12:54 p.m. EST
MR. TONER: Hey, everybody. Good afternoon. Jeez, it’s unruly in here.
MR. TONER: That’s right. No, there’s kind of a jovial atmosphere. I’m okay with that.
Just very briefly at the top, as you all know, the Secretary and, in fact, Toria are wending their way to Honolulu, Hawaii. They’ll also go to Manila, the Philippines, as well as Bangkok, Thailand, and wrap it up in Bali, Indonesia, from November 9th through the 19th.
While in Honolulu – I’ll avoid giving you a complete itinerary, but I will discuss her trip in Honolulu. She’ll be there for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. On November 10th, Secretary Clinton will give remarks at the East-West Center, recapping the forum’s 2011 year and underscoring America’s Pacific century. And then she’ll also meet bilaterally with a number of foreign ministers and representatives from the Asia Pacific region. Later that evening, she’ll co-host the APEC ministers dinner with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
On November 11th, she’ll co-host, along with Ambassador Kirk, a joint session with foreign and trade ministers. On November 12th, the Secretary will host a meeting of Pacific Island leaders as part of the Administration’s commitment to ongoing dialogue with this region. And then on November 12th through 13th, Secretary Clinton will join President Obama for his bilateral meetings as well as the – and the North American Leaders Summit.
So I’ll stop there and take any questions you might have.
QUESTION: I have nothing. (Laughter.)
MR. TONER: Anyone else? Jill?
QUESTION: Yeah, we might as well --
MR. TONER: Yes.
QUESTION: -- do IAEA yet another day. But the French are very strong in talking about unprecedented sanctions against Iran if they don’t cooperate with the IAEA. So any plans on the United States side, especially with the discussion about hitting the Central Bank of Iran?
MR. TONER: Well, I think that we’re obviously looking at the report. We’ve had a chance to look at it and its conclusions, which are, in fact, very significant. We’ve called it one of the most comprehensive and detailed assessments of Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons. And in fact, it scores – it raises, rather, further questions about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
It also demonstrates what the U.S. has known and made clear for years, which is that Iran did have a nuclear weapons program and has yet to provide any assurance that it has not abandoned its intent to develop nuclear weapons. So these are very serious allegations, serious charges, and it’s incumbent on Iran to at last engage with the IAEA in a credible and transparent manner to address these concerns.
I think going forward, we’re consulting with our partners and allies within the IAEA. As many of you know, there’s going to be a Board of Governors meeting, I think at the end of next week, where this will be addressed. And we’re going to look at a range of possibilities. We’ve said before that we believe the existing UN sanctions and Resolution 1929 puts in place some of the most stringent sanctions to date for Iran, and that they are having an economic impact on Iran. They are squeezing the Iranians’ economy. And what we’ve been working towards is reinforcing those, working with countries around the world to make sure that those sanctions are upheld and implemented to the fullest extent possible. And I think that as we move forward, we’re going to consult and certainly look at ways to impose additional pressure on Iran.
QUESTION: But what about this idea of the central bank?
MR. TONER: I think that there’s a lot of ideas under discussion and under review, but I think right now I just will say that we’re looking at a range of options, with the overall intent of being ways that we can put additional pressure on Iran so, again, to make clear to the Iranian Government that it needs to come clean.
QUESTION: Is that under review? Because my understanding is that it has ceased to be a matter of active study – sanctioning the central bank.
MR. TONER: Right. Arshad, I’ll just say that we’re looking at a range of options. I don’t want to say one’s off the table, one’s – and one’s still on the table. I think that limits our ability to make sure that we look at all possibilities and come up with additional pressure as appropriate.
QUESTION: And where are you doing the consultation? Is this being done between capitals? Is this being done --
MR. TONER: Well, it’s being --
QUESTION: -- at the IAEA Board of Governors? Where is the main locus of this?
MR. TONER: I would say in all of those areas, including right back here for our own unilateral efforts. But we’re also consulting with allies and partners within the P-5+1, certainly, and then also within the IAEA.
QUESTION: Nobody seems to believe that you can get additional sanctions at the United Nations. Even your own officials don’t believe that for now.
