State Department Briefing by Phillip J. Crowley, February 28, 2011

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–February 28, 2011.  


Welcome to Briefing Room Guests Scripps Howard Foundation Semester
Secretary’s Trip to Geneva / Bilateral Meetings / Human Rights Council Remarks
Secretary Clinton’s Testimony before the House and Senate Committees
Ambassador Marc Grossman’s Travel to London, Jeddah, Kabul, Islamabad and Brussels / International Contact Group / Meetings with Key Partners
Assistant Secretary Phil Gordon’s Travel to Bulgaria, Greece and Slovokia
Ongoing Situation / Contacts with Officials / Ambassador Cretz / Reaching out to the Opposition / Emergency Assistance / Humanitarian Teams / Refugees / Monitoring Situation / Evacuees / Questions of Legitimacy / Ambassador Recognition Withdrawn / Charge d’Affaires / Qadhafi Lost Legitimacy to Rule / Taken Aggressive Action / UN Resolution / Preventing Further Violence / Evaluating Range of Options / No-Fly Zone / NATO / Transition to Democracy
Zimbabwe Supplying Mercenaries / Arms Embargo
Humanitarian Assistance / Economic Recovery / Social Reform
Arrest of Political Officials and Others / Police Tactics and Intimidation
Demonstrations in Oman / Reforms / Peaceful Political Process / Encourage Restraint
Political, Economic and Social Reform / King Abdullah / Reforms / Engaging People
Joint Military Exercises / North Korean Notification
Harassment of Journalists / Ambassador Huntsman / Express Concern / Accountability
Davis Case / Hearing Scheduled / Consular Access
Return of Equipment from U.S. Aircraft
Possible Return of Aristide to Haiti / U.S. Concerns


1:48 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Okay, let’s begin. Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Just a couple of things to mention. First, in the back of the room, we have some guests from the Scripps Howard Foundation Semester in Washington program, bringing talented college journalists to Washington, D.C. for a fast-paced, practical internship in the Nation’s Capital. Welcome to the State Department Briefing Room.

The Secretary is wheels-up and on her way back to Washington from Geneva. She held, earlier today, a series of bilateral meetings with a wide range of leaders, including EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. She also delivered remarks to the Human Rights Council and to the Conference on Disarmament, and met with the staff and families of Mission Geneva before departing.

Just kind of a procedural thing for the rest of the week: The Secretary will have testimony for the next three days. She’ll appear tomorrow before the House Foreign Affairs Committee at 10 o’clock in the morning. On Wednesday, she will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 9:30 and before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Foreign Operations at 2:00 p.m. And on Thursday, she will appear before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs at 3:00 p.m. So at this point, we probably will be gaggling for these three days and not doing televised briefings.

Ambassador Marc Grossman departs today for travel to London, Jeddah, Kabul, Islamabad, and Brussels making his first trip as the new special representative. He will attend the International Contact Group meeting in Jeddah and meet with key partners and allies to continue ongoing consultations.

And Assistant Secretary for Europe – European and Eurasian Affairs Phil Gordon leaves today for travel to Bulgaria, Greece, and Slovakia.

QUESTION: Is that it?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s it.

QUESTION: Okay. On Libya, can you be a little bit more specific than the Secretary was about these teams that are going to Egypt and Tunisia and what exactly they’re going to be doing, who they are going to be trying to help, and if they’re – and what exactly is the outreach to the opposition that she mentioned before leaving on Sunday and then mentioned again today? Who – I mean is this contacts with the renegade or defecting military people who are trying to organize themselves into a force against Qadhafi, or are they political types, or both?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s start with the second part first. Among others, Ambassador Gene Cretz is reaching – has been reaching out for the past two days to talk to a range of figures within the opposition to both gain understanding of what’s happening on the ground and to identify, as we go forward, what needs and concerns they might have.

In terms of USAID, we are dispatching two expert humanitarian teams to Tunisia and to Egypt. I don’t have a lot more detail than that. USAID has set aside an initial $10 million in emergency assistance to support efforts of international organizations, NGOs, and the Libyan Red Crescent Society. And our Bureau of Population, Migration, and Refugees is working closely with IOM, the International Organization for Migration, and the UN High Commission for Refugees. But in terms of the size of the teams, when they will precisely leave, those are details we’ll provide you when they’re available.

