1:42 p.m. EDT
MR. TONER: Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Tuesday. Welcome to the State Department. Just a couple things at the top, and then I’ll take your question – questions, plural. I imagine you’ll have more than one.
Secretary Clinton did meet with Qatari Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani this morning leading up to his other meetings, of course, with United States officials, including President Obama, later this week. They did discuss a wide range of regional and bilateral issues, including, of course, the ongoing situation in Libya. And the Secretary did have the opportunity during that meeting to thank Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani for Qatar’s hosting of this week’s meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Doha, as well as for Qatar’s support for UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and Operation Unified Protector.
As you know, she’ll also be meeting this afternoon with --
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the meeting, it’s just Burns, Feltman, and Gordon who are there?
MR. TONER: Correct.
QUESTION: Gene Cretz hasn’t gone there?
MR. TONER: I will check. I don’t believe he is.
QUESTION: Or Chris Stevens?
MR. TONER: I’ll double-check on that.
QUESTION: And then do you know if anybody plans to meet with Musa Kusa while they’re there?
MR. TONER: I didn’t – sorry, Pete coughed.
QUESTION: Do you know whether Musa Kusa – does anybody have plans to meet with Musa Kusa, who is apparently traveling to Doha as well?
MR. TONER: I am aware of reports that he’s traveling there. I don’t have any details. I’d refer you to the Qatari authorities.
QUESTION: Or whether any of your officials who are attending plan to meet with him while they’re there?
MR. TONER: I can find out, but at this point, no.
QUESTION: What do you understand is his capacity there?
MR. TONER: Again, I would refer you to the Qatari authorities. They’re the ones running the meeting, so they can provide more detail on it.
Secretary Clinton will also meet this afternoon with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. This will be an opportunity for them to further discuss the situation in Libya, building on last month’s meetings in London. They’ll also discuss other regional and bilateral issues, including, of course, recent – the recent formation of a new Jordanian Government and cooperation in Middle East peace efforts.
The United States would like to express its deepest condolences to the people of Belarus for the terrible loss of life and injuries caused by the bombing of the Minsk subway on April 11th. We condemn this heinous act that demonstrates complete disregard for human life. And in this moment of sorrow, we offer our sympathy to the families and loved ones of those injured or killed.
That’s all I have for the top. I’ll take your questions.
MR. TONER: You mean ever ever? (Laughter.) Yes.
QUESTION: Yes. And Britain. They seem to be teaming up on you wanting more U.S. military input – a bigger U.S. role in the NATO operation. Are there any plans to increase – to go back to where – to increase that role, to go back to where it was at the beginning?
MR. TONER: Matt, I’m aware of the remarks and I don’t know that they were necessarily ganging up on us. I think they were commenting on NATO’s tempo of operations. And I believe NATO briefed earlier on this issue today and addressed some of those concerns.
We have every confidence in NATO’s ability to carry out the tasks of enforcing the arms embargo as well as the no-fly zone and the protection of civilians in Libya. As the President said, the U.S. and other key partners had capabilities that they brought to this operation up front, and then our role would diminish as NATO stepped up and took command and control of the operation.
MR. TONER: God bless you.
And that’s what’s happened, and we have confidence in NATO’s ability to carry out the mission.
QUESTION: Look --
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: You talk about NATO as if it is some extraterrestrial being from another planet with which you have occasional meetings. (Laughter.) I mean, you are the largest country in NATO.
MR. TONER: Yes. We are.
QUESTION: -- the largest contributor of forces to NATO, the largest budgetary contributor to NATO. So the question is: Is the United States willing, as a central member of NATO, willing to increase its contribution to the current operations?
MR. TONER: Well, again, we feel like we’ve contributed a great deal to the success of this operation thus far, and by no means would I ever refer to NATO as an extraterrestrial being. It’s our most successful alliance, the most successful military alliance in history, and it does have the capability and the structure to carry out a mission like this. And we believe it’s doing its job and it’s doing it effectively.
There’s no change in our posture. I just would note that Secretary Gates and others have said that the U.S., of course, as needed, would help out if requested in other capacities and other capabilities. But really, our role has receded in this mission.
QUESTION: And just to follow up on that, has – I believe that there has been no such request from NATO to the United States. Is that correct?
MR. TONER: That is – that’s my understanding.
QUESTION: And is it correct that the United States is no longer – no longer has any of the – and Courtney will, I hope, correct me here – any of the A-10 Warthog aircraft currently being used in the Libya operation?
MR. TONER: Well, I would refer you to the Pentagon for the details on that, or to Courtney. (Laughter.) But --
QUESTION: I’m a non-official spokesperson.
MR. TONER: That’s right. But we are – and just to add on to my previous answer, I mean, we are still – as you correctly noted, we are a part of NATO. We are providing support for NATO. We do have air bases and assets in the Mediterranean, and those are, obviously, being brought to bear for this operation. But there’s been no other further request for assistance that I’m aware of. And – yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you confirm or deny that the U.S. has not said no to any of the latest NATO requests in last three days?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. Can I confirm –
QUESTION: Or deny that the U.S. has not said no to any of the explicit NATO requests.
MR. TONER: Again, those are operational details. I’d refer you to NATO and to U.S. forces in – yeah.
QUESTION: On the broader question –
MR. TONER: Yes.
