Africa: State Department Daily Press Briefing

document

U.S. Department of State

On-Camera Daily Press Briefing Index

Friday, November 30, 2012

1:17 p.m. EST

Briefer: Victoria Nuland, Spokesperson

PALESTINIANS

- UN Vote on Palestinian Recognition

- Settlements

- U.S. Budget Support

AFGHANISTAN

- Secretary Clinton's Meeting with Rabbani

PAKISTAN

- Foreign Minister Khar Meetings

- U.S.-Pakistan Relations

SYRIA

- Secretary Clinton's Meeting with Brahimi

- Russian Involvement

- Damascus Violence

IRAQ

- Recent Attacks

EGYPT

- Constitution and Decrees

- Ambassador Patterson

RWANDA

- Suspension of Aid

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

- Security and MONUSCO

SAUDI ARABIA

- Sentencing of Poet Mohammed al-Ajami

CHINA

- Sentencing of Chen Kegui

- Boarding Vessels in the South China Sea

CHINA/TIBET

- A/S Posner Meeting with Relatives of Self-Immolators

JAPAN

- Senkaku Islands

BURMA

- Demonstrations against Opening of Mine/Chinese Concern over Mine

IRAN

- IAEA/International Obligations/Sanctions

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2012

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

1:17 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. We are late again. I apologize. We had a little - we got a little discombobulated because the Kimberley Process thing went a little late, and the Secretary's thing went a little late. But here we are. I have nothing at the top. I think the front bench are on their way, so go for it, Zach and Madge.

Please, Maddie.

QUESTION: So I'll start with the UN. Many analysts are looking into the vote yesterday, and most agree that it was a slap in the face, it was a diplomatic defeat for the United States. Do you see it this way?

QUESTION: That's Matt's question. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: You and Matt colluded on that one. I think all of you saw the explanation of vote that Ambassador Susan Rice gave yesterday. You also saw the comments that the Secretary made following her remarks to the Foreign Policy magazine event yesterday. We consider this unfortunate, we consider it counterproductive. As we had been saying all week, our concern is about whether it takes us any closer to a Palestinian state. Clearly it doesn't. So that was why we voted the way we did.

QUESTION: Now what?

QUESTION: Sorry. Just to follow up, the Israelis decided to build, I think, 3,000 new units as a response to this decision. Why don't you see the Israeli decision as a unilateral act that also will endanger the peace process?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by reiterating our longstanding position with regard to settlements and with regard to Jerusalem. This is also not new. It's our - we reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlement activity and East Jerusalem construction and announcements. We also believe that these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations or achieve a two-state solution. Direct negotiations remain the only way to achieve the goal that both Palestinians and Israelis say they seek. So we're going to be evenhanded in our concern about any actions that are provocative, any actions that make it harder to get these two parties back to the table.

QUESTION: So what will be the repercussions for the Israelis as a result of this?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we are, as Ambassador Rice said yesterday, as the Secretary said yesterday, as we said at this podium, we are going to continue our efforts to try to get these parties to the table. Because that's the only way that we are going to get to two states for two peoples with a sovereign, viable, and independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel. That's the goal that both parties say they want. The only way to get there leads through Ramallah and Jerusalem, not through New York, and we're going to keep trying, we're going to keep doing our best. But the parties have to want it, the parties have to work for it.

QUESTION: What is new about that announcement? It seems in Jerusalem is that the Israeli Prime Minister's office is asking for the expedition of final approval of building in E1, that crucial area outside East Jerusalem. Is that your understanding? I mean, that's something that the Bush Administration warned the Israelis against advancing plans to build there. And I think the Obama Administration reportedly did so a week ago. Is it your understanding -

MS. NULAND: Can you tell me who you are? I don't -

QUESTION: Sorry. Dominic Waghorn, Sky News.

MS. NULAND: Our policy is as I stated it with regard to settlements and with regard to East Jerusalem. So our concern remains wherever this is and however it is.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that they are expediting final planning for E1? Because that would be quite a significant move if they were, wouldn't it?

MS. NULAND: It sounds like that's a question for the Israelis, not for us in terms of the specifics.

I apologize to the front bench that we had a little bit of discombobulation this morning. We, frankly, didn't appreciate that the press conference up there was a little bit later than we had planned it.

QUESTION: I guess we can talk about the logistics of it afterwards. It seems a bit unusual.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. It was. And we got caught unaware ourselves. So apologies.

QUESTION: Just - well, I haven't - since we have no idea actually what you were - what you've been saying for the last, what, 10 minutes -

MS. NULAND: We started about three and a half minutes ago. We obviously -

QUESTION: Oh, well, three and a half minutes ago. Okay.

MS. NULAND: We obviously addressed the settlement question. We addressed and repeated some of the statements made by Ambassador Rice and by Secretary Clinton last night with regard to the vote.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, with regard to the vote, are you happy, satisfied with the support that you got?

MS. NULAND: I don't think we're going to go backwards on the vote.

QUESTION: Well, considering you wouldn't go forward on the vote before it happened, I would - and you said that you would be willing to talk about it once it was over, I'm curious to know if you think that the support of eight other countries against a huge number of - 138 countries, was that a success for U.S. diplomacy?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not going to characterize this in any way, other than to say that the whole exercise, as the Secretary said yesterday, was unfortunate and doesn't take us any closer to a Palestinian state.

