1:00 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: Happy Monday, everybody. Sorry we are running a little bit late. Mondays are always a scurry. I do not have anything at the top, so let’s go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Can we start with the charges – or the sentence – against the American in Iran? Are you at this point able to confirm that sentence? Have you been able to speak through somebody to him at – in any way?
MS. NULAND: We’ve seen the press report on the sentencing, but we have not, ourselves, been able to independently confirm it. We are working now through the Swiss protecting power in Tehran to confirm the sentence. We have also not been able to be in contact with him, nor has the Swiss protecting power despite the fact that the Swiss have asked numerous times for access to him and are asking, obviously, again today.
If it is true that he has been so sentenced, we would condemn this verdict in the strongest terms, and we are working with all of our partners to convey that condemnation to the Iranian Government. We’ve maintained from the beginning that the charges against him were a fabrication, and we call on the Iranian Government to release him immediately.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you just real quick – you have travel warnings and various alerts on Iran, and you warn people not to go to the country. In this case, he also, I think, had a security clearance. Is this something that was inadvisable of him to have traveled to the country? Would you tell other Americans of Iranian origin, “Just stay away from the country”?
MS. NULAND: Look, we do have travel warnings that are very specific for American citizens, and we have a specific reference in those travel warnings to the dangers for dual Iranian American citizens, because the Iranian Government doesn’t recognize dual citizenship. So we would refer all Americans to the travel warnings on our website, State.gov, and particularly, we urge Iranian Americans to take particular care.
QUESTION: When you say take particular care, what does that mean? I mean, they really – when you go to the country, you’re at the whim of the authorities there. How are they supposed to take particular care? Or are they supposed to really think only if it’s absolutely necessary do they travel there?
MS. NULAND: Again Brad, I think we spell it out quite clearly in the travel notice, so I would just refer folks there.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. NULAND: Still on this one?
Kirit. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I understand it’s a bit of a hypothetical, but I’m curious if you would indulge me on – if they were to go ahead and carry out this sentence, what exactly would that mean for – how would the U.S. respond to that case?
MS. NULAND: I think you are taking us into hypotheticals, and we’re focused now on determining whether, in fact, we can confirm this sentence, trying to get access to him through the Swiss, but making absolutely clear that we consider that the charges are a fabrication and he ought to be released.
QUESTION: Okay, and then one other one I had was, in your statement that you put out earlier this morning you said that you denied any link to the CIA. I’m curious whether you would go any broader and say he had no ties to any element of the U.S. intelligence community.
MS. NULAND: Again, I think the statement that we put out this morning speaks for itself. I don’t think we need to go any further than what we’ve been saying, which is we consider these charges a complete fabrication.
QUESTION: Is that a yes or a no?
MS. NULAND: You know that I’m not going to get into precise intelligence issues, but I think our statement is quite strong and quite unequivocal on these issues.
QUESTION: Just a couple of things also on Iran: One would be, now that the trip by President Ahmadinejad has begun – I know you addressed this on Friday – but do you have any further thoughts about their – his trip in territory – in Latin America, and what – how the U.S. looks at this? Is this interference? What do you think they’re trying to accomplish?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you’d have to speak to the Iranians about what they’re trying to accomplish. They obviously carefully chose these countries to visit. We are, meanwhile, calling on all of these countries to do what they can to impress upon the Iranian regime that the course that it’s on in its nuclear dialogue with the international community is the wrong one, and frankly, we think it’s in the interest of all countries, including the countries that he’s visiting in Latin America, that Iran prove the peaceful intent of its nuclear program to the world.
QUESTION: And how is it going with the Europeans in terms of their intent, it appears at the end of the month, to increase sanctions quite severely on oil?
MS. NULAND: Well, we did speak about this a couple of times last week. We’re encouraged by the signs that we’ve seen that they seem to have some preliminary agreement. This is something that we strongly support. They have to obviously finish their work and make their own decisions, which we hope to see towards the end of this month.
QUESTION: Just a quick one back on Mr. Hekmati: Your statement said that the Iranians have a history of using Americans essentially as political – imprisoning innocent Americans for political reasons. I’m wondering, is that what you’re saying is going on in this case? Do you read – what’s the timing? Do you read anything into the timing of this case? And do you think that he is basically being held as a political hostage because of the broader tensions in the relationship?
MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to the specific timing. You know that we’ve had trouble for decades, arguably, with the Iranians seizing Americans, falsely imprisoning them, holding them for long periods, trying them in inappropriate circumstances, et cetera. So this is not a new tactic on the part of the Iranian Government. I would simply say that these particular proceedings were conducted in secret, there was inadequate legal counsel, we obviously dismiss the accusations one way or the other, we believe that any confession he may have made was clearly coerced. So it’s just par for the course in terms of the non-justice in the Iranian system.
QUESTION: And then a follow-up on the nuclear issue: The Iranians said today, and the IAEA later confirmed, that they have started enrichment in an underground facility at Fardo. I’m wondering, do you have any reaction to this? Are you heartened by the fact that the IAEA says that it actually has all of the nuclear material under surveillance? Is this a step forward?
MS. NULAND: Well, on the contrary. I think the fact that the IAEA has made clear that they’re enriching to a level that’s inappropriate at Fardo is obviously a problem. We are closely monitoring their nuclear program in general, and this development, given their track record and what the IAEA inspectors have been able to report, it’s not a surprise to us what we’re hearing.
But obviously, if they are enriching at Fardo to 20 percent, this is further – a further escalation of their ongoing violations with regard to their nuclear obligations, including the legally binding UN Security Council resolution. So obviously, we call on Iran once again to suspend enrichment activities, cooperate fully with the IAEA, and immediately comply with all Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors resolutions.
QUESTION: But doesn’t the IAEA – I mean – and just set me straight if I’m wrong here, but if the IAEA has this under surveillance, doesn’t that mean that the Iranians are cooperating with them to some degree?
MS. NULAND: Well, the IAEA has been able to get into Fardo on and off. They’ve been able to get into some facilities at some times. But what they’re finding, as they get in there, is that Iran is not complying with its obligations.
So Iran plays this game with the inspectors, they let them go some places at some times when it seems to suit their purposes, but that doesn’t change the fact that what the inspectors are now reporting is that they are taking the next step and escalating their violations of their own commitments.
QUESTION: New topic?
QUESTION: Could you specifically say how are they escalating? I mean, if they’re doing 20 percent, right, is that the – is that exceeding their requirements? What specifically are they doing that --
MS. NULAND: When you enrich to 20 percent, there is no possible reason for that if you’re talking about a peaceful program. So it generally tends to indicate that you are enriching to a level that takes you to a different kind of nuclear program.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: Could I ask about the – Mr. David Hale’s meeting with the Secretary of State?
MS. NULAND: With – David Hale’s meeting with the Secretary of State?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, this was an internal meeting.
MS. NULAND: It was our lead negotiator on this subject reporting to his boss, so I’m not going to get into the details of that meeting.
QUESTION: So it did not coincide with the meeting in Amman – with the Quartet meeting? Or do you know anything about the meeting in Amman? Any results?
MS. NULAND: Well --
QUESTION: The meeting with the Quartet and between Yitzhak Molcho and Saeb Erekat?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, this round of meetings today in Amman continues the process that the Jordanians began hosting last week. The Quartet envoys were in Amman for the kickoff of this series of meetings. The parties are now meeting directly without the Quartet envoys in the room under the Jordanian auspices, and this is the second round of those. As we said last week, we consider this a positive step as they go forward and begin to talk to each other, because, obviously, only by talking to each other are these issues going to get settled.
With regard to today’s meeting, we don’t have a readout. The meetings are ongoing. But I’d like to say more broadly that I don’t think that we are going to be, or the Jordanians are going to be, or that the parties going to be reading out every one of these sessions. We are now engaged for the next couple of weeks, we hope, in a process of direct dialogue. These meetings will happen intermittently under the Jordanian auspices, and that’s a good thing. And frankly, rather than sort of trying to get in the middle of all of this, we need to give the parties a little space and see where this goes.
QUESTION: The Palestinians called this exploratory meetings. Do you hope that they will sort of evolve into some sort of direct meetings on issues like border and refugees and all that?