QUESTION: -- is there not any consternation in this building or in this town about the fact that the Europeans, the French and the British in particular, dragged you into this kicking and screaming? They agreed at the beginning that the U.S. would play a big role and then have a limited role. You did not want leadership after the first couple of days. And now they’ve turned around and done exactly what you expected them not to, or exactly what you had been promised, but what they promised you that they wouldn’t do, which is to ask you to resume that leadership role. There’s no frustration about that?
MR. TONER: Look, again, I’m not going to parse the French foreign minister’s comments today. We believe –
QUESTION: It’s not just the French foreign minister.
MR. TONER: We believe –
QUESTION: It’s the defense minister, and it’s the Brits as well.
MR. TONER: Well, look, we believe that NATO is more than capable of carrying out this mission. And, in fact, they are carrying it out successfully. Obviously, there are challenges on the ground – targeting, those types of things – that they’re addressing and, we believe, doing better. But – and I really want to clarify. You said kicking and screaming. Look, this was a joint international effort. When we saw a situation affecting the – most urgently the residents of Benghazi, but indeed all of the civilians in eastern Libya, and we acted in concert with – both with European partners and Arab League partners to set up this no-fly zone and to allow humanitarian assistance to flow. And now, as we said it from the very start, NATO would assume command and control of this operation. They’re doing so. We think they’re doing a good job.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that the initial resistance that the – that this Administration had toward getting involved was just a figment of all of our imaginations?
MR. TONER: I would say that it was a – that there was a realization on the part of the United States and other members of the international community within the UN, within the Arab League –
QUESTION: Yeah, but –
MR. TONER: -- that we needed to act to save human –
QUESTION: But let’s not talk – forget about the rest of the international community. I mean, this is about the U.S. This Administration, at the beginning when the Europeans were calling for a no-fly zone, was very lukewarm if not cool to that idea until the Arab League statement came out. Am I not correct in that?
MR. TONER: Well, I just – but I don’t think we’re saying necessarily opposite things here. We – I said that there was a realization –
QUESTION: Well, this is what I’m saying.
MR. TONER: -- and a recognition that there was an imminent humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Benghazi and that the international community needed to act. We passed UN Security Council Resolution 1973. We acted in concert with some of our key European allies and partners. We’ve now got Operation Unified Protector in play. It’s led by NATO. We said this all along, and we believe it’s capable and up to the task of completing it.
QUESTION: But which does the U.S. like less, a stalemate in Libya or to go in and take control of this operation?
MR. TONER: Which would we like –
QUESTION: Which would be the least preferable?
MR. TONER: That’s a – I mean, that’s a false choice. We believe that we’ve – that NATO has been successful in carrying out the mission and that we can, as we’ve said often – UN Security Council Resolution 1973 never went beyond what it’s done, which is set up a no-fly zone, protect civilians, allow humanitarian assistance to reach the people of eastern Libya, and then, longer term, we still want to put pressure on his Qadhafi and his regime, convince them that they need to step down, they need to relinquish power so that a democratic transition can take place. So I just would call your question – I don’t believe it’s the correct choice.
QUESTION: So, Mark, don’t you see a contradiction between what the United States is saying, what you’re saying right now, and what allies are saying? I mean, allies now –
MR. TONER: How so?
QUESTION: -- seem to be divided. Well, they don’t seem to think that they can do it on their own, and the United – you continue to say that you think they can. So where does that leave us? It seems like there’s a division.
MR. TONER: This is a broad coalition. Frankly, it’s not just European allies, as we’ve said. I mean, NATO obviously has a lead role on this, and as do France and UK and other key allies. But there’s Arab participation. And as we said, the U.S. has not abandoned this operation by any means. We still are offering support where we can. So I just – I don't think it’s correct to say that there’s somehow discord in the alliance.
QUESTION: But this is exactly what is going on in – they’re asking in Brussels, that – you’re saying that the Americans went in. It was not a unilateral operation from the beginning, the French planes went in first.
MR. TONER: Right, right.
QUESTION: And today, when you are saying NATO, is U.S. not a part of NATO? That’s what they’re asking. And so why are you –
MR. TONER: We are --
QUESTION: -- pulling back.
MR. TONER: -- and as I think I’ve said, we’re still providing support and assets to this operation. I’ll clarify or we can try to get an answer to Arshad’s question but – about the – what did you ask about the A-10s?
MR. TONER: Yeah. But we’re still providing support. We’ve got bases and assets in the Mediterranean that are proving support for this operation. So to suggest otherwise is incorrect.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Why do you think this NATO-led operation has been successful?
MR. TONER: Well, I don't want to start quoting sorties flown and targets hit. I’d just refer you to NATO. I think they’re providing daily updates.
QUESTION: So –
MR. TONER: But wait a second. Just let me finish. I think I did say that it’s a difficult terrain, it’s a difficult environment, and certainly we’ve all – we’re all aware that there have been targeting issues and other kinds of issues, mostly as a result of Qadhafi’s forces blending in, infiltrating, those kinds of actions that make it hard to correct target on the ground those forces that we’re trying to target. But I think that NATO’s made corrections and is carrying out their mission adequately.
QUESTION: So would you be for the idea of intensifying the NATO effort right now?
