State Department Briefing by Mark C. Toner, April 6, 2011

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–April 6, 2011.  

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton’s Meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini
    • Government Shutdown / Department Developing Contingency Plans / Will Continue to Provide Services Vital to National Security of U.S./ Check Embassy Websites for Updates / Visa, Passport Services / Hopeful that a Consensus Can Be Reached
    • Congressman Weldon’s Personal Visit to Libya / Envoy Chris Stevens on the Ground in Benghazi / Continues to Consult with Opposition / International Community Wants to See an Immediate End to Violence / Colonel Qadhafi is No Longer a Legitimate Leader / Support a Transition to a Better Democratic Future / NATO Allies and Arab Partners Carrying Out Mission to Enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973 / Up to Libyan People to Decide How Process Looks / Musa Kusa / Department of Treasury Sanctions / ICC / Transitional National Council / Letter from Qadhafi Transmitted to White House /
    • Remain Committed to Achieving Agreement on Two States / Israel Peace Initiative
    • U.S. Believes Ambassador Hodges Unjustifiably Declared Persona Non Grata
    • Bradley Manning / A Legal Process Underway


1:49 p.m. EDT

MR. TONER: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the State Department.

How are the twins? Good.

Nothing to announce at the top, so I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: I just want to know how much of the agenda this afternoon with the Secretary’s meeting with the Italian foreign minister – that’s still happening, right?

MR. TONER: It is, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. How much of that agenda do you expect to be Libya?

MR. TONER: It’s always difficult to say, but certainly it’ll be one of the topics of conversation. We’ve got, obviously, a strong bilateral and multilateral relationship with Italy that also encompasses Afghanistan, where NATO’s a – or where Italy’s a major contributor to ISAF. But certainly we’ll talk about Libya and the situation there, and I imagine across North Africa and the Middle East.

QUESTION: Well, as you know, Italy is one of the countries that has recognized the opposition, the Transitional Council, as the legitimate –

MR. TONER: I’m aware of that.

QUESTION: — government of Libya. And I’m wondering if there’s any movement on that or if you would expect that there might be some movement following this meeting.

MR. TONER: I certainly can’t predict and don’t want to speculate. As I – I think what’s relevant to your question is that our envoy, Mr. Stevens, remains on the ground in Benghazi and continues to consult with the opposition there. And again, his stated goal, as we’ve made clear, is to work with the opposition, get a better sense of their needs and how we can best assist them.

QUESTION: Okay. And then, do you have any idea why former Congressman Weldon is in Libya? Did he just decide to up and go on his own, or was this something that was coordinated? And I don’t mean just that he notified you, but was it coordinated? Did you ask him to go?

MR. TONER: All good questions, Matt. He is in Libya. He did inform us of his plans to travel there. We understand he is in Tripoli, in fact, today. This is, as we understand it, a personal visit, and he’s in no way acting on behalf of the United States Government.

QUESTION: Do you know why he felt the need to tell you? I mean, if I go to Libya as a private citizen tomorrow, I’m not really going to call you up. Did he think that because he’s a former congressman that somehow he should let you know that he was going?

MR. TONER: I really can’t speak for why he did do that.

QUESTION: Do you know –

MR. TONER: But I can imagine that that may be a perfectly plausible explanation.

QUESTION: Do you know why he said he said he was going? What did he tell you in terms of his reason?

MR. TONER: I don’t have a readout of that conversation.

QUESTION: Who did he tell?

MR. TONER: I believe he spoke with – I believe it was – I’m not sure, actually. I’m not sure if it was Jeff Feltman or not. I’ll check on that.

QUESTION: He also seems to –

QUESTION: Did you advise him not to go?

MR. TONER: No, we didn’t advise him either way.

QUESTION: Why not, given the travel warnings that exist for Libya?

MR. TONER: Certainly, we conveyed our concerns about traveling to Libya, but we can’t deny anyone travel to Libya.

QUESTION: Also, he seems to be carrying on a conversation which is more political. I mean, he wants to meet with Qadhafi, apparently. He’s talking about – at least a reporter who’s with him was talking about scenarios for Qadhafi stepping aside, et cetera. That’s not exactly what a tourist does, so how do you evaluate what he is up to?

