would just say – I would just paraphrase, reiterate what Ambassador Chris Hill said when he was here a couple of weeks ago, which is that these are terrible, tragic incidences. And we’ve seen, obviously, a spike in violence. This was somewhat predictable in the sense that there are factions in Iraq who are seeking to exploit what they view as a transition period to undermine the progress that’s been made on the ground. But the overall arc is towards less and less violence and more and more stability. That’s thin gruel to the people who are affected by the kinds of violence that we’ve seen today, but it’s still important to be said.

So we continue to believe that we’re seeing progress on the ground, that the overall trend is positive, that we’ve got a democratic process in place that is moving forward, and that we believe that Iraqi security forces can assume responsibility for that country’s security in the long term.

QUESTION: Might I just do a quick follow-up?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Because, I mean – can you just speak to the idea about the door being ajar for combat troops to go back in? Ray Odierno said so on television on Sunday. He said if they ask us, we’ll consider it at the national security level in the (inaudible). So why leave the – why even say that the door is still open for combat troops to go back in?

MR. TONER: Well, again, this is part of a transition period, and we have confidence that Iraqi security forces can handle this transition and can ultimately be the providers of Iraq’s security and stability. That is the goal. But as for an assessment of the security situation as it stands now, I would just – I would defer to Odierno’s comments.

Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: North Korea’s chief nuclear envoy Kim Kye Gwan received President Carter at the airport. How would you interpret that?


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MR. TONER: It’s – I have no interpretation.


MR. TONER: It’s – again, these are all questions, I think after President Carter concludes his visit and comes back, he may be able to answer.

QUESTION: Yesterday, General Conway said with the July 2011 deadline that the Taliban – it’s giving sustenance to our enemies. Do you honestly believe that the Taliban is just lying in wait until we pull out of Afghanistan in 2011?

MR. TONER: Well, again, I would refer you to the Pentagon for what he said. I can speak to what we’re trying to do in Afghanistan on the civil side, and obviously we’re trying to grow Afghanistan’s security forces, police forces, army, in order to fill the ultimate role of providing security in Afghanistan.

But in terms of assessing the troop drawdown, I’m going to defer to the Pentagon on that one.

QUESTION: From his assessment, would you think that they will still be there beyond 2011 in Afghanistan?

MR. TONER: Again, he’s a military expert and I’m going to leave the assessment to them.

QUESTION: Oh, really? So the State Department isn’t in charge of troop deployments anymore? Can I ask you about – if you have any update on the status of Viktor Bout’s extradition?

MR. TONER: No update. I think P.J. said yesterday we’ll – at some point, he’ll show up in a U.S. courtroom. But as – up until then, we’re not going to comment on the details of the extradition other than that the – it’s a Thai legal process that’s underway and hopefully will conclude soon.

I’m sorry, in the back and then you.


MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- did the United States have any involvement in the apparent break-up of a uranium smuggling scheme in Moldova?

MR. TONER: Actually, we congratulate the Moldovan ministry of interior for its work in thwarting what was a serious smuggling attempt. Preventing nuclear smuggling is a priority for this Administration. And the U.S. Government continues to work with partners worldwide to thwart nuclear smuggling cases, providing assistance with investigations, provisions of radiation detection equipment, training, and legal assistance to increase sentencing for these crimes. And we did in this case offer law enforcement and technical assistance to the Moldovan Ministry of Interior.

QUESTION: Does that mean they accepted it?

MR. TONER: Yes, yes, they did. We’ve – I believe an FBI team has cooperated with the Moldovan police on technical analysis.

QUESTION: And were they on the ground in Moldova?

MR. TONER: I believe so. I will confirm that.

QUESTION: What was the --

MR. TONER: I assume that means that they were on the ground --

QUESTION: And what’s the capital of Moldova?

MR. TONER: Chisinau. Thanks.


MR. TONER: Remember I’m an EUR guy.

QUESTION: Sorry, I’m not familiar with the story. What was the intended target for this uranium? Did they – is there any --

MR. TONER: That I don’t know. I mean, I believe they just – they found a smuggling ring with uranium and – but I don’t know if there was – it’s clear yet whether – I think an investigation is ongoing as to what the intent of it was.

