Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–March 7, 2013.
- NORTH KOREA
- DPRK Nuclear Threats
- Armistice Agreement
- UNSCR 2097 / Chinese Concern
- International Women of Courage / Samira Ibrahim
- Lu Haitao
- Arab League / Syrian Opposition Coalition / Arab Summit in Doha
- Death of President Chavez / U.S. Delegation to Funeral
- Election of Next Leader
- Accusations against Embassy Employees
- Repercussions against American Interests
- Election / Electoral Commission / Kenyan Participation
- State Sponsor of Terrorism List
- Keystone / Nebraska Hearing
- Election Results
- Peacekeepers Detainees / Release Demand / Martyrs of Yarmouk
- Reports of Rebel Gaines
- Regime Bombardments / Condemn Attacks
- Hezbollah Involvement
- Border Incursions with Syria
- Inspector General Report / QDDR
- Human Rights
- Pipeline with Iran
- Saeed Abedini
1:22 p.m. EST
MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Thursday. The Secretary is back after his first overseas trip. As you know, we were in nine countries, and he had a chance to see more than 40 counterparts. Very, very busy trip.
I don’t have anything at the top, so let’s go to what’s on all of your minds.
QUESTION: Welcome back.
MS. NULAND: Thank you, Brad.
QUESTION: I guess the most serious thing we could ever talk about is nuclear war, so why don’t we start with North Korea? How serious do you take the threats from Pyongyang? And what contacts have people in this building had, besides New York, with either the Chinese or your P-5 – your Six-Party partners?
MS. NULAND: Well, let’s just start by saying that this kind of bellicose rhetoric from the DPRK is not surprising. It’s not new. This regime has regularly missed the opportunity to improve its relationship with the outside world. Let me just take this opportunity to say that the United States is fully capable of defending against a DPRK ballistic missile attack. Furthermore, we are continuing to upgrade our ballistic missile defense capabilities. We remain firmly committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan and the maintenance of regional peace and security.
With regard to consultations, as you know, and as announced by Ambassador Rice just a little while ago, we were very pleased to see the unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2094 and the tough new sanctions that that imposes, and the fact that the international community was able to speak with one voice about these things.
QUESTION: Just – when you say that it’s not surprising, does that mean you take it to be more bluster than actual warning of any imminent plans from North Korea of military action?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, one has to take what any government says seriously. It’s for that reason that I repeat here that we are fully capable of defending the United States. But I would also say that this kind of extreme rhetoric has not been unusual for this regime, unfortunately.
QUESTION: But when you say, like, you’re fully capable of defending against a ballistic missile attack, that you’re boosting up your ballistic missile – it sounds as if you’re taking these threats seriously.
MS. NULAND: Well, you have to take a government at its word when it makes these kinds of threats, which is why we are making clear that we have not only full defensive capability for the United States, but that we’re prepared to defend our allies. But what’s really disappointing and unfortunate here is that this is a regime that’s been offered multiple opportunities, repeated opportunities, particularly in recent years, to come clean with the international community, to work with us, to come out of its isolation, and instead it remains committed to this kind of pattern.
QUESTION: Are you —
MS. NULAND: Nice pink, by the way.
QUESTION: Thank you. Are you – nice green.
MS. NULAND: Thank you.
QUESTION: Are you anticipating some kind of provocative action after this latest round of UN sanctions? I mean, it’s – if you look at North Korea’s patterns, it does seem as if they’ll take some kind of action to respond to some action at the UN.
MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into crystal balling what the DPRK regime might do in this case. I mean, they’ve been pretty hot in their rhetoric, as we’ve seen, and we need to be very clear about where we are, as we are today.
QUESTION: Welcome back, Toria.
MS. NULAND: Thank you.
QUESTION: I do not see jetlag.
MS. NULAND: We are – we’re good.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask about tearing up the armistice agreement. North Korea has set a date for this of March the 11th. I was asking earlier in the week – Patrick – if you could tell us what this would technically mean for the United States and what extra defense measures it might imply. Would you then still be back at war with North Korea?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me first say that our head of Armed Forces Korea spoke to this earlier. It was either yesterday or today. There are obviously legal procedures and ways that this would have to actually be implemented if the DPRK were looking to pull out of it. You know how we feel, that this armistice has been one of the underpinnings of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. So we would obviously urge that this not be the direction that we go.