MR. TONER: Look, it’s difficult for me to evaluate what he’s up to. I don’t know him personally. I haven’t spoken with him about the trip. As I said, he informed us that he was traveling to Libya. It was a personal visit. I’m aware that he does have contacts with the Qadhafi regime. I’ve seen press reports that he is – he has proposed some kind of initiative or peace plan. But beyond that, I don’t have many – much more details. He’s not there on our behalf. That’s certainly true.

QUESTION: Is that helpful to have somebody like that go at this particular point?

MR. TONER: I don’t know if it’s helpful or unhelpful. As I said, he’s not representing the U.S. Government, so he’s free to go there.

QUESTION: Mark, could any —

QUESTION: You didn’t advise him not to go, but you did warn him of the risks of going?

MR. TONER: Arshad, I wasn’t privy to the conversation we had with him. I will have to check and make sure that we conveyed. That would be a normal thing for us to do would be to convey that there is a travel warning against Americans – advising Americans against travel there. Whether that came up in the conversation for sure, I don’t know.

QUESTION: But you do know for a fact that you did not advise him not to go?

MR. TONER: I will check. I don’t believe we would have advised him.

QUESTION: Will he be debriefed when he comes back?

MR. TONER: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Mark, when there is such a clear advisory, unambiguous, not to travel, could any U.S. citizen pick up and go to Libya, to Tripoli? I mean, what is your position on that?

MR. TONER: Well, I believe we have long said that we can’t prevent Americans from traveling to countries. You’ve seen this in places such as North Korea and elsewhere. We advise them strongly not to go there because it’s dangerous and because it could jeopardize their well-being, and – but we don’t have any restrictions on the travel of Americans.

QUESTION: Well, you used to.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea on how could – just to follow up —

QUESTION: It used to be U.S. law that you could not use a U.S. passport to travel to Libya.

MR. TONER: That’s correct.

QUESTION: It was actually the only country in the world, I think where that’s –

QUESTION: Could you tell us, if you know, how could an American citizen get a visa, considering that the Embassy in Washington is closed on Saturday. Do they go to a foreign like –

MR. TONER: He may have had an existing visa. I simply don’t know how he was able to travel there.

QUESTION: But you are not aware of what a U.S. citizen must do to get into the country?

MR. TONER: I’m not aware of what – I mean, look, there’s other embassies. He may have had an existing visa. I simply don’t know what he did to facilitate his travel there. He is someone with – I believe – with contacts with the Libyan Government. But again, the important thing to focus on here is that he’s not traveling on our behalf. He did inform us of his trip, but he’s carrying no message from us.

QUESTION: Are you having any communication with him —

MR. TONER: While he’s there?

QUESTION: — as he’s on the ground?

MR. TONER: Not that I’m aware of, no.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary know about his plans and – personally?

MR. TONER: Well, he did inform us. I don’t know if she personally knows about it. I’m fairly certain that she was informed.

QUESTION: Are you concerned at all that the work going on there is going to eclipse what Chris Stevens is doing?

MR. TONER: No, not at all. It’s – Mr. Stevens is in Benghazi. He’s working with the opposition there. As I said, he’s – it’s a completely different mission, obviously, where he’s trying to get a better feel for the opposition and how they’re evolving on the ground and look for concrete ways that we can assist them.

QUESTION: Can I (inaudible) in connection —

MR. TONER: Yeah, Jill.

QUESTION: — with that, with this idea of recognizing the opposition, is that specifically one of the tasks that he has, to size them up for the possibility of being recognized?

MR. TONER: I think that one of his – one of the objectives there is to get a better sense of both their cohesion and their goals and their makeup. That’s long been our goal with our contacts with the opposition.

QUESTION: Have you received any letter from Colonel Qadhafi?

MR. TONER: (Laughter.) Good question, Michel. We did, in fact, receive a letter to the President – addressed to the President of the United States that was transmitted through the State Department specifically, I believe, through Assistant Secretary Feltman. And we then transmitted it to the White House since it was for the President.

QUESTION: Was it today or yesterday? When was it?

MR. TONER: I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Details?

QUESTION: Was it a fax?

MR. TONER: I can’t give you details.

QUESTION: What did he say?

MR. TONER: I don’t know the content. I haven’t seen the contents. I believe we transmitted it to the White House. I’d refer you to them first.

QUESTION: Instead of —

QUESTION: How was it transmitted, though? I mean, did they send a fax or —

MR. TONER: That’s an excellent question. I —

QUESTION: — did they hand it over and —

MR. TONER: I’ll find out. That’s a good detail. I don’t know.