QUESTION: All right. And on – well, is there any thought being given to offering support to the people who are – to the defected military officers who are planning to organize a force against him?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think it’s premature to talk about that. I think our focus immediately at hand is the – our concern about the humanitarian situation. There are tens of thousands of refugees who have crossed over into Tunisia and Egypt, and our immediate focus is what do they need, and as we continue to assess what is happening on the ground inside Libya itself.

QUESTION: All right. And then —

QUESTION: Would you rule out arming any of the rebel forces, particularly given that one of their ammunition depots is reported to have been bombed and destroyed this morning by the Libyan air force at Qadhafi’s direction?

MR. CROWLEY: I think – all I can say is we’re going to continue to assess on a day-to-day basis the circumstances on the ground. We’ve got a wide range of options available to us. I don’t think we’ve ruled out anything at this point, but we’ll be monitoring this day to day and we’ll take appropriate steps and we’ll let you know as we do.

QUESTION: Who did Ambassador Cretz speak to?


MR. CROWLEY: I actually don’t have —

QUESTION: Where is Ambassador Cretz right now?

MR. CROWLEY: He’s here.

QUESTION: He’s making – so when you say he’s reaching out —

MR. CROWLEY: He’s in the building.

QUESTION: He’s in the building. And what about the chargé that was – and the —

MR. CROWLEY: For the most part, those who evacuated on Friday are still, to some extent, either just arriving or still making their way back to the United States, and the NEA Bureau is going to put them to work here on Libyan and North Africa issues as they are available.

QUESTION: What is your view on this so-called caretaker government that says it is constituting itself in Benghazi under the leadership of the former Libyan justice minister?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, that is something that we continue to evaluate. The issue of the definition of what constitutes a legitimate government is complex. It is something that we are studying as we speak.

QUESTION: P.J., can you work with any of these people? I mean, these are all people who worked quite happily under Qadhafi, in some cases for decades. These are – one might argue they’re part of the problem, not part of the solution. I mean, is it conceivable for you to work with former Qadhafi ministers?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no, I think – I’m flipping it around. First and foremost, there is a legitimate question of the legitimacy of the Qadhafi government, and there are some very specific legal criteria that we go through were we to consider derecognizing Libya as a government. And then, obviously, a flip side of that, which we are just at the beginning of assessing, is what is this opposition about, who are they, what are they trying to achieve. And that was why the Secretary indicated that we were beginning an outreach to try to understand what’s happening on the ground, and we’ll make some future judgments on that.

QUESTION: Have you reached out to him in particular, the former justice minister?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that we have. But again, I don’t have a – Gene Cretz has been doing this now for a couple of days. I just don’t have a catalog of who he is in touch with. I would just tell you, just before we came out, we were informed by the Government of Libya that they have withdrawn their recognition of their ambassador, Ambassador Aujali. He no longer represents Libya’s interests in the United States.

QUESTION: Well, but, I mean he, as you know, kind of said that he was going to be representing – no longer representing the regime itself and was going to be representing the Libyan people. So are you going to continue to deal with him as a representative of the Libyan people, given the fact that you say you no longer –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as a legal matter – remember Janet Sanderson, here on Friday afternoon, indicated that we were unaware as of Friday afternoon of any change in Ambassador Aujali’s status. This morning, there has, in fact, been a formal change. So now there is a chargé d’affaires at the Embassy who has been authorized by the Government of Libya to represent its interests, which is then to say that we may deal – still have conversations with Mr. Aujali, but it will be in a different capacity.

QUESTION: So did – so —

QUESTION: Do you regard – I mean, do regard, then, the Libyan Government as still the legitimate government? I mean, you have explicitly called – you said that it’s time for Qadhafi to go. Do you still regard the Qadhafi government as legitimate?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there are two separate considerations, Arshad. As a legal matter, there is a legal aspect of a formal representation of a government, and that has, at this point, not changed. That said, we believe that as the President, the Secretary, and others have said, that given that it has turned its weapons on its own people, we – the people of Libya feel that it has forfeited its legitimacy. But – so there’s a – but there’s a separate legal matter. There is now a chargé d’affaires at the Embassy here. And as a legal matter, should we wish to pass on something to the Government of Libya, we have the option of dealing with that individual.

QUESTION: What about at the United Nations?

QUESTION: P.J., it strikes me that you —

QUESTION: What about at the United Nations, the representatives at the UN?

MR. CROWLEY: Again —

QUESTION: Is it the same thing? Will they be –

MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t checked in this morning to see if – all I’ll tell you is we just received this letter right before coming out to the briefing.