QUESTION: Does anything happen to countries that did not vote your way?

MS. NULAND: You mean are we looking for -

QUESTION: Well, the Secretary in one of her speeches yesterday talked - she mentioned that someone had said to her: Well, I've looked at your travel schedule, and I can't imagine why would you got to Togo? And she said: Well, Togo is on the UN Security Council. Well, did the visit pay off? I mean, Togo either abstained or voted yes. So I'd like to - I'd just like to know if there are consequences for countries that were lobbied, that you lobbied hard, that didn't vote the way you wanted yesterday.

MS. NULAND: Matt, we had disagreements with a number of countries on this issue. That doesn't change our principled stand with regard to whether this was an effective way to help the Palestinians. We don't think it was.

QUESTION: Okay. But with a number of countries is a bit of an underestimate. I mean, if you add 138 and 41, you had disagreements with 179 other countries.

MS. NULAND: Look, the vote is obviously here.

QUESTION: Well, right. But I'm just wondering - and I go back to the question that I asked the last two days, is: Doesn't this ever give anybody any pause that you might be - that your principled stance doesn't - isn't seen as a principled stance by the rest of the world, but seen as - it's seen as an obstacle? Doesn't anyone ever - why does the United States think that it has the moral high ground and the rest of the world doesn't on this when the rest of the world disagrees with you?

MS. NULAND: Matt, you're -

QUESTION: I just don't understand how - you can't take votes like this and the Cuba embargo vote, whatever, and just reflect on what it means.

MS. NULAND: Was there a question in there?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: This is a speech rather than a question I hear.

QUESTION: Why can't - no, no. Why can't you look at a vote like this - not you, personally - but why can't the Administration or the foreign policy apparatus look at a vote like this and instead of saying, "Well, we stuck by the moral high ground and we're right and everyone else is wrong," why can't you incorporate this with the message that was sent yesterday into your policy?

MS. NULAND: Matt, we are looking for an objective outcome that changes the future for the Palestinian people. This does not do that and effectively potentially makes a better outcome for the Palestinian people harder. As Susan Rice put it yesterday in her explanation of vote, the grand pronouncements, the pressing of the green button, is going to fade and the Palestinian people are going to wake up and find that their lives haven't changed at all. The United States has made a commitment to both parties, is expected by countries around the world to try to advance the peace process. That's what we've tried to do for decades, that's what we'll continue to do, what the President has pledged to do. And no matter what the action is, if it makes that goal harder, we're going to oppose it. And it certainly did in this case.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: Or undercuts the way Israel is seen by the world.

QUESTION: Okay. So quite apart from the other countries, what about the Palestinians? Are there any consequences for them from the United States for them having gone ahead with this?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we said all week here, there is nothing in legislation that's automatically triggered if you're asking about the legal consequences for this. We --

QUESTION: Right. But I'm also asking political consequences. I mean, are you -

MS. NULAND: I think that, obviously, is a question at the moment better directed at the Congress than at us. You've seen a number of initiatives that have been proposed there. And as we have said for some time, we still have some $495 million in Fiscal Year 2012 funds that we're trying to encourage the Congress to release for the Palestinians.

QUESTION: And so you're still trying to do that.

MS. NULAND: We are.

QUESTION: And you're not now less interested in resuming the negotiations. So in -

MS. NULAND: Again, our -

QUESTION: Policy-wise, there isn't any impact from the Administration's point of view on the Palestinians for pursuing this.

MS. NULAND: We've said all along that we will, as an Administration - the President's made clear - continue to try to work for the outcome that we seek. And we will also continue to try to support the Palestinian Authority, because this money supports their ability to administer the territories, provide security, and take care of the needs of the Palestinian people, who we continue to believe need our support, need the international community's support.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: But the degree to which people are looking to the United States to try to help the peace process, we're discouraging of any efforts that make that harder.

QUESTION: Okay. And then I'll stop after this, but just related to - tangentially related to the settlement, the new - the announcement of the new construction. That is something that actually does have an impact the day after, the years after. It is not a grand pronouncement, it is not pushing a button which fades. It is something that has a very real impact on the ground. What are they - you're saying that there are not going to be any policy consequences, at least from the Administration, maybe from Congress. But from your point of view, from the Administration's point of view, there aren't any consequences for the Palestinians in going after this vote. But on something - will there be any consequences for Israel going ahead with this kind of settlement activity, which actually does have an impact on potential peace negotiations?

MS. NULAND: Well, you missed before you came in that I said again here, as we have always said with regard to this, our longstanding opposition remains to settlement activity and to East Jerusalem construction and to these kinds of announcements. Just as we said with regard the New York action, we think this kind of move is counterproductive. It makes negotiations harder.

But we also said that, in the context of the move in New York, you had a risk of action causing reaction. So in the context of this, we're going to be evenhanded in saying we don't want to see provocative action. Instead, we want to see the parties focused on coming back to the table without preconditions.

QUESTION: Well, you're also going to be evenhanded in not applying any penalty to either side for doing things that you think are bad for the peace process, right?

MS. NULAND: Our commitment is to continue to try to improve this environment. That has not always been easy, as the last couple of weeks demonstrate, but we're going to keep trying.

Please.