QUESTION: On the issue —

MR. TONER: It may have been by fax. We —

QUESTION: Who delivered —

QUESTION: Who did —

QUESTION: Who delivered the message to Assistant Secretary Feltman?

MR. TONER: I think that’s what she just asked. How was it transmitted?

QUESTION: Yeah. How?

MR. TONER: I think that’s —

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Are you sure it was a (inaudible) letter (inaudible) from Colonel Qadhafi or something else? Because earlier, there were some faxes coming up to the State Department about the change of ambassador and —

MR. TONER: Right. How did we ascertain whether it was authentic?


MR. TONER: I assume that our analysts looked at it and were able to confirm that it was authentic. I’m not sure, frankly.

QUESTION: So that brings us to the question that she asked, that – how it was delivered.

MR. TONER: Yeah, I told you I’d try to find out. That’s a —

QUESTION: Also, our intrepid reporter here, Matt Lee, does – is informing —

MR. TONER: He is intrepid.

QUESTION: He is, that and more. He —

MR. TONER: Especially about the Sabres. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And more.

QUESTION: He has —

MR. TONER: We digress.

QUESTION: He has some details, three-page rambling, “Stop the war,” and we – and, “Would be nice to have Obama reelected,” even. Can you give us anything on the substance of this?

MR. TONER: I really can’t. This is a letter to the President and we just don’t get into the business of revealing the contents of those kinds of letters.

QUESTION: Have there been previous letters, though?

MR. TONER: I understand there have been previous letters.

QUESTION: Can you give us —

MR. TONER: I don’t know how many.

QUESTION: Have you answered them?

QUESTION: Some multiples or —

MR. TONER: I don’t have a number, but I understand there have been previous letters.


MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: On recognizing the opposition —


QUESTION: — the message that is coming from Benghazi and other places under rebel control is a very desperate one, and the situation is quite abysmal. And they all say that recognition will help propel them in the direction – into the direction of “victory,” quote/unquote. That – those were their words. Why is it so difficult to recognize the opposition as the legitimate representatives of Libya?

MR. TONER: Well, we had Ambassador Cretz talk about some of the legal processes, but – and again, I’m aware that I’m repeating myself when I talk about this issue, but one of the reasons why we have an envoy on the ground in Benghazi is to get that kind of firsthand information. We realize, certainly, that the – that there – the situation is urgent, and we’re trying to examine how we can best help them and best facilitate in helping their – them meet their needs. Recognition would be one of those options, but there’s another variety of options, including forms of nonlethal assistance.

And so that’s why Chris Stevens is on the ground and why he’s – what we hope to get out – sorry, we hope that he’ll come away with a clear picture of the opposition and —


MR. TONER: — so we can make decisions going forward.


MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: As far as this letter is concerned and also Qadhafi’s son made some offers, what the Secretary or the State Department or U.S. Government think? Are you aware of these offers? And also, are you giving some kind of exit if there – Qadhafi feels that he’s ready to live somewhere?

MR. TONER: Well, it’s a good question. We talked a little bit about it yesterday. There’s certain redlines or requirements that the international community and the U.S. have stated. We want to see an immediate end to the violence per UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and a ceasefire put in place. We also believe that Colonel Qadhafi has lost his legitimacy to lead the country and should step aside and allow for a peaceful, democratic transition to take place. And ultimately, though, it’s up to the Libyan people to decide the – how that process looks, how that transition looks. But we support, obviously, a transition to a better democratic future for them.

QUESTION: And are you —

MR. TONER: But it’s not our decision to make on the various plans floating out there.

QUESTION: And are you satisfied the way NATO is conducting its business as far as comparing in the part – U.S.?

MR. TONER: Compared to?

QUESTION: What – U.S. had a mission.

MR. TONER: Sure, another good question. We believe NATO allies, also with their Arab partners, have provided the resources needed for carrying out the mission to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973. They’ve been putting out fact sheets and I encourage you to look at those. It’s launched 851 sorties, the NATO coalition, including 334 strike sorties. Just yesterday, NATO launched 150 sorties, including 58 strike sorties. So we’re confident that they’re meeting the needs of and enforcing the ceasefire.

Yeah, go ahead, Kirit.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about – back to Weldon for a second.

