Africa: State Department Daily Press Briefing, June 20

Excerpts from the daily State Department briefing:

12:50 p.m. EDT

MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. I have one brief statement before we get started with your questions.

The United States welcomes the agreement signed today between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement on the withdrawal of Sudanese military forces from Abyei and the deployment of the Ethiopian peacekeepers to maintain security in the area. This agreement is a very important first step and we urge the parties to move quickly now to implement it and translate it into immediate concrete improvements in the security and humanitarian situation on the ground, including the swift deployment of the Ethiopian forces so that we can amplify the peacekeeping force in Abyei. We particularly applaud the efforts of the African Union high-level implementation panel with its chairman President Thabo Mbeki on securing this agreement.

We also recognize the critical role played by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles and appreciate Ethiopia's willingness to give peacekeepers. This agreement also comes after an extremely intense U.S. diplomatic effort in response to the Abyei crisis. As you will have seen, the President issued a very strong statement over the weekend calling on the parties to choose peace. Secretary of State Clinton was in Addis Ababa last week where she met with both parties. She made phone calls to both parties over the weekend as well, also urging them to choose peace. And of course, our own Ambassador Princeton Lyman has been in constant motion to secure this agreement over the last couple of weeks.

But the work is obviously not done; violence continues in Southern Kordofan, and we continue to call on the CPA parties to immediately end the ongoing conflict in Southern Kordofan to provide unfettered access to humanitarian aid workers and to provide the needed assistance to those innocents affected in the conflict region.

And with that, why don't we go to what's on your minds. In the back, please.

...

MS. NULAND: Before we go to Syria, can I just see if anybody has anything on Sudan. Are there questions on Sudan?

QUESTION: Yeah. I just wondered whether Ambassador Lyman is going to the region that had been discussed in recent days. Does he have any travel plans set?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that he does intend to go back to the region in coming weeks. I don't have his precise plans in mind.

Other thoughts on Sudan? Okay, Matt, onto Syria.

...

QUESTION: I think Morocco announced last Friday constitutional refoms basically relinquishing executive powers in favor of the prime minister. How supportive are you of this move?

MS. NULAND: We are monitoring events in Morocco, including the upcoming constitutional referendum on July 1st. As you know, we believe that all people have the right to free assembly and to express themselves, but we're encouraged by the proposals that were put forth by the King on June 17th to transform Morocco's democratic development through constitutional, judicial, and political reforms, and we're watching closely.

QUESTION: Thank you.

...

QUESTION: Libya. The minister of the TNC has said that they have run out of money and that they have not yet received any of the funds pledged in Abu Dhabi. Can you say if you have any confidence that that's going to get to them anytime soon? Have you gotten any information about how much might have actually reached them, when it will reach them, that kind of thing?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we were very encouraged by the pledges that were made in Abu Dhabi, including the fact that so many nations took advantage of the new Contact Group mechanism in order to move funds. With regard to what is moved since we left Abu Dhabi, let us look into that a little bit further for you. But as you know, it was quite a bit of money pledged from a number of countries.

QUESTION: So you don't seem to have any concerns at all that this money isn't going to reach them, about their funding, their long-term and short-term funding needs?

MS. NULAND: Well, we have been concerned and we have been working with them, and that's why we worked with the partners to establish their mechanism. That's why the diplomacy has been focused on as many countries getting support as possible. As you saw, we made it possible for a U.S. company to buy Libyan TNC oil not too long ago, which also gave them an infusion of cash. So it's an ongoing effort. But with regard to specific deliveries of resources since we left Abu Dhabi, let me see what we know.

QUESTION: Yeah. I'm curious about your level of concern since then, since, I mean, it appears that they've - that it hasn't happened yet.

MS. NULAND: Again, let me see what we know about money pledged and money delivered. But we remain concerned that as many of us support them as possible.

Please.

QUESTION: When Secretary Clinton was in Rome last month, she said the U.S. would unfreeze part of the $33 billion in Libyan assets to the TNC. Do you have a status update on that? How much of it has been unfrozen? Has it arrived there yet? Is this - do they have that and they've run out of that already?

MS. NULAND: You know that we're working with the Congress on new legislation that would allow us to move some of these assets to the TNC. As I understand it, that legislation is still in the Senate, but we are very encouraging of it. We've been working with the Congress in support of it.

In the meantime, we have this $25 million drawdown which we're using. I think I gave a report on Friday on some of the materiel that we've been able to buy with that, and we've also opened the spigots for trade. So we are doing what we can and we are urging the Congress to move swiftly on the legislation required to unfreeze and to move some of the frozen assets.

Please, here.

QUESTION: Do you know if there is still country that - ally country that has not freezed the Qadhafi regime - some of the Qadhafi regime assets?

MS. NULAND: I have a list of those countries that have frozen assets, I believe, but I don't know that we've broken it down to check whether there are countries that are - you're asking are there countries that are allies of the United States that still have not frozen assets? I'll have to take that question, if you don't mind.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Just a clarification on the frozen assets.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: What is the protocol or the mechanism through which these assets can be released?