MR. TONER: I – look, this is certainly – it’s a NATO decision on this. They’ve got command and control --
QUESTION: Of which the U.S. is –
MR. TONER: -- of which we would obviously weigh in and have an opinion about. But we feel that at this point that Unified Protector has met the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
Yeah. Go ahead, Michel.
QUESTION: If NATO was successful, why do you think France and Britain are asking NATO to be more aggressive?
MR. TONER: I mean, you’ll have to ask them. I think there’s a – there’s – again, I’m not going to speak for the French or the British Government or their secretaries of state, of foreign affairs rather. But it’s a challenging environment, and I think everybody wants to see the tide turn definitively. But again, we’ve – UN Security Council Resolution 1973 is being carried out, it’s been implemented, the no-fly zone, the protection of civilians is in place. And we’re – and that’s – that was what it set out to do.
QUESTION: Just so we’re clear, in response to the initial series of questions about whether the United States was willing to do more, you’re answer was, I think, we feel like we’ve done a lot already. Is it fair to say that you’re really not looking to do much more then?
MR. TONER: Again, and I just would refer you to what others far smarter about this than I have said, including Secretary of Defense Gates, that this isn’t a complete withdrawal, that we’ve – we were fully engaged upfront. We had certain capabilities brought to bear that help set up this no-fly zone, took out assets of the Libyan military. And then moving forward, we’d still play a supportive role. We’re still there if asked or if we – if needed, we can still provide assistance. And I think we did. We did provide additional sorties in the beginning as the transition was taking place. That hasn’t changed, but I think we’re also comfortable playing the supportive role and letting NATO, other NATO forces, take the lead and let that happen.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Jill. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can we stick with Libya for one second?
QUESTION: Sorry. Thank you. There is a report on the Qatari news agency that Qatar has marketed one million barrels of Libyan crude. One, do you know if that’s correct? Two, did – has the Libya contact group, in effect, authorized such marketing of Libyan crude oil, or is this something the Qataris are essentially doing on their own and without any other kind of sanction?
MR. TONER: I am aware of the – of those reports. We – I can’t speak for the contact group, but we do certainly support those efforts. Obviously, it’s important that the opposition does have the financial wherewithal that it needs to operate. And not much beyond that, we support those efforts.
QUESTION: An update on Stevens?
MR. TONER: I don’t. He’s been there since April 5th, obviously. He’s had productive meetings. He’s met with high-level members of the Transitional – sorry – the TNC, the Transitional National Council. And he’s also met with Chairman Abdul Jalil, rather, and we’re getting a better sense as a result of these meetings of both the TNC and its vision for Libya going forward. And I have no sense of or no firm date for his departure. He remains on the ground.
QUESTION: And any decision regarding arming the rebels?
MR. TONER: No decision.
QUESTION: Not yet?
MR. TONER: Remains on the table, but no decision has been made.
QUESTION: And --
QUESTION: What’s the expectation? Sorry.
MR. TONER: Sorry, can I – and then I’ll --
QUESTION: No, no, go ahead.
QUESTION: What do you expect from the Doha meeting, the Contact Group? What do you --
MR. TONER: Well, again, it’s mostly – it’s obviously a follow-on from the meeting in London and it’s an opportunity to build consensus to discuss with our international parties – or partners, rather – next steps regarding Libya. And as I said, Bill Burns is going to lead the U.S. delegation there.
QUESTION: Change of topic?
MR. TONER: Yeah, Kirit.
QUESTION: Another –
MR. TONER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: If I could go back?
MR. TONER: Yeah.
MR. TONER: Not a lot. I can say that there is an individual who is in North Korea. He is – this individual has been detained. We have gone through the Swedish protecting powers there and we’ve been able to – they’ve been able to visit him – or her – I can’t give you – I can’t even give the – because we – and this is all Privacy Act waiver. I know it’s a little bit of a ridiculous dance we do up here, but because we don’t have a Privacy Act waiver from him or her and the family, we’ve got to do this. It’s for the protection of that individual.
QUESTION: When did they visit with him/her? (Laughter.) Today?
MR. TONER: No, but it was recently.
QUESTION: Is this --
QUESTION: And when detained?
MR. TONER: In the very recent future – or past, rather. Sorry.
QUESTION: And when was it detained? (Laughter.)
MR. TONER: This is going to challenge all our – all of our sense of pronouns here. I don’t have that detail for you.
QUESTION: This unisex creature – (laughter) – is an --
MR. TONER: “Individual” probably works best.
QUESTION: -- is an American citizen?
MR. TONER: That is correct.
QUESTION: And was doing what?
MR. TONER: I don’t have any details on what this individual was doing in North Korea. But we would call on the Government of North Korea to release this citizen on humanitarian grounds, and we would ask that they respect and treat this citizen in a manner consistent with international human rights law.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: Do you believe the person’s innocent, then, of the – whatever it is that they’ve been detained for?
MR. TONER: We don’t have any information about allegation – we don’t even know what this individual is being held for.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: Mark, when you add that little bit about treating according to human rights law, it sounds a little different to me. I don’t remember that formulation with previous people. Did you mean to say something? Is there any implication that this individual is not being held?
MR. TONER: Did I mean to say something? Sure. But I don’t think this is vastly different than what we had always called for, which is – this is an individual who is being held in North Korea. We would ask that this individual be released on humanitarian grounds alone, but barring that, that they would be treated with – in a manner consistent with human rights law.