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: In his op-ed this morning, he outlines a series of steps that he’d like to see take place and kind of a vision or a plan. Can you say whether that’s compatible with the Administration’s policy or views on how this conflict should be resolved?

MR. TONER: Well, again, it’s not really our place to decide how any transition would take place. That’s really for the Libyan people to decide. So I don’t want to go through. I’m aware of the plan that he put forward. He does not represent the U.S. Government. He’s not carrying any plan from the U.S. Government. So that in and of itself is telling. But we’ve been very clear in saying that one of our redlines is that Colonel Qadhafi is no longer a legitimate leader, he needs to step aside. He and his colleagues — his compatriots need to be held accountable for their actions, and in fact, 1970 – UN Security Council Resolution 1970 referred —

QUESTION: Isn’t it 73?

MR. TONER: 70 – referred it to the ICC – I’m talking about the ICC referral.

QUESTION: The ICC, yeah.

MR. TONER: So there are certain elements that we need to see happen and the international community, frankly, needs to see happen. But beyond that, it’s really something that the Libyan people need to —

QUESTION: So you can’t say whether the ideas that he put forth in there are something that you would support or not? I mean, is – do you disagree with the plan that he puts forward?

MR. TONER: I’ll just stay with what I’ve said, which is that he wasn’t representing the U.S. Government, he didn’t carry a U.S. Government plan.

QUESTION: And, Mark, when you say —

QUESTION: When you say that the last time – the last time you said that in response to Kirit’s first question, you said – you followed it up with the line, “That in itself is telling.”

MR. TONER: It’s just that —

QUESTION: What exactly is that – what is that supposed to tell us?

MR. TONER: I just said it wasn’t endorsed by —

QUESTION: That you disapprove of his mission?

MR. TONER: Well, it wasn’t endorsed by the U.S. Government. It wasn’t a U.S. Government plan. That’s all. I was —

QUESTION: And that this is not particularly a helpful mission that you see, correct? When you say, “That in itself is telling” —

MR. TONER: I think that —

QUESTION: — that he does not represent the U.S. Government —

MR. TONER: It is a personal – it’s a personal trip. It was not sanctioned by the U.S. Government. He’s there on his own behalf. He does indeed have a peace initiative.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. TONER: It’s not ours and —

QUESTION: Would you have preferred that he not insert himself into this situation?

MR. TONER: He is able to do what he – are willing – or let me jump back. Let me reverse, rather. He’s an individual acting in a private capacity. He traveled to Libya. He informed us of his trip. I’ll leave it there.


QUESTION: The Libyan former UN ambassador who defected – Shalgham – said on BBC yesterday that Musa Kusa is under arrest in Britain. Is this the case? Is he under arrest?

MR. TONER: You’ll have to – I’ll refer you to the British authorities for his exact status. But we’ve said that he’s going to be held accountable for his actions. But I don’t know if he’s under arrest. I know he’s talking to Brits.


QUESTION: But – I’m sorry – but his funds were released, correct?

MR. TONER: We did lift the sanctions per our – per the law, we did lift the sanctions on him when he no longer was a member of the Qadhafi regime.

QUESTION: So does that mean he stands un-accused?

MR. TONER: No. I went through this yesterday some. He – those Treasury sanctions that were lifted were targeting him as a member of the Qadhafi regime. When he defected, those sanctions were lifted because he was no longer a member of the regime. That’s in no way to imply that he’s not going to be held accountable for other actions he may have been – participated in or owned when he was a member of the regime.

QUESTION: Mark, when you say he – Qadhafi and his compatriots have to be held accountable, does that include his son Saif and his other sons?

MR. TONER: I think that there needs to be an accountability process for human rights abuses. That’s with the ICC. And anybody who may or may not have been – anybody who may have been involved needs to be held accountable, including his relatives.

QUESTION: And also, could I ask you a question about Chris Stevens?


QUESTION: You said he’s meeting with the opposition – excuse me. Is that the broadest opposition that you can talk about?

MR. TONER: I mean, there’s also the Transitional —

QUESTION: Or is that the Transitional National —

MR. TONER: — National Council, but also I believe other members of opposition groups.

QUESTION: Of other opposition groups.

MR. TONER: I’m sure. If that’s different, I’ll let you know. But I believe he’s – we’ve long said that we’ve had outreach to all of the opposition, but certainly the TNC.

QUESTION: Did Stevens come to any other city besides Benghazi?

