State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, November 7, 2011

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 7, 2011.  

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Secretary Will Host a Dinner Tonight for NATO Secretary General Rasmussen
    • Secretary Will Speak at the National Democratic Institute / Speech will Focus on Democracy Challenges Involved with the Arab Spring
    • Tragic Incident Over the Weekend Involving Diplomatic Security Agent / Ongoing Investigation / Referred to Hawaii Law Enforcement
    • Political Agreement to Implement Reform Commitments to IMF and EU / Urge the Government to Work as Quickly as Possible
    • Our Concerns Remain Unchanged Despite Reported Commitment by Asad Regime / Violence Increasing / Regime Endeavoring to Deflect Internal Attention / Arab League Concerned Regime not Meeting Conditions it Signed Up For
    • Vast Majority of Syrians Want to See this Resolved Peacefully / Syrian Opposition in Exile Needs to Work Together and Work Out a Roadmap for Change
    • Sanctions Starting to Pinch Regime / Anecdotal Reporting about Effect on Regime’s Finances / Military Officers Defecting / Want to See More Countries Join Sanctions
  • IRAN
    • IAEA Director General Amano’s Report Expected This Week /
    • International Community Does Not Have a Problem with Peaceful Energy Program / Iran Needs to be Completely Transparent with IAEA
    • Assistant Secretary Blake to Attend SAARC Summit as Observer
    • Working with Members of Congress on Importance of Aid Money / Israeli Officials have Same Interest to Support Stability
    • Waiting for Full Results of Elections / Concerned about Conditions Surrounding Elections / Concerned by Press Reporting of Procedural Irregularities and Intimidation of Voters

TRANSCRIPT: 12:50 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Monday. I have a couple of small things at the top, and then we’ll go to your questions.

So first, the Secretary has a very busy evening today. She has – first she is hosting dinner tonight for visiting NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. This is following his meeting with the President. Defense Secretary Panetta and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon will also join the dinner. This is also designed to follow up on the President’s conversation with SecGen Rasmussen about the NATO summit in Chicago next May.

And then after the dinner, she goes off to National Democratic Institute to give the keynote address at their Democracy Awards Dinner this evening. And her address will focus on democracy challenges involved with the Arab Spring.

We will have a backgrounding call on that speech at about 2:45 today. I think we’ve already notified it. It’ll be a phone call, if you want to join.

Let’s go now to what’s on your minds.


MS. NULAND: Arshad.

QUESTION: — Greece falling apart?

MS. NULAND: Greece falling apart? Greece has —


MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I think you know that they have reached a political agreement on the road forward, and we welcome the fact that consensus has been reached in Greece over the need to implement the country’s reform commitments to the IMF and the European Union. And as they work through their political issues, we are urging the government to move as quickly as possible to fulfill the commitments that it has made under the new rescue program.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on your announcement?

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: The meeting between NATO Secretary General Rasmussen – Syria, I believe, will be one of the discussion topics. Is there any way you can elaborate agenda of the Secretary? Will there be any specific subject that will be pressing to the Secretary here?

MS. NULAND: Well, the primary focus of dinner is planning for the NATO summit next May in Chicago, which the U.S. will host, and getting ourselves together with the NATO SecGen on the main goals for the summit. On any issues beyond that, let’s see what comes up at dinner, and if we have anything to read out, we’ll read it out tomorrow.

QUESTION: Are we still on Syria?

MS. NULAND: Sure. Do you want to stay on Syria?

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. Your comment or your advice on Friday for armed, whatever, Syrians to turn themselves in made a great deal of news in the Arab world. It was attributed to you over and over and over again. Is that what you meant at the time, that you would – you will not advise those who have been extended amnesty to go and turn themselves in or turn their weapons in?

MS. NULAND: Our concern in Syria remains unchanged, that the violence continues despite the reported commitment of the Asad regime to the proposals put forward by the Arab League early last week. Every single day we see continued regime brutality against the Syrian people. By the reports that our Embassy in Damascus has, we’ve seen 71 civilians killed by regime forces between November 4th and November 6th, and the majority of those deaths appear to be in Homs, where we now have new reports that the regime is firing tanks into civilian houses.

So we remain concerned about what’s going on in Syria. We join the Arab League in calling for the violence to end immediately and for them to meet all of the other commitments that they made. And we remain concerned that not only is the regime not meeting those commitments but that the violence continues.