QUESTION: Well, when you say that they should be – this person should be released on humanitarian grounds alone, it imply – I mean, you warned U.S. citizens that if they break the law in other countries, they’re going to be subject to their laws. Does this mean that – does this – you were saying humanitarian grounds alone. Does that mean you don’t think that this person has violated any North Korean law?
MR. TONER: Well, again, we don’t have any information that he – that this individual may have violated North Korean law.
QUESTION: And my last thing: On the Privacy Act waiver, did – were the Swedes told to give this person an opportunity to sign one?
MR. TONER: I will ask about that, but --
QUESTION: And --
MR. TONER: -- I would assume so.
QUESTION: And when – in these types of instances, not only when it’s a protecting power, but when it is a consular affairs officer, are you actively advising people who are detained not to sign Privacy Act waivers?
MR. TONER: Are we actively advising?
QUESTION: Are you telling them, “Here, here’s a piece of paper, you sign this and then we can talk about your case, but we think that it’s not a good idea and that you shouldn’t sign the waiver”?
MR. TONER: No, we are – we do so in a neutral fashion.
QUESTION: You’re absolutely sure that it’s neutral?
MR. TONER: We do so in a neutral fashion. If it’s otherwise --
MR. TONER: -- then that’s --
QUESTION: Because I just want to --
MR. TONER: -- not consistent with consular officers’ --
QUESTION: -- point out that --
MR. TONER: -- actions.
QUESTION: -- that a couple weeks ago, there was a situation in Syria where the student, you said, had refused to sign a Privacy Act waiver and yet was quoted – and we talked to this person and was more than happy to talk, so I’m a little suspicious about --
MR. TONER: Matt, I’ll look into that particular --
QUESTION: -- the circumstances.
MR. TONER: I’ll look into that particular case. It should be done so in an objective manner that says, “Here is what this waiver provides and here is what it does not provide,” but we should in no way be counseling that individual on what to do.
QUESTION: Another subject?
QUESTION: Can I just – one more on North Korea?
MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Considering Jimmy Carter’s going at the end of the month, are you going to ask him to bring him back, or her?
MR. TONER: I don’t have any information whether we would --
QUESTION: Are you going to talk to him about this? Can – I mean, you know he’s good at this.
MR. TONER: That’s a fair question. He’s good at this. (Laughter.) It’s a fair point. It’s a fair point and it’s a fair question. I’ll ask.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The new, I guess, ranking for the nuclear problem there, is there any new device – excuse me – new advice for American citizens and for –
QUESTION: Oh, that’s – thank you, appreciate it. New advice for American citizens, and are you – have you instructed your staff to take their iodine tablets or anything like that?
MR. TONER: No. Actually, – thanks for raising that because there is some confusion, I think, over this – news reports today about raising the nuclear crisis to a – from a five to a seven. There is no change to the U.S. recommendation that, as a precaution, U.S. citizens within that 50-mile zone that we’ve talked about, 80 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, should evacuate the area or take shelter indoors if safe evacuation is not practical. But beyond that, there’s been – there’s no change to the U.S. posture or U.S. recommendations.
QUESTION: Do you have knowledge --
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: Does that development give you any concern about how the Japanese Government is handling this nuclear situation?
MR. TONER: On the contrary. I think we feel that they’re monitoring it closely and, as appropriate, they’re changing their posture.
QUESTION: Do you have knowledge of American citizens still within that 50-mile zone?
MR. TONER: It’s a good question. I don’t believe we do. Sorry, I’m just seeing if I have any information about that. I don’t believe there are, frankly. If that’s different, I’ll let you guys know.
QUESTION: Another subject?
QUESTION: Can I take it back to (inaudible)?
MR. TONER: Tejinder, and then – sorry, Arshad. Yeah, Tejinder.
MR. TONER: Yeah. This is the Headley case in Chicago?
MR. TONER: Well, Tejinder, I’m limited in what I can say. I think some of the remarks you’re referring to are from court documents that are related to the trial that’s about to begin, so I just would refer you to the Justice Department and just say that he’s on trial for his alleged crime, and let’s let that --
QUESTION: And a follow-up on that.
QUESTION: Wait --
QUESTION: I’m following through. (Laughter.) There’s a follow --
MR. TONER: Sure. Sure, go ahead, Tejinder.
QUESTION: Justice Department is about the justice. I’m talking about the relationship between USA and Pakistan. Pakistan is also asking you to cut down on CIA activities, and Pakistan is – this allegation is on the Government of Pakistan and the intelligence agency of Pakistan. So how will you – have you asked the government to give you a clarification, anything on diplomatic level?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I’m not going to talk about what this individual has said in pretrial documents or in pretrial hearings because it is a legal process that’s moving forward. But you asked about – I think your broader question, I’m not quite sure what it was. It was about the Pakistani Government’s asking us to --
QUESTION: No. U.S. asking for an explanation that what is going on.
MR. TONER: The U.S. asking for an explanation of --
QUESTION: It’s a strategic ally of USA, so --
MR. TONER: I’m just a little confused. I’m sorry. What are we – you mention – you raised about three different issues in your question, so just one more time.
QUESTION: That this individual under oath is saying that the Pakistan Government asked him to do – participate in this Mumbai massacre. So are you concerned about this?
