Daily Press Briefing - December 20, 2011
Index for Today's Briefing:
- UN General Assembly / Human Rights
- Detained American Citizen
- Secretary's Statement
- Nutritional Assistance
- Discussions with Foreign Ministers Yang and Lavrov
- Arab League / International Monitors
- Asad Needs to Step Aside
- Arrest Warrant for Iraqi Vice President
- Camp Ashraf
- Death of U.S. Citizen / Refer to Lebanese Government
- Peaceful Demonstrations / Freedom of Media
1:03 p.m. EST
Yesterday, the United Nations General Assembly passed by the largest margin ever its 9th Annual Resolution condemning Iran’s human rights record. This record 89 votes demonstrates a growing international consensus against the increasing repression and rampant human rights violations carried out by the Iranian regime.
While Tehran attempts to whitewash its record through repeated denials of UN-documented abuses, international bodies including the special rapporteur on human rights in Iran appointed by the Human Rights Council in March of 2011, continue to highlight ongoing torture, repression of individual expression and religious freedom, and the ongoing detention of all who dare to speak out against the regime.
That’s what I have.
QUESTION: The largest margin in the General Assembly ever?
MS. NULAND: For this particular – on this particular issue.
QUESTION: Oh, oh. Okay. Gotcha.
MS. NULAND: For example, last year we had 78 votes in favor of a similar position.
QUESTION: Okay. But not ever. I mean, there certainly have been unanimous votes.
MS. NULAND: No, on this issue. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Can we go to North Korea?
MS. NULAND: We can.
QUESTION: Can we stay on the General Assembly? They also voted for the right of the Palestinian self-determination overwhelmingly -- except for seven states -- in the same breath. So are you aware of that? Like seven countries did not vote – the United States, Canada, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and a couple of others.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think this isn’t a change from our longstanding policy with regard to that issue.
QUESTION: On North Korea.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: One, what was the thinking behind putting the statement out last night from the Secretary after she’d already spoken to it?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know – yeah – as you know, the Secretary had some preliminary comments on North Korea following her meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Gemba, and in particular, she expressed concern at that time for the North Korean people. We had always intended to put out a more fulsome statement from the Secretary on the DPRK situation, but we wanted to have a chance to consult more fully with all of our Six-Party allies and partners. And because of the time difference where we had partners who were asleep in the middle of the day, we weren’t able to fully consult and coordinate and then put out more fulsome statement until later in the day.
And I do apologize that it was as late as it was; 10 o’clock at night is not good for anybody. We had intended to try to get it out around 6 or 7, but sometimes these things take longer than one plans.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, it – you say it’s more fulsome, and I suppose that in some ways it is. But it didn’t express any kind of condolence, it didn’t talk about the way ahead or the way the U.S. sees the way ahead except in a – very broad, general terms, and that the new North Korean leadership will take the path to peace. What are the Administration’s thoughts on the specifics in terms of the way ahead? And secondly, why was there a decision – or why is there no expression of condolence?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me just take issue with the way you characterized the statement of one line in the statement. For those of you who haven’t seen it is the following, “It is our hope that the new leadership of the DPRK will choose to guide their nation on to the path of peace by honoring North Korea’s commitments, improving relations with neighbors, and respecting the rights of its people.” So when you ask what do we want to see happen? We want to see the new leadership of the DPRK take their country in the direction of denuclearization, in the direction of compliance with their international obligations and commitments. We want to see them have better relations, particularly with South Korea, but obviously, with all of the neighbors, and then respecting the rights of their people.
She goes on at some length about what we hope to see for the North Korean people. So this was intended to be a signal of our expectations and hopes for the new regime along the lines that I just outlined here. With regard to the C-word, I think we didn’t considerate it appropriate in this case.