QUESTION: Yeah, could you update us on the status of this thing? And I have a follow-up on the minister of justice, Mustafa Abd-al-Jalil, yesterday. He – just to follow up on Arshad’s point, he said that – he denied that he has been in touch with any American. And on the other hand, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that they – you guys were in touch with the opposition. He came out and denied that.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, I have not said – identified anyone that we have talked to in the so-called opposition. Perhaps now from a de facto standpoint, Mr. Aujali is part of the opposition. But we are reaching out to try to contact individuals in Libya who are in active opposition to the Qadhafi government. That is a process ongoing. I’m not going to say we’ve talked to this person but not that person. But the outreach that the Secretary indicated yesterday is underway.

QUESTION: So – but you can confirm that you are in touch with the opposition in Benghazi, in Libya?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to put a location on it, but yes, in fact, we are reaching out to opposition figures inside Libya.

QUESTION: P.J., to follow on Arshad’s question, over the past 48 hours, the United States Government has declared that the Qadhafi regime has no legitimacy, the United States Government has called on Qadhafi himself to relinquished power, and you’ve just told us just now that you’re only at the beginning stages of assessing the – a potential next government that might be formed or not – might not be formed by the opposition. So if Colonel Qadhafi were good enough to oblige the wishes of the President and the Secretary of State and actually relinquish power, you haven’t sketched out what you would like to see replace him.

His own regime, everyone around him, you say is illegitimate. You don’t know who really exists in the opposition camp; you’re telling us you’re just at the beginning of assessing that. And so what should replace Qadhafi, in the U.S. view?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, ultimately, that is a matter for the Libyan people. We want to give the Libyan people the opportunity to choose their future leader. But as of what will replace Qadhafi, we can’t say at this point.

I just want to go back – I mean, as a practical matter, remember on Friday when we announced the suspension of our Embassy, we still have diplomatic relations with Libya. That’s – I just want to clarify where we stand. But clearly, we – the President, the Secretary have made clear, we believe that Qadhafi himself has lost the legitimacy to rule, and we hope that he will go.

QUESTION: But P.J., it’s – I don’t understand how you can freely engage in the business of prescribing that a leader should step down, he’s lost legitimacy, and then tell us it’s not for us to choose what happens thereafter. Would you like to see Libya plunge into further chaos or —

MR. CROWLEY: No. We – and James, we’ve been very clear in saying that we hope to do everything within our power to prevent further violence and bloodshed. In fact, that’s why we took the aggressive actions that we’ve taken, both from a national standpoint and through the United Nations and the very strong resolution that was passed on Saturday.

QUESTION: So if he does as you say and he leaves, what do you see happening next?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, that’s one of the reasons why we’re reaching out to those in opposition to understand fully what is going on. But it is not for the United States or anyone else to impose a solution on Libya, notwithstanding one exception. (Laughter.) It is for us to help to provide an opportunity for the people of Libya to have a choice in their own future.

QUESTION: On the ambassador here and the letter – that letter was from the foreign ministry?

MR. CROWLEY: It was from the Secretary of the General People’s Committee of Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation from Tripoli.

QUESTION: All right. So it was from the foreign ministry. And you still – even though you say that Qadhafi and his government have lost legitimacy, you still regard that letter and that as legitimate and that they speak for the Libyan people?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no, what we’re saying is that if we have something to communicate to the Government of Libya, there is now a chargé d‘affaires here in Washington. We, obviously, have had —

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

MR. CROWLEY: Let me finish. We have had contact with the foreign minister and other officials, and we continue to do this – we’re doing this last week out of concern for our own American citizens. I’m not sure that we’ve had a high-level contact in Tripoli since Friday.


MR. CROWLEY: But obviously, we are trying to make sure that the Government of Libya understands our position, and we reserve the right to be able to communicate to them if that – we think that will be helpful.

QUESTION: Understood. But you say that the – that the leadership of the country has lost its legitimacy, and yet you’re —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, our immediate objective —

QUESTION: — legitimacy —

MR. CROWLEY: — is to try to do everything we can to prevent further violence and bloodshed. And if we believe that a communication with the Libyan Government can help avert that, we – this channel remains open to us. But we have been unequivocal in saying that we believe that Mr. Qadhafi has lost his legitimacy and should go.

QUESTION: But you now regard this chargé d‘affaires as the legitimate representative of —

MR. CROWLEY: As a legal matter, if we have an official communication with the Government of Libya and its embassy here in Washington, the Government of Libya has informed us of who is now, in their view, in charge of that embassy.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just what happens to the former ambassador? Does he lose now all of his privileges, such as immunity and that kind of thing?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a good question. I’ll take that question.