MR. TONER: Again, this individual is in a trial right now or the trial hasn’t begun, it’s a pretrial period, so I’m not going to talk about his comments. That would be irresponsible and I’m not going to do it. But if you’re talking about broader counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan, certainly that’s ongoing, and we are very candid in sharing our views and sharing information with Pakistan about terrorist threats. And we believe that cooperation continues to be – that to be good.
QUESTION: I guess the conclusion that some in India are reaching is that this adds to a mosaic picture of Pakistani Government complicity or involvement in the Mumbai attacks. So I guess my question is: Do you take those allegations seriously and do you hold a view on that?
MR. TONER: Well, I mean, I think in the aftermath of these attacks in 2008, we made very clear that there’s an international responsibility to cooperate, to bring the perpetrators to justice, and that Pakistan has a special responsibility to do so transparently and urgently. And they pledged their cooperation to bring these perpetrators to justice, and we believe they’re going to be – they’re carrying that pledge out.
QUESTION: On the budget?
MR. TONER: Yeah. No, let’s go back to --
QUESTION: Just one more on Pakistan?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: Have – since Ray Davis came out of Pakistan – I don’t remember now, it was a couple of weeks ago – has there been any change in U.S. diplomatic presence throughout the country? Has the number of diplomats there gone down? Are they at a different security level? Is there any posture change at all that you can point to?
MR. TONER: Yeah. I think there was a heightened security posture after Mr. Davis left the country. Obviously, that was an issue that people felt very passionate about, and so certainly we took that into consideration. But there’s been no downsizing, I believe, of the U.S. diplomatic presence there.
QUESTION: Can you say whether your – the harassment of your diplomats, being stopped in their cars, has continued since --
MR. TONER: Yeah. I mean, I know you’ve raised this with me a couple of times – the issue of incidents where diplomats have been detained. Certainly, we view those with concern and we’ve asked the Pakistani authorities to look into them. I’m not sure that there’s been yet another – any more incidents. I’ll check into it for you.
QUESTION: You said – well, you said --
QUESTION: Beyond just the downsizing --
QUESTION: You said detained? Sorry. Or where they --
MR. TONER: I didn’t say detained. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: You did say detained.
MR. TONER: Did I say detained? I don’t think I did.
MR. TONER: I said we would be --
QUESTION: You did say detained.
MR. TONER: Did I say detained? I apologize. No. I meant harassed, I think is what I – waylaid, harassed.
QUESTION: You said that there hasn’t been a downsizing of diplomats, but has there been a change in the posture within the country? Like are they – are you moving them out of Lahore or out of areas – I mean, are you realigning anything?
MR. TONER: No. Not that I’m aware of. No.
QUESTION: A question on the budget?
QUESTION: Will you give --
QUESTION: Mark, Mark --
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up.
QUESTION: Wait a second. You got a shot, ma’am.
MR. TONER: We can go back. Yeah.
QUESTION: I asked you fairly soon after Mr. Davis left whether they had been any diminution in Pakistani issuance of visas to American diplomats or other personnel. And at the time, I think you had told me that no, there had not been any. Has there been any since then? Have you noticed any decrease in visa issuance?
MR. TONER: Frankly, why don’t I raise those two questions together, whether there have been any other incidents in terms of diplomats being in any way kind of harassed or impeded, and then also whether there’s been any – because these have all – I mean, we’ve been up – we’ve said this before from the podium that these have been issues in the past, so I’ll just check and make sure.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
QUESTION: Mark, on the budget?
QUESTION: Mark, still in Pakistan?
MR. TONER: Pakistan. Let’s stay on Pakistan. Tejinder, and then over here.
QUESTION: Has there --
MR. TONER: Tejinder, and then over here.
QUESTION: Has India asked for access to Rana?
MR. TONER: Not that I’m aware of. I don’t know.
QUESTION: Will you give access to Rana if India asks for it?
MR. TONER: I’ll refer you to the Justice Department.
QUESTION: Also on Umar Patek, has there been any approaches to Pakistan on getting access to him?
MR. TONER: Again, I’m not aware of any access questions, and I’ll look into it.
QUESTION: And while on the question on the cooperation level, lots of reports coming out that we’re still on very rocky territory with Pakistan on the intelligence sharing, and therefore, on the broader relationship. Can you answer that generally?
MR. TONER: Well, certainly the U.S. and Pakistan remain strategic partners. We’ve got a shared commitment to strengthening our bilateral relationship, and we’ve been through a difficult period. I think other people, individuals, U.S. officials have acknowledged that, including our Ambassador there, Cameron Munter. And we’re working to get the relationship back on track. We’re looking to renew the relationship in a way and getting past the difficulty of – that the Raymond Davis case caused.
But it’s also important to recognize apart from the counterterrorism cooperation that’s obviously the focus of so much interest, media interest and otherwise, that it’s not one-dimensional relationship. And we’ve got assistance like the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act that’s providing 1.5 billion and focusing on infrastructure building, institution building, the kinds of long-term actions that are going to help build a stronger Pakistan in the future. And that’s ultimately our goal is to strengthen Pakistan, make it a stronger democracy so that it’s more resistant to these internal threats.
Yeah. In the back.
QUESTION: On the budget.
QUESTION: Mark, can I stay –
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure, Dave, and then budget stuff.