MS. NULAND: What we're working on with the Congress is a piece of legislation that would allow us to move the money to the Transitional National Council even as it is not yet the governing authority of the entire country so it's - while it's in their interim stage, we need legislation in order to move the assets. So that's how that is working because it's an unusual, anomalous situation.

Other things on Libya? Jill.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. NULAND: No. Still Libya?

QUESTION: On Libya.

MS. NULAND: Yeah

QUESTION: Italy's foreign minister said today that the incident, I guess, yesterday when the NATO strike caused multiple civilian casualties was threatening NATO's credibility in its mission in Libya, and he further went on to say that he was worried that NATO and its allies were losing the propaganda war and this could further undercut that. I'm just wondering if you share that assessment. Do you think that that was a difficult or a dangerous thing to have had happen, and what can be done to prevent it happening in the future?

MS. NULAND: I would simply note that NATO did acknowledge that a missile - military missile site that was the intended target of one of the strikes in Tripoli, that it seems that one of the weapons systems didn't hit its intended target, there may have been a weapons system failure, and that there were a number of civilian casualties. We join NATO officials in regretting any loss of civilian life. As you know, these missions are extremely difficult. They are extremely dangerous. We have faced this situation in Afghanistan. We have faced it in the past in Kosovo. Overall, however, our view is that the NATO mission in Libya has been an essential component of our effort to make clear to Qadhafi that his days are numbered, that it's time for him to go. The NATO mission, which has been increasingly effective, has also provided space for the Libyan rebels to improve their military game, and you see the gains that they have made.

Obviously, it's always an issue in any NATO mission to maintain popular support, to maintain public understanding for why we are there, and that process continues within the alliance as it continues here in the United States. But it's important for all allies to remember, for all Americans to remember, that we're there under UN Security Council 1973 to protect civilians, and that is what we are doing.

In the back. Still on Libya? Anybody else on Libya? Yes, please.

QUESTION: The Libya TNC is visiting China this week. Does the U.S. support how - the way how China is mediating the Libya conflict?

MS. NULAND: Again, we're interested to see this diplomacy between the TNC and China. China, as a UN Security Council member, can also increase its support for the TNC and support the goals of 1973 and 1970, and that is the strong message that we hope comes out of the TNC's visit to Beijing.

Please. Also on Libya still? Yeah.

QUESTION: Has the TNC sold any more oil besides the deal with the U.S. that you mentioned?

MS. NULAND: We'll have to get you an answer on that. I don't know from this podium.

In the back, please. Still Libya? Still Libya? No. Anybody else on Libya? Moving on, go ahead.

...

QUESTION: What, if anything, do you know about the state of former President Mubarak's health?

MS. NULAND: President Mubarak's health - I'll have to get you an update on that. I don't have anything here today.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on his trial?

MS. NULAND: I do not.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: In the back there. Thanks.

QUESTION: South Korea's nuclear envoy Wi Sung-Lac is coming tomorrow. Can we have details on who he's meeting with, what time?

MS. NULAND: We'll get that for you. I don't have it here. Thanks.

Jill.

QUESTION: Somalia?

MS. NULAND: Somalia.

QUESTION: American apparently being held, bringing a pilot, bringing money into the country to pay off pirates? Can you confirm an American is being held?

MS. NULAND: I can confirm that a U.S. citizen has been sentenced and ordered to pay a fine for taking currency into Somalia, aiding and abetting piracy, and undermining the integrity of the Somali state. Those were the charges. We have been monitoring this case closely. We've also been in contact with him and with his loved ones. But due to privacy considerations, I can't give you any further detail beyond that.

QUESTION: Is he in detention or --

QUESTION: Yeah. That was the question. Is - he's being held or he paid the fine and he's free to leave?

MS. NULAND: I think I can't go beyond what I've given you, due to privacy considerations.

QUESTION: Do you know what part of Somalia he is being held?

MS. NULAND: I don't.

QUESTION: It was by the TFG?

MS. NULAND: That is my understanding, but I will double confirm.

Still on Somalia?

QUESTION: Yeah. There's - the Department has published some proposed regulation, new regulations for J-1 visas, student visas and work visas.

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Apparently, there have been problems in the past with some of these foreign students being exploited, who are forced to live in pretty poor conditions, and I am wondering if these new - if you are confident that these new proposals that have been put out there for the rules will actually prevent - protect these students from exploitation and prevent abuses that have happened in the past from occurring again.

MS. NULAND: I know that the goal of the improvement and the refinements that we made this year were designed to address those issues and other issues, including the timeliness of visas. With regard to specific aspects of the program, I can get you some more information on how we see this working.

QUESTION: Okay. But it's your - but the goal, the aim of the revisions was to make the protections stronger for students? Is that correct?

MS. NULAND: That's my understanding, the protections stronger for students, but the visa issuance more timely and protection for the security and safety of the United States, to ensure that we know who's coming and who's going. That - my understanding that all those things were a goal of this new - of the improvements that we made, but I can get you a little bit more detail. I think we did have a briefing a couple of weeks ago on this, but let us go back and get the right people to answer your questions.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:26 p.m.)

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