MR. TONER: Well, and I think, as I said, we do have very robust sanctions in place.
QUESTION: Right. So – but if you can’t do anything at the UN right now, then you are essentially reduced to either additional unilateral sanctions or like – sanctions by likeminded states.
MR. TONER: Correct. I think we’re looking at, again, the range of options and with a focus on trying to increase pressure.
QUESTION: Do think there will – sorry, one more for me. Do you think there will definitely be additional unilateral U.S. sanctions?
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t want to rule anything out, but I don’t want to rule anything in. We’re looking at ways that we can apply pressure. We’re always doing that.
QUESTION: Isn’t it the case that the Iranian central bank is already subject to sanctions, U.S. sanctions?
MR. TONER: Again, U.S. sanctions or --
MR. TONER: I would have to do a deeper dive on that to find out.
QUESTION: When you do do the deeper dive and you get in touch with people at Treasury, I think you will find that it is, in fact, already under sanctions.
MR. TONER: They may well be, in some fashion, affected by the current sanctions regime.
QUESTION: Have you looked at the two pieces of legislation that were approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, which, among other things, provide authorities for the President to sanction the Iranian central bank should Iran be – should he determine that Iran do any of a number of things, including support terrorism, et cetera?
And also, that raised the possibility of sort of additional extra-territorial sanctions on non-U.S. companies that dealt with Iran’s oil and gas sector. Do you have an opinion? Does the Administration have a view on those pieces of legislation? Are they a good thing, or are they a bad thing? Is this helpful to you?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I think we’re – as we just – as I just said, in light of yesterday’s report, which we’re still consulting on and discussing, we’re looking at ways that we can crystallize the decision in the Iranian Government’s mind that it must address the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program. In that regard, we’re looking at ways that we can apply additional pressure. One of the folks that we’re talking to – one of the parties we’re talking to in this process, is the Congress, certainly, and we’re working on a consultative basis with them.
QUESTION: But you don’t have a formal view on those pieces of legislation?
MR. TONER: Again, I don’t want to rule anything out or anything in definitively at this point. We’re looking at a range of options.
Yeah. Go ahead, Jill.
QUESTION: One more. Some people who follow Iran closely have said that the United States reaction to this report was oddly passive or subdued from what it expected. I mean, this is an important report, and a lot of people are talking about how the – what high level of concern there is. Would you accept that? That this might be another example of the U.S. leading from behind, or why so controlled in the way it has been described by the United States?
MR. TONER: Well, I would hope that any reaction on the part of the U.S. Government is deliberative and coherent and takes into account all the information in a clear and concise way. And that’s exactly what we’re doing with this report. We’re consulting with our partners and allies on it. The conclusions that it draws are alarming. And moving forward, we’re very clear that we are looking at additional ways to apply pressure on Iran and that we’re going to work with our allies and partners in that regard, because, again, let’s be clear that the onus here is on Iran to address these questions, very serious questions raised by – not in America, not the United States, but the international community about the intent of its nuclear program.
Yeah. Go ahead, Tejinder.
QUESTION: Different subject.
QUESTION: No. Can we stay on this?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure, Matt.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the Russians as they’re coming out and saying absolutely not to new sanctions?
MR. TONER: Look, I think we’re just still consulting with the Russians and other P-5+1 members in the coming days and weeks.
QUESTION: Well, you may still be consulting with them, but I’m not sure – doesn’t sound like they want to listen to you.
MR. TONER: Look, I think that the P-5+1 continues to be very coherent. We’re all of one mind in that – in our concern over Iran’s nuclear program and our shared goal of having Iran address the international community’s concerns about it.
QUESTION: When was the last time that the P-5+1 displayed coherence on this issue? When was the last time they met?
MR. TONER: It’s been several months. I know that --
MR. TONER: Lady Catherine Ashton did send --
QUESTION: February, maybe?
MR. TONER: -- a letter to the – but Lady – well, we continue to consult all the time on these issues.
QUESTION: Nine months? New life has been brought into the world since then.
QUESTION: I thought there was a meeting on the sidelines of UNGA, but not any ministerial meeting.
MR. TONER: There was a meeting. You’re right. Thank you.