QUESTION: Can he get parking tickets like the rest of us?

QUESTION: Does he have to leave the country?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’ll take the question of what happens —

QUESTION: P.J., technical question on – Libyan diplomat did not report to the foreign ministry. They reported to some sort of popular committees – (inaudible) ambassador –

MR. CROWLEY: I didn’t declare that this was – I’m just – keep giving you the address on the letter.

QUESTION: No, I mean, when you —

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know what their relationship is with the foreign ministry.

QUESTION: We understand that this is the case. They reported to popular committees. And the ambassador himself came out on Arab television station, and he said that he does represent certain committees. So there are committees throughout the country, and he can claim to represent certain committees. So why did you accept whatever the Government of the Libya requested in this case to just strip him of any diplomatic status?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m simply stating a fact, that the Libyan Government has informed us that there is now a chargé d‘affaires at the embassy. Whether we choose to communicate with this individual is a totally separate matter. I’m just telling you that —

QUESTION: I’m saying technically —

MR. CROWLEY: — from Friday —


MR. CROWLEY: — when we said that there was no change in the status of the ambassador, I was simply informing you that as of this morning, from the Libyan Government’s standpoint, there is a change. And there’s a legal – there’s just a – there is a representational aspect to this.

QUESTION: So he – so this guy is – you’re saying that he is the representative of the Qadhafi regime.

MR. CROWLEY: Correct.

QUESTION: But I think what you – I think what the larger question is, who are you recognizing now as the legitimate government of the Libyan people? Because you —

MR. CROWLEY: There’s a – Elise, I don’t mean to cut you off, but there’s a question of legality.


MR. CROWLEY: And there’s a question of legitimacy. As a legal matter, there are still – there is still a duly constituted government that —


MR. CROWLEY: — meets the international definitions.

QUESTION: So as a matter of legitimacy, are you recognizing Ali Aujali as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people —

MR. CROWLEY: No. I’m not —

QUESTION: — regardless of the regime?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not former Ambassador Aujali’s spokesman. But it would appear, based on the action of the Libyan Government, that he is now formally in opposition. As to whether we have conversations with him —

QUESTION: Are you going —

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m not cataloguing what Gene Cretz is doing —

QUESTION: Okay. Is this —

MR. CROWLEY: — other than saying that we have – we are actively reaching out to figures in opposition to determine what is going on there and what their action – their likely actions are.

QUESTION: Okay. But as you – we’ve said that you don’t recognize the Qadhafi regime as legitimate or having any authority. Are there discussions under way about recognizing the opposition as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, we are assessing the situation on an ongoing basis, and if we make any adjustments along those lines we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: P.J., how do you assess the call by Senator Lieberman and Senator McCain to arm the opposition group? Is that – has that been —

MR. CROWLEY: Again, right now we hope to do everything in our power working as an international community to prevent further violence and bloodshed.


MR. CROWLEY: But as developments go on, we will evaluate the situation based on events that occur, and – but we are urgently focused on the matter. We are evaluating a range of options. Right now, our immediate focus is on the growing concern about the humanitarian situation both in Libya and on the outskirts of Libya.

QUESTION: Speaking of stopping –

QUESTION: Would you say that the call by the senators was coordinated with anyone in the Administration or is it on their own sort of –

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t speak for the senators.

QUESTION: Speaking of stopping the violence, as I’m sure you’ve heard, the Secretary in Geneva has said the possibility of a no-fly zone is under active consideration. That sounds like it’s a much more live option than when you discussed it last week when I think you suggested that this is a difficult thing to do. Is the –

MR. CROWLEY: Those are not mutually exclusive.

QUESTION: Yes. No, I get that. But the sense that we got last week was that this was not necessarily something that you were looking to do because of its intrinsic difficulty.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have –

QUESTION: Are you closer to a decision on that now or –

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t use any broader language, Arshad. We have a range of options available to us. A no-fly zone is one of them. We have a lot of planning going on to develop options for the President and the Secretary. But clearly there are some steps that would have to occur to enable the authorization for that kind of action.

QUESTION: Such as?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, if you look in the past when we’ve had those kinds of activities, you need international authorization to do it. You need to have a basing structure to be able to operate. You need to have rules of engagement on the – what happens when aircraft enter the airspace of another country. So these are things that were worked out – you look at – the Gulf War is one example where there was international authorization, there was significant international cooperation, and there were clear rules of engagement that were revised over time. So I’m just saying that you can’t snap your fingers and declare a no-fly zone. There’s a lot of preparatory work that has to be done.