MS. NULAND: Absolutely. I mean, our hope and the Quartet proposal put down in September spoke of face-to-face meetings, which would lead to putting down concrete proposals on security and on territory and working through those together as the first step towards a broader, more comprehensive effort at a peace settlement. So obviously we’re hoping that the fact that they’re talking together can lead to real proposals, can lead to real solutions.
QUESTION: So are you saying that there have been no real proposals at this point?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we are not going to speak to exactly what’s happening in the room. First of all, we’re not in the room. Second of all, we feel quite strongly that at this period, where they’re actually having a series of meetings face to face, we need to give them a little space to work through these issues.
QUESTION: I’m just –
MS. NULAND: So I’m not going to comment one way or the other about whether proposals have been put forward.
Still on this subject?
QUESTION: Back on Iran.
QUESTION: Can we stay on this subject just for a moment?
MS. NULAND: Let’s finish this and then come back to Iran.
QUESTION: Yeah. Very quickly, Toria. I mean 2011 was really a banner year for settlement and the expansion of settlements and so on. So what is the assessment of, let’s say, when Mr. Hale meets with the Secretary of State, his boss, on these issues? Because obviously he is pushing forward these talks and so on. Where do settlements and the expansion of settlement figure into a meeting like this?
MS. NULAND: Well, Said, he obviously gives his impressions of the whole range of issues under discussion among the parties and the situation – the environment in which they are negotiating, but you know that our position on this is well known. It is unchanged.
QUESTION: On Iran, Secretary Burns is in Turkey. The Turks have not been in agreement with the sanctions. They’re still going to do some purchases this year. Is the U.S. concerned that an important country in the region is obviously in opposition to the sanctions? Doesn’t that affect the overall solidarity of the sanctions regime, call it into question somewhat? And do you have anything coming out of his meetings with the Turks on this particular subject?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I’m going to reject the premise of your statement. We have, over many months, been in close contact with the Turkish Government at all levels working on the situation in Iran. We – the United States and Turkey – share the strategic objective of trying to get Iran back into compliance with its international obligations and coming clean on its nuclear program. Those – that view from the Turkish side was reaffirmed as recently as this weekend, when we had a – some senior members of Congress and our ambassador to Turkey met with the entire Turkish leadership. And as you say, Deputy Secretary Burns is in Turkey for – also to talk about Iran, among many other subjects that we work on together.
So from the strategic perspective, we believe that we share the same goals as Turkey, that Turkey is looking hard at what it can do to continue to implement sanctions, but they are neighbors, and there are other aspects of trade on the civilian side that do go forward from Turkey. But what’s important is that we stay in close consultation on how we can maximize the pressure on Iran to come back into compliance, and that’s what we’re doing with these intensive series of consultations that we’re having.
QUESTION: Obviously you share the same goals, but doesn’t seem like you want to share the same methods, that Turkey is not favorable to the sanctions, especially because I think they purchase one third of their oil from Iran.
MS. NULAND: Again, one --
QUESTION: So they have a different way of looking at – it seems to me, than the one expressed by the U.S.
MS. NULAND: Well, one of the purposes – one of a number of purposes of Deputy Secretary Burns’ stop in Ankara is to talk to the Turkish Government about the new legislation, about its implications, and about how we can work together to achieve the goal of less international dependence on Iranian oil, because we firmly believe that if we can cut down on international purchases, it will continue to pinch Iran. So that’s one of the issues that’ll be discussed, including explaining what the legislation does.
QUESTION: Can you say what the U.S. attitude is to the Turkish proposal of trying to bring Iran back to some form of P-5 talks?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve said from the beginning that we are open to talks with an Iran that is serious about coming clean with its – about its nuclear program. And we said that again on Thursday, we said it again on Friday. In September, when the P-5 met under – on the margins of the UNGA, they put forward another invitation to Iran if it would be serious. Iran has said it wants to take up that invitation for talks, but it has not yet responded in writing to the P-5+1’s proposal. So we await seriousness on the Iranian side. We’ve seen the reports in Turkey, but we haven’t yet had what we need, which is a letter back from Tehran.
Still on this subject?
QUESTION: Change in topic?
