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State Department Briefing by Mark C. Toner, October 31, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–October 31, 2012. 
Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Bahraini Government Protest Ban
    • Syrian Opposition / Composition and Cohesiveness
    • China’s Role in Syrian Crisis / Seeking Broader Support
    • US Partnership with India / Political Changes
    • Senkaku Islands Dispute
    • Near Eastern Affairs Assistant Secretary Beth Jones in Beirut
    • Politician Imran Khan Delayed in Toronto
    • Hafiz Mohammad Saeed’s Offer of Assistance Rings Hollow
    • Iranian Naval Vessels in the Port of Sudan
    • Accountability Review Board
    • U.S. Embassy ZingMe Page
    • Near Eastern Affairs Assistant Secretary Beth Jones in Beirut


1:34 p.m. EDT

MR. TONER: Good afternoon. Happy Halloween. I’d like to say the reason we’re late is because I was getting into my elaborate costume, but clearly, unless you count a middle-aged bureaucrat a costume –

QUESTION: I thought it was a little Dr. Evil. (Laughter.)

MR. TONER: In any case, welcome to the State Department. And it’s good to see you all. I hope everyone made it through the storm more or less intact and that your homes and your families are safe. Certainly it was a suspenseful couple of days, but welcome back.

Just at the top, I do want to note that the United States is deeply concerned by the Bahraini Government’s decision to ban all public gatherings. Freedoms of assembly, association, and expression are universal human rights. We urge the Government of Bahrain to uphold its international commitments and ensure that its citizens are able to exercise – are able to assemble peacefully and to express their views without fear of arrest or detention. We urge the Government of Bahrain to work with responsible protest leaders to find a way for peaceful and orderly demonstrations to take place. The decision to curb these rights is contrary to Bahrain’s professed commitment to reform, and it will not help advance the national reconciliation nor build trust among all parties.

We also urge the opposition to refrain from provocations and violence. Violence undermines efforts to reduce tensions, rebuild trust, and pursue meaningful reconciliation in Bahrain. Recent violent attacks, including fatal attacks, on security force personnel are a deeply troubling development. So we urge the Government of Bahrain to take steps to build confidence across Bahraini society and to begin a meaningful national dialogue with the political opposition.

With that, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Just on that —

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: — before we move onto Syria. This has been made – this position, your views have been made clear to the Government of Bahrain directly? Is that correct?

MR. TONER: Matt, I’m not sure at what level we’ve communicated these to the Government of Bahrain.

QUESTION: They’re not just hearing this from you right now?

MR. TONER: They’re not just hearing this from me, no. But I’m not sure at what level – I’m not sure whether through our —

QUESTION: Well, was it there, here?

MR. TONER: — embassy or bilaterally. I’ll have to check on that.

QUESTION: All right. I want to move to Syria if I could.

MR. TONER: Okay. Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: For weeks, if not months, you guys have been saying from the podium and elsewhere it’s not up to you who runs Syria or who leads the opposition. You’ve said all along that that’s a decision for the Syrians themselves to make, even when it has been pointed out repeatedly that you have, in fact, excluded at least one person and maybe others. That would be Assad and probably his henchman from having a role in the future of Syria.

So I’m wondering how you can square that position with what the Secretary said today earlier when she said that the United States has, quote, “recommended names and organizations,” that – end quote, that you believe should participate in a Syrian opposition council. It certainly seems like you’re picking and choosing, or if not picking and choosing, you’re pushing strongly in certain directions, which would seem to me – and correct me if I’m wrong – seem to me to be inconsistent with this idea that you’re taking a very hands-off approach, and this is all up to the Syrians. Can you explain that?

MR. TONER: Well, first of all, I don’t think we’ve ever said we’ve taken a hands-off approach when it comes to Syria. And indeed the Secretary –

QUESTION: No, no, no. In terms of choosing – in terms of deciding who should be there.