QUESTION: There’s some reporting that the Pakistanis have asked the United States to actually ask for the departure of a large number of Americans who are there, apparently, including military Special Forces people.
MR. TONER: Right. Right. You’re talking about the U.S. military trainers?
MR. TONER: Well, obviously, that contingent – and I believe it’s only about 300 individuals – they’re there to help train Pakistani military. They’re there at the invitation of the Government of Pakistan to support security systems programs there. And it’s a function – our presence there, rather, is a function of the amount and type of training and equipping required to meet the Pakistani Government’s requests and requirements. So we want to work closely, we want to keep that program alive, we think it’s important.
QUESTION: But have they asked for this large-scale drawdown?
MR. TONER: Well, there have been conversations that are ongoing between the U.S. and Pakistan about these kind of requirements and also the force levels that are associated with them, but no decisions have been made.
QUESTION: On the CR –
MR. TONER: I’ll just say it’s a continuous – it’s an ongoing process. We continue to talk to them. They’ve – we continue to talk to them about these types of programs, and obviously, the troop levels that are appropriate for them.
In the back. Yeah.
QUESTION: On the CR, in your view, is State taking a disproportionate hit compared to what other departments are?
MR. TONER: Well, look, it’s these are austere times, and we recognize that, and we’re, right now, just kind of assessing what those hits are and where they’ll be taken, and I can certainly try to get more information for you on that. But I think there’s a recognition that, as Tom Nides said when he was up here, that we had already prepared a lean budget for lean times. And so we recognize the times in which we are operating, and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that we maintain our core functions.
QUESTION: You’ve got to have some idea of what this will actually mean. Like $377 million less for the United Nations, where was that money supposed to go? What would – who would that have impacted?
MR. TONER: Again, I – there’s a lot of figures being bandied about. We’re, at this point, still sort of assessing where it’s going to come from and what exactly programs that are going to be affected, and I’ll try to get more details for you on that.
QUESTION: But the House Appropriations Committee made it very clear, $194 million for food assistance is going to go away. So those are real people. What’s the impact going to be for those people?
MR. TONER: Look, I’m not denying that these are going to have – these kinds of cuts are going to have an effect on our ability to carry out our programs effectively, but we are going to do our utmost to ensure that that’s minimized.
QUESTION: But can you say that people are going –
MR. TONER: Yeah. Let’s go to Ivory Coast.
QUESTION: Ivory Coast. It’s been reported that African diplomats were trying to negotiate the departure of a leader who’s been hanging on for too long, offered a visiting professorship at BU, and that – can you set us straight –
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: -- on how much this was really a part of the discussion and how involved U.S. diplomats were in this discussion?
MR. TONER: Well, I can say that after the November 28th election, the State Department did reach out to Mr. Gbagbo’s staff and contacts to discuss the results of the election first and foremost, and the need for him to step aside and allow for a transition to take place. During these calls, it was mentioned some possible options open to him by the international community, including potential positions that would draw on his previous background in academia. And these attempts to persuade Mr. Gbagbo to step aside peacefully by the United States and by others in the international community, I think, lasted until the end of 2010. These kinds of visiting professor positions offered by universities to former leaders are contingent on the fact that these leaders are gracefully departed individuals who allow for a peaceful transition to democracy to take place. And let’s just say that the train’s left the station on that and we had stopped talking about that a while back.
QUESTION: But had you had any conversations with folks at BU or Ambassador Stith before offering that, or was it kind of like, here’s the website of the BU African presidents and residents and maybe you could apply for that? Or was it --
MR. TONER: Yeah. I don’t know if there was a – I don’t know how specific the offer was. I’ll look into it.
QUESTION: Can you let us know whether or not there had been any --
MR. TONER: Whether there had been any contact? I would assume so, but I’ll verify that.
QUESTION: Right. I mean, was this --
MR. TONER: Right. Whether --
QUESTION: Were you promising – were you --
MR. TONER: I mean, the question that I think is relevant is had we discussed it with Boston University, I think is what you’re talking about.
MR. TONER: I don’t know, but --
QUESTION: Do you think you could let us know today?
MR. TONER: I will find out.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: Yep.
QUESTION: -- can you tell us, is there any response to the Iraqis’ decision to actually close the camp and expel the dissidents by the end of the year? And can you also confirm that the U.S. medevaced wounded people to U.S. facilities in this most recent attack?
MR. TONER: Well, I can say that the Government of Iraq has provided humanitarian assurances on Camp Ashraf, which includes that no resident will be forcibly transferred to a country where there are grounds for believing they would be persecuted or tortured based on their political or religious beliefs. They’ve also publicly committed to undertake an investigation as to what exactly happened on April 8th that led to a number of deaths and injuries, and we welcome that announcement. And we would also urge that the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq be allowed to visit the camp also to assess the situation.
We continue to urge restraint and nonviolence as a means in facilitating an appropriate solution to the situation. We’re prepared to consider any assistance that we can – that is requested by the Government of Iraq to develop and execute a negotiated plan to address the future of Camp Ashraf.
QUESTION: People who speak on behalf of the Camp Ashraf residents have said, and the U.S. military I believe has confirmed, that U.S. military personnel went to the camp afterwards. And the Pentagon, as I understand it, says they’re not going to talk about what their people saw, but the people who speak on behalf of the residents say that the U.S. military did indeed find 31 people dead there, most of them shot, some of them crushed by heavy vehicles.