QUESTION: And I apologize if this is already out there, but has there been any communication between this building and members - senior members of the Palestinian Authority since the vote? I'm thinking particularly Prime Minister Fayyad's in town now. Is there any plan to meet with him? Are you going to - how are you going to take it forward with them?

MS. NULAND: I spoke to David Hale this morning. He said that he has been in phone contact with the Palestinians, specifically with his counterpart, Mr. Erekat, since the vote. But I don't have anything to announce, Andy, with regard to meetings beyond that.

QUESTION: Well, it's on the Secretary's schedule that she's going to --

MS. NULAND: Oh, well I was - yeah. Forgive me, I had forgotten that. Obviously she's going to see - at the Saban Forum, she's going to have a number of short pull-asides with various participants in those meetings, including Mr. Fayyad. Sorry about that. I had forgotten that.

QUESTION: In terms of those meetings, can you - is she going - do you know - maybe you don't know, but do you expect her to ask them how they see things going ahead? Or do you expect her to knock heads together? I mean, both sides have now done things that you don't think are good. What is the context of - what is she going to say to them? Is she going to say, "Hey, guys, let's - we really need to try and salvage something here?" Or is she just going to say - wag her finger at both of them and walk away?

MS. NULAND: Well, the Secretary of State doesn't wag her finger. That's not the way she --

QUESTION: I've seen her. I've seen her do it.

MS. NULAND: She may wag her finger at you, Matt. I don't know. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Shake her fist. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: Finger-wagging not in her repertoire. But obviously, she's going to take soundings with the various folks that she sees at Saban tonight as to how they see things moving forward and how they see the situation. If we have anything to read out from those meetings, we certainly will.

Kim.

QUESTION: You said that the move at the UN was not helpful, doesn't bring the parties closer to a solution, but clearly, nothing else is. I mean, you've been trying for four years to get them to the negotiating table. Why not give the Palestinians a bit of symbolic hope? I mean, why not cheer them on for that?

MS. NULAND: Again, it doesn't, Kim, change a thing about the lives of the Palestinian people. And our goal has been to help them get to the state that they want and they deserve, and if this makes the environment more difficult, we considered it a bad move, and we've been saying that.

Please.

QUESTION: Can I ask on the funding?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Sorry, you mentioned $495 million. Forgive me for not having this right, but I thought it was 200 million. Is there some more that's been added?

MS. NULAND: Let me just break it down for you. So there's 495 million in Fiscal Year 2012 funds that we have wanted to move. There's 200 million in direct budget support for the Palestinian Authority. There's 195 in economic support funds for programs and projects there. And there is a hundred million in international narcotics control and law enforcement funds. That's what's currently pending with the Congress for the Palestinian Authority.

All right. Can we move on?

QUESTION: Hold on, wait a second. I'm trying to add that up. That's a lot more than 495 million, isn't it?

MS. NULAND: Did somebody -

QUESTION: No, it's 495 million.

MS. NULAND: Oh, good. The math is right. That would have been tragic.

QUESTION: That was -

MS. NULAND: Math, not my strong suit, never has been.

QUESTION: If it doesn't get approved in this fiscal year -

QUESTION: Oh, I see, 495 at the - that was the total.

MS. NULAND: Does that work? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I misunderstood.

MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) Neither one of us are very strong in that.

QUESTION: If it doesn't get disbursed in this fiscal year, is the - on an accounting issue, can the United States disburse it beyond the fiscal year?

MS. NULAND: I actually don't know with regard to this. Every piece of legislation is different. Sometimes you can roll it over, sometimes it can move later. I can check on that for you if we need to offline.

QUESTION: Thanks. Yeah.

QUESTION: Wait a second, Fiscal Year '12 is over.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: It has been over.

MS. NULAND: Right, so Fiscal Year '12 is over, so - yeah, presumably we could still move this. I don't know whether it expires at some point or --

QUESTION: I mean, is there some more budgeted in Fiscal Year 2013?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: And can you tell me a figure?

QUESTION: Can you clarify the answer you gave me earlier? Just - if the Israelis do remove the last remaining planning obstacle to building on the last bit of empty land between the West Bank and East Jerusalem, E1, which is what they've said they are expediting today, it's a question for the Israelis, are you saying? Will there be consequences from the U.S. if that happens?

MS. NULAND: Again, you're taking me into hypothetical situations that we haven't seen yet, so I'm not --

QUESTION: No, they have - an Israeli Prime Minister spokesman today said that they will expedite planning procedures for E1.

MS. NULAND: Again, we've made our comment here about settlements in line with our longstanding policy. I don't have anything else to predict with regard to our policy.

Kim.

QUESTION: Sorry, can I just follow up? I know this has been the subject of the week; it's been the subject du jour.

MS. NULAND: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: But I still find it puzzling because as you said, the move by the Palestinians at the UN doesn't actually change anything on the ground. You say it doesn't make it - it's not helpful, but it's only not helpful in the eyes of the Israelis. They're the ones who don't want it, whereas they are actually taking action on the ground that is changing the way any Palestinian state might look in the future, potentially making it impossible. So why is the U.S., in essence, making it possible for the Israelis to continue with their agenda and not helping the Palestinians in any sort of way? The Palestinians are always the ones who are having to cave in to the pressure.