QUESTION: So you stand by your advice to them not to turn themselves in and take advantage of the proposed amnesty by the government?

MS. NULAND: Our concern is that this government is endeavoring to deflect international attention from the real issue, which is that the brutality and violence that it is exacting on its own people. It knows what it needs to do to meet the demands of the international community. And not only is it not doing it, the violence is increasing.


QUESTION: On the Arab League —

MS. NULAND: Still on this subject?

QUESTION: On a new subject.

QUESTION: Same. Same.

MS. NULAND: Anything else on Syria? Yeah.

QUESTION: On the Arab League peace plan, it looks like over the weekend SNC Burhan Ghalioun basically rejected the dialogue proposal with the Asad regime. On the other hand, Asad regime continues the killing. Do you think this Arab peace plan is still on the table? Is there any effectiveness can come out of it?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you’ve seen the same reports that we’ve seen that the Arab League itself is concerned that the regime is not meeting the conditions that it signed up to and has called for another urgent meeting next Saturday to review the situation.

QUESTION: Senator McCain made an analogy about this Arab League interference with this problem in Syria. He said that in Qadhafi regime, also Arab League was at breaking point in the problem. So do you see any resemblance of interference of Arab League to the problem in this case in Syria?

MS. NULAND: Well, we spoke about this on Thursday and we spoke about this on Friday last week. The degree to which we have other countries, and particularly neighbors of Syria, making the same points that we are making, that the EU is making, that other countries around the world are making, about the violence needing to end, about the heavy weaponry needing to come out of cities, about political prisoners needing to be released, about Asad making way for dialogue to begin, this is an encouraging thing. We want to see more countries pressing on Syria. And frankly, the more countries that he breaks promises to, the more countries are going to join us in ratcheting up the pressure on him.

QUESTION: Free Syrian Army leader based in Turkey today made – yesterday made a statement regarding the situation, and he argued that the only way to change the regime in Syria is an armed struggling, he said. Do you agree with this assessment?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, the vast majority of Syrians want to see this settled peacefully and they want to see it settled without any foreign interference. So obviously, we stand with those who want to see the situation settled peacefully, who want to see a process for dialogue and a process for a democratic transition begin.

Please. Still on Syria?

QUESTION: Toria, are you contemplating to go back to the UN Security Council to enact some more severe resolution on the Syrian regime?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, right now we don’t have consensus among UN Security Council members about even a light – what we would consider inadequate – resolution. So our focus now is on supporting the action of other states in joining us nationally in tightening the economic and political screws on this regime.

QUESTION: So, Toria, I mean, short of a Libya-like NATO resolution, what options do you have? I mean, I called around and see that Lufthansa basically cut their flights to Damascus. Air France reduced it dramatically, like once a week, when there was, like, twice a day or something like that. So are these the kind of options that you’re looking at, that you can implement, in the short run?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you say, Said, we do believe that the sanctions that we have put on Syria, that the EU in particular has put on Syria, are beginning to pinch. And what we want to see are more countries joining us in closing off trade with the Syrian regime that gives it the money to continue its onslaught, and particularly those countries who are still trading in weapons with Syria, which it is now turning on its own people. So these are the kinds of things that get the regime’s attention, and we do believe they are beginning to feel the pinch. But more countries joining us in these steps would be most welcome.

QUESTION: But how are these sanctions beginning to pinch if the violence has actually been worse over the last three or four days?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think these are desperate moves by a desperate regime, but we are seeing the number of military officers who are defecting beginning to increase. We are getting anecdotal reporting and Embassy reporting about the effect on the regime’s finances. And so, again, we need this regime to understand that it faces global condemnation now for its actions.

QUESTION: And do you think that this pinch could get to a point where it could make the crackdown economically infeasible? Would that be the goal here?

MS. NULAND: I think there are a number of goals here – obviously, to staunch the money that the regime uses against – to fund its armed insurrection against its own people, but also to make those around Asad who continue to support him and to continue to support his tactics think twice about whether they are on the right side of history in Syria, whether they’re on the right side of the wave of public interest and national good for the country.

QUESTION: Why as the sway of defections, or the actual rate, been so much lower in Syria than in Libya?