QUESTION: I mean, the one sentence that you read, I think I asked that in my question. Beyond a very general description of what you would like to see, which, okay, that’s fine. I mean, we’d all love unicorns and rainbows to be everywhere in North Korea, but that’s not very specific. What – is there anything in particular that you would like to see, and is there anything in particular that you are willing to do now to help prod them in that direction? I’m – perhaps I’m not being clear enough. I want to know if there’s been any decision to delay or to go ahead with the food assistance. And I want to know if there’s been any decision to go ahead with or to delay, obviously until the end of the mourning period and when North Korean officials are able to do their jobs, to go ahead with another round of nuclear talks – bilateral, not Six-Party.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, the DPRK, as you have said, is in this period of mourning. So this statement was designed to express solidarity with the people of North Korea and our hope that they can live in greater dignity and greater human rights, in the future greater peace, greater prosperity, lasting security, et cetera. And to in, as you say, relatively general terms, because we need to respect the mourning period before we can move forward on consultations, but in relatively general terms, our hopes and expectations in the area of denuclearization, in the area of good neighborly relations, and in the area of human rights, dignity, and a better quality of life for the Korean people.
With regard to nutritional assistance, I think I said last week on Friday that we needed to have Ambassador King and Assistant Deputy Administrator for AID Jon Brause come home after their consultations with the DPRK delegation in Beijing and report. So what they have reported is that, while they did have a constructive round of discussions in Beijing last week with the DPRK interlocutors that they saw on nutritional needs and on monitoring issues, there are a number of issues that still need to be resolved. So we’re going to have to keep talking about this. And given the mourning period, frankly, we don’t think we’ll be able to have much more clarity and resolve these issues before the new year. But obviously, we stand ready to keep working on this.
QUESTION: The mourning period, though, doesn’t affect the – well, I don’t know, actually, maybe it does. Do you have any indication that the hunger situation in North Korea is going to ease up over the period – over this mourning period with – perhaps the government is going to give out extra rations or something like that? I mean, I guess what I’m getting at is the need – just because they’re in a period of mourning, is there a –less of a need now?
MS. NULAND: Well, as we have said from the beginning with regard to nutritional assistance, we need to complete our own assessment of need. We also need to have a better understanding, if we are to move forward, on how we would be able to monitor any nutritional assistance that we would be giving. So both of these were subjects of discussion in the Beijing talks. As I said, those talks were inconclusive on some of these issues. So we are not at a position now to go forward with a U.S. Government decision until we can have some more engagement, which we don’t anticipate being able to do until after the new year.
QUESTION: All right. And then just the last one was the six – the bilateral talks on the nuclear issue.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, they are in a period of mourning. No U.S. decisions have been made on that.
QUESTION: Two clarifications. First, can you get into any of the specifics on what some of those issues are that are outstanding?
MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to get into the details of the talks, except to say that we do need to continue to discuss our assessment of need as compared to their assessment of need, we do need to continue to talk about monitoring procedures.
QUESTION: So it is a monitoring issue, essentially?
MS. NULAND: It is a monitoring issue among other things, among other things.
QUESTION: I was just wondering, you mentioned yesterday that the Secretary was going to talk to her Chinese and Russian counterparts. I gather, from the Chinese side anyway, that at least one of those conversations took place. Can you tell us when and what they discussed? And also, did the issue of the food aid come up in any of those conversations, or is it a strictly bilateral conversation with the North Koreans?
And finally, on the path to peace wording, did she run that by the Chinese and the Russians before that statement went out?
MS. NULAND: Well, first on your last point, we didn’t clear these statements with any of our partners or allies. We did make clear that we would be issuing a statement that stressed in particular what we wanted to see going forward and expressed concern for the North Korean people.
The Secretary did speak to Chinese Foreign Minister Yang last evening, both of them obviously expressing interest in ensuring peace, stability, calm on the North Korean – on the Korean peninsula as a whole, but particularly in North Korea, and our desire to stay in close touch on these issues as the transition unfolds.
She spoke about 45 minutes ago as well to Foreign Minister Lavrov. That conversation was first on the situation in the DPRK, very similar, shared interest in peace, stability. And then they also talked about Syria.
QUESTION: Did they talk at all about any of the domestic issues – her concerns about the domestic issues inside Russia, protests and so on?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have that, Kirit. But we’ve been pretty clear publicly, and obviously the President and President Medvedev spoke on these issues, as was clear, early in the week.