MS. NULAND: We have, for arguably decades, but certainly years and months, been working with both sides to try to get - this Administration has - to try to get them back to the table directly without preconditions. That's the only way you're going to get a real negotiation going which is going to get you closer to a state. The degree to which any of these actions are seen as provocative by the other side, they make the environment harder, they take you further from that actual move that's going to make the difference in terms of getting to two states.

That's why we oppose it, Kim. I don't think it's a very big mystery. We've been pretty clear about it all week, all year, all month, all decade.

QUESTION: What do these - does your support or your rejection of the move by the Palestinians at the UN give you more leverage on the Israelis now to push them towards the table? I mean -

MS. NULAND: It's not a matter of that. It's a matter of trying. You have to create the environment, you have to support an environment where both sides see advantage to coming to the table. Every time there is provocative action on one side or the other, that makes that harder.

All right. Can we move on, please?

QUESTION: Toria, I just have one more on this.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: It's not controversial, I don't think, on this, and that is did the Israelis tell you that they were going to go ahead with this announcement this morning if the Palestinian vote went ahead and succeeded?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, we didn't have any specific advanced notice of what actions they might take. They generally do not consult us on these things before they do them.

QUESTION: But they told you that they would be responding in some way?

MS. NULAND: They made clear publicly that they would respond. I don't think that's a particular surprise.

QUESTION: And - but did you say you don't think that that's a good idea, you should just --

MS. NULAND: We always -

QUESTION: - take your lumps and -

MS. NULAND: We always caution against settlement activity. We always do.

QUESTION: No, no, no. I mean any kind of tit-for-tat response? Because it - forgive the expression - it appears to be kind of childish, this going back and forth, "I'm going to hit you," so - or "You hit me, so I'm going to hit you back" kind of thing, which is not the way, as you know, to get to peace talks or anything else. So I just - did you tell the Israelis, "Look, this is a foregone conclusion we're going to lose this vote and we're going to lose it by a lot, please don't overreact?" Did - was there anything like that?

MS. NULAND: Matt, beyond telling you that we have been clear about our longstanding position on all of these issues with the parties, I'm not going to put you in the room in our negotiations with them or with the Palestinians before this. I'm sorry.

Lalit.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan-Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: Foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan met in Islamabad today. They issued also a statement, and Pakistan has agreed to free more Taliban prisoners now. How do you see this development? Have they informed you? Because these Talibans are basically terrorists planning terrorist attacks, both inside Afghanistan and also against the U.S.

MS. NULAND: I'm going to take that one, Lalit. I'm not aware of any new agreement today between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

QUESTION: It was announced by them.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. I'll take that one.

QUESTION: And also on Chairman of High Peace Council Rabbani's meeting at the State Department yesterday, you gave us a brief readout of Secretary Clinton's meeting. What were the other meetings? Do you have any more details on it?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we said, the Secretary had a very brief meeting with him, and then Ambassador Grossman had a longer meeting. Obviously, they discussed efforts to advance the Afghan-led process. We, as we always do, expressed appreciation - the Secretary did and Ambassador Grossman did - for the personal efforts of High Peace Council Chairman Rabbani, his personal dedication, as well as his team, to try to make concrete progress. We got a sense of the state of play from him. But as you know, the situation remains difficult because of the Taliban posture on this.

QUESTION: Just a related one. The Pakistan Finance Minister is in town and says he's having meetings with officials at State, among other places. Can you tell us, have those meetings occurred or are they on the schedule? And do you have any sense what he might be here to discuss with you guys?

MS. NULAND: I think we'll have some further information after the working group meetings are over, but the Economic and Finance Working Group, U.S.-Pakistani, is meeting today. Deputy Secretary Nides is the host. This is part of a whole series of meetings that we're having at various levels with Pakistani counterparts, continuing to try to get the relationship on a firmer footing. In addition to that, I can advise that when we are in Brussels next week - I think it's on Tuesday - the Secretary will have a chance to meet with Foreign Minister Khar as well. The Foreign Minister will be in Brussels. I think she's briefing the North Atlantic Council as well on Tuesday.

QUESTION: Their - Pakistan's reserve cover is pretty thin these days, and there's been speculation that he's here asking for money. Do you have any word on that?

MS. NULAND: That -

QUESTION: That the Pakistani Finance Minister is here on essentially a fundraising trip.

MS. NULAND: Well, our meeting on the bilateral economic and financial issues is to review our entire relationship in terms of the trajectory that we've been on, trying to move from aid to trade, seeing what we can do to encourage increased investment, to open markets. And then, as you know, we have a number of economic projects together in Pakistan, to review those and ensure that they are targeted properly and on track. So I think there'll be a bigger readout after those meetings conclude, either in writing or some other way.

QUESTION: Beside this economic meeting --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- is there any other meeting going on right now or being planned for the next few weeks with Pakistan? You said series of meetings are being planned.

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, you know the Secretary, right before the UNGA, had a bilateral meeting here with Foreign Minister Khar. When she was in New York, she saw President Zardari. Ambassador Grossman was in Pakistan in October. We've had a number of these working groups that we talked about. We've had - the Counter-IED Working Group has met, a couple of others that we have under our bilateral group, the Economic and Finance Working Group that Deputy Secretary's chairing today. And then, of course, we'll have this chance to see Foreign Minister Khar again in Brussels. So obviously, the pace of interaction is much more back to normal now and puts the relationship on this firmer footing we've both sought.