MS. NULAND: Well, I can’t speak to the precise comparisons. I can’t speak to the individual national choices made by folks inside the Syrian system. But obviously, this is a regime that is ruled by fear. Its ruled by intimidation for a very, very long time.

QUESTION: You stated that this vast majority of protesters do not want military intervention. Is it – does it include also no-fly zone? Do you think vast majority of protesters still don’t want no-fly zone? Because according to videos coming out from the – Syria, many activists argue the opposite. How confident are you that vast majority of Syrians do not want intervention and no-fly zone?

MS. NULAND: Well, our information remains that the vast majority of Syrians, and certainly those in the opposition in Syria, do not want foreign intervention, and they particularly do not want foreign military intervention.

I’d also make the point that what we’re facing here is different than what we faced in Libya, which were long stretches of desert and columns of tanks pulling into cities. What we have in Syria are government forces entrenched in towns and villages, in stationary positions, with tanks now facing houses and buildings and, as I just said, in Homs, starting to fire on those buildings. So what a no-fly zone does in a situation like that is not particularly clear.

QUESTION: And do you think that economic sanctions are going to solve and stop these tanks from shelling the houses of people?

MS. NULAND: Well, we’re – what we’re saying is that countries that are continuing to trade with this regime, countries that are particularly still giving them weapons, need to think about what they’re feeling here.


QUESTION: Will you – do you encourage the Arab League to suspend Syria’s membership, on Saturday, in the Arab League?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, the Arab League is going to look at a range of options, and I don’t – we’re not going to be in the position of dictating to the Arab League precisely what measures it should take. But what we have said to our Arab League partners is that the measures that we have already taken, that the EU has taken, we think are beginning to have an effect. And we’re obviously expecting that if the Asad regime continues to break promises to the Arab League, there’ll be an impact on their relations.

QUESTION: Two more things on Syria.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Let me – can I just —


MS. NULAND: — give Jill a chance? Is it still Syria?

QUESTION: Well, it’s another subject.

MS. NULAND: No. Okay. Please, Arshad.

QUESTION: One, there’s a new Syrian opposition group that announced itself today in Paris. It’s called the National Committee to Support the Syrian Revolution, and one of its members is former Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, who was in the Syrian Government for about 30 years. Do you have any comment on this? Are you beginning to see more of a Syrian opposition start to coalesce, and do you have any comment or have you had any particular contact with this group or this individual?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that we have had contact with the group in Paris. We’ve obviously had contact with the group in Istanbul. Our message continues to be that the Syrian opposition in Syria, the Syrian opposition in exile, needs to work together and needs to lay out as clearly as it can a roadmap for change that its people can rally around and that can unite the aspirations of these different groups.

QUESTION: And it still Ambassador Ford’s intent to return to Damascus before Thanksgiving, which is just a couple of weeks away now?

MS. NULAND: It is.

QUESTION: And have you seen any evidence, or have you had any signals from the Syrian Government, to suggest that they will, as you requested, undertake their Vienna Convention responsibilities and create circumstances under which he can return and do his job in safety?

MS. NULAND: Well, it is our full expectation that the Syrian Government will meet its Vienna Convention obligations. We have been in touch with them and made clear that he’s coming back and that we expect those obligations to be fulfilled.

QUESTION: So he is definitely going back?

MS. NULAND: Our position on this hasn’t changed. He bought his turkey; he plans to go back before Thanksgiving.


QUESTION: Toria, the Syrian National Council has asked for international protection to Homs today. What would be your answer to them?

MS. NULAND: Well, I haven’t seen precisely what they are asking for. I think among the things that we can do is what we have just done here today, and which we’ll continue to do, which is in an environment where there is no journalistic freedom, where international observers have been rejected repeatedly, including observers offered by the Arab League, that we can speak out about what we know, and we can make clear what kind of brutality that people of Homs are facing.

QUESTION: Turkish foreign minister today gave an interview to Financial Times and he did not rule out neither buffer zone or no-fly zone. Last week, NATO General Secretary Rasmussen looked like he did. Do you think this might be one of the agenda items tonight that will be on the table?

MS. NULAND: I think you asked me earlier whether Syria would be – would come up in dinner tonight. I think you just come right back around it. As I said, the first item on the agenda for dinner is to set an agenda for the Chicago Summit and to work together on a good summit. The degree to which other issues come up, and they may, we’ll read you out on whatever we can tomorrow.