QUESTION: And the food aid question, did that come up in either of those conversations?
MS. NULAND: I do not believe so. I do not believe so.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the Syria --
QUESTION: Can I stay on North Korea real quick?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, let’s do – finish North Korea, then we’ll come back to Syria.
QUESTION: You’ve spoken repeatedly about the mourning period that’s going on right now. I’m curious whether you believe that’s something more governmental or if you really think that people inside North Korea are mourning. You’ve seen some of the videos of people crying. I’m curious whether you have any assessment whether you think those are legitimate emotions being expressed on the street.
MS. NULAND: I’m certainly not in a position to judge that one way or the other. But between now and the funeral, at least, the government has declared an official period of mourning, so it’s not, as we understand it, engaged in normal governmental business.
QUESTION: Victoria, the – Governor Richardson said that it would be appropriate to issue condolences. So you don’t agree with the governor, especially when the whole nation is so traumatized, as Kirit said?
MS. NULAND: Again, I think that our statements have made clear our interest in seeing a better future for the North Korean people, and that was the sentiment that we were eager to express with them.
QUESTION: Regarding the condolence, have you ever touch in talking with the North Korean delegation in New York?
MS. NULAND: Your question is whether there have been any contacts?
QUESTION: Yes, regarding this --
MS. NULAND: In what time period?
QUESTION: About condolence issues regarding --
MS. NULAND: I think our statements are designed to speak for us with regard to our message to the North Korean people. We have had some technical discussions following up on the food conversation in Beijing.
QUESTION: Nothing – not-- nothing like official talking with Kim Jong-il’s death?
MS. NULAND: No. I think our statements are – what we want to do is speak directly to the North Korean people, and that was the aspiration behind the statement.
QUESTION: You said you had some technical discussions. Is that following the death of --
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: So there has been some communication official-to-official with the North Koreans since the death?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. But that’s been only on technical details of the food talks, not on anything broader?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to whether it was broader, but it was a technical level and it was designed to make clear that we still had questions with regard to the nutritional assistance issues.
QUESTION: And that was yesterday?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak – I guess it would have had to have been yesterday, right? Yeah.
QUESTION: And, well --
QUESTION: But there was no mention of the death of Kim Jong-il in that contact?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to whether there was or there wasn’t. But again, I think it is likely that U.S. officials pointed to U.S. public statements.
QUESTION: But I thought you said that no one in the North Korean Government was doing any business. Obviously, that’s not the case if they – or did they just present a list of here’s what we still need to have taken care of?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to the details of this. I think there were people at work yesterday in the channel that we normally use. But our understanding is that it’s going to be difficult to do government business during this period.
QUESTION: What exactly is that channel? Is this --
MS. NULAND: I think you know how we usually communicate.
QUESTION: Okay. That’s what I’m asking. This is your usual New York channel?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Michel.
QUESTION: Toria, do you have any details about Secretary Clinton discussions with Lavrov regarding Syria?
MS. NULAND: Are we ready to move on to Syria? Yeah. So, obviously, the Secretary compared notes with Foreign Minister Lavrov with regard to the situation in Syria, particularly the Arab League initiative and its effort to now begin deploying its monitors into Syria. She also shared with Foreign Minister Lavrov our willingness to work in New York on a Security Council resolution and our shared interest in ensuring that we are working closely, all of us, with the Arab League as well.
QUESTION: Toria, yesterday, an Arab American organization requested that – the Obama Administration to grant temporary protective status for Syrian nationals. Are you aware of that?
MS. NULAND: I had not seen that, Said.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you find --
QUESTION: A Syria question. The head of the Arab League said in an interview today that he’s hoping that they can get their monitors in place by the end of December. Does that sound like a realistic timeline to you?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously been in close touch with the Arab League. The European Union has also been in close touch with the Arab League. Obviously, we all want to test the Syrian Government’s willingness to implement all aspects of the Arab League’s proposal and particularly its commitment to unfettered access for human rights monitors into Syria now.