QUESTION: This is also the first anniversary of the Salala incident, which - after which there was a - strained relations between the U.S. and Pakistan. A year after, how do you see - it's back to normal? You still have some challenges left or --

MS. NULAND: Well, I think, as we've been saying, we are on a firmer footing. We still have a lot of work to do together that's in the interest of both of our countries in the region, particularly in the areas of counterterrorism, economic opportunity, et cetera. So we want to pursue all of those things in these sessions that we're having.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Please, Samir.

QUESTION: Do you expect any news from the Secretary's meetings with Mr. - sorry - Brahimi?

MS. NULAND: I think we're interested to hear how he sees the situation. He's had a number of consultations. We get a - we will have a chance also to talk to him about our evolving relationship with the Syrian Opposition Council as well, and we'll have to take it from there. But again, I think if we have anything to share with you from that meeting, we'll probably do it in writing later this afternoon because the meeting's relatively late.

QUESTION: And Deputy Burns is meeting today, or he met with the First Deputy Prime Minister from Russia. Will this - will these talks cover Syria?

MS. NULAND: Usually when Deputy Secretary Burns sees his Russian counterparts, they talk about the entire global agenda, as well as our bilateral agenda, so I expect that they'll - Deputy Secretary Burns probably again urged the Russians to consider joining us in New York in putting the Geneva resolution - Geneva text under a resolution with real consequences, talk to them about our concerns that any support to the Assad regime just encourages and prolongs the suffering. So we'll just have to see where the Russians are.

Please

QUESTION: Just on Syria as well. Lakhdar Brahimi also asked for peacekeeping forces in Syria. Is this something you would support?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is the degree to which he's been discussing the potential need for peacekeeping forces, it would be a post-conflict need for security support inside Syria, depending upon how the situation emerges and would very much have to come from Syrians themselves. I don't think he's talking about injecting, into the middle of a fight, UN peacekeeping forces.

QUESTION: Right. And what's our understanding of what's happening around Damascus? Because yesterday, we were talking about the internet being cut off, some planes couldn't leave or land or -

MS. NULAND: Well, we discussed yesterday the fierce fighting that's clearly going on around Damascus and our concern about the indiscriminate practices of the government and some of the things that we've seen. Our understanding is that the airport is again closed today because there's been quite a bit of violence in that neighborhood.

With regard to the communications cutoffs, we're continuing to the follow the blackout. It seems to be throughout Syria now. We obviously condemn any deliberate effort by any group to restrict or eliminate access to communications of any kind inside Syria. We've also noted that a number of Syrians are managing to communicate anyway via Twitter and other mechanisms that we've been supportive of ensuring are available for just this kind of situation.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: So this week the situation in Iraq seems to be getting worse and 39 people dying, some kind of new wave of attacks happening in Iraq now. So how do you - any actions that you're going to take?

MS. NULAND: Well, we obviously strongly condemn this recent round of attacks that have taken place in Iraq. These kinds of attacks target innocent Iraqis in different areas of the country. We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and we support the continued efforts of Iraqi security forces to successfully combat the terrorism that leads to this kind of thing.

QUESTION: And according to the Iraq media, there are 3,000 U.S. servicemen returned to Iraq recently. Is that for training purpose, or just a kind of redeployment?

MS. NULAND: That is untrue. I don't know where you got that, but that is not true.

Please.

QUESTION: A question regarding Egypt. Yesterday was more than 20 - 200 articles from the constitution were approved in less than 20 hours. Do you have anything to say about it? How do you read this?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we've been saying this week, we are watching very carefully the evolving situation regarding the constitution and the decrees in Egypt. There are clearly strong opinions among Egyptians regarding both the substance of the draft constitution and the process under which it's been handled. We continue to urge the government to respect the views of all Egyptians to allow for peaceful protest, peaceful dissent, transparency. We're also urging all those with concerns to express them peacefully, that any demonstrations on one side or the other ought to be peaceful, ought to be nonviolent.

Our understanding is that the draft that was approved this morning is now with President Morsi for his consideration. We are concerned by the apparent lack of consensus during the drafting process. If President Morsi approves this constitution, then the people of Egypt will have a chance via referendum to express their views on it. So we would urge all Egyptians to participate actively in that, to review this draft to ensure it meets the highest standards and their aspirations to live in a country that respects universal human rights, that ensures that Egyptians of all stripes are protected under the law, and that is the standard by which they will judge it, and that's the standard by which we will judge it.

QUESTION: A follow-up question: Almost a week ago, you issued a statement regarding concern on the political impact - impasse that took place in Egypt. And during the week you said we are waiting and watching and we are gathering information. After all this week, you think these concerns are less now, the same, or more even?

MS. NULAND: Well, frankly, this constitution went public this morning. So, like the Egyptian people, we are just getting a chance now to look at it and evaluate it. It's going to be up to Egyptians, as we've said all week long, to evaluate whether it meets the standards they set out. Our own standards remain that they have the right to expect that their constitution is going to respect universal human rights. Frankly, we haven't had a chance to evaluate it fully ourselves.

QUESTION: I mean, I'm sorry to - maybe I may have to make it more clear. I mean, the whole issue was that this presidential decree that took place a week ago, and now it's like it's a bargaining. President Morsi's saying - Egyptian has to accept the constitution in order to take this decree away. I mean, anyway, I don't want to go into details of this impasse - that political impasse is taking place which is a result of it, all these thousands of people are in the streets.