QUESTION: Would it mean that you would technically be back at war with North Korea, though? I’m sorry, I missed the briefing while there.
MS. NULAND: I don’t want to get into the legal implications of something that hasn’t happened yet, Jo. We just urge that it not happen.
QUESTION: Could we come back, Toria, to Brad’s question about other governmental contacts? The new resolution that was approved this morning obviously was done after a lot of bilateral work between Washington and Beijing.
MS. NULAND: Yes.
QUESTION: What concerns has Beijing indicated that really made it one of the two drivers behind this new resolution? What does it see coming from this new regime in Pyongyang that is giving it this impetus to act more forcefully?
MS. NULAND: Well, Roz, I think you’re asking me a question that would be better addressed to the Chinese Government, obviously, with regard to its internal assessment of what’s going on in the DPRK. I would simply —
QUESTION: But obviously, it’s taken up a leadership role, where before there had always been this perception that it was Seoul and Tokyo that were working more assertively in trying to confront Pyongyang’s threats, and the U.S. had always said we’d like to see Beijing take more of a leadership role. And they have done so with this UN resolution. So what has the U.S. been seeing or hearing from Beijing about what might be happening right now?
MS. NULAND: Roz, I think, certainly with regard to recent times, I’m going to reject the premise of your opening, because now this is the second resolution. Remember that just a few months ago, we had very good unity of purpose as well on UN Security Council Resolution 2087 with the Chinese, and now with 2094 with great unanimity on the Council about the need to ratchet up the pressure and the sanctions on the DPRK. So again, I’ll let the Chinese speak for themselves, but the point here is that the international community is united in its concern about the direction that the DPRK leaders are taking their country.
QUESTION: Can we change the subject?
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Or better yet, I guess, it’s a Department issue. This is about the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award. There’ll be an award ceremony on Friday. The First Lady will be here. And there’s been some questions raised about one of your recipients, Samira Ibrahim, who – some groups are raising some very disturbing texts, anti-Semitic, about celebrating the Israeli attack in Bulgaria on the bus, and also on the 9/11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and the protests and violence at other embassies.
Have you been made aware of this woman’s opinions that she’s publicly expressed, and what are you doing about it?
MS. NULAND: Thank you for that, Elise. We as a Department became aware very late in the process about Samira Ibrahim’s alleged public comments. After careful consideration, we’ve decided that we should defer presenting this award to Ms. Ibrahim this year so that we have a chance to look further into these statements. I would say that in conversations with us in the last 24 hours, Ms. Ibrahim has categorically denied authorship. She asserts that she was hacked. But we need some time and – in order to be prudent to conduct our own review.
I would also like at this point to note that as we do that, we initially selected Ms. Ibrahim because of the incredible bravery and courage she displayed at the time of the Tahrir Square protests. As you may recall, she was detained, she was subject to real police violence. Not only did she speak out about that, but she also became a real leader in her country in trying to address gender-based violence and other human rights abuses. So it was on that basis that she was initially selected, but obviously, these comments need to be looked into and we need some time.
QUESTION: There was some suggestion by a few people that were looking into this that perhaps it was recommended to her by the State Department that she say that her account was hacked. Can you categorically deny that?
MS. NULAND: I can.
QUESTION: Do you know when she denied that these were from her, these tweets?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to whether she said it publicly, but in the conversations we’ve had with her in the past 24 hours, she has asserted that she was hacked. But again, we’re going to defer presentation of this award so we have a chance to review it ourselves.
QUESTION: Did you do any background analysis of her before deciding to award her? I mean, these were publicly available.
MS. NULAND: Well, let me say that the way this process works, award recipients are nominated first by embassies around the world, then they are reviewed here in Washington. In the context of looking at her record, you know that she is a very big tweeter. She has tens of thousands of tweets. So these represent a small portion of those, so obviously, we’re doing forensics internally on how we didn’t catch it the first time. But as I said, we’re going to defer presentation.
QUESTION: And her assertion is that only the bad ones were the hacked tweets?
MS. NULAND: I’m going to refer you to her for further comment, but all I can tell you is that she’s asserted to us that she did not —
QUESTION: Because she also changed tweets after some comments. Some of them, she said something about Jews and then someone said, “This is racist, you should maybe write Zionist,” and then she said, “Okay, you’re right, Zionist.” That could have been a hacker too.