QUESTION: Yeah. Still on Iran.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. It’s about – still on Ahmadinejad’s tour. The Guatemalan Government has confirmed that he will be present next Saturday at Otto Perez Molina’s inauguration. And I was wondering – this is adding another country to his tour. Are you worried that he’s trying to expand his influence and particularly in Central America?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think the Guatemalan Government knows very clearly where we stand. They also know what the international community is trying to do. So I think the issue is to send a strong message to him at every one of these stops that Iran is going to remain isolated and face difficulties if it doesn’t do what it needs to do with the UN and with the IAEA.
Still on Iran? Finished with Iran?
MS. NULAND: Michel.
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, Assistant Secretary Feltman was in Cairo, had some preliminary meetings with the Arab League last week. We watched very closely the statements that they made over the weekend. The Arab League, as you know, has taken on quite a large responsibility in trying to stop the regime’s violence and has committed itself – and you see it again in the statement that they issued yesterday – to pushing the Assad regime to meet all of the commitments that it made, and clearly we are far from there yet. The violence has not stopped. The political prisoners stay. A vast majority of them remain in jail, and we’re still seeing all kinds of arms and weapons – regime arms and weapons in residential neighborhoods.
So from that perspective, we were pleased to see the Arab League conclude that 150 monitors is not enough, that they need to expand the numbers. This reflects the fact that in some areas where monitors have been present, demonstrations have been able to take place, Syrian people have been able to express their will, and they’ve been able to get some media attention to their desires. But there clearly aren’t enough monitors. So they’re going to put some more in. They’ve also asked for more training. This is the first time the Arab League has taken on a mission like this. So that’s a good thing as well. But I think the Arab League itself said that the Syrian regime has – needs to immediately and fully implement all of its obligations. It is clearly not complying now. So they are going to give this another 10 days or so, and then the mandate, as you know, concludes on January 19th, and they’re going to have another Arab League meeting to assess. So we will await their final report and their assessment.
QUESTION: Victoria, do you have confidence in the mission – the Arab League mission’s ability to conduct this job?
MS. NULAND: Well, Said, I think I went through –
MS. NULAND: -- some – the good, the bad, and the ugly, if you will, of where we are in this effort; the good being the enormous responsibility the Arab League has taken on, the fact that in some cases where the monitors have been able to be present, there has been some space opened for the opposition to make its views known; the bad, the fact that they are far from – the Syrians are far from complying with all of their obligations; and the truly ugly, the degree that the violence continues and that prisoners stay locked up. So this is a mixed picture. I think the Arab League itself evaluated it that way, and we’ll see what more monitors and another 10 days brings.
QUESTION: But the reason I’m asking this question – because they themselves, the monitors themselves, have expressed the view that they really lack the technical capability, they lack the training. This is the first time for them. So why not come out and say, “We want to help you technically,” and provide you with experts, let’s say, from this area, from the UN, or other sources?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, they have asked for technical help. They asked for technical help before they went in. The UN’s providing some of that, the EU’s providing some of that. We’re obviously supportive of any direct requests that come to us. As I said, this is a first outing for them as international monitors. It’s a very important and valuable capability for the Arab League to be developing. So I think one thing that’ll come out of this, one way or the other, is some lessons learned on – in terms of what they need, and we obviously stand by to help if that’s wanted.
QUESTION: Toria, the Syrian opposition has said that the Arab League mission has failed and they are asking for international intervention. What’s your position regarding this?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we are not going to give a report card to this mission until we see what the Arab League monitors’ own report is. I’ve talked a little bit about what we are seeing, what we – the Arab League itself is seeing. So this mission now runs till the 19th of January. There’ll be another Arab League – the formal Arab League assessment of it thereafter. We completely understand and appreciate the frustration of the Syrian opposition, that their government, which made commitments that were very detailed some three months ago, has yet to comply fully with any of them, and that the violence continues. And our message to the opposition is to continue to do what they can to organize, to make their views known, to take advantage of those monitors who are there to get their message out.
MS. NULAND: He is on his way home now. He was in Riyadh on Saturday and Sunday. As you may know, Under Secretary of State Sherman was in Saudi Arabia last month as well. Both trips an illustration of our robust strategic relationship with the kingdom. In Riyadh, Assistant Secretary Feltman met with Saudi officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, Prince Saud bin Naif, the president of the crown prince’s court and special advisor to the crown prince. They discussed, obviously, the entire region’s special emphasis on Yemen, on Syria, on Egypt, on Iran.