MR. TONER: I don’t believe so. And obviously, the security situation is paramount.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: This shutdown that is under the clouds of shutdown, what is the State Department doing about it? Like, what is the message you are sending, for example, in Delhi? The Government of India, when it sees that government there’s a shutdown, how do – does it handle the Embassy staff there? Like —

MR. TONER: Good question, Tejinder. First and foremost, I think the message we’re sending is one that echoes the President’s message yesterday was that we are – we continue to believe a shutdown can be avoided, and also recognizing the importance of this matter because people depend on government services. Certainly, the Department of State, as a national security agency, has begun planning for the possibility of a shutdown. It should be noted that we will continue to implement our mission with – even with reduced staff.

We’re obviously receiving many inquiries both from the American public as well as you guys about what may happen to such services as passport and consular services, visa services, in the event of a shutdown. What I can say at this point is that they’re likely to be affected, but I can’t give much more detail beyond that. We will, however, continue to provide services vital to national security of the United States, including providing emergency consular services to U.S. citizens in need. I think I said yesterday that’s one of our core functions, and so we’ll continue to do that no matter what.

Beyond that, we’re making these contingency plans. We don’t have details. If this does happen, we’ll certainly communicate clearly to the American public what services are going to be directly affected and what they can expect, frankly, from the State Department.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up. If I have an appointment with the American Embassy for a visa on Monday, so should I be worried? Should I go? Should I not go?

MR. TONER: You should be – you should check the website. That will be one source of how we update information. We’ll likely put out statements, and I would also check with the Embassy –

QUESTION: When will that be –

MR. TONER: — once we get closer. But again, Tejinder, I think right now we are – while we are doing prudent planning, we also are – continue to believe that this can be resolved.

QUESTION: The visa appointments usually are starting very early in the morning.

MR. TONER: They are.

QUESTION: So what happens on those early appointments on Monday morning?

MR. TONER: Well, again, I would look to embassies to update their websites over the weekend. It’s a very good question, thank you. If that somehow changes, I’ll let you know in the course of the day tomorrow. But I would – what I would advise is that folks who do have early morning visa appointments on Monday check with the embassy website in their country as well as our embassy – as our State Department website here.

QUESTION: How much planning is going – I’m wondering how involved it is and how much it’s taking away from what everyone here would be doing in their normal jobs. It’s –

MR. TONER: I mean, look, we’re certainly planning for it. I mean, obviously, OMB has the overall or overarching responsibility here. But we’re certainly aware of the deadline, and we’re taking steps to ensure that we’re able to carry out our duties that are in the pursuit of our national security recognizing, again, some of the likely consequences will be reduced staff and other impacts.

QUESTION: So you think if the government shuts down on Friday night that the embassies are still going to be updating their websites over the weekend?

MR. TONER: We will – as I said, we will –

QUESTION: No, I realize that –

MR. TONER: Yeah, no, it’s a good question, Matt.

QUESTION: I realize that you want to –

MR. TONER: That’s a good question.

QUESTION: — treat this as a hypothetical because it’s still an “if” question, but the problem is is that by refusing to reveal your plans for dealing with this, you are creating intense hardship and consternation among not just American citizens but people around the world who want to know. And you can’t just say – continue to say, “Well, we’re planning,” and not tell people what they should expect –

MR. TONER: We – when –

QUESTION: — simply because you’re hoping that a shutdown isn’t going happen.

MR. TONER: Again, we understand that people need to have information about what they can expect even over the weekend or certainly come Monday morning, and we will get that information out.

QUESTION: Well, how –

MR. TONER: And we will get it out in a timely manner.

QUESTION: Well, if someone today needs a passport, what should they do if the government is going be shut down? If they apply by mail, is it just going to sit there? And their application is just going sit there and nothing is going to happen to it for weeks on end or however long this lasts?

MR. TONER: Again, those services may be impacted, but I can’t say at this time how long it might be impacted for.

QUESTION: Do you have –

QUESTION: Well, I know that you can’t say how long it will be impacted, but why can’t you – you need to give some advice on what to do in the event that there is a government shutdown. And I don’t think you can escape by saying it’s still a – it’s a hypothetical until 11:59 on Friday night.

MR. TONER: I did not say we would wait until 11:59 on Friday night, but –

QUESTION: Well, yeah, you did. You said to check the embassy websites over the weekend.