Our understanding is that the Arab League wants to begin starting to deploy its monitors by the end of this week in at least 10 locations in Syria, and that it expects by the time it’s finished with its deployment, which it thinks will be about the middle of January, to have some 300, 400 monitors all over Syria, which would obviously be a very welcome step and we think will be crucial to helping put eyes on the street in service to protecting innocent civilians and giving an accurate accounting to the international community about what’s going on there.
So we very much support that. The European Union is also supporting. It has quite a bit of experience with these kinds of monitors and is providing some technical assistance to the Arab League as it gets ready to deploy. But as we’ve said, the Syrians have been breaking a lot of promises recently, so we want to see these monitors get in and be able to start their business.
And then just to be clear that there were four aspects to the Arab League program which the Syrians say they are now signed on to, so it’s not just the unfettered access to monitors. It’s also stopping all acts of violence, withdrawing armed elements from populated areas and releasing all political prisoners.
QUESTION: But just --
QUESTION: What type of regime could be put in place to ensure that these monitors are not intimidated, are not chased away, they have actually access to report on all these things, from past experiences?
MS. NULAND: Well, this is exactly what has to happen, Said. They have to be able to go freely where they want to go without being hindered, without any false pretexts of security concerns, et cetera, without being intimidated by Syrian security forces. They have to be able to talk to whomever they want; they have to be able to get their reports out.
We have been able to do this in other parts of the world where we’ve had difficulties of this kind. There are standards that – particularly that the OSCE, Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, has championed around the world. So that’s why we have some European expertise with the Arab League. I think this will be the first time – unless I’m wrong; you might know better than me, Said – that the Arab League has deployed in this – on this kind of a mission. So –
QUESTION: They did. But on the issue of withdrawing all forces from the streets and from the cities and so on, there are also armed militants that have actually been sniping at the Syrian army. Would there be a call for them to also cease and desist, so to speak?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we have, certainly, and the Arab League has also said that violence is not the answer from any side here. But as we have said repeatedly here, we believe that it is the violence led by and perpetrated by the regime that is drawing a reaction now. So if they – Syrian troops and regime forces are withdrawing back to barracks and we have civilian monitors who are actually independent and able to verify what’s happening, we’ll have a better picture.
QUESTION: Okay. And lastly, would the United States Government, in principle, support Syria having to fight what they describe as terrorists and armed elements that actually do carry out militant attacks against them?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, Said, as we have said repeatedly, we believe that the degree to which we are starting to see Syrians fight back, it is because of the horrific violence that the regime has been responsible for. So we want to see the regime’s violence end. We want to see independent monitors on the street. We want to see the Syrian people feel safe so that there will be no need for any self-defense measures.
QUESTION: Just a quick --
MS. NULAND: Please, in the back.
QUESTION: Regarding Syria again, do you – by saying this, the monitors and they have an access to what’s going on on the streets and all these things, so you are stepping aside from your attitude that Asad has to step out?
MS. NULAND: No. Our view has not changed that Asad needs to step down, that he is not the man to lead his country into the future. This Arab League proposal, we believe, offers the best opportunity to end the violence immediately so that Syria can move on to this next stage, which is a period that we hope will lead to real dialogue about a democratic future, which, frankly, we don’t think Asad is capable of being a part of.
QUESTION: So – because the perception is that in that part of the world, and among specifically about that by the Syrian people, that it’s just to take – to gain time. It’s like postpone this confrontation or the necessity to leave the power.
MS. NULAND: Well, let me just be clear on behalf of the United States of America. We continue to believe that Asad needs to step aside, that Syria cannot progress with him at the head of the government. And we are concerned that there are delaying tactics here. We’ve always been concerned about that, which is why we want to see these monitors deploy – start deploying by the end of the week and the deployment be complete by the middle of January, as the Arab League has hoped will happen.
QUESTION: But I was wondering in the Secretary’s conversation with Minister Lavrov if they discussed the Russian draft resolution. And is there any sense that, given that this Arab plan is unfolding in the coming days, that that work should be slowed or stopped, pending whatever may happen with this Arab League plan on the ground?