QUESTION: I’m talking about the senior-level people.
MR. TONER: Well, again, it’s not just when they all sit around the same table, but it’s also a regular consultations that take place between the United States and its P-5+1 partners. And most recently, it’s been – it was a letter that was sent by Lady Catherine Ashton to the Iranians asking them – basically saying when you’re ready to seriously negotiate, the door remains open and that’s indeed the case.
QUESTION: That letter was sent when?
MR. TONER: I’ll have to check. I think it was last month or so. It was after – I believe it was after UNGA.
QUESTION: After UNGA? So end of September?
MR. TONER: That’s correct. But again, it’s – this is just last month. I don’t have the exact date. But that reaffirmed our shared goal of a comprehensive, negotiated long-term solution which restores international conference and the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. That remains the goal of the P-5+1.
Yeah. Go ahead, Tejinder.
MR. TONER: Well, our views on -- have not changed regarding nuclear security in Pakistan. We have confidence in the Government of Pakistan’s – or that the Government of Pakistan’s well-aware of the range of potential threats to its nuclear arsenal and is accordingly giving very high priority to securing its nuclear weapons and materials effectively.
QUESTION: But these reports are suggesting that they are moving around in vans, which are very, very open to Jihadists. So is there, and also is there a plan to take over this?
MR. TONER: Again, I can’t speak to allegations – unconfirmed reports made in various press reports.
QUESTION: Just to be clear --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: -- you’re not accepting the underlying proposition of the National report?
MR. TONER: That’s what I just said. Yeah. That was my clarification right there.
QUESTION: Right. Okay. So you have no reason to believe that they move nuclear weapons around in unmarked delivery vans?
MR. TONER: No. We continue to believe – we continue to have confidence in the Government of Pakistan that they both understand the threat to their nuclear arsenal – the varied threats to the nuclear arsenal, and that they’re taking appropriate steps to safeguard them.
Thanks, Arshad. Yeah. Go ahead.
MR. TONER: Today and tomorrow. Right with Assistant Secretary Posner, I believe.
QUESTION: Yeah, but it’s just reported that tomorrow Vietnamese Government is going to put two Falun Gong practitioners on trial because they tried to broadcast uncensored news program into China, and this is apparently under Beijing’s pressure. And just yesterday about 50 Falun Gong practitioners were beaten up and arrested in Hanoi by the police because they have a peaceful protest in front of the Chinese Embassy there. So I’m wondering if these cases will be raised during the meeting or if any --
MR. TONER: Well, they haven’t –they’ve just begun their meeting. So let’s let the meetings take place before we have a better idea of what specific cases are raised. But certainly this is exactly an opportunity for them to discuss a range of human rights issues between Vietnam and the U.S.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
MR. TONER: Again, I think what I would just say on the topic is that we’re in the national determination phase of this – or national determination period, if you will, of the review process. And part of that is a review of all the key issues including all those that came up during the – public meetings that we held in six states during the month of – and, in fact, in Washington, D.C. as well – during the month of September.
All along, Arshad, this has been a process that’s been driven by having – by trying to get the best information out there and making decisions based on our own national interests. We’ve been consistent in trying to – in running a process that’s thorough, rigorous, and transparent. And there’s no, as we’ve said, no artificial deadline to making any decision.
But, in terms of the broad areas that are under consideration, we’re looking at – in answer to your question, we’re looking at environmental issues, energy security, jobs, and economic impact, and foreign policy. So I would just say that all those issues within those subsets I think are on the table and being considered as we move forward.
QUESTION: Well, in the interest of transparency, I mean, are you looking at the possibility of a different route for the pipeline or not?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I just would – it’s one of many issues that we have discussed that were raised during these public hearings that we held, and all of those issues are currently under review as we move forward.
QUESTION: So you – so the possibility of a different route is indeed under consideration?
MR. TONER: Again --
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
MR. TONER: No, that’s okay.
QUESTION: I’m just trying to understand the nature of your response.