Do you think that - how this can be solved? How - do you have any idea how this can be solved?

MS. NULAND: Again, as we've been saying all week, it's up to Egyptians to work through these things. We want to see the government ensure a process that is transparent, that is as consensual as possible, that gives all Egyptians a say in how their country moves forward, and we're watching it. The situation, as you say, is evolving even as we speak.

QUESTION: Toria, I just wanted - and you said we are concerned by the lack - apparent lack of transparency in the drafting process.

MS. NULAND: Lack of consensus during the drafting process.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Lack of - my handwriting's really bad - lack of consensus. But you don't think - you're not concerned enough - you don't think that that apparent lack of consensus is - should disqualify this from going to a vote - to a referendum if President Morsi signs off on it?

MS. NULAND: Again, this is a matter that the Egyptian people are going to have to decide going forward. We are watching this. We have only just seen this draft ourselves. So frankly, I don't have anything further to say beyond what I've said, that our standards remain the standards that we've had. But primarily, it's the Egyptians that are going to have to speak with regard to whether this meets the aspirations that they have.

QUESTION: No, I understand. But if you come out - and if it was determined or if you guys determine that this was somehow a flawed document that didn't meet what you thought were Egypt's commitments or promises, would you still say that it should go ahead and be voted on in a referendum? Or would you prefer that it be redrafted?

MS. NULAND: Again, we have only just seen this, as the Egyptian people have only just seen it. I'm frankly not prepared to opine as to whether we would get into those kinds of things. Primarily, this has got to be an Egyptian process.

Still on Egypt? No? Anything else on Egypt? Jo?

QUESTION: No.

MS. NULAND: Egypt? Please. Anne, on Egypt? No? Lalit? Okay. Are we done with Egypt? The back. Yeah. Can you tell me who you are, please?

QUESTION: (inaudible) Al-Ahram newspaper. This morning, just asking, there's a statement by Ambassador Patterson concerning the - that the U.S. position - or the U.S. confirming that is always in contact with the - all parties in Egypt.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: So that - does it reflect a new approach that you wanted? There is no - now there is something called the Salvation Front led by Mohamed ElBaradei. Are you in contact with him, or this is a new approach to avoid what happened in the last few months, ignoring the secular or the civic opposition in that - Egypt?

MS. NULAND: We have never ignored any group in Egypt. Ambassador Patterson is one of the most active ambassadors on the planet in terms of maintaining contacts with all parties in Egypt. When the Secretary was in Egypt in July, she had an opportunity to meet with a broad cross-section of groups in civil society. So that is one of the principal tenets of our approach, that we don't talk to just one party, as we don't anywhere, but that we maintain the broadest outreach possible so we have a good sense of the views of different stakeholders. So that's not new. I'm not sure why you thought it was.

Still on Egypt? No? Okay. Moving on. Anne.

QUESTION: December is upon us. Do you have any update on plans for the receipt and release of the ARB report in early December, and how that might happen, given the Secretary's travel plans?

MS. NULAND: I don't have a timeline to announce. I think we've been talking about 60 to 65 days taking us to middle of December. It is December 1st. When we have something to announce or when we hear from the --

QUESTION: What? It is?

QUESTION: No, it's tomorrow.

MS. NULAND: No, it's November 30th. (Laughter.) Wow. I'm rushing life here. It's November 30th. So when we have something announce, we will, Anne. But we have not heard from them on a specific delivery date yet.

Dana, in the back.

QUESTION: Congo.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: The United Kingdom decided today to suspend $33 million of aid to Rwanda, and I was wondering if the United States is considering the same thing beyond the $200,000 that is suspended earlier this year.

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, the British Government's assistance to Rwanda moves in a different way than ours does. I'll refer you to them on the details of how they work. We have, as you say, suspended the $200,000, which is in security support. We - the rest of our assistance to Rwanda goes into things like HIV/AIDS programs, agricultural support, nutrition support, things that directly aid the people of the country. And we think that that is - it is important for those programs to go forward.

QUESTION: Are you using the leverage of those programs at all in your discussions with the Rwandan Government?

MS. NULAND: Our approach with the Rwandan Government, as you know, has been very active and robust. We've had plenty of contact with them, including the recent visit of Ambassador Carson. But we have not wanted to cut off this support that benefits the people very much in need in Rwanda on the agricultural side and on the health side.

QUESTION: Isn't it the policy of this Administration and previous administrations not to use humanitarian --

MS. NULAND: Not to target humanitarian aid, absolutely.

QUESTION: -- use that as political leverage?

MS. NULAND: In general, we have not done that, yeah. Scott?

QUESTION: Yeah. Same topic. The Secretary Clinton and Chair Dlamini-Zuma, when they talked about Congo, they said that Kinshasa, Kigali, Kampala needed to be - move forward on this neutral force, that they agreed to take charge of areas that are held by rebels. But as best as we can understand, when the M23 leaves Goma, the Kabila army will then move into Goma. So what is it you're - how do you understand, then, that the Congolese army returning to Goma fits in with this idea of a neutral force?

MS. NULAND: Well, the neutral force idea, as you know, was something that was discussed by Chairperson Zuma. I think from a U.S. perspective, we want to ensure that there isn't a security vacuum. There are a number of options under consideration. Obviously, the armed forces of the DRC have an obligation to do what they can to defend and protect the security of all of the people in their country. There have been some challenges there, which is how we come to MONUSCO. MONUSCO obviously has a mandate to do the same and to support efforts of the Rwandan forces.

