Libya: U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing: Sudan & Libya

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Excerpt from the United States Department of State daily press briefing:

QUESTION: And excuse me if you dealt with this last week. I wondered if you had any reaction to the appearance of two Iranian warships in Khartoum who left today, I believe. And more specifically, if there was any U.S. comment on the explosion at the Sudanese munitions factory, which I believe a monitor group - an American monitoring group has said was probably caused by airstrikes.

MS. NULAND: On your second --

QUESTION: But before you answer, if Iranian warships showed up in Khartoum, that would be pretty something. That would be quite something - (laughter) --

QUESTION: Sorry.

QUESTION: -- because they would have to go to (inaudible).

MR. TONER: (Laughter.) Yeah, I understand. I understand it's --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. TONER: Thanks, Matt, for - thanks for pointing that out. No, that's true. There are - naval vessels is my understanding, reports, we have seen those reports that two Iranian naval vessels were docked in the Port of Sudan this week. We're obviously watching that closely. We monitor Iran's activities in the region very closely.

In terms of your second question, I don't have anything for you on that. I'd refer you to the Government of Sudan.

QUESTION: Were you aware that there was an explosion? I mean, have you been monitoring what happened and --

MR. TONER: I think we've said that we're aware of an explosion, but we don't have any more details.

QUESTION: Although you say you're monitoring Iran's activities very closely in the region, so you don't have any particular - excuse me, you don't have any particular concern about these ships showing up in Port Sudan? It doesn't bother you at all?

MR. TONER: Well, I just said we're obviously - Iran has shown previously its interest in and engagement with the Government of Sudan. We don't have any particular details of the visit, just to say we're monitoring it.

QUESTION: Well, I know, but you have - here you have two countries, both of which are still labeled as state sponsors of --

MR. TONER: That's right.

QUESTION: -- terrorism by the United States, having some kind of military cooperation. You don't have any particular concerns about that?

MR. TONER: Again, it's hard for us to know what the details are of this visit right now.

QUESTION: I mean, it seems to be that there's --

MR. TONER: I just don't have any more information about it. I mean, certainly we would be concerned, but we don't have any more details.

QUESTION: I mean, I think the allegation is that perhaps Iran is in the business of manufacturing weapons in Sudan, which would seem to me might be of concern in a region which is already pretty volatile.

MR. TONER: Yeah. Again, I just would say that we're aware of Iran's interest and engagement with the Government of Sudan. We're monitoring the situation closely. But I just don't have any more details for you.

QUESTION: As part of the South Sudan-Sudan peace deal as well as the Darfur situation, it had been held out by successive U.S. administrations the possibility of getting - of Sudan getting off the state sponsors list.

MR. TONER: That's right.

QUESTION: I understand, I realize that you don't have any more detail on it, but perhaps you could take a question as to whether cooperation with Iran would be something that would hurt Sudan's bid to get off the list if they continue to host --

MR. TONER: Well, again --

QUESTION: -- business like this with the Iranian military.

MR. TONER: -- I think the steps that Sudan needs to take in order to get off the list have been clearly articulated and --

QUESTION: Well, I don't recall those having anything to do with Iran, though. (Inaudible.)

MR. TONER: Right. I would have to double-check, but again, Sudan knows what it needs to do to get off that list.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. TONER: I'm not aware that --

QUESTION: I don't - I might be mistaken --

MR. TONER: -- relations with Iran are on that list, I don't think. I don't believe so.

QUESTION: Well, okay. I'm not aware they are. Maybe I'm wrong. Can you check to see if they are, and if they're not, if something like visits like this would be part of the evaluation?

MR. TONER: Again, Matt, until we know more details about what this visit entails, we can certainly look into it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) two Iranian warships showed up in the Sudanese port? (Laughter.)

MR. TONER: Again, we're well aware. We're looking at the situation closely.

QUESTION: Did you have any contact with your counterparts in Sudan to ask for more information on the visit?

MR. TONER: I'm sorry, you're talking about - to our mission in Sudan or are you talking about through the Sudanese Government?

QUESTION: No, the government, the Sudanese Government.

MR. TONER: I'm not sure that we've raised it directly with them. I'll take that question.

QUESTION: On Libya?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen put out a statement today - I think she may have actually sent a letter again today to the Secretary referring to a letter that she had sent previously, which she says - about Benghazi and details of that - which she says has not been answered. Do you know, have you gotten this letter? And why - the most recent one - I know that you had gotten - received the first one. Why has the State Department not responded to her?

MR. TONER: I'll have to take the question on whether we've received her second letter. I can answer that.

QUESTION: On - staying on Libya --

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- just sort of on a housekeeping matter, can you also tell us how many days now the ARB has met and if we're --

MR. TONER: Yeah. I think we've said previously, Jo, just because we didn't want to get into sort of a daily count on their activities, but just to give them the freedom and space to conduct their review, that we said they're going to meet as needed as we move forward. I think we, a couple weeks ago, said - cited the fact that they had initially met. Those meetings-- they continue to meet, obviously, but I don't have a specific number for you. I think we're just giving them the space they need to conduct a thorough review.

QUESTION: It's just for us --

MR. TONER: It's ongoing.

QUESTION: -- to sort of have an ETA on when this review (inaudible) --

MR. TONER: And again, I think it's really hard to do that as well. I mean, I think they'll take as long as they need.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:08 p.m.)

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