He also met, while in Riyadh, with GCC Secretary General Zayani, and they discussed the broad range of security issues. He had a number of press events, including a broad roundtable with Saudi young people, including some bloggers. So that was a good opportunity, and he’ll be home tonight.
QUESTION: And is it Deputy Burns’s plan to travel to Egypt?
MS. NULAND: I don’t know if all of the stops on his itinerary have been announced, but yes, my understanding is it’s Turkey, Cairo, and then a couple of other stops. Yeah.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) discussions particularly on Yemen. I’m wondering if this new Yemen immunity law came up and it would apply to President Saleh and a lot of his officials?
MS. NULAND: I – you mean whether in Riyadh, they talked about the Yemeni --
QUESTION: Yeah, or more basically, what the U.S. view is of this law that’s being proposed. They’re saying it’s a way to speed Saleh’s exit, but others say that it’s a contravention of international law and it’ll let him get away scot-free.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you’ll remember that as part of the GCC transition initiative, which President Saleh ultimately signed and which Vice President Hadi and the opposition are working together to try to implement now, there was a provision of immunity for President Saleh and those who worked with him during the period of his government. However, that had to be put into law, so that’s what they’re working on now. This is part and parcel of giving these guys confidence that their era is over and it’s time for Yemen to be able to move forward towards a democratic future.
QUESTION: Another one on --
QUESTION: Is --
MS. NULAND: Jill, still on Yemen?
QUESTION: No, on Yemen.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: The signals from Sana’a are confusing because Hadi is saying that Saleh keeps interfering in his affairs, and I think this law may just add to the convolution of the conduct of government business.
MS. NULAND: I don’t understand the --
QUESTION: My question is the – follows: The vice president had said that the former president – or the current, soon-to-be-former President Saleh – keeps interfering in their affairs. Now this law that grants Saleh immunity will give him even more latitude to interfere.
MS. NULAND: Again, Said, this is not a new element. The immunity provisions were negotiated as part of the GCC deal to get Saleh to leave power. They have to be codified in law. That’s the process that’s ongoing now and hasn’t yet been completed.
But you know that in these situations, it’s often difficult to get the strongman to leave the stage when his time comes if he’s not sure about his safety and security. So the degree to which this process allows him to get out of the way so that Vice President Hadi and the opposition can get down to the work of implementing the transition plan, that would be a useful thing, but it’s still in draft, as you know.
QUESTION: Any decisions about the visa for President Saleh?
MS. NULAND: No decision. Interestingly, the visa application remains with the Embassy, but the – Saleh and his team have asked to have their passports returned, so not sure what that’s about.
All right. Anything else on Yemen? And there’s Elise. Welcome back, Happy New Year.
MS. NULAND: Venezuela.
QUESTION: The recent expulsion on Friday of the general consul from Miami, the recent (inaudible) activities that she had in Mexico dealing with possible cyber attacks on the United States facilities?
MS. NULAND: Was that a question?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, just to confirm what we said over the weekend, that the State Department did inform the Embassy of Venezuela on January 6th that in accordance with Article 23 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Department was declaring Ms. Livia Acosta Noguera, the Venezuelan consul general to Miami, to be persona non grata. As such, we asked her to depart the United States by January 10th. You will not be surprised if from this podium I am not going to comment on the specific elements that went into that request, but I will tell you that we do not take it lightly when we declare somebody persona non grata, and in this case I’m not going to go any further in order to protect sensitive information.
QUESTION: Has she left the country?
MS. NULAND: I do not know the answer to that, Nick. I refer you to the Venezuelan consul general.
QUESTION: Is there a reaction from the Venezuelan Government, official reaction? Is this an additional irritant in the relations between the United States and Venezuela?
MS. NULAND: Well, the actions leading to the PNG are obviously an irritant. To my knowledge, we have not had an official reaction yet from the Venezuelan Government.
MS. NULAND: Egypt.
QUESTION: Just kind of an update on those NGOs, whether – forgive me, I was not here at the end of last week, but whether the NGOs have gotten their property back, where we stand with that. And also more generally, the gains by Islamists parties – what – how does the U.S. look at that?