MR. TONER: I understand too, and I’m just saying that it’s – this is part of a broad process. We’re looking at a range of issues. All of the issues that were raised during these public meetings are on the table. They fall into generally environmental, energy security, jobs and economic impact, as well as foreign policy, so all of these are blended together. It’s not just one issue; it’s a range of issues that we’re looking at.
QUESTION: Well, are you looking at the issue of not building it at all or not approving it at all?
MR. TONER: I think that’s always something that’s under consideration. We’re looking at – we’re – right now, we’re in this review phase that we’re – have not made a decision yet.
QUESTION: Opponents of this project believe that you are looking for ways to approve it and looking for ways to get around any potential --
MR. TONER: And to them, I would just say that we’ve run a very rigorous, comprehensive, and --
QUESTION: So when you say you’re reviewing all the options, the idea of not approving it is among those options; correct? Not just rerouting it or --
MR. TONER: Certainly, we’re looking at all possibilities. No decision has been made whatsoever on this.
QUESTION: Including rerouting it? That’s one of the possibilities?
MR. TONER: No decision has been made whatsoever.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: But do you still expect a decision by the end of the year?
MR. TONER: Well, I think Toria was saying the other day that our emphasis has been on making the right decision based on national interests, and there’s no specific deadline to that.
QUESTION: Do you have any reason to think --
QUESTION: Well --
MR. TONER: We’re hopeful that we’re --
QUESTION: She said – she – they’re hopeful that --
MR. TONER: Yeah, we are hopeful.
QUESTION: -- it’ll get done by the end of the year.
MR. TONER: We are hopeful that will be done, but we’re also – that we’re not going to hurry or make a hasty decision based on our official deadline.
QUESTION: Hopeful that it will be done by the end of the year?
MR. TONER: Sorry?
QUESTION: Hopeful that it will be done by the end of the year?
MR. TONER: Right, right.
QUESTION: Which suggests that, in fact, rerouting it is not really a consideration that’s being taken that seriously. I mean, you’re saying that it is, but if you’re still hopeful to have it done by the end of the year, there’s no way.
MR. TONER: Well, what I’m saying is --
QUESTION: A reroute of this pipeline --
MR. TONER: What I’m saying is we --
QUESTION: -- would require a new --
MR. TONER: Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- would take at least another year to do, correct?
MR. TONER: What I’m saying is --
QUESTION: So if you’re still hopeful --
MR. TONER: Can I try now? Okay. Go ahead, finish.
QUESTION: No, I’m just --
MR. TONER: Okay. Finish your question.
QUESTION: If you’re still hopeful that it’ll be done by the end of the year, that suggests that you’re not really seriously considering doing something that would take another year, time-wise, to do.
MR. TONER: Okay. We had this – these meetings in various states affected by the pipeline, both here and – as well as here in Washington, D.C. A number of issues were raised during those public meetings, both on the environmental side, the energy side, the economic impact, as well as the broader issue of foreign policy as well, which is a consideration, certainly. And we’re taking all of that information. We’re in this phase now where we’re evaluating it. We’re not going to be held to – while we’re hopeful to make a decision soon – indeed by the end of the year – we’re not going to be held to any artificial deadline. We are going to make the best decision possible that’s in the interest of the United States.
QUESTION: Okay. So can we get more specific? One of those states – people in one of those states – that state being Nebraska – have concerns about this pipeline, its potential effect on a big aquifer, right? So during one of the meetings, it was suggested that rerouting the pipeline might be a viable alternative. And I just want to make clear, from what your answers to Arshad’s question was, is that that suggestion is being taken seriously?
MR. TONER: I think that all of the suggestions made during the public meetings --
QUESTION: Okay. And that’s one of them?
MR. TONER: -- are being taken seriously under consideration.
QUESTION: That’s one of them?
MR. TONER: I just --
QUESTION: Another one is not building it at all; correct?
MR. TONER: I think that all of the --
QUESTION: And another one – and another suggestion is going ahead with it, doing it exactly the way it’s been planned right now?
MR. TONER: There’s been no decisions made. We’re in the process now of assessing the information that we glean from those public meetings.
QUESTION: A new topic?
MR. TONER: Sure.