QUESTION: When you say international authorization, you mean a UN Security Council resolution that specifically – that specifically gets it going?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m just saying that this is something – we are looking at a range of options that can be done –

QUESTION: Well, but I want to know –

MR. CROWLEY: — as an international community.


MR. CROWLEY: And obviously, this is one of the options that is available to us.

QUESTION: Wait, but –


QUESTION: Wait, wait. I want to be clear. When you say “international authorization,” you mean a Security Council resolution.

MR. CROWLEY: That is an option. It’s not the only one.

QUESTION: So the U.S. view is that a Security Council authorization is necessary for a no-fly zone, but not necessarily for the invasion of a country?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not – again, you’re – all I can say is that, as the Secretary said, the issue of a no-fly zone is something that is under active consideration. Obviously, we’re talking to allies about that. How would you do it? Obviously, NATO would be one logical organization that could undertake such a mission.

So in other words, this is exactly why the Secretary went to Geneva – to review the current situation with allies and partners, to evaluate various options that are available to us, and there’s planning being done so that as the situation develops in Libya, we have a wide range of options available to the President and others should these become necessary.

QUESTION: Isn’t that covered under –

QUESTION: P.J., two questions –

QUESTION: Saif al-Islam said yesterday –

MR. CROWLEY: Hold on.

QUESTION: Isn’t that covered under Chapter 7 of the Charter of the United Nations?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m not – I’ve –

QUESTION: Could you find out for us whether that –

MR. CROWLEY: I’ve given you kind of the lay of the land. We’ve got options available to us. As to which options are chosen going forward, that –

QUESTION: Well, what’s the –

MR. CROWLEY: — those decisions have yet to be made.

QUESTION: P.J., what’s the urgency with that, though, because Saif al-Islam, in an address to his supporters the other day – to Qadhafi’s supporters the other day – said more weapons are on the way. So, I mean, how many more weapons are going to get into Libya before you close the airspace?

MR. CROWLEY: Elise, you’re asking me to predict what’s going to happen tomorrow, the day after tomorrow. We don’t know yet.

QUESTION: Two questions, P.J. –

QUESTION: P.J., just to – can I follow up on one thing, just on the no-fly zone?


QUESTION: Thanks, James. On the no-fly zone, you said that one option to authorize it would be a UN Security Council resolution. What are the other options to obtain international authorization for it from your point of view? What else besides a Security Council resolution would suffice?

MR. CROWLEY: I was simply saying, if you look back in history, there – the – as I recall, the air campaign against the former Yugoslavia was a NATO authorized mission, but not a UN authorized mission. So I’m just – as a statement of historical fact, there are options available there. I’m not saying that we’ll choose one versus the other. It’s just that –

QUESTION: Okay, P.J. –

MR. CROWLEY: — if you look back at recent history, you do have different ways of approaching this.

QUESTION: Two things. Have the last 48 hours –

MR. CROWLEY: And don’t write a story that says I think it should be one and not the other. I’m just giving you examples.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. I’ve already Tweeted that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Of Chinese embassy in Libya. Since –

MR. CROWLEY: Oh, you know how to hurt a guy.

QUESTION: Since you last briefed last week, has there been any discernable change in the picture in terms of how much of Tripoli the U.S. believes Qadhafi to actually be in control of? I’m not asking for some play by play. I’m just – the last 48 hours.

MR. CROWLEY: I – Mr. Qadhafi does not have control of his entire country. That’s about all I can say.

QUESTION: One other thing – and so you’re not ready to make any statement about Tripoli, which is what I asked you about.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, if he’s got one square meter less today than he had yesterday, I can’t say.

QUESTION: Other question was, do you believe – does the United States Government believe that the Libyan people are ready for democracy?

MR. CROWLEY: The Libyan people are entitled to democracy.

QUESTION: Do you believe they’re ready?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – like we are doing in Tunisia, like we are doing in Egypt, to the extent that the people begin a transition to democracy, we are prepared to work as a partner and to help them with the kinds of technical aspects of opening up a system to broad political participation, having free, fair, and legitimate elections. These are not things that – particularly for a country that’s been ruled by a dictator for 42 years – it will – Libya will require some support from the international community to be able to move from where it is today to a functioning democracy. We’re fully prepared to support that effort, but the Libyan people are absolutely, positively entitled to democracy, and we’ll give them the help that’s needed.