MS. NULAND: With regard to the aftermath of the raiding of the NGO offices, my understanding is that they have not yet gotten back all of their property. Our conversations with the Egyptian Government continue. This was front and center in Assistant Secretary Feltman’s conversations, trying to work through a way forward on these issues. Our position remains that these NGOs, as well as Egyptian domestic NGOs, play a very important role in a healthy democracy, not only in helping to train election monitors, but also to train in an open way political party folks, to train the press in how to cover elections. So we would like to see that situation normalized.
With regard to the elections, let’s just, first of all, make note of the fact that the Egyptians have now had three peaceful, well managed in general, rounds of elections, that the turnout has been strong, that the Egyptian people have clearly enjoyed taking advantage of their right to go out and express their views. With regard to the results, I think I don't want to get ahead of the official vote counts, et cetera, which are still to come.
But as we’ve said all along, Jill, and as I said again last Thursday or last Friday, we’re going to judge these parties not by the names on their doors or by their past history. We’re going to judge them by what they do with the power that they are now getting through the democratic electoral system, are they going to make good on the commitments that they’ve made to the Egyptian people and that they’ve made to us when we’ve met with them to uphold universal human rights, including the rights of women, to ensure that the open, democratic, tolerant, pluralistic system that the Egyptian people fought to have truly comes to be.
QUESTION: Just on that NGO, didn’t the foreign ministry promise you that all – that this was over, that they were going to return the property, end of story?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we spoke to this quite a bit last week, that we did have some assurances, and this is taking longer than we had – would have hoped. But we’re continuing to talk about it, and as you know, as I previously mentioned, Bill Burns is our next senior official to be in position to discuss this in Cairo.
MS. NULAND: Untrue.
QUESTION: Untrue. And --
MS. NULAND: Untrue.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you bring us up to speed on efforts to close Guantanamo? When was the last time somebody was transferred out of the prison?
MS. NULAND: I’m --
QUESTION: Not in a body bag. I know there was one a couple months ago that had died, but --
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I’m going to take that one, Kirit, because I don't have it here. I think you know some of the difficulties that we’ve been encountering in trying to implement the President’s efforts to close Guantanamo as quickly as possible. Policy remains to try to do that.
QUESTION: Yeah. Back to Egypt, please. Assistant Secretary Feltman was in Cairo. Do you have a readout of his meetings? I mean, did he meet Muslim Brothers or not?
MS. NULAND: We spoke about this quite a bit on Thursday and Friday, would refer you to the comments then --
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean --
MS. NULAND: -- including on Muslim Brotherhood, where I said he did not meet with them. He didn’t meet with any political parties on this trip.
QUESTION: But he met Amr Moussa, who is a candidate as a – for presidential elections. Does this as a former Arab League secretary or as a candidate for presidency?
MS. NULAND: Frankly, I don't have that about a Moussa meeting. If there’s something to say there, I’ll get it for you when he comes back. I did not have it in my readout.
QUESTION: Okay. I have another question regarding the already Burns’ meetings on Tuesday or Wednesday. I ask you he’s going to meet the Muslim Brother. And there are some announcement or approaching or reach out from their side to – regarding U.S. and Washington. Do you have any comment, and what was said about Camp David, about the peace process, about American aid that was published today and reported in The New York Times?
MS. NULAND: These are Muslim Brotherhood comments with regard to where they’re going to be?
QUESTION: Interview with – regarding U.S. relations with – regarding their relation with U.S.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I’m not going to comment on a press interview that the Muslim Brotherhood gave. I think the answer that I gave Jill earlier about how we’re going to judge these parties covers our attitude with regard to these matters, including the fact that we want to see Egyptian parties support existing international obligations that Egypt has.
QUESTION: And my last question, maybe. It’s regarding Jill, what she asked about the NGOs. What’s the next step, I mean, regarding these NGOs? Because it seems that it’s unsolvable issue. I mean, it’s all getting worse even from their side at least.
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said, we’re continuing to discuss this with Egyptian authorities in terms of meeting their requirements for transparency, et cetera. We are working it through. Assistant Secretary Feltman discussed it, and again, we have Deputy Secretary Burns there next – later this week, and he will discuss it as well.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Said.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow up on the rise of these Islamic parties into a position of power. The foreign – the German foreign minister said in Tunisia – Guido Westerwelle said that these parties are very much like the Christian Democrats in Germany and other places. Is this also the feeling in this building, that they are really very much like the Christian Democrat or the social Christian parties?