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: The Syrians are accusing the U.S. of – as encouraging armed opposition in Syria after twisting what Ambassador Nuland said on Monday when she advised the opposition not to give themselves up to the amnesty offered by the Syrian regime. What’s your reaction to this?
MR. TONER: Well, look. We believe it would be unwise for regime opponents to turn themselves in, quite simply put, given the Asad regime’s track record of lawlessness, of torture, and thuggery against the opposition. We don’t believe it’s in anyone’s interest to turn themselves in voluntarily to the Asad regime.
But let’s be very clear. This is more of the Syrian Government trying to make us – this into an us versus them, and it’s not at all that. This is a “them,” being the Syrian Government, against their own people. We want the Syrian transition from dictatorship to democracy to be entirely peaceful, and that is clearly not the intent of the Syrian Government, which continues to carry out violence on a daily scale, or on a daily basis against the opposition. In fact, just over the last couple of days, we have reports that the Syrian regime has killed 26 people, and 14 of whom were in Homs. And it’s just – these figures go on and on and on, and they speak to the Asad regime’s ability to talk out of both sides of its mouth.
QUESTION: But it --
MR. TONER: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: No, I understand what you’re trying to say, that it’s not us versus them or U.S. versus Syria, but in some ways, it is. I mean, you guys are the ones who sort of called for their president to leave power. You’re the one who is now calling – telling people not to do something, which in – which that government believes is – will help stop the violence, whether that’s correct or not. I mean, you’re basically telling people to go out and continue to do something that this government regards as illegal.
MR. TONER: Well, let’s be clear. We are calling on – we’re saying that the Syrian people should continue to peacefully protest. We’re not in any way condoning violence on the part of the Syrian opposition. But – and it’s not just us. This is a broad number, including Syria’s neighbors and including the Arab League, that’s asking Syria to stop its systemic and systematic violence against its own people.
QUESTION: You’re aware of other governments that have advised the Syrian people not to try to take advantage of this amnesty?
MR. TONER: Well, I believe that was in response to a specific question, and in fact, it goes without saying that given this government’s track record of imprisoning and torturing its own citizens, it’s not good advice – or it’s better advice for them to not turn themselves in.
QUESTION: Mark, can I have just a --
MR. TONER: Yeah, Tejinder.
QUESTION: -- clarification on your comment? You said this arsenal is safe, so --
MR. TONER: Now we’re back to –
QUESTION: -- without divulging the intelligence, can you, the U.S., confirm or deny that these moments are taking place?
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. You’re asking me to confirm or deny –
QUESTION: The nuclear arsenal is moved around in delivery vans unmarked around Pakistan?
MR. TONER: I’m really not going to get into the details of that report. President Obama said in March, 2010 that he is confident about Pakistan security around its nuclear weapons programs, and we maintain that belief.
QUESTION: So is U.S. not – like if a report has come out, are you not talking to anybody in Islamabad? Have you spoken to anybody to confirm –
MR. TONER: Tejinder, we’re always talking to the Pakistanis, and one of the things we talk to them about is ways to improve safety around their nuclear arsenal. But again, we’re confident that there are safety measures in place.
QUESTION: Would it be better if they were in marked vans? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That’s what the Iranians said.
QUESTION: I want to ask you about Israel.
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. Are we on Israel? Okay.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Pakistan.
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure. On Pakistan? Yeah. Sure, Catherine, finish up.
QUESTION: Different topic, but do you information about the warning that was issued by the Embassy in Islamabad this morning asking citizens to avoid the road by the American Club?
MR. TONER: I don’t. It sounds like it was some kind of Warden Message based on some kind of credible information that they’d gotten. I don’t have any more information. I’ll look into it, Catherine.
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Talking about Israel, this conversation between Sarkozy and President Obama has some reactions here in the U.S. and also some in Israel. My question –
MR. TONER: And I’m not going to address them. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Is there going to be any call to Netanyahu from the U.S. to reestablish or make this more confident to him or something like that? The United States?
MR. TONER: Look, we are in close contact with the Israelis as well as the Palestinians on ways to move forward to get back to the negotiating table. I know Jay Carney at the White House spoke to your question yesterday, and I’m not going to comment further.
Yeah. Go ahead, in the back.