QUESTION: Well, actually, she only deleted the attacks – she only deleted the tweets that said attacks on America were good. She kept the Israeli ones.
MS. NULAND: What I have here is that of some 18,000 tweets on her account, she is denying authoring some four that were brought to our attention, two of which were anti-Semitic, two of which celebrated terrorism. As you may know, she has previously asserted that her accounts were hacked recently and in May 2012.
QUESTION: But these aren’t many months old. These are like, August. These are from months ago.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. No, listen, again, we’re doing forensics as to how we didn’t catch this the first time. We’ll let you know what we find.
QUESTION: Okay. She’s still in the United States because you paid for her trip, I assume, right?
MS. NULAND: I believe she’s still here. I think she’s headed home.
QUESTION: Is she reimbursing – or is there going to be any reimbursement of the travel costs?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Was she asked to leave the country?
MS. NULAND: No, of course not. Of course not.
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
MS. NULAND: Said, yes.
MS. NULAND: Can I go – it’s still on this?
QUESTION: One of the award recipient for tomorrow’s International Women of Courage Award is a Tibetan blogger, Woeser, and she won’t be able to make it to Washington. And I wonder, how is she going to receive the award? Will that be through her Skype – because she’s under house arrest – or will she be able to make her way to the Embassy in Beijing to get the award?
MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to that. When we’ve had this circumstance in the past where individuals have been awarded who haven’t been able to travel to the United States, sometimes for government reasons, we have still announced the award so that they have the honor of receiving it, and when we are able to get it to them personally, we do.
Just to say, in the context of the award ceremony that the Secretary and First Lady Michelle Obama will preside over tomorrow, we have an additional nine awardees who include women from Afghanistan, from Honduras, from Nigeria, from Russia, Somalia, China, Syria, Vietnam, and India. They all have incredible biographies. We would refer you to our website to take a look at them.
QUESTION: Is the Syrian lady coming or —
MS. NULAND: I don’t know the answer to that, Samir. Let me check into it. We’ll let you know.
QUESTION: Another Chinese human right related issue: Could you – did you have anything or could you confirm reports that a Chinese dissident, Lu Haitao, he was reportedly seeking asylum in Beijing through the United States Embassy since last December and recently got out of the Embassy and is, in fact, in the United States and got a de facto asylum?
MS. NULAND: I can confirm that he and his wife are in the United States. As you know, we don’t confirm or deny asylum issues.
QUESTION: Can I have —
MS. NULAND: Can I go to Said, please?
QUESTION: Can we change topics? Syria?
MS. NULAND: Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. Welcome back.
QUESTION: I still have one on the Beijing issue.
MS. NULAND: On Lu Haitao?
MS. NULAND: Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I mean, you say he and his wife are in the United States?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you say whether they’re – in December, he was in the Embassy in Beijing?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that one way or the other, Jo.
QUESTION: Welcome, welcome back. I wanted to ask you on – yesterday the Secretary General of the Arab League gave the Syrian seat to the opposition. One, was this discussed between Secretary Kerry and Nabil Elaraby during their meeting? And second, is this like a prelude for things to come; we will see next perhaps the UN and perhaps even the Embassy here?
MS. NULAND: Well, we do note that the Arab League has asked the Syrian Opposition Coalition to fill Syria’s seat and to participate in the next Arab Summit in Doha at the end of March. We were made aware that they were likely to take this decision when the Secretary had a chance to see Mr. Elaraby in Cairo.
QUESTION: Yes, on Venezuela. I was wondering if you’ve put together the delegation from the U.S. to the funeral of Mr. Chavez tomorrow. And also, yesterday a U.S. official said that the State Department was not ruling out the option of a reciprocal action after the expulsion of the two attaches. I was wondering if you have any conclusion on that.
MS. NULAND: On the second issue I don’t have anything to announce here. The U.S. delegation to the funeral will include U.S. Representative William – former U.S. Representative William Delahunt, the Honorable U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks, and U.S. Embassy Caracas Chargé d’Affaires James Derham.
QUESTION: And, sorry, a follow-up. Why is there no one from the State Department or the White House attending?
MS. NULAND: James Derham, our Chargé, is a State Department career officer.