MS. NULAND: Well, first, the foreign minister and the Secretary agreed that we need to keep working in New York on the resolution. We’ve made clear that we think that the Russian draft needs to be beefed up. We’ve also been clear that we want to see this Arab League initiative supported. So we’re on two tracks now: continuing to work on the resolution in New York and then testing to see if the Syrians are serious about implementing their commitments to the Arab League. And we will see what the UN Security Council resolution needs to do as this moves forward.
QUESTION: On Iran, the – in the case of the American, Amir Hekmati, who’s under detention there, do you know if Swiss, through their role as the U.S. protecting power, have gotten consular access to him?
MS. NULAND: I don't have an update from yesterday. As of yesterday, we had asked for it; the Swiss had asked for it, but they had not yet had access.
QUESTION: And then secondly on that, there was – a U.S. official said that Iran has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies. Does the U.S. Government believe that’s the case here, that Mr. Hekmati has been falsely accused of being a spy?
MS. NULAND: We do.
QUESTION: Going back to Syria, just for a quick one, now Ambassador Ford is back in Damascus and the former Syrian ambassador to Washington has been reassigned to China. Has there been any development in that area? Have there been any names submitted to you or considered as a Syrian ambassador to Washington?
MS. NULAND: Let me just check. I think a couple of days ago I did have a new name, but I’m not sure, Said. We had been informed that Ambassador Moustapha was being reassigned. I believe we also got a name of a successor, but I, frankly, don’t have it here, and I may be wrong in that, so let us just check on that for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: Can I go back on Korean food aid?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You were talking about how there will be no decision on food aid before the end of the year. I was curious – and you mentioned that that was due to concerns over monitoring. Would you deny that there was any influence in that decision based on the death of Kim Jong-il? Would that have been the case also had he not died over the weekend?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we might have been in a position to continue the discussions that we still need to have on some of these issues, which now seem to be difficult to do in the short run. So --
QUESTION: So it’s basically the fact that you don’t think that, due to the mourning period, you would not have enough time to be able to talk to the officials? That’s the reason for the delay, you think?
MS. NULAND: We have issues that still need to be resolved with regard to need, with regard to monitoring. They’re going to take more discussion with DPRK representatives along the lines of the conversations that we had in Beijing. We don’t think that they’re going to be in a position to have those conversations in the short run.
QUESTION: Because of the mourning period?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
QUESTION: Right. So to put a finer point on it, a decision was possible in a shorter period of time, but until he died --
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I don't want to get into all of the back-and-forth here, but --
QUESTION: No. I understand that, but, I mean, what could have happened this week is not going to happen this week. It’ll happen --
MS. NULAND: It was certainly our intention to try to resolve these issues together as quickly as we could, and we’re still prepared to do that.
QUESTION: So do you need to have another round of talks – direct talks? Or can it be done through New York channel?
MS. NULAND: Again, you’re taking me into a level of detail that I’m not prepared to get into. We have some unresolved issues we have to work out, and we can work them out in any way that will satisfy the remaining concerns.
MS. NULAND: On Iraq?
QUESTION: So it means a temporary postponed or this – bilateral talks or – for the aid and stuff?
MS. NULAND: We have made no decisions one way or the other about bilateral talks, and we will not for – in this period.
QUESTION: Iraq. I have one. I just – I was wondering if you had anything further on the communications between the U.S. Government and the Iraqi Government on those arrest warrants. Ambassador Jeffrey, as you said, has been in touch with all parties. Did he return to Iraq because of this issue? I know he was in town for the Maliki visit. Was that – was his return in part because of this sectarian threat posed by these warrants?
MS. NULAND: Well, he’s been doing laps back and forth. He was here for the Maliki visit, he was back, he was here for another ceremony in the U.S., now he’s back. And as I said, we are eager to have him there because he has been talking to all of the interlocutors and encouraging them to work together, to work together within the constitution, within international standards of rule of law, and try to work through these issues. So he continues to (inaudible).