QUESTION: So at least you’re now willing to call him a dictator as opposed to our last exchange?

MR. CROWLEY: Other questions.

QUESTION: Will there be, in your view, any measures taken against countries that are supplying mercenaries like Zimbabwe and Chad?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, the UN Security Council resolution passed on Saturday was very clear that there is an arms embargo and that includes not only its prohibited to provide any kind of arms; it’s also prohibited to allow the transit of mercenaries who are – have been responsible for much of the violence that has occurred up to this point. And it also authorizes states to inspect suspicious cargo that may contain arms. So very strong and clear responsibilities by the international community, including countries like Zimbabwe, and we obviously insist that countries respect and heed their obligations.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

QUESTION: Can we just stay –

QUESTION: One more?

QUESTION: Yeah, on the question about are you thinking about arming the opposition, you said we’re urgently focused on that. So you mean that you are actively considering arming the opposition?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we’ve said, we have a range of options available to us. We haven’t excluded any option, and we continue to focus on what’s happening, and we’ll make appropriate judgments based on ongoing events.

QUESTION: So as part of the outreach to the opposition, are you actively discussing that?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not suggesting that – I’m not suggesting this is the step we will take or won’t take. I’m saying we have a range of options available to us.


MR. CROWLEY: We’re not excluding any option. And we’ll make judgments based on ongoing events.

QUESTION: Has this come up in the conversations with the opposition?

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say. I don’t know.

QUESTION: Wait, P.J., I just want to make sure that the premise of that question was correct. Did you say you were urgently focused on arming the opposition? I thought you said you were –

MR. CROWLEY: I did not say that.

QUESTION: I thought you said you were urgently focusing on the –

MR. CROWLEY: We’re urgently focused on the situation.

QUESTION: — on the humanitarian issue.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, yes. Like I said –

QUESTION: I was asking for clarification.

MR. CROWLEY: One more time, we have a range of options available to us. Our focus right now is on the humanitarian situation. Our focus right now is finding ways to stop the violence and stop bloodshed, and we will do whatever we think is prudent and appropriate to reach those objectives.

QUESTION: P.J., can we do one related one? You talked about elections in Egypt –

QUESTION: Can I stay on Libya for one more?

QUESTION: Sure, yeah.

QUESTION: Colonel Qadhafi gave an interview to a couple of outlets this afternoon in which he remained defiant in his position that he’s going to stay in power and that the people are behind him. I was curious if you had any particular reaction to that.

MR. CROWLEY: He should get out of his tent – (laughter) – and see what’s really happening in his country.

QUESTION: Can we change topic?

QUESTION: Can we do the Egypt one, just get it out of the way?

QUESTION: Oh, sure.

QUESTION: So at least one human rights group has argued that the timetable laid out for elections in Egypt of October is simply too soon and is likely to perpetuate a sort of military-dominated rule there even if there is kind of a veneer of democratic process. What’s your view?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have reprogrammed $150 million in bilateral assistance to support Egypt’s democratic transition and economic recovery. This transition is really at a beginning and there are a number of questions that remain unanswered. There’s work being done on constitutional reforms. There’s work being done to help opposition parties organize themselves. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure a free, fair, and credible election.

Ultimately, it will be up to Egypt to decide how this process will unfold and whether it meets the aspirations of the Egyptian people. They clearly want to move towards a genuine democracy, and we will be a friend and partner and help them as best we can.

QUESTION: What specifically, though, on the economic – I understand that there is money now going to democratic groups and NGOs for political – broad political participation. But you said specifically the economic recovery. And Bill Burns and David Lipton had gone out there. What specifically – what steps are you prepared to take on the economic side?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Bill Burns has literally just returned to the building in the last hour so – from his trip to Egypt, Tunisia, and Europe, so we will get his assessment as to where the transition is. There’s no question that on the economic side – tourism is one of the pillars of the Egyptian economy. It’s been hit hard. Their stock market has yet to reopen. There’s been a significant amount of capital flight from Egypt.

And then on the other – on the reform side, clearly you do have an economy that is dominated by the Egyptian military. Perhaps 40 percent or more of the economy is controlled by the military. So as Egypt goes forward, what kinds of economic reforms will need to be done? This is work that we are supportive of having international financial institutions find ways to help Egypt. And we’re willing to be – we will be supportive of that.