QUESTION: You just mentioned that some of the countries have to retain their help to the Syrian regime. Is there any way that you can elaborate which countries do you think the most responsible supporting and giving more room Asad regime to continue its brutal crackdown?

MS. NULAND: Well I think we’ve been clear here that we’re looking for as many countries as possible to match the kinds of steps that we’ve taken, the kinds of steps that the EU has taken, and particularly those countries that continue to trade with the regime and that continue to sell it weapons really need to think twice.

Please, Jill.

QUESTION: IAEA, Iran. I know the report, I believe as of the last couple minutes has not come out yet, but there has been some reporting. Has the State Department actually seen the report? Do you have any preliminary impressions or anything that you would want to say on it? Will you brief us? And how significant do you think this report will be?

MS. NULAND: Jill’s referring to the report of IAEA Director General Amano, which we’re now expecting to be released on Wednesday, with regard to Iran’s nuclear behavior. Jill, as I said last week, we’re not going to get ahead of the Director General in making his report. We have, as have other countries, had some preliminary briefing on the findings, but again, I think it’s a report that he is finalizing now and we will leave it to him to make those findings known.

I think the report itself does not become public until the following week when it is made to the Board of Governors meeting. So we’ll obviously be interested in what he has to say publicly on Wednesday and then we’ll take it from there.

QUESTION: But just in terms of how important it is, because obviously the imminent release has generated a lot of discuss in Israel and other places about whether Israel should take unilateral action. It appears to be one of the more significant reports to come out. Is it a – how would you – they’re all important, of course – but how would you characterize how important this report really will be?

MS. NULAND: Well again, this is a report that we’ve wanted to see done; we’ve wanted to see it done in a very thorough and fulsome manner as a participating country in the IAEA. We have offered our support and U.S. national contributions to the conclusions of the IAEA. But I –again, we don’t want to get ahead of the director general, so I don’t want to go further than that.

QUESTION: You said that you were briefed on the findings. My understanding was that the annex had been circulated but not the conclusions. Do you mean that you’ve been briefed on the conclusions from the report, or just that the annex has been circulated to the Board of Governors members?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t think I spoke to or having seen any text at all. I think that
there —

QUESTION: But you said we’ve been briefed on the findings, though. And I’m trying to figure out if you mean the conclusions or the – or just what’s in the annex.

MS. NULAND: Again, I think I may have gone further than I intended in terms of exactly what we’ve been briefed on. I think we’ve had a sense from the Director General’s office of what the report will encompass and some of the places that it might point to difficulties. But again, until the report is finalized, until he briefs it, it’s not finished. So I don’t want to get ahead of him.


QUESTION: Victoria explain to us, if you would, the possible differences between the IAEA report and Iran’s right under the NPT, the Nonproliferation Treaty, which really allows it to do a an enrichment program and so on. I mean why all this noise suddenly that now we are hearing when they really are in fact allowed to do an enrichment program?

MS. NULAND: Well, Said, as we’ve said many times before here, the international community does not have a problem with a peaceful energy program by Iran so long as Iran is completely transparent with the IAEA and allows full inspection of its facilities. The concern is, first of all, that it hasn’t allowed the kinds of full and complete inspections and exchanges of information that can reassure the international community. And on the contrary, we have information to indicate that Iran is enriching to a level of 20 percent, which is well above what you need for a civilian power program, et cetera.

So there are a number of concerns not only about transparency, accountability, and allowing – and meeting its obligations for inspections by the IAEA, but that what is going on in Iran goes well beyond what is required for a peaceful energy program.

QUESTION: So explain, if you will, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the other day said in justifying going to Iraq, there was a nexus of terrorism and the possibility of nuclear weapons. Do we have that nexus in Iran? Is there a nexus of terrorism – supporting terrorism and possible nuclear weapons in this case justifying a military action against Iran? So why are you reluctant to support such a military action?

MS. NULAND: Said, I think you’re taking me way down the track on things that we’re going to be talking about later in the week. So we’ve spoken on all these issues recently.


QUESTION: Can you describe charges against Diplomatic Security agent Christopher Deedy in connection with a Honolulu shooting? And whether he was there for APEC or on State Department business?