QUESTION: Is there anything more you can tell us specifically on what that advice entails? I mean, what specifically is the U.S. hoping or urging the Iraqis to do to prevent another outbreak of sectarian violence pegged to this case?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think I went through the sort of whole menu of things that we’re advising yesterday, but just to go through it again if that’s helpful --
MS. NULAND: With regard to the arrest warrant for Vice President al-Hashimi, we are urging the Iraqi authorities charged with the responsibility for these investigations to conduct these investigations into alleged terrorist activities in accordance with international legal norms and full respect for Iraqi law. More broadly, we’re urging all political parties and activists to try to resolve their political differences peacefully, through dialogue, within the constitutional norms set forth within Iraq, and to really demonstrate their commitment to a unitary, sovereign Iraq that abides by its own constitution.
QUESTION: And looking at the warrants that are now out and given your prior experience with al-Hashimi, is – do you have any reason to believe that these accusations are at all plausible, or do you worry that this is a politically motivated legal proceeding?
MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to give a value judgment one way or the other here. I think that from our perspective, the proof of this has to be in the conduct of the investigation of the legal procedures in a manner that comports with international law.
QUESTION: Toria, could you share with us if Mr. Jeffrey spoke with Vice President al-Hashimi in the last – let’s say this – today or --
MS. NULAND: Without getting into too many details, suffice to say that he’s spoken to pretty much every major Iraqi political actor in the last couple of days.
QUESTION: Including Vice President al-Hashimi?
MS. NULAND: I believe so, yes.
QUESTION: And Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to whether he’s spoken to him since his arrest, but he --
QUESTION: Do you know their status? Are they on the run or are they hiding? What’s --
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that, Said.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) quick follow-up on this. Has anyone above Ambassador Jeffrey’s level been in contact with the Iraqis on this? Assistant Secretary Feltman or the Secretary, anybody like that?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that Vice President Biden has been in contact with a number of Iraqis. I’ll refer you to his office. We – I think I read out some of that earlier in the week.
QUESTION: In general, can you – what’s the Administration’s opinion of the Iraqi justice system and its ability to provide due process to – and due process in a fair, transparent trial for those who are charged with crimes?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we’ve been working with the Iraqis to build their justice system for a number of years now. And again, each --
QUESTION: Yeah. How did that go?
MS. NULAND: Each case is a new case and has to meet the high standards expected of Iraq by its own constitution, and as I said, we will judge them by their ability to uphold their own constitution and international standards.
QUESTION: Right. Well, but I mean, you pronounce judgment on other countries’ legal – on your opinion of other countries’ legal systems all the time. What is it – what’s your opinion of the Iraqi justice system?
MS. NULAND: The Iraqi justice system, in its latest iteration, has produced justice in some cases. It needs to continue to do so in these cases.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to give them a grade if that’s what you’re asking for, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, then – well, I mean --
MS. NULAND: Michel.
QUESTION: Yeah. The Lebanese army has discovered --
QUESTION: Wait a second. I want to stay on that. I’m sorry.
MS. NULAND: Okay.
QUESTION: You can’t say whether you expect al-Hashimi will get a fair trial or not?
MS. NULAND: It is our expectation that these – this legal proceeding will proceed in accordance with Iraq’s own --
QUESTION: All right.
MS. NULAND: -- constitution and international law.
QUESTION: Different subject on Iraq --
QUESTION: On this very issue, so you are urging them to employ whatever the legal ground, so on, and conducting whatever charges they have against al-Hashimi, but you’re not urging them to withdraw these charges, are you?
MS. NULAND: Again, they have made charges under their own justice system.
MS. NULAND: What we are saying is that they need to conduct their investigation and comport themselves with regard to the vice president in accordance with international legal norms and full respect for their own Iraqi law. And that’s the basis on which we will judge whether they have comported themselves appropriately in this case.
QUESTION: And the United States Government did not contact the President of Iraq Jalal Talabani to discuss with him charges against his vice president?