Go ahead, Lach.

QUESTION: Yesterday P.J. said that you’ve notified Congress about the sale of radar equipment to Taiwan. Is this a precursor for the F-16s? When are we going to see clearance on that?

MR. TONER: Nothing to say or announce on that.

QUESTION: Have the Chinese protested the plans to sell the radar equipment to Taiwan?

MR. TONER: You’ll have to ask the Chinese. I don’t know.


QUESTION: Still down in the weeds. Does the United States have any take on a defense agreement that Russia and Armenia concluded? It will allow Russian forces to remain on Armenian territory for 40 – until 2044? Azerbaijan is upset about this, apparently, because it has trappings of a defense treaty between Russia and Armenia.

MR. TONER: Well, I think we’d view it as a bilateral issue between Russia and Armenia. Obviously, the United States enjoys a strong partnership with Armenia. We have every expectation that this will continue. And Russia is a member of – or part of the Minsk Group and so is playing a constructive role in that capacity.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Speaking of Al Jazeera, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf gave an interview to the network where he talked about the planned mosque near Ground Zero, and it’s one of several times when he’s mentioned the mosque project. So I know that he’s been advised about --

MR. TONER: Was this a recent interview?

QUESTION: Yes, I think it was from the 24th.

MR. TONER: So during his trip?


MR. TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: So I know he’s been advised not to do any explicit fundraising for the mosque, but are you concerned that the government is funding what could be a de facto fundraising trip where he’s making connections, speaking about it publicly, et cetera?

MR. TONER: Again, we’ve spoken to this issue many, many times over the last couple of weeks, and I think what’s important is that he’s been counseled on the prohibition against fundraising. He has his own approach to how he’s going to handle the media. Obviously, there’s a tremendous amount of media interest in his trip. And in terms of raising the mosque issue, if he raises that in the framework of his broader discussions in these countries about Islam in America and religious diversity and tolerance in America, that’s probably a relevant example.

QUESTION: And just to follow up on it quickly, while he travels on U.S. expenses in – for the mosque or – you know, as far as attack in New York was concerned, people died from around the globe, people of many faiths. So why don’t you – or somebody has suggested there you should build there an interfaith center where people of all faiths can come and pray and in the memory of those who died there?

MR. TONER: That’s a good suggestion for the city of New York.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi has given a call to boycott the elections on November 7 in Burma.

MR. TONER: To what the elections?

QUESTION: Boycott the election – general elections in Burma. Do you support her appeal? What’s your stand on that?

MR. TONER: On her appeal for --

QUESTION: -- to boycott --

MR. TONER: I didn’t hear.

QUESTION: Boycott.

MR. TONER: Boycott. I apologize. I didn’t hear the word “boycott.” Well, we’ve said many times that we don’t feel that credible elections can be held in Burma at this point.

QUESTION: South Korea.

MR. TONER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: South Korean delegation, Mr. Chun Yung-woo may have a meeting with State Department officers. Do you have anything on that?

MR. TONER: Who did? I apologize. What --

QUESTION: South Korean delegation, Mr. Chun Yung-woo, he had a visit here they have a meeting with State Department officers and trade representative officers about sanctions against Iran.

MR. TONER: Right. I believe a South Korean delegation did meet with Special Advisor Bob Einhorn on –

QUESTION: Can you read out on that?

MR. TONER: They met – or they’re meeting today at the Department of State discussing issues related to Iran, but as for further details I’d just refer you to the government or the – yeah, the Government of South Korea. But they’re – I believe the agenda for today’s meeting is focused on Iran.

QUESTION: Israel has offered aid to Pakistan, and the Pakistanis have not responded yet. Have you got any statement on that?

MR. TONER: The UN has issued an appeal worldwide for assistance to Pakistan.

QUESTION: So is Pakistan –

MR. TONER: We believe everyone should step up and offer such assistance. But I’m not going to – I refer you to the Government of Pakistan for that. And then –

QUESTION: Can you speak to the reconciliation and reintegration of the Taliban in Afghanistan? Is the U.S. currently negotiating with the Taliban?

MR. TONER: No, that’s an Afghan-led process.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: That it?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Great.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:11 p.m.)

DPB # 141

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