MS. NULAND: You’re asking an American to compare an Egyptian party to a German party. I think I’m going to leave that to the Germans.
QUESTION: Well, because he called these parties --
MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) I think I’m going to leave that to the Germans, Said.
QUESTION: If we’re leaving Egypt, there’s a congressional delegation in Germany today meeting with members of the Northern Alliance. Does the State Department have a view on these meetings?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, it’s within the right and purview of members of Congress to meet with international actors wherever and whenever they want to do that. We did advise our members of Congress who are in Berlin that we believe it is always better to meet Afghan representatives in Afghanistan and that we also believe it’s always best when our members of Congress can see a broad cross-section of Afghan political leaders, not just a slice. But as I said, it’s within their right to meet with whomever they’d like.
QUESTION: So when this delegation says that their meeting’s going ahead over the objections of the State Department, you’re saying that’s not that this meeting is taking place at all; it’s just the location and the exact itinerary of the delegation?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, and again, this isn’t a matter of objecting or not objecting, it’s a matter of giving our view that we wanted to see the CODEL benefit from talking to Afghans of all stripes, not just one slice, and that we thought it would be good if they could go to Afghanistan. They were not – it didn’t work out this time, but that’s where we are with that.
MS. NULAND: Okay?
MS. NULAND: Please, Andy.
QUESTION: One last one on – that is on Libya and the visit there by Sudan’s President Bashir. Over the weekend, he seemed to have gone in and left unmolested. I’m just wondering if you have any reaction to that visit. Does that give you any concern over the transitional government’s commitments to openness and to, sort of, following international procedure when it comes to this stuff?
MS. NULAND: Well, we did raise this issue with Libyan officials. I will tell you we raised it relative late, because we learned about the visit relatively late. The Libyan Government knows our view that we oppose invitations, facilitation, or support for travel by President Bashir because he’s a subject of an ICC arrest warrant. We have a long policy of urging other nations to do the same, and obviously we have long supported efforts to bring those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity and war crimes to justice.
We have also said to the Libyans that we would like to see them join the international community in calling for the Government of Sudan to cooperate fully with the ICC. So this is the conversation we’re having with the Libyans. As with many things, this is a first time as a free government they’ve had to encounter these issues, they’ve been sort of outside this statute for some time. So I think that we will continue our discussion about the appropriate way to deal with Sudan and to deal with Bashir.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Pakistan? Have you been in touch with President Zardari’s office and have you been told that he’s going, again, to Dubai?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything on Zardari travel. Is that something that you have?
MS. NULAND: No, I don’t have anything on that. If it turns out we have something and I just didn’t have it, we’ll get back to you, Cami.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
MS. NULAND: Same subject?
QUESTION: Can I ask on Pakistan, please? The prime minister of Pakistan has called the actions of the head of the army and the head of ISI in giving statements to the supreme court illegal and unconstitutional. How concerned are you about this rising and tension between the civil-military relationship? And do you foresee a clash coming?
MS. NULAND: I think you’re trying to draw me into an – internal discussions inside Pakistan. I’m not so sure that that’s appropriate from this podium. We have long supported civilian government in Pakistan. We cooperate closely with Pakistani-civilian government, but we also cooperate closely with the military and we want to see strong dialogue between them inside Pakistan.
QUESTION: Would you confirm that a letter was written to the Secretary of State this weekend signed by a dozen or so scholars in Pakistan, asking them to intervene in the case of the former ambassador, Husain Haqqani, the so-called Memogate scandal. Apparently a letter was sent to the Secretary and if – can you confirm it? And can you also tell what their response would be?
MS. NULAND: Well, we did receive the letter. I spoke to the Haqqani issues on Friday. I think our view is well known by the Pakistani Government. I’m sure we will be answering the letter, but I’m not in a position to give you the details of that at this point.
QUESTION: Can you update us on efforts to improve Pakistan-U.S. relations now that the country’s ambassador is also here in Washington? Are you planning to meet her?