MR. TONER: We will update information on what Americans should do –

QUESTION: And for all we know, there might not be any people working on the embassy –

MR. TONER: — on what Americans should do in the event that there is a shutdown and how it will affect visa services and passport services.

QUESTION: And when do you think that information might be available?

MR. TONER: I – we’ll make it available at an appropriate time. I don’t have a specific date.

QUESTION: Well, presumably, it would be before 11:59 on Friday night?

MR. TONER: Presumably.

QUESTION: Can you –

QUESTION: Mark, just on the passport/visa issue, which is one that a lot of people are really interested in –

MR. TONER: Right.

QUESTION: — you said it will be affected. Does it mean that visa services would stop or slow down? Can you at least go that far?

MR. TONER: I think there’s going to be – there would be an impact, obviously, if only because of the effect of reduced personnel, but it’s hard for me to say right now whether that would be a significant slowdown or beyond that.

QUESTION: Mark, can you just – just a quick follow-up on that. Can you just give us an idea of what kind of plans you have for the damage control or the whitewash, because there’s already – there is already damaging on the image of U.S. and other –

MR. TONER: (Laughter.) We try not use the word “whitewash” from the podium. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You understand it, though.

QUESTION: You said – I’m sorry, the question again was?

QUESTION: About the damage control or the whitewash for the – what is going on about the reputation of the U.S. in other capitals.

MR. TONER: Look, I mean, this is a broader issue. Our legislative bodies are discussing it with the executive branch, and it’s an important, important matter, and it’s part – it’s something that’s fundamental to our democracy. And they’re working to achieve consensus. It’s all the elements of the democratic process that make our country great. There’s no need to have some kind of propaganda or a spin campaign about it. It is what it is. It is democracy in action, and we’re hopeful that consensus can be reached.

QUESTION: Mark can –

QUESTION: Is there any reason to think that an effort to get anything done in a shutdown this time will be any different from what it was in ’95?

MR. TONER: It’s a fair question. I was overseas in 1995. I believe I continued to work. But there may be elements. It’s a different world. It’s a different – we communicate differently. There’s different – information management has become much more important to the Department. So it’s – there certainly will be elements that are different. I just don’t know right now.

QUESTION: Can you say yet whether the Administration – whether the State Department has its plan in place and –

MR. TONER: I think we’re finalizing a contingency plan. I mean, we’re a few days away, so we’re certainly hard at work on it.

QUESTION: Okay, and can you say at this point whether you’ve determined a set number of people that are – who would not be coming to work under that circumstance or a percentage or something?

MR. TONER: No, I – we’re still evaluating those numbers, and I don’t have any numbers for you now.

QUESTION: Mark, can you just clarify one thing? Let’s say in India, missions in India, it takes months to get an appointment for whatever –

MR. TONER: It does, and Tejinder spoke to this, and you’re talking about the visa process for interviews and –

QUESTION: Right, how are you going to handle those people? They have traveled miles and miles, hundreds of miles away to Delhi or in Bombay (inaudible) capital and all that.

MR. TONER: It’s a very, very fair question. I know firsthand how these people come for visa interviews, how they wait even on regular business days, and their patience in waiting in line, waiting for a visa interview, and indeed the length of time it takes to apply for an interview which speaks to, again, the – that many people want to travel to the United States. We will – I understand that – your question very well, and we will work again to make information available. I’ll try to get more details about how individual embassies may try to get that information out to people with interviews and how they may have to —


MR. TONER: — to adjust their interviews. I’m sure that’s all being taken under active consideration.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Your concern – just to be made clear, your concerns extend to people beyond Indians, correct?

MR. TONER: Absolutely, worldwide, yes.

QUESTION: It will extend to countries around the world?

MR. TONER: Yes. Yes. They do.

QUESTION: It’s not just India where this is going to be a problem.


QUESTION: I’m not sure why —

MR. TONER: No, no. I understand you’re not being facetious. Absolutely, we’ll extend —

QUESTION: Well, no, actually, I am, but —

MR. TONER: Oh. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You asked (inaudible) —

QUESTION: Can we change subjects?

QUESTION: — not only India —

MR. TONER: On that note, Michel and then —

QUESTION: Yeah, a change of subject. On Sudan, do you have any information about the airstrike that targeted a car in Sudan two days ago?

MR. TONER: I don’t have any information on that. The attack on Sudan is what you’re —

QUESTION: Airstrike, airstrike.