MS. NULAND: Well this was a tragic incident in Hawaii over the weekend. The circumstances of this case are under investigation. I’m not going to comment any further on the details, given that there are ongoing investigations and the State Department is cooperating fully with law enforcement in these investigations. He was in Hawaii on State Department business.

QUESTION: For APEC business?

MS. NULAND: Yes, to support protection of dignitaries for APEC.

QUESTION: And you can’t say what charges are against him at this point?

MS. NULAND: I would refer you to Hawaii law enforcement.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) to follow up on (inaudible) IAEA report. If they don’t —

MS. NULAND: Why don’t we – do you have anything further on this, Brad? Or —

QUESTION: Just we’re bouncing back and forth.

MS. NULAND: Do you want to finish on this issue?

QUESTION: Yeah. Can you – has he been put or leave or anything, or is he still a full and – employee of the State Department?

MS. NULAND: Well, he’s obviously a full employee of the State Department. We do have established procedures for any agent who has engaged in the use of deadly force, either on duty or off duty. The incident has been referred to our Office of Professional Responsibility, and he’s on administrative leave while these procedures go forward. But he’s obviously still an employee of the State Department.

QUESTION: And he’s being paid, right, on administrative leave?

MS. NULAND: I believe so. If that is not correct, we’ll get back to you. [1]

QUESTION: Yes. Have you had contacts with him? Has someone in this building reached out to him?

MS. NULAND: Yes. We’ve, of course, had contacts with him.

QUESTION: And has this individual been on foreign travel in the past, or is he someone specifically for American details?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to his past assignments.


QUESTION: I had a technical question about the report, actually.


QUESTION: They don’t allow to inspect the fields in Iran, I mean the IAEA inspectors. What is the main source of this report? I mean, as a member of IAEA, board members of IAEA are providing intelligence to the IAEA for this report? How – what is the main source to – before prepare this report?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, I’d refer you to the IAEA on the specifics of what goes into its report. But the IAEA regularly updates the – its board members with regard to ongoing work in countries of concern. So in the first instance, it’s a report of the IAEA’s own efforts to inspect and work with Iran to provide the kind of assurance and transparency that the international community requires. And then member states can obviously contribute to the knowledge that the IAEA has with regards to Iran’s program.

QUESTION: Did you contribute to the IAEA for this report?

MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to go any further on this IAEA report until we see what he has to say, and then we’ll comment further.


QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Blake will be traveling to Maldives for the SAARC Summit.

QUESTION: Are we still subject Iran?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, if we still have more on Iran. What else —

QUESTION: Given the disagreements in the past with the Turkish Government, but this time have you talked to Turkish Government in terms of coming out – this coming out report next week or on the economic sanctions side? Is there anything that you have been talking to Turkish Government on the Iran?

MS. NULAND: Well, we regularly talk to the Turkish Government on Iran. It comes up every time the Secretary meets with Foreign Minister Davutoglu. We obviously work together in the IAEA, and we’ve obviously been in close touch with Turkey, as we mentioned, after it happened, when the plot was foiled against the Saudi ambassador here.

QUESTION: Do you think this time are you on the same page with the Turkish Government in terms of danger – Iran’s nuclear capability?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think, again, we’re – we and the Government of Turkey are waiting to see what’s in the director general’s report.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the U.S. in these sanctions, economic sanctions nationally against Iran. Have you spoken with other countries? How many of them have already say, “Okay, we take some sanctions”?

MS. NULAND: Well, there is – there are United Nations sanctions on Iran that bind the entire international community, and these are the strongest sanctions that the UN has ever passed against Iran. I think the issue that we have been raising with countries, particularly in the aftermath of the plot against the Saudi ambassador, was to ensure that all of these – the countries around the world are really using the enforcement mechanisms that they have nationally to ensure that their companies are complying fully and that they’re making their territory inhospitable, no-go zones, to the degree that they can, for nefarious activity of the IRGC or the Qods Forces.

In the back. Thanks. Sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah. About Assistant Secretary Blake’s travel to Maldives for the SAARC Summit, two questions. Number one, what will be on his agenda when he travels to Maldives? And secondly, how do you see the growth of SAARC as a regional organization, and what are your expectations from it?