So clearly, both in the short term, in the long term, there are economic needs that Egypt has and will need as it makes this transition. As the Secretary said in her Doha speech, political reform has to be accompanied by economic and social reform to be able to move these countries in a fundamentally different direction.

QUESTION: But there’s a difference, though – just one more on this. There’s a difference, though, between economic recovery and economic reform, isn’t it? I mean, don’t you need —

MR. CROWLEY: There are both.

QUESTION: But do you have any intention of helping Egypt in the short term on their economic recovery? And if so, what steps are you preparing to take?

MR. CROWLEY: I believe Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit and others have been very clear and very vocal in saying that Egypt has immediate financial needs. We will – and that’s part of what the $150 million tries to accomplish. But beyond that, there’s broader economic needs that Egypt has. The Secretary made a round of calls two weeks ago trying to encourage and rally the international community to be in a position to help Egypt economically. And then you’re quite right; there is the recovery aspect, and Egypt has been hit significantly from the past 30 days, but there’s also the long-term reform aspect. And we will be supportive in both of those areas.

QUESTION: Can I go back just – I just want to flesh something out on the question I asked you about the interview. He also said that he felt betrayed by the United States, and I was curious if you had any reaction to that part.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the betrayal is between Mr. Qadhafi and his people. He has betrayed his people.

QUESTION: In light of —

QUESTION: On Iran – just on Iran quickly —

QUESTION: P.J., the same —

QUESTION: Still Egypt?

QUESTION: It seems —

QUESTION: Can we just knock off Egypt just to get rid of it? Can you have a free and fair election? Is there enough time to organize opposition parties between now and October, does the U.S. Government think, or not?

MR. CROWLEY: Can it be done? Yes. But there’s a lot of work to do.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On Iran, do you have any comment on these reports that Mousavi and Karroubi have been taken to prison?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we strongly condemn the Iranian Government’s organized intimidation campaign and arrest of political figures, human rights defenders, political activists, student leaders, journalists, and bloggers. Now, Iran has, I think, clarified in the last couple of hours that they’re not really under arrest; they’re only in some form of house detention.

But this is where you have two contrasting views within the Middle East. You have people who are standing up for more responsible government and you have governments that are engaging these protestors and moving towards reform. And then you have Iran that is trying its best to silence its opposition figures and use a variety of police tactics and intimidation to prevent people from standing up and demanding more of their government. It’s —

QUESTION: You don’t know where they are?

MR. CROWLEY: Like I say, the last statement from Iran said they were under some form of house detention.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)


QUESTION: Please. It seems that the wave has reached the Omani shore. In light of what happened yesterday, are you in touch with the Omani Government?

MR. CROWLEY: We are quite aware that there have been demonstrations in Oman, and we have been in touch with the Government of Oman and we continue to encourage the government to undertake reforms that include economic opportunity and move towards greater inclusion and participation in a peaceful political process.

QUESTION: But how about the violence, the two people who were killed?

MR. CROWLEY: We have been in touch with the government and encouraged restraint and to resolve differences through dialogue. So some reports of, perhaps, a small number of people killed and we express our regrets to the families of those who have been killed. And this is something that we continue to watch and continue to engage Oman, among other countries, to encourage dialogue and reform.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia? Geneva? Secretary Clinton met Russian foreign minister in Switzerland today. Was the topic of their conversation just the latest developments in Libya, or they discussed some bilateral issues —

MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t got a – I would expect that the most significant issue discussed was Libya.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia? Today, P.J., 120 Saudi academicians demanded strong reforms. You said that countries are engaging their opposition. Do you believe that your great ally, Saudi Arabia, is engaging the opposition, and especially in light of plans for major demonstrations on the 11th and the 20th of March?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, go back to what the Secretary said in Doha. She encouraged the region to undertake political, economic, and social reform. She encouraged governments to engage their people and – in a peaceful dialogue, and that certainly includes Saudi Arabia. The – King Abdullah has been a reformer, and we have recognized steps that he has taken over the years during his reign and continue to encourage him to advance the pace of those reforms.

QUESTION: Is he maintaining a proper pace?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, he just got back from a lengthy trip for medical attention, but we certainly continue to encourage Saudi Arabia, along with other countries in the region, to engage their people and undertake political, economic, and social reform.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) – sorry. Is there any place in the world where you’re not encouraging reform? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Exactly.

QUESTION: More restraint? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Appealing for calm.

QUESTION: Condemning violence. I’ve got two —

MR. CROWLEY: I think I’m – Lichtenstein’s doing pretty well these days.