MS. NULAND: We’ve obviously been in discussion, as I said, with all major players in Iraq on our hope and expectation that they will resolve their disputes peacefully, that they will resolve their disputes in a manner that comports with Iraqi law, comports with international standards. But beyond that, I’m not going to get into the details of our discussions with individual Iraqis.
QUESTION: But you can’t say that these accusations are credible or not?
MS. NULAND: Again, unless and until one sees the case, we’re not going to be judging in a public forum, so --
QUESTION: And that – what do you mean by the international legal norms?
MS. NULAND: What we always mean by international legal norms, that we want to see those accused of crimes be treated fairly in the courts with access to legal representation, with clear standards of justice being presented, et cetera.
QUESTION: Years ago, there were similar accusations to Mr. Hashimi, and as a result, both his brother and sister were killed. Are you aware of that?
MS. NULAND: Was that during the Saddam era, Said?
QUESTION: No, not during the Saddam era. That’s --
MS. NULAND: I am not aware of that one way or the other.
Okay? Any other issues?
QUESTION: Yeah. No, though I want to go to my other Iraq question, which is: What is your understanding of the situation right now at Camp Ashraf?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we’ve been quite active in support of --
QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking about the negotiations. I want to know specifically, what’s your understanding of the situation there at the camp, like, on the ground right now. There are members of – residents who claim that the – they’ve been subject to a blockade, that nothing is getting in – food, fuel, that kind of thing.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have that information. I will take it and check on the status of the actual camp. As you know, we have been supporting strongly the efforts of the United Nations and Ambassador Kobler to try to negotiate between --
QUESTION: Right. That’s not my question, though.
MS. NULAND: -- the Government of Iraq and the residents of Ashraf to settle these issues peaceably and before the deadline, and particularly to help the Ashrafis get themselves resettled. So those efforts continue. I do not have any information at the moment with regard to difficulties at the camp today, but if that is not accurate, we will get back to you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ashraf?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: I think I do. Let me just see here. This is the – this is with regard to U.S. citizen John Redwine; is that right?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. We can confirm the death of John Redwine. We express our condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time. We have been providing consular services to the next of kin. We’re also – we’re in close contact with Lebanese authorities, with his family, and we have been since he was first reported missing, I guess it was on the 19th, yesterday. So – but with – and the Lebanese Government is investigating. We would refer you to them for information about the investigation.
QUESTION: Did you know what was behind the – is that --
MS. NULAND: I don’t think we have that information at the moment; refer you to the Lebanese with regard to their investigation.
QUESTION: Is there any terrorist act or anything behind --
MS. NULAND: Again, I can’t speak to that at this moment. I think he was just discovered dead yesterday, so – please.
QUESTION: With Iran real quickly, there are reports today that the IAEA has – or they’ve – Iran has renewed their invitation to the IAEA to come into the country and, they said, resolve the issues. Have you seen reports, and do you have any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: I think we spoke to that a couple of days ago. We obviously welcome the fact that the IAEA is going to get back in. We want to make sure that this visit is complete, that they get to all the sites they want to get to, that they can interview anybody that they want to see, and that they get to all the records that they need to see, because this is the standard that we want to see Iran implement.
QUESTION: There’s a meeting in Italy today, I think, on Iran sanctions. Do you have anything to say about that?
MS. NULAND: There is. This is an informal grouping of countries that’s been getting together over the last two years, particularly with the goal of looking at what more we can do as an international community on the sanctions front, comparing notes about where we think the pressure points might be, and how we can work together, whether it’s implementing new multilateral sanctions or strengthening our national implementation of existing sanctions, or putting forward as groups of nations more packages of sanctions.
So we are talking to likeminded countries in Rome. The United States is represented in these talks by Ambassador Bill Wood, who is the deputy to Ambassador Einhorn on these issues. And it’s an informal meeting; we don’t expect any decisions to come out of it, but it’s a good chance to concert views with countries about the next steps we might take in sanctions.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any message with regard to implementation of existing sanctions that this – trying to put forward at this meeting now?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think there’ll probably be quite a number of questions about the implementation of the Central Bank of Iran legislation, so we’ll also be reassuring countries that we will work with them closely as we implement the legislation.