There is a question, obviously, going forward about whether MONUSCO's mandate needs to be reviewed. That's something that's on the table. And then if there needs to be a further augmentation, we look forward to hearing the views of African leaders, and particularly the Great Lakes leaders, as to how they would see that going forward, who would provide the forces and how they would interact with DRC forces and with MONUSCO. So there's - there are a lot of options here. But in the first instance, there is - there are DRC forces and there are MONUSCO forces already in place.

Please.

QUESTION: I'm going to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf region. And I have two questions; I'll be quick. Last Sunday, there was a series of protests by Shias,Shiite, and they're protesting (inaudible) Ashura, the holiday. And there was F-15 jets flying over these protests. Does the State Department know about this? And if so, is this inappropriate behavior by Saudi Arabia?

And the second question is: Qatar recently decided to sentence a poet to prison for life for criticizing the Emir. Again, should the State Department or the government speak out against this?

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything for you on the Saudi F-15s. I don't even know if - I assume you're saying that the Saudi Government flew - I don't have anything for you on that.

With regard to the sentencing of poet Mohammed al-Ajami, we are obviously concerned by his sentencing to life imprisonment for a poem criticizing the Emir. We're seeking additional information from the Qataris about this case. I think you know how strongly we support freedom of expression around the world. It's a fundamental right. It's protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and frankly, by Qatari law as well, so.

Andy.

QUESTION: When was that sentencing?

MS. NULAND: Looks like it was on Thursday, yesterday.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. All right. Can I - a similar, but not Saudi, China?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Chinese have sentenced Mr. Chen's nephew to 39 months in prison. Do you have anything to say about that?

MS. NULAND: Quite a bit, in fact. We are deeply disturbed about reports that Chen Kegui, the nephew of human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng, was tried and convicted today in a legal proceeding in China that lacked basic due process guarantees. He was convicted in a summary trial in which he was not fully represented by legal counsel of his choosing. He didn't have an opportunity to present his own defense. So this was a deeply flawed legal process that convicted him and sentenced him to three years in prison.

His parents have also been repeatedly denied the opportunity to visit their son, and there are credible reports that his own court-appointed lawyer refused to provide his family with any information about the case and that they were given very little advance notice of the trial. Several Chinese attorneys who attempted to provide him with pro bono services were warned by the Chinese authorities that their law licenses could be suspended if they represented him.

So all of these things represent very serious concerns with respect to the rule of law and China's compliance with its commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So we regret China's failure to honor its international commitments, and we call on them to review this case.

QUESTION: Did you - you mentioned China's international commitments, but when Chen - when the agreement was made on getting Chen out of the Embassy and then out of the country, wasn't there also - didn't the Chinese also say to you that they would not go after his family or members of his family?

MS. NULAND: We urged them all along not to exact further retribution. Their response was that any further issues would be handled in accordance with Chinese law. Our concern is that this case did not meet that standard, nor did it meet the standard of international law.

QUESTION: Well, do you think now that you were lied to by the Chinese?

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to characterize it that way except to elucidate all of our concerns about this case, which were not in keeping with our understanding of how it would be handled.

QUESTION: And do you have reason to be concerned about any other Chen family relative who is still in China?

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything on other cases related to Chen Guangcheng at the moment, but that is a situation that I could come back to if we do.

QUESTION: Okay. I have one more, and then - it's not on this.

MS. NULAND: Andy, on this?

QUESTION: It's on China, one - it's not on -

QUESTION: No, it's not on China.

QUESTION: It's on the thing we brought up yesterday about the Chinese announcement that they intend to start boarding vessels in the South China Sea. Do you have anything more on that?

MS. NULAND: I don't, except to say that our position remains that all concerned parties should avoid any kind of provocative or unilateral action that can raise tensions or undermine the prospect for a negotiated solution. That's the message that we're giving the Chinese privately as well.

QUESTION: And you said yesterday that you were checking around in Beijing because you had only seen reports of this. Have you actually now confirmed that this is their policy?

MS. NULAND: Their - we have raised it with the Foreign Ministry. I can't - I don't have anything further with regard to what kind of legs this public statement might have.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the passport issue?

MS. NULAND: Sorry. Still on China?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Chen Kegui case. Was the U.S. concern over Chen Kegui's case raised to a Chinese official during yesterday's meeting between Assistant Secretary Campbell and Chinese Ambassador?

MS. NULAND: I don't know whether this case came up in the Zhang meeting yesterday. It has regularly come up in our dialogue in Beijing, our broad dialogue on human rights, and specifically concerns about him since the - since Mr. - since his uncle came to the states.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of the meeting between Campbell and Chinese Ambassador Zhang?

MS. NULAND: No, I don't have anything further to share beyond what we've already shared about a number of subjects coming up in that meeting.

QUESTION: Yesterday, the Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Affairs, Michael Posner, also met with the relatives of Tibetan self-immolators. Do you have a readout of that? Because the toll of the Tibetans' self-immolation has been increasing every day.