Do you know or have a sense of – and I believe there are another three that are said to have died in hospitals. Does the U.S. State Department have a view on how many people actually died here?
MR. TONER: We don’t, which is why I didn’t just give you a number. I think we’re still investigating that number. It was – it is one of the reasons why we’re asking that UNAMI be allowed to visit. But we’re also asking that they undertake this investigation to determine (a) what transpired and (b) how many people were indeed killed or injured in that.
QUESTION: Given the accusations that it was, in fact – and given your own statement that it was the actions of the Iraqi military that caused the deaths – I mean, you were very unambiguous about that – what makes you think that the Iraqi Government is likely to conduct an independent and candid investigation of this?
MR. TONER: Well, again, we are – we did express our concern about what took place there, and we are asking that they allow visits of UNAMI but also that they conduct a transparent investigation. I think we do need to be mindful that this is a sovereign matter for the Government of Iraq, but we’re being very candid in our views that they need to look into this and get answers.
QUESTION: Mark, did you view any Iranian hands behind what happened in Ashraf?
MR. TONER: Iranian hands? Look, again, we just want to see that there’s a thorough investigation of what transpired there. I think we need to get answers – more answers as to what happened there. But we stand behind what we said in our statement, as Arshad said, which is --
QUESTION: But do you expect any Iraqi report says that Iran was behind what happened in Ashraf?
MR. TONER: Again, I think we want just a clear picture of what transpired.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: When you say the Iraqi Government has provided assurances that they’re committed to not expelling these people, so it’s the U.S. Government’s position right now that Camp Ashraf is not going to be closed and the people are not going to be kicked off that land at this point?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think I said we’re prepared to help the Government of Iraq develop and execute a negotiated plan – and an emphasis on negotiated – that addresses the future of Camp Ashraf.
QUESTION: Because if I’m not mistaken, didn’t – initially, the Iraqis had committed to protecting the people, and that, clearly, is not the case. So I mean, I guess the question right now is what – what is the Iraqi Government still doing that they have promised to do with regards to Camp Ashraf, because so far it seems like they’re breaking all their promises?
MR. TONER: Yeah. I mean, we – obviously, and just walking you – walking back a little bit through the history right at the end of the occupation of Iraq, Multi National Forces Iraq continued to treat the residents of Camp Ashraf as protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and that was as a matter of policy. But with the expiration of the UN mandate, the Government of Iraq assumed full security responsibility for Camp Ashraf, and that included security responsibility for this particular camp – I’m sorry, in Iraq. And they have provided written assurances that Camp Ashraf residents would be treated humanely and in accordance with the constitution, laws, and obligations of Iraq, and that no Ashraf – Camp Ashraf residents would be forcibly transferred to any other country where they might face persecution. And we continue to call on them to uphold those commitments.
QUESTION: Despite the – so despite the fact that they’ve already clearly broken the agreement – I mean, they have; they went and they attacked these people; there are dozens dead – the U.S. still believes that the residents of Camp Ashraf are not going to be expelled from their land there?
MR. TONER: I think that we are in conversations with Iraqi authorities and we’re making our views on this very clear, mindful, as I said, of the fact that this is a sovereign matter for them. But both publicly and privately we’re conveying that.
QUESTION: Mark, the Iraqi Government gave, I think last year, similar assurances like this, and now they are repeating the same problem.
MR. TONER: Well, again, you’re right. And again, we’re calling them to uphold their commitments and their obligations.
QUESTION: So you keep saying that the Iraqi Government won’t expel them to a third country where their rights won’t be respected. Does that mean that they can close down the camp and move them to somewhere else inside Iraq? That’s their sovereign choice?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think that what we’re offering assistance on is trying to reach some kind of negotiated settlement of the issue, a negotiated plan to address the issue.
QUESTION: Could that include settlement options for some in the United States?
MR. TONER: I don’t want to speculate on what it may or may not include, but we’re certainly offering our assistance on it.
QUESTION: It’s my understanding that some of them or all of them have been offered asylum in Europe, but they refused it even though they’ve been repeatedly attacked. Is that a problem? I mean, is that – are they part of the reason why this has continued? Do you understand their insistence on staying there?
MR. TONER: Well, I mean, I think only they can express why they would want to stay, but we’re mindful that it’s a very sensitive situation. And obviously, what took place last week was unjustified, and that the Iraqi authorities, for the time being, need to respect the rights of those individuals in Camp Ashraf and that, moving forward, we need to try to find some negotiated way to address the issue.
QUESTION: Which could include a third country where they wouldn’t be tortured or –
MR. TONER: Conceivably, yeah. But I don’t want to –
QUESTION: -- abused.
MR. TONER: Right. But I don’t want to get out in front on what possible outcomes may be, but conceivably.
QUESTION: Can I change topic?
QUESTION: A good time to change topic, too, so –
QUESTION: Me, too.
MR. TONER: Okay.
QUESTION: All right. You say –
MR. TONER: I’m sorry, Christophe. I don’t mean –
QUESTION: It’s all right. Yesterday, I asked --
MR. TONER: I keep looking over you because you’re so near.