QUESTION: On Egypt, Under Secretary —
QUESTION: Sorry, still on Venezuela?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I was on yesterday’s background call, and everybody, I think, really appreciated that. But there were a few questions that didn’t come up. One was – there were a lot of questions about the extent to which officials in this building are communicating with Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro, but there weren’t any questions about the extent to which officials in this building are communicating with the Venezuelan opposition. I was wondering if you could shed any light on that. Are we having meetings with anyone in the opposition, specifically Henrique Radonski, the – one of the challengers —
MS. NULAND: Guy, as you know, in the past, our Embassy in Caracas has maintained a broad cross-section of contacts. I don’t have anything on contacts in the last 24 hours. As you can imagine, it’s a period of some emotion and ferment in Caracas. But if there’s anything to share with you on contacts with Capriles, we’ll get back to you.
Yeah, still Venezuela? Go ahead. Can you tell me who you are, please?
QUESTION: Daniel Pacheco from Caracol Television, Colombia. Do you have any concerns about the security situation in Venezuela as the funeral arrangements are developing and as the transition goes on?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think that Venezuelan authorities themselves have called for calm. We would obviously support that. More broadly, let me simply say that with the passing of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela faces a number of important challenges. It’s obviously – these days are a time of some emotion and discussion with his passing, and there are many vital decisions ahead.
Going forward, we believe that Venezuelan – that Venezuelans deserve the opportunity to choose their next leader democratically and to be assured that the institutions and processes of democratic governance are protected, most importantly well-functioning, independent branches of government, and a transparent and fair electoral system, and a vigorous and balanced protection of freedom of expression, and particularly a level playing field when they go to elections.
QUESTION: I just have two more on that.
MS. NULAND: Go ahead, Guy.
QUESTION: Easy ones. First, does the United States recognize Nicolas Maduro as the interim president of Venezuela at this point?
MS. NULAND: I understand, Guy, that the way this works is that the constitution of Venezuela requires that there be an election some 30 days out. I’m not going to parse the constitutional issues between now and then. What we’re looking for is for the Venezuelan people to have the right to go to the polls and have a free, fair, transparent election, and that the playing field for all the candidates be level in the lead-up to that.
QUESTION: So is that a no?
MS. NULAND: I’m not sure that we’ve taken a position one way or the other on the issue that you raise.
QUESTION: Also, regarding the two U.S. Embassy officials that were ejected within hours of Mr. Chavez’s passing, has anyone in this building categorically denied that those officials were actually meeting with members of the Venezuelan military?
MS. NULAND: We have categorically denied that they are guilty of any wrongdoing. I believe they’re both Department of Defense employees, but we categorically deny that they were guilty of any wrongdoing whatsoever under Venezuelan law or anything else.
QUESTION: Do you believe that to be like an electioneering ploy by the Vice President?
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to speak to what the motives of the Venezuelan side were in this, but we’re obviously disappointed by these false accusations levied against our Embassy officials. This is part of a tired playbook of alleging foreign interference as a political football in internal Venezuelan politics, and if we’re going to get to a place that we can do better together, this kind of stuff has to stop.
QUESTION: Could you update us on the security situation —
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: — on the ground in Caracas, what measures you might have taken to protect the Embassy?
MS. NULAND: Well, in these circumstances we always make sure that we’ve taken prudent precautions. We have done that in this case. But as you know, we don’t talk about the details of our security posture.
QUESTION: Well, given how long Chavez had been sick, is there any legitimate reason to think that there would be any sort of repercussions against the U.S. or American interests in Venezuela?
MS. NULAND: Again, we’ve taken prudent precautions and we are joining others around the hemisphere in calling for calm at this period.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. taking – Venezuela?
MS. NULAND: Still on Venezuela, Goyal?
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am, quickly. Is U.S. taking any people-to-people new steps as far as after his death is concerned?
MS. NULAND: Well, we’ve obviously – in the statement that the White House made yesterday, it was directed at the Venezuelan people. You know that we’d like to get to a place where we can improve our bilateral relationship. We believe that there is important work we can do together, particularly in confronting counternarcotics problems, tracking international terrorism, broadening our commercial relationship. But in order to get there, we have to get past the kind of zero-sum accusations against the United States that we’ve seen in the last couple of days.
QUESTION: And you believe that there will be a light at the end of the dark tunnel?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, we need to see how this proceeds in Venezuela.
QUESTION: An Egyptian presidential delegation met with Under Secretary Sherman today, and a few days ago also at the State Department. Can you tell us anything about this visit?