MS. NULAND: Well, he is going to the SAARC Summit, which is a very important meeting of the regional powers. We are, obviously, not members because we don’t live in that neighborhood, but we are observers, so it’s a good opportunity for Bob Blake to see lots of his counterparts and also to encourage the kind of conversations and increasing economic integration moves that we’ve seen from some of the big SAARC members. We are hoping that this will be a very good and productive SAARC meeting, coming as it does right on the heels of new statements and new moves by India and Pakistan in particular to improve their trade relations coming after the Silk Road Neighborhood event in Istanbul, where all the neighbors of Afghanistan came forward in support for Afghanistan as well as increased trade links among them. So we’re hopeful it’ll be a productive meeting, and Bob Blake is looking forward to being our official observer and meeting with lots of counterparts.



QUESTION: Do you have a reaction to the decision by the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to withdraw her hold on some important assistance to the Palestinians?

MS. NULAND: Well, I have to admit that I hadn’t seen that that had happened. If, in fact, it has, it would be most welcome on our side.

QUESTION: And this was aid that, if I remember right, you had spoken to Israeli officials to ask them to speak to some key Republican legislators about stressing the importance of this money going through.

MS. NULAND: Our focus had been on working with members of Congress to make clear why we continue to believe that this money is important.

QUESTION: And as part of that effort, you asked Israeli officials to be in contact with Republican officials, right?

MS. NULAND: Israeli officials have the same interests that we have in ensuring that we can all support stability in the Palestinian territories. Whether or not they were in contact with members of Congress, I can’t say.

QUESTION: But can you say to – can you say – I mean, Brad asked you a couple of times whether you had asked them to be in contact. Has the U.S. Government done that or has it not done that, regardless of whether they did so ultimately?

MS. NULAND: Beyond saying that we have been in regular contact with the Israeli Government about our intention to continue to support, to the degree that we could, and to continue to seek congressional support for the programs we have, that help with security, institution building, et cetera, in the Palestinian territories, I don’t think I’m going to get in any further to our private diplomatic discussions with the Israelis. But the Israelis certainly knew and certainly know that we continue to support this funding and that we were seeking the support of the Congress.

QUESTION: Why is it so hard to address that question sort of straight on? I mean, either you ask them, the Israelis, to do it or not. Why is that so hard?

MS. NULAND: You’re asking me to get into aspects of our private diplomatic conversations with another government that are not something that we need to do.

QUESTION: Is there – last question. Is there something – do you feel that there is something that would be unseemly had the U.S. Government asked the Government of Israel to do this, to intervene with another coequal branch of government?

MS. NULAND: Our position on the importance of this money continuing is absolutely clear. We’ve been clear about it in public, and we’ve been clear about it in private.

QUESTION: But would that be seen as an embarrassment for an administration to need to call a foreign government to convince opposition lawmakers of the need to go forward with funding?

MS. NULAND: Brad, we’ve been absolutely clear with the Congress what we think needs to happen here. If, in fact, the hold has been lifted, that is something we’d be most gratified by.

Please, Michel.

QUESTION: Yes. There has been some controversy about the elections in Nicaragua. Do you have – about the results, mostly. So do you have a comment on this vote?

MS. NULAND: Well, we do. We’ve seen the Nicaraguan Government’s announcement that the preliminary vote shows that Daniel Ortega will serve an additional term. We’re waiting for an announcement of the full results. You’ll recall that last week we issued quite a stiff statement expressing concerns about the conditions under which the elections took place. Specifically, on October 31st, we called on Nicaraguan authorities to ensure that these elections were free, transparent, and free of intimidation, violence, and harassment. So we are concerned by press reporting that during the elections there were procedural irregularities and there was also intimidation of voters. But I think we will wait for – to have a formal comment until the election has been certified.

QUESTION: But you monitor these irregularities?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, as you know, we had wanted to have a broad complement of international monitors, and that was one of the things that was denied. So obviously, we work with contacts across Nicaragua and our contacts with NGOs to evaluate things. But we are continuing to assess ourselves, and we’re continuing to gather data, which has been, as you say, Said, more difficult as a result of the conditions of these elections.

QUESTION: So you – can you be sure of the veracity of these reports about the irregularities?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are concerned because there are quite a number of reports, and we’re concerned because the conditions weren’t good going in. And frankly, if the Nicaraguan Government had nothing to hide, it should have allowed a broad complement of international monitors.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Anything else? Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:24 p.m.)

[1] He will be paid while on administrative leave.