QUESTION: Yesterday, I asked about journalists being detained in Libya, and you had stated that you do – tried to monitor the situation, yet you are limited by your resources. But from this podium, can you have a statement or send a message to the Libyan Government about the issue of journalists being detained there?
MR. TONER: Well, again, it speaks to the broader issue of journalists being allowed to carry out their profession, being allowed to operate in these zones. Certainly, throughout North Africa and the Middle East, this is a time of sweeping change. And we’re all, us in the State Department included, reliant on the work of journalists on the ground to inform us and to record this history that’s taking place. And we call on not just Libya, but on governments in many of these countries to respect the rights of these journalists to freely express themselves and to carry out their important work.
QUESTION: And those who are detained or have been taken into custody by authorities –
MR. TONER: Should be released. Yeah.
QUESTION: So – yeah. France has started to enforce a ban on the full face Islamic veil. Some women have been fined. A few others have been even detained briefly after demonstrations. So I wonder what’s the Administration take on that?
MR. TONER: Well, first and foremost, France is obviously a very close ally of the United States, and clearly has a long commitment to democratic values. I would refer you to the French Government for a full explanation of its laws, but we support freedom of religion and expression, and that includes the right to express religious beliefs through religious attire.
QUESTION: A couple of – to go back to the Qatar thing, so – just so we’re clear, you can’t speak on behalf of the Libya contact group, correct? So you can’t say whether or not they authorized this?
MR. TONER: Right. But, I mean, the Qatari Government obviously is working with them to – I think to – this is a deal that they brokered with the opposition to –
QUESTION: Right, right. But forgive me, I’m asking you questions that I’ve been asked to ask, so –
MR. TONER: That’s okay.
QUESTION: So then you can’t also – you also cannot address, I assume, the question of whether the contact group would support this kind of – these kinds of sales. The United States, I understand, supports it, but you can’t say whether the rest of the contact group does or doesn’t?
MR. TONER: I cannot, because I can’t speak for the contact group, but certainly, we do.
QUESTION: Fair enough. And then last thing, please: Are you aware of any further plans on the part of the Qatari Government to either market, i.e. sell, additional Libyan crude oil or deliver additional petroleum products to the opposition?
MR. TONER: Yeah. I’m not.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: I believe it was a one-off deal, but I’m not sure.
QUESTION: Mark, do you –
MR. TONER: David, and then in the back. Yeah.
MR. TONER: No, clearly it’s not. We – you’re talking about the sentencing of Michael Nabil? Yeah. I mean, we’re deeply concerned and disappointed by his sentencing, and certainly, we call on the Egyptian Government to allow all Egyptian citizens the right to express their universal rights. No, this is not the kind of progress we’re looking for.
QUESTION: Mark, do you –
QUESTION: Do you sense the military authorities there are – despite the somewhat ambiguous role that they played in Mubarak’s downfall – are increasingly violating the rights of Egyptian citizens who wish to protest or speak out?
MR. TONER: Well, it’s a good question and a fair one. We’ve seen, obviously, some reports from last weekend, I believe, about excessive force used in Tahrir Square, which was the scene of this great uprising and the cause of so much hope for so many of us who watched it transpire. We urge the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to conduct a thorough investigation about what happened there. But speaking more broadly, it’s important that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, as you said, that played such a vital and productive role in overseeing the transition and departure of Mubarak, I don’t know, remain true to that legacy. They need to uphold that legacy that they’ve established.
QUESTION: And in doing that, you (inaudible) them tell an ostensibly or allegedly independent judiciary not to sentence a blogger to prison?
MR. TONER: Well, again, this is a rocky time for Egypt. It’s a difficult transition. We’re seeing these institutions develop after years of autocratic rule, but certainly, we want to see transparent processes formed and implemented that ensure freedom of expression.
QUESTION: I’ve got –
QUESTION: Mark, in the same neighborhood in Bahrain, are you aware of the case of this woman who also is on the web? She’s the daughter of a detained human rights activist, and she’s on a hunger strike because of the mistreatment of her relatives, I believe; wrote an open letter to President Obama.
MR. TONER: I am aware of the case, and certainly, we would again call on the Bahraini authorities to allow these individuals to freely express themselves and to uphold their universal rights. That holds true in Bahrain as elsewhere.
In the back and then –
QUESTION: Mark, do you think food aid to North Korea will be discussed at Campbell’s meeting with Ambassador Wi Sung-lac?
MR. TONER: I will get a readout for you. I’m – I can’t preview it, and I can’t preclude that it won’t be discussed. But if – I’ll try to get a readout for you after the meeting and let you know.
QUESTION: Well, speaking of readouts, yesterday the Secretary and Under Secretary Burns met with the Swiss Ambassador to Iran. Can you –
MR. TONER: I talked about it yesterday.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, that was before the meeting happened.
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering what meager, scant detail you’ve been given to –
MR. TONER: I don’t have details.
QUESTION: Oh, none?
MR. TONER: I thought that I had previewed it sufficiently that –
QUESTION: It’s less than meager.
MR. TONER: -- sated your thirst for knowledge about it. I think that I said it was part of her regular consultations. Certainly, the Secretary wanted to stop by and greet her and thank her for her and her government’s efforts on behalf of American citizens in Iran.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. TONER: Great. Thanks, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:35 p.m.)
DPB # 51