MS. NULAND: Was this today, Samir? Because she’s just back, as we are, I believe, from travel.
QUESTION: I think it was on the schedule today.
MS. NULAND: I don’t know. Let me take it and we’ll —
QUESTION: They met on – what’s today – Tuesday, with officials here.
MS. NULAND: Let me take it, Samir, see if we have anything to share.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Scott.
QUESTION: On Kenya. The Prime Minister Raila Odinga says that the vote counting should be stopped because it’s fraudulent. The last statement we have from State Department is that the electoral commission should continue its count, make sure that it’s professional and transparent. So is that still your position, or do you believe that the Prime Minister is right in calling for the vote count to be stopped?
MS. NULAND: We are encouraging the electoral commission to continue its work in a thorough, transparent, and professional manner, and to announce its final results as expeditiously as possible. We’re also urging all candidates and their supporters to refrain from interfering in the process, to maintain peace, and to address any disputes that arise through Kenya’s legal system. So that’s where we are on this. Let me just again applaud the people of Kenya for the way they participated peacefully in the March 4th elections, and for their patience as the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission tallies the final results.
QUESTION: A quick question on Cuba about —
MS. NULAND: Can you tell me who you are?
QUESTION: Jessica Stone. I’m with CCTV.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: In February you took a question on whether or not Secretary Kerry was working on taking Cuba off the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. At the time you said absolutely not. I just wanted to see if that had changed at all.
MS. NULAND: It has not changed.
QUESTION: Okay. And on Keystone, do you have any idea when you’ll have a date for the hearing in Nebraska?
MS. NULAND: I don’t yet. As you know, we have to wait for the EPA to publish the study, and then a 45-day comment period begins. My understanding is that hearing will take place sometime within that 45-day comment period.
QUESTION: I thought – I had thought we were in that 45 days after they released it last week.
MS. NULAND: But it hasn’t been posted —
MS. NULAND: — on the EPA website. That starts the 45-day clock, as I understand it.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
QUESTION: To follow —
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: — I thought you said at the time that the state sponsor of terrorism for Cuba wasn’t currently under review. Are you saying now categorically there are no plans to take them off the list this year?
MS. NULAND: I’m saying that we don’t have any change of policy at the moment.
QUESTION: Change subject?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the tense negotiations underway – do you have any comment on the tense negotiations underway in Tunisia to form a coalition government?
MS. NULAND: Only to say that we are gratified to see the parties talking to each other, trying to work it out through dialogue, and the fact that the process has been relatively peaceful. We obviously look forward to the results.
Please, can you tell me who you are? Yeah.
QUESTION: Suzy with the BBC.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: On the capture of Usama bin Ladin’s son-in-law, I wanted to know if you could give us any information, perhaps a timeline that led to his capture.
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that at all.
QUESTION: On Syria.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have any information or update on the fate of 21 Filipino UN peacekeepers who have been held hostage by Syrian rebels, as I understand it?
MS. NULAND: My understanding is that they are still in the custody of rebel forces. As you know, yesterday the UN Security Council issued a very strong statement condemning the detention of the 21 peacekeepers of the UN Disengagement and Observer Force within the area of limitation by armed elements of the Syrian opposition. We have been conveying extremely strong messages to the Syrian opposition that this is absolutely unacceptable, and we demand their unconditional and immediate release. We are continuing those representations. This is not the appropriate way to deal with the difficulties in Syria.
QUESTION: Do you know which group is actually holding them within the rebels?
MS. NULAND: We have some information about this. Our understanding is that the Martyrs of Yarmouk have declared that they are the ones holding them. They have said that they don’t plan to harm them. That very much needs to be the case.
QUESTION: The head of the Syrian coalition said that they are turning them over to the Red Cross. Do you —
MS. NULAND: The Syrian Opposition Coalition has said that they will do so. We want to see that happen immediately.
QUESTION: Okay. In the last 48 hours, or 72 hours, there’s been an increase in violence, and really some bold actions by the rebels, attacking Syrian soldiers, killing 46 of them, attacking Iraqi soldiers as well, and so on. Is that a sign that maybe they are gaining ground, especially coming at the heel of announcements from England that they are getting some armored vehicles and so on? And is that likely to change your position?