MS. NULAND: We’ll obviously welcome Pakistan’s new ambassador to the United States. She’ll be received here at an appropriate moment. She’ll also present her credentials at the White House when they schedule that. It’ll be a good chance in the new year to talk about the important work that we have to do together.
MS. NULAND: North Korea. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you confirm the media reports that North Korea requested the United States to include rice – more rice and corn in its food assistance package.
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve --
MS. NULAND: We’ve said for some time that we are trying to work out the issues of need and monitoring with the DPRK. As you know, we had our Special Envoy for DPRK Human Rights Issues, Robert King, and USAID Deputy, John Brause, met with the DPRK delegation in Beijing on these issues back in, I guess it was, early December. We left that round with a number of unresolved issues, both in terms of what was needed and in terms of some of our monitoring requirements. We’ve had some contacts, as we’ve reported here before, since then in the New York channel to work out those issues, but questions still remain on our side.
I’m not going to get into any further details except to say that you know our view that, were we to go forward with this, we would want to go forward in a way that gave us maximum confidence that the nutritional assistance would go to those in need, and could not be diverted to any other uses.
QUESTION: Can you tell when is that last time you communicated with North Korea in the New York channel?
MS. NULAND: I think we’ve had some phone conversations with New York since the new year, but again, they have not been conclusive.
QUESTION: Yes. I have a question about Nigeria. I am Sandra Ferrer from the Agence France-Presse and I wanted to know if you are worried about what is going in the country where people have been shot dead as tens of thousands in the street of nationwide over fuel price hikes? And also where there has been a wave of attacks on Christians claimed by Islamists?
MS. NULAND: Well, we obviously strongly condemn the continuing acts of violence which have been credited to Boko Haram. We express condolences to the families of the victims. We urge Nigerian authorities to hold accountable those who are responsible for these attacks, while protecting innocent civilians in the in – as they pursue their law enforcement activities.
Extremist groups, like Boko Haram, are trying to play on some of the tensions inside Nigeria – some of the unsatisfied grievances in the north – and use those as excuses for this kind of violence. So obviously we urge the Nigerian Government to do what it can to try to redress those grievances, but we under no circumstances consider that this is an excuse for violence.
We also strongly condemn statements by a purported Boko Haram spokesman intended to inflame Muslim and Christian tensions. From our perspective, Nigeria derives enormous strength from its ethnic and religious diversity. And this is something that the government needs to capitalize on, and clearly Boko Haram is trying to rip the country apart.
QUESTION: Do you think this can destabilize the region, or --
MS. NULAND: Well, you’ve seen the strong statements by President Jonathan. He’s obviously working hard to address these issues and that needs to continue.
QUESTION: Do you consider Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Maghreb as a threat to the U.S. interests in Africa?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve made clear that anybody who is conducting terrorism of any kind is a threat both to the region and is a threat to our shared interest in peace a stability, of course.
QUESTION: Secretary Geithner is heading to Beijing seeking China’s support of the financial sanction on Iran. But China’s foreign – deputy foreign minister just said that China’s trade with Iran has nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear program. So I’m wondering what’s your comments on that.
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously I’m going to refer you to the Treasury to give more comment on the goals of Secretary Geithner’s trip to Beijing. But we feel strongly that all countries, including China, ought to be looking hard at how we can reduce dependence on Iranian oil as a way of sending a signal to that government that it needs to come back into compliance with its international obligations. And China shares our larger goal of bringing Iran back into compliance with the UN. And so I’m sure that these issues will be discussed on that trip.
QUESTION: Also on China, just over the past weekend, three monks in Tibet did the self-immolation. That’s the – new cases in this year. So I’m wondering if you have any comments on that.
MS. NULAND: We do. We’re seriously concerned by reports that three more Tibetans have self-immolated over the past few days. Since March, this brings the count to some 15 Tibetan Buddhist self-immolations in China. We have consistently – the U.S. Government has consistently and directly raised with the Chinese Government this issue of Tibetan self-immolation.
These actions clearly represent enormous anger, enormous frustration with regard to the severe restrictions on human rights, including religious freedom inside China. And we have called the Chinese Government policies counterproductive and have urged the Chinese Government to have a productive dialogue to loosen up in Tibet and allow journalists and diplomats and other observers to report accurately and to respect the human rights of all of their citizens.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:47 p.m.)
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