QUESTION: Okay. And then – and you don’t know if anything new has come out of it, right? There’s no kind of product at the end of this meeting, it’s informal, but was there kind of any new ideas bantered around that you can share with us?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, the meeting is going on today. Given the fact that it’s in Rome, I’m guessing that they’re going to enjoy a nice Roman dinner as well. I doubt that there will be any decisions out of this, but it’s a chance to concert views on where we might go next.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You have anything about the ongoing clashes?
MS. NULAND: Well, I hope you saw the statement that we put out over the weekend, as well as the very strong remarks --
QUESTION: Words, yeah.
MS. NULAND: -- by the Secretary --
QUESTION: Yesterday, yeah.
MS. NULAND: -- with regard to violence against women in Egypt. So we continue to be concerned by the violence. We continue, through our Embassy and other platforms, to make clear that we expect the Syrian security forces to --
QUESTION: Are they in Egypt now? Or are we going back to the old Arab Republic? (Laughter.)
MS. NULAND: Going back to Egypt? (Laughter.) Yeah. Back to Egypt.
MS. NULAND: We – that we expect the Egyptian authorities to exercise appropriate restraint. And to the degree that demonstrators are peaceful, they should be allowed to demonstrate peacefully, et cetera.
QUESTION: Victoria, the Egyptian military are saying that they are not using tear gas, obviously in a message directed to you, because all that tear gas is imported from the United States. But are they also using American-made ammunition, like bullets? Because there today, there was excessive use of live ammunition, do you know?
MS. NULAND: I’m not in a position to speak to that one way or the other here, Said.
QUESTION: So by the way, there is some kind of restrictions about the media, including some American media people were, like, arrested for a few hours. Are you doing anything regarding this attitude or this behavior by the authorities? At least couple dozen, I mean, like, 20 people at least in the last five or six days were arrested even for few hours including one or two Americans, and one of the American journalists simply said that he’d was in touch with the Embassy and the answer was that we already have a warning that no – don’t go to the demonstrations. Is this is the attitude of the Embassy trying to help people, or like figure out how they are doing their job?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve been very, very clear all the way through with regard to Egypt that freedom of the media is an absolute necessity in this situation. With regard to the arrest of American journalists, the Embassy was involved in trying to -- in securing the release there, and we made clear how we feel about these things. That said, we do have a warning to all American citizens to stay away from large protests in Egypt, and as we do in other parts of the world.
QUESTION: Regarding the political process which you really insist on encouraging it, or that even praise it, at this certain moment it was the election process, there is some concern that as long as – even from not just from the Americans – I mean, from the Egyptians regarding Americans and Europeans, as long as they are seeing that the elections are going on, it doesn’t matter how it’s done or how it’s going on, the clashes in the streets, and it become like a, “you take this, and you do whatever you want to do.”
MS. NULAND: I think we would absolutely reject that characterization. We have been absolutely clear; the Secretary herself has been clear, including over the weekend, again, yesterday in her speech, in her NDI speech several weeks ago about how we feel about the violence in Egypt. So I don’t think anybody can be in doubt about where we stand with regard to these things.
That said, we were also gratified to see relatively high turnout for the Egyptian elections. We think this is the right way to take the country forward.
QUESTION: Regarding this similar issue, Egypt. By the weekend, the Congress approved a spending package with some restrictions regarding aid to Egypt and Pakistan. And specifically, the issue was that Administration certain point (inaudible), we discuss it before, I mean you discuss it in details, regarding the conditions of how the aid is going to Egypt. It's the approval – how we are going to handle – how you are going to handle this issue now with the package of approved which is with restrictions and conditionality? And your point of view is not conditions?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we always work with the government involved when we have legislation that requires us to make certain certifications before we can release aid, et cetera. This is a situation normal in many of these cases, so we will obviously consult with Egyptians going forward as we implement this.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: All right? Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:46 p.m.)