MS. NULAND: I do. We will have a larger statement on the Tibetan situation next week, but just to confirm the report that you have that yesterday, Assistant Secretary Mike Posner did meet with relatives of Tibetans who had recently self-immolated in the Tibetan area. He expressed our deepest condolences and our grave concern for the spiraling violence and harsh crackdown in Tibetan areas as well as grief with regard to the self-immolations.

You know our policy with regard to this and our concerns. We remain very concerned about rising tensions that result from counterproductive policies, including those that limit freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association in Tibet, and we are disturbed by reports of violence between police and student protestors that left 20 students injured after a protest earlier this week by approximately a thousand Tibetan medical students in Qinghai province against a government-issued booklet which derided the Tibetan language, the Dalai Lama, and self-immolators.

So we are going to continue to raise this publicly and privately and urge the Chinese Government at all levels to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions and that threaten the distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people. But again, we will have more to say on the Tibet issue next week.

QUESTION: May I ask what occasion next week would this be -

MS. NULAND: It's something that we are organizing. I frankly don't have the details.

QUESTION: Where was the meeting (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: It was here.

QUESTION: And how did these people get here?

MS. NULAND: I think to --

QUESTION: Were they invited specifically because they -

MS. NULAND: I think in order to protect them and their families, I won't go into any more detail. If we have any more to share, I'll let you know.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean, they - they're not American citizens, correct? Or are they?

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything more to share at the moment specifically so that we can protect them from further reprisal.

QUESTION: And how many relatives were there?

MS. NULAND: Altogether, there were three families. I don't have the details.

QUESTION: Now one more on the Senkaku: The United States Senate unanimously adopted an amendment under NDAA-2013 which - amendment was introduced by Senator Jim Webb from Virginia that - to reconfirm the United States commitment to Japan under the treaty and also to challenge - to counter any attempts to challenge Japan's administration of the Senkaku Islands. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. NULAND: I don't. Obviously, it's the Senate expressing its concern in the same way that we have.

QUESTION: Will that hurt the U.S. neutrality on this issue?

MS. NULAND: You know our position on this very well. We've stated it many, many times here.

Scott, was there something?

QUESTION: Do you have a position on Burma and their handling of the demonstrations against the opening of this mine?

MS. NULAND: Well, we're following with concern reports that Burmese security services forcibly evicted those who were peacefully protesting against this copper mine's planned expansion in Burma. We have been urging the government to ensure that security forces exercise maximum restraint, respect due process, and protect the right of the Burmese people to freely assemble in accordance with international standards.

QUESTION: In lifting the economic sanctions, Secretary Clinton has spoken of American businesses showing their best practices.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: It's my understanding that this mine is a cooperative between a Chinese concern and a military-controlled firm in Burma. Does the United States have concerns about how other companies express their best practices in Burma?

MS. NULAND: Well, our effort here is to distinguish ourselves by ensuring that our businesses, American businesses, as they enter the Burmese market, really set a gold standard for good practices in labor affairs, in human rights for workers, et cetera, so that there will be a good example of international investment that meets the very best international standards. That will help Burma to ensure that, not only in its own state industries but in its relationships with other countries, it's expecting that same gold standard in the way its people are treated. So we are trying to be a beacon of the best practices here and hope that others follow suit, including Burmese Government.

Jonathan's giving me the high sign here. Do we - the Secretary gone up? Okay.

QUESTION: Just Iran.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday in Vienna, Ambassador Wood said that the United States and the IAEA were setting a March deadline for Iran to come back and show that they had made some progress whatever is on the table or not on the table. Could you explain to us why a March deadline?

And then, I believe the next part of that was that otherwise the United States would take the issue to the UN Security Council. What would be the purpose of that?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think the statement speaks for itself. It's pretty self evident what he is saying here. As the Director General reported to the Board himself, Iran continues to flaunt its international obligations. It continues to refuse to cooperate with the IAEA. IAEA has made repeated efforts to work through its issues with Iran, which haven't been successful. It continues - Iran continues to take provocative actions such as the expansion of its enrichment facility at Fardo and the sanitation of the Parchin site. So these are very, very concerning and we just can't see this go on forever.

QUESTION: Why in particular March? What was the significance of setting a March deadline?

MS. NULAND: I don't think you should read more into this than just that we can't see this go on for months and months and months with no progress.

QUESTION: And what would you be expecting the UN Security Council to give you if - assuming this deadline is not met?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don't want to prejudge where this is going to go except to say that the next step, when you don't have a process that lends appropriate results in the IAEA, is to go to the Security Council.

QUESTION: Related to Iran -

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: - has the Administration taken a position - and maybe, if you have and I missed it, I apologize - on the legislation that passed the Senate today, the Iran sanctions legislation?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know that we continue to want to work with the Congress to ensure that we are continuing to strengthen and tighten sanctions on Iran and to have the most comprehensive and unrelenting American and international sanctions until we can get to a place where Iran is in compliance.

With regard to the Senate piece that now has to move to the House, we've been in consultation with the Congress about all of these proposals and will continue to stay in close touch to make sure that whatever moves forward is effective and we can work through.

QUESTION: Right. I understand, but do you have any - are you okay with what passed the Senate or do you - are there still things that you would like to see adjusted?

MS. NULAND: Apart from saying that we are - we worked with the Senate on this one, we will continue to work with the House, I'm not going to get into details at the moment.

Okay? Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:12 p.m.)

Copyright © 2012 United States Department of State. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.