MR. TONER: Happy to go there.
QUESTION: Yeah. Ten days ago, Victoria told us here that the expected meeting with – between President Obama and President Kirchner from Argentina was seen here in the Department as a very important opportunity to put the relationship in a more positive path after all the ups and downs that has been going in the last month. The meeting was last Friday, and four days later, the United States punish again Argentina, voting against the country in the Inter-American Development Bank yesterday. So I was wondering if maybe the expectations the Department has concerning the meeting were too high or too optimistic or if the meeting went bad or if you are still waiting for some response from Argentina or – what’s going on because –
MR. TONER: Well, I don’t necessarily accept your question, which says that we’re somehow punishing Argentina. What I would say is that the U.S. Government encourages the Government of Argentina to resolve all these kind of pending arbitral claims within the ICSID as well as take necessary steps to fully and conclusively normalize relations with its creditors. I will say that President Obama and President Kirchner did have a very good, very productive, and warm meeting in Cannes and that the United States and Argentina certainly share a strong history of cooperation, and we expect to build on that history of cooperation moving forward and deepening our partnership. Specifically on these kinds of questions regarding the ICSID, I would just refer you to Treasury for more information.
QUESTION: Mark, does the U.S. have a view on whether the former Libyan prime minister, who is in Tunisia, should be extradited back to Libya? Some human rights organizations are saying that at this point the Libyans don’t really have the ability to assure his safety if he’s brought back.
MR. TONER: Well, David, I think that this is now an issue that’s being discussed between the Governments of Tunisia and Libya, and there is an interim government in place, and we certainly support its efforts to hold those responsible for any abuses – hold accountable, rather, those responsible for any abuses in the – during the Qadhafi regime. We just would say that independent and partial investigations into any human rights abuses are the first step towards fulfilling the interim government’s commitment to accountability and laying a critical foundation for transition to a democratic future that embraces rule of law, and certainly we would expect that any kind of judicial process would be in accordance with international standards.
QUESTION: Does – do you think that Libya has the capability to take care of this guy and assure that he’s not harmed?
MR. TONER: Well, again, you’re seeing a country clearly in transition, but a country that has stated, both publicly and privately – government – interim government that stated both publicly and privately its commitment to upholding human rights standards, and we are going to continue to look at that, monitor it, and raise, when we have concerns, those concerns. But this is a – we also support their efforts to hold these individuals accountable.
QUESTION: Regarding – I read some reports yesterday that there was a meeting of the Jewish communities of Denver, and the wife of Alan Gross talked there. She said that he is weak, that his health situation is not so good. I want to know if there is any advance with Cuba regarding this case.
MR. TONER: I don’t, unfortunately, have any updates on his case. I know that we raise it whenever possible with the Cuban authorities, and we continue to call for his immediate release on – precisely, as you mentioned, on those humanitarian grounds.
QUESTION: Mark, do you know the last time that you guys had consular access?
MR. TONER: I don’t. I’ll check, and we can do that as a taken question. I don’t have it in front of me.
MR. TONER: I think we did issue those. I thought we did, Matt, before the briefing. My apologies if we did not.
MR. TONER: But there is a taken question that’s been released.
MR. TONER: Yeah. So I’ll point you to those. Anything else?
QUESTION: Okay. Well, can I ask someone to read it?
MR. TONER: Can I ask someone? (Laughter.) I can –
QUESTION: Does it actually answer the question? Now, my bet is that it doesn’t answer the question.
MR. TONER: This is so real time. It’s so connected.
QUESTION: My bet is that the answer is not very responsive.
MR. TONER: I don’t know, Matt. I can tell you that it does speak to –
QUESTION: As I expected.
MR. TONER: It does speak to our ongoing dialogue with – on human rights issues with the Honduran Government, and it certainly talks about our work with the Honduran military to build a better, stronger institution, no doubt, but also to build one that’s respectful of human rights and also – go ahead.
QUESTION: I just – I don’t see anything in here about elite DEA commando squads launching raids and – but anyway, I’ll talk to you about it later. Thank you, though, for the taken question.
MR. TONER: Very good. Are we done? Thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:24 p.m.)