MS. NULAND: Well, there are obviously some reports of rebel gains, as you’ve talked about. There were very dangerous clashes between Iraqi forces and the rebels, which we expressed some concern about I think 48 hours ago.
But more broadly, the regime continues its onslaughts and bombardment of innocents. I would note in particular that there were regime bombardments over the last 24 hours of several opposition-held neighborhoods of Homs, as well as reports that regime forces are amassing outside of Homs for what looks to be an all-out assault on rebel holdouts. We condemn the regime’s continued attacks against its people, and call on regime forces to cease the atrocities that they are inflicting on the Syrian people.
We’d also note that there are reports of Hezbollah becoming more deeply involved, including by occupying villages in the Homs province, near the Lebanese border, and participating in fighting on behalf of the regime. As you know, last November a senior Lebanese commander died in clashes in Homs. We also note that there are very serious clashes today between armed opposition forces and regime forces for control of the provincial capital, Raqqa City, and that the regime is launching air raids on the city to hinder the opposition’s progress. So again, the regime will stop at nothing, including inflicting this kind of air assault on its own people, to maintain its grip on power.
QUESTION: Are you coordinating with the Iraqis any kind of measure to maintain safety and security along their border? It seems that the rebels are making some really bold forays into Iraq, killing Iraqi soldiers and threatening to drag the whole area into some sort of a sectarian war.
MS. NULAND: Let me dispute the premise of that. There are real conflicting reports as to who started it on the border there, Said. I’m frankly not in a position to call that one way or the other. We are obviously concerned about incursions across the border on either side, and we have been, as you know, in constant contact with the Iraqis not only about these kinds of issues but also about ensuring their territory is not exploited by Iran for the transshipment of weapons.
QUESTION: Could we stay on Iraq and Iran?
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is there any evidence that Iraqi banks may, in fact, be used to try to funnel money or launder money on behalf of Tehran?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything specific to share here, Ros, but as you know, we have been concerned about Iran’s efforts to circumvent sanctions through all kinds of different means. In terms of our dialogue with Iraq, the subject of maintaining tight sanctions, international sanctions, and national sanctions on Iran has been a regular topic of conversation.
QUESTION: While we’re still on Iraq, did you – are you aware of the Inspector General’s report that came out yesterday?
MS. NULAND: I am. Are you talking about the final SIGIR report?
QUESTION: The final report of the Inspector General that shows a great deal of corruption and waste of money and, in fact, failure. He called it a failure all along. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Let me say that this is the final report of nearly a decade of work by the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction. We are carefully reviewing now this very, very detailed report. We very much appreciate the partnership that we’ve had with SIGIR throughout this period. Their recommendations have always been extremely useful to us in adjusting our programs, in learning lessons, not just for Iraq but as they might apply in other parts of the world.
As we continue to review this, I would note that this particular report repeats many of the recommendations that we’ve had in the past and that we have also worked very hard with them to take action against, and we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: I spoke with the IG Stuart Bowen, and he said one thing that has really struck him over the past nine years is how little capacity there is for the U.S. State Department to be able to conduct much more of the planning. He said that because of the way things are currently structured, the planning is necessarily tied to a particular set of circumstances. There’s not a larger plan, as it were, that could accommodate a variety of crises, which he says the U.S. will inevitably have to confront and have to manage.
What leverage is there that could come from this building to get that extra capacity to be able to do this sort of large-scale planning and then to ultimately have the funding responsibility? Because in Iraq, he noted that Defense was able to appropriate all of those funds and control their disbursement during the early years of the war in particular.
MS. NULAND: Well, Ros, as you know, in the context of the initiative for a QDDR that Secretary Clinton initiated, we sought and got authorization from Congress to make a bureau out of our crisis response team. So they are now a formal bureau who can work with regional bureaus to plan for such crises, to pull programs together, to pull the interagency together. This is obviously a work in progress to ensure not only that we build on lessons from last – from previous crises, but also that we can ensure full interagency coordination. But it’s something that we’re very much focused on.
QUESTION: Before my question on International Women’s Day, can I go just quickly back to China, please?
MS. NULAND: We’ve lost Brad here.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) before the question. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: One more on Iran.
MS. NULAND: Can I have – Goyal. Go ahead, Goyal. What’s your question?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: First of all, welcome back from a long trip.
MS. NULAND: Thank you.