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

MR. CROWLEY: Maybe not. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I have two.

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

QUESTION: Excuse me, I have two —

QUESTION: P.J., just to follow up quickly —

QUESTION: Excuse me.

MR. CROWLEY: All right. Hold on, hold on, hold on.

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

MR. CROWLEY: All right. Said, hold on.

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. I thought on Saudi.

QUESTION: Go ahead.


QUESTION: Go ahead.

MR. CROWLEY: All right.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow up. Will Mr. Grossman discuss these issues as – when – he’s going to Jeddah, correct, Marc Grossman?

MR. CROWLEY: He – but he – there is a —

QUESTION: Will he discuss reforms?

MR. CROWLEY: — contact group meeting of – in Jeddah. He’ll be focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

QUESTION: I see. Okay.

QUESTION: I have two —

MR. CROWLEY: Okay, hold on, Matt.

QUESTION: I’ll wait.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on North Korea’s threat to stage a nuclear war and retaliate against joint South Korea —

MR. CROWLEY: North Korea’s —

QUESTION: Stage a nuclear war and retaliate again to South Korea new joint military exercises that began Monday.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the U.S. and Republic of Korea routinely conduct joint military exercises. They are defensive in nature. North Korea was notified about these exercises on February 14, and its belligerent rhetoric is unwarranted.

QUESTION: Also, the report said the United States is considering redeploying the tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea. Any comment on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no.

QUESTION: P.J., yesterday the Chinese authorities rather vigorously broke up a protest. In the course of it, apparently, they roughed up some American reporters. I’m just wondering if you have anything on that.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, in fact, today Ambassador Jon Huntsman met with several American and other foreign journalists based in China who, while reporting in downtown Beijing yesterday, had their equipment seized, were illegally detained, harassed, and at least in one case, severely beaten. And we are deeply concerned that the Chinese authorities did not protect the safety and property of these journalists, and we expect them to hold the perpetrators accountable.

QUESTION: Have you reached out to the Chinese Government to express that directly?


QUESTION: And that through the ambassador’s channel?



MR. CROWLEY: To express our deep concerns.

QUESTION: But – no, I’m sorry. He spoke to who?

MR. CROWLEY: I – he spoke to counterparts within the foreign ministry.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: No, no, no.



QUESTION: I’ve got two very brief housekeeping questions. One on Pakistan, if there are any developments in the Davis case?

MR. CROWLEY: On the Davis case, we’re looking forward to another hearing on Thursday. And in the case of Peshawar we have had consular access to our American citizen and are supporting him as we would any citizen in this circumstance.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) being treated at this point?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m – he’s been remanded into custody for 14 days. So it’s working its way through the Pakistani legal system. I’m not aware of any concerns about his treatment.

QUESTION: And are you – do you see any attempt to link these two cases at this point?

MR. CROWLEY: There’s no connection with the Davis case.

QUESTION: What’s he charged with, Peshawar? Are you aware?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. Right now, I just – he was remanded into custody for 14 days. I’m not sure that there is any charge at this point.

QUESTION: And do you know anything about – there’s one report that he was a dual citizen, U.S.- Pakistani, he was married to a Pakistani woman?

MR. CROWLEY: He’s an American citizen. I can’t tell you if he has any dual citizenship.

QUESTION: The situation with Argentina is still unresolved?


QUESTION: Has there been any contact (inaudible) person over the weekend?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of any contact over the weekend.

QUESTION: All right. And then —

QUESTION: Do you still want your stuff back?

MR. CROWLEY: We still want our stuff back.

QUESTION: And then last one. Is it – this was raised last week a little bit. But in terms of Haiti and Aristide and South Africa, are you prepared to say now today that you are encouraging the South African Government not – or asking the South African Government not to let him leave?

MR. CROWLEY: I – whether he stays in South Africa or comes to Haiti is a matter ultimately for the Government of Haiti. Right now, our focus is on the second round of elections coming up on March 20th.

QUESTION: But you do believe that he does have a right to return if he has proper —

MR. CROWLEY: He has been given a passport.


MR. CROWLEY: But as we’ve said, we have concerns about the impact of his return, what it would have on – what it would mean for the election. We want to make sure the elections reflect the will of the Haitian people.

QUESTION: Well, leave aside the South African angle of this. Are you encouraging Mr. Aristide himself not to return or encouraging the Haitian Government not to allow him to return?

MR. CROWLEY: I am not aware of any conversation that we’ve had with Mr. Aristide himself.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:33 p.m.)