MR. TONER: Airstrike? I don’t have any information.

QUESTION: Port Sudan?

QUESTION: In Port Sudan, yeah.

QUESTION: Port Sudan.

QUESTION: Yeah, he’s talking about the attack in Port Sudan, killing two —

MR. TONER: Yeah, no, I don’t have – no information on it.

QUESTION: You didn’t hear about it?

MR. TONER: I’ve heard about it.


MR. TONER: I don’t have any information about it.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MR. TONER: There’s a difference.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about the reports that the British Embassy plans to complain to the State Department about the detention of Bradley Manning? Can you say if that’s actually happened yet or what the —

MR. TONER: I’ll look into that. Certainly, that’s within their rights, but I don’t know if there’s anything scheduled or – I’ve seen the story.

QUESTION: It’s within their rights under what? You mean just in general or that —

MR. TONER: Well, I understand he’s a British citizen, so – again, I’ll try to get you more details on that.

QUESTION: I don’t think he has a pass – a British passport. I think he’s been clear about that, but I don’t know if —

MR. TONER: I’ll look into it, Kirit.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Palestinian-Israeli peace talks or lack thereof; there is a new peace plan. Are you aware of the new peace plan?

MR. TONER: The new peace plan on the part of?

QUESTION: Former Israeli chiefs of staff and so on.

MR. TONER: I am. We remain committed to achieving an agreement on two states through good faith negotiations. We also strongly support the goal of fully normalized relations between Israel and the Arab world. We welcome all ideas to achieve those goals, and we look forward to hearing more about the Israel peace initiative and believe it could possibly make a positive contribution.

QUESTION: Will you discard your effort and support or in favor of this peace plan?

MR. TONER: I think it’s too early to say that, but we certainly view it as a constructive contribution.

QUESTION: And lastly, has anything come out of the visit of Mr. Peres yesterday? I know you issued a statement yesterday, but has there been anything after that?

MR. TONER: I don’t know that there’s been any additional statements or any additional elements to come out of that.

QUESTION: And are you aware that a visit was extended to the President of the United States, President Barack Obama, to go visit Israel?

MR. TONER: I don’t. I would refer you to the White House for details of that.


QUESTION: Back to Manning real quick?

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Just can you – are you sure – a British citizen, do you want to —

MR. TONER: That’s actually – I’m not sure. Let me do it – let me claim a do-over there. My understanding was that he may have citizenship. But look, he’s being held for alleged crimes, and that’s – there’s a legal process underway, and I really can’t speak to it beyond that, so – I can certainly find you – or I could certainly get you relevant details on whether they’ve spoken to us about it.

QUESTION: That would be helpful.

MR. TONER: Yeah.


QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the status of U.S. civilians in Pakistan? Reports of lapsed visas, delayed visas.

MR. TONER: You mean official Americans?

QUESTION: Yes, official Americans.

MR. TONER: I don’t have an update. I’m aware that that’s been a problem in the past and one we’ve raised with the Pakistani authorities.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mark. I’m (inaudible) from La Nacion in Argentina. Two months ago, the Argentinean authorities seized some cargo from a military plane in Buenos Aires. I would like to know, first of all – so far, two months ago – what happened in this time, any news, something improved, something going to work? And in the last hours today, some people are talking here about some restrictions in the relationship with Argentina. The SOUTHCOM General Douglas Fraser said that the relationship is not the same. So first of all, I would like to know if something changed or – and if you would comment on that?

MR. TONER: Yeah, I’d refer you to SOUTHCOM to clarify his remarks. They – as far as I’m aware, there’s been no updates. We – they still have our material that was confiscated, and we certainly would like to get that material back. Perhaps that was what he was referring to. I don’t know.

QUESTION: Can you stay – can we stay in the hemisphere? Have you decided yet how you’re going to respond to the Ecuadorian expulsion of your ambassador?

MR. TONER: No, nothing new on that. Obviously, we believe that she was unjustifiably declared persona non grata. We’re considering options, but nothing to announce.

QUESTION: Any update on talking to Musa Kusa, U.S. officials talking to Musa Kusa?

MR. TONER: No. I’ll seek an update on that. I don’t have any updates. I know he’s under – he’s with the Brits. I don’t know if he’s been arrested or not. I’ll try to clarify that as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:22 p.m.)