QUESTION: As far as Secretary’s trip in so many countries this time – first visit – had he chance to talk about Tibet’s and Tibetans’ problems under Chinese rule? Now they are calling on this day the womens are oppressed, and also at the same time human rights and more freedom. Did he talk to anybody during this visit there?
MS. NULAND: I would say that when we go to Asia, I’m expecting that those issues will very much come up. We obviously talk with our European counterparts about the importance of working together to promote human rights wherever there are issues. And as we noted earlier, he’ll have an opportunity tomorrow to give one of our Women of Courage awards to the Tibetan activist.
QUESTION: And my question on International Women’s Day, today. Like Mahatma Gandhi said one time —
MS. NULAND: It’s tomorrow, Goyal.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, it starts in India —
MS. NULAND: Excellent. In any number of hours. Great. To the women of India, the women of the world.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. My question is that once Mahatma Gandhi said that once if you educate a woman you are educating whole nation. Now my question today is —
MS. NULAND: If you’re looking for a fight from me, you’re not going to get one on that. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, my question is that women around the globe are suffering today, and they don’t have equal rights or human rights and all that. In many countries like India, Pakistan – India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, they worship women, but at the same time they live under oppressed or life like gang rapes and all that. And countries or governments are not taking measures that should be taken or people in those countries are demanding. And at the same time, other hand, in countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Middle East or in the Arab countries, they are – they live under burqa, or even today, in the 21st century —
MS. NULAND: Is there a question coming, Goyal?
QUESTION: My question is that what are we doing – what U.S. is doing today and tomorrow, on this day, to tell those women around the globe that we are with you, and time has changed, they’re not living in the sixth century but 21st century?
MS. NULAND: Well, Goyal, as you noted, the Secretary will have a chance to speak to these issues with the First Lady Michelle Obama tomorrow, and he will certainly take that opportunity. We’ve talked about it here before. As you know, the State Department leads programs around the world to protect and advance the rights of women in individual countries to work against sexual violence against women, to work against trafficking, to advance small-and-medium-sized enterprise opportunities, economic opportunity, education for women. And many of those programs will be highlighted in tomorrow’s ceremony, so stay tuned.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thank – no. I thought we were —
QUESTION: You mentioned a trip to Asia. Have you anything specific you can announce today?
MS. NULAND: I don’t have any specific dates yet. I expect relatively soon we’ll have more on new travel by the Secretary. But I can tell you he’s very much looking forward to an opportunity to go to Asia and other parts of the globe.
QUESTION: Can I get one on Iran?
MS. NULAND: You may.
QUESTION: Pakistan’s going forward this – and has inked an agreement with Iran to build a gas pipeline. I think you’ve talked about that before.
QUESTION: Pakistani – Pakistan’s petroleum industry has told – has said that Pakistan is ready to face sanctions if imposed by the U.S. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: Well, I talked about this, as you know, extensively the week before we traveled, I think. Just to be absolutely clear again, if this deal is finalized for a proposed Iran-Pakistan pipeline, it would raise serious concerns under our Iran Sanctions Act. We’ve made that absolutely clear to our Pakistani counterparts. And just to say again that Iran has proven again and again that it is not a reliable partner.
Pakistan has a lot of energy requirements. We are working with them, in close partnership, on other, better ways to meet those needs, whether it’s through the TAPI pipeline, whether it’s by supporting large-scale energy projects like the 900-megawatt power grid by 2013, or by renovating power plants in Tarbela, in – the Mangla Dam, modernizing the thermal power plants in Guddu, Jamshoro – and I’m going to mangle this one as I did last time – Muzafaragarh, or building new dams at Satpara and Gomal Zam. And this is the right direction for Pakistan, we believe, and we think the international community’s prepared to be supportive, and we hope they don’t go in a direction that would cause sanctions to kick in.
QUESTION: And just one more on Iran, I’m sorry. What is – is there any latest on State Department efforts to get Saeed Abedini, the American pastor who is in prison in Iran, released?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we remain concerned about Mr. Abedini. We raise this at regular intervals. We also remain deeply concerned that the Iranians have not yet granted access to him by our Swiss protecting power. We continue to believe he should be released immediately.
QUESTION: Victoria, Secretary Kerry called today the Foreign Minister of Greece. Do you have any readout on that discussion?
MS. NULAND: I apologize. I should have gotten a readout for you. We’ll get it to you separately. Yeah.
Anybody else? Thank you, all.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)