MR. TONER: Well, okay. And indeed, the Secretary was very clear this morning about talking about where our focus has been both in pressing – pressuring the regime through sanctions as well as meeting the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people. And then also, I think we’ve been quite clear all along that we have been working with and encouraging the opposition’s coalescence behind a shared transition framework. We’ve talked all along that we need to prepare for the day after, because Assad is going to eventually fall.

And so part of the spade work that we’ve been doing – and indeed Ambassador Ford’s been doing all along – has been working with the opposition, both the SNC – but in fact, as the Secretary recognized, we also need to include those opposition people who are on the ground, those who are taking the risks, who are fighting the fight, not necessarily just those who are outside of Syria. All along that’s been a challenge that we’ve talked about. So this is partly to recognize that these individuals also have a stake in the process. And so when we talk about identifying or sharing names, I think what’s clear is that we’re just talking about trying to build a more cohesive but also more expansive opposition that includes those within Syria as well as outside of Syria.

QUESTION: All right. Well, fair enough, but I don’t see how that is consistent with you not telling the Syrians who they should or should not have in —

MR. TONER: This isn’t about us telling them. Again – and I think it’s important to note that –

QUESTION: I’m sorry. So when you —

MR. TONER: — it’s up the Syrians —

QUESTION: I understand that. So when you recommend someone, a name or an organization, you’re really not recommending them? You’re really saying don’t listen to us, but, hint, this is someone that – I mean, I don’t understand. If you’re recommending someone –

MR. TONER: This is a —

QUESTION: — you’re necessarily —

MR. TONER: First of all –

QUESTION: — showing a preference, no?

MR. TONER: Sure. Let me try– Let me get in there. First of all, this is a Qatari-sponsored event. Secondly, it is very clear – we’ve been very clear that it is up to the Syrians themselves to choose a leadership structure and their representatives.

QUESTION: And here you’re – but you’re giving them a list of people they can choose from?

MR. TONER: We’re not giving them a list.

QUESTION: Well, what does that mean? We have recommended names and organizations. Isn’t that giving them a list?

MR. TONER: We have recommended names and organizations that we have been working with.

QUESTION: Well, how is that different from giving them a list to say, “Here, here are some people that we think would be good.”

MR. TONER: Ultimately it’s up to the Syrians themselves to make those choices. There’s no way – this is in no way telling them what to do, but we have been working collaboratively with them throughout. Ambassador Ford and his team have been working with the Syrians as this process has moved forward. I don’t —

QUESTION: I’m very confused. If you give someone a list of names and organizations and say, “Here, here are some people that we think would be appropriate or good for you to include in your leadership council,” I don’t see how that is not taking a stand on who should play a part in a future Syrian —

MR. TONER: And I just would go back to the overarching goal here, which is that —

QUESTION: I’m not saying that what you’re doing is —

MR. TONER: We need to —

QUESTION: — wrong or is bad in any way, but it seems to be a change from where you were just last week.

MR. TONER: Look, we –

QUESTION: You’ve always been recommending names?

MR. TONER: — fully recognize that this is a Syrian-led process, that these are Syrians themselves who are among the opposition in Syria that are going to make these choices, and it’s the Syrian people themselves who have to decide on what the opposition looks like. What we’re talking about is a gathering that seeks to include those in the Syrian opposition that are outside the country and those who are within the country to try to build this more cohesive framework.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s fine. But you’re saying that the SNC, as it exists, cannot fulfill – cannot be a credible – cannot play a credible leadership role.

MR. TONER: That’s not what we’re saying. In fact, we’re saying —

QUESTION: In fact, that exactly what —

MR. TONER: — that the Syrian National Council can have a role in this —

QUESTION: Yes, but —

MR. TONER: — leadership structure.

QUESTION: — only if it brings other people in.

MR. TONER: We do – and the Secretary was very clear –

QUESTION: I understand that.

MR. TONER: — in saying that those who are within the country deserve a stake in this.

QUESTION: Has something happened between just last week and now, where you’re willing to recommend names and organizations that should be part of this? Or have you been recommending names and organizations to be part of it all along and just been telling us that you’re not recommending anybody or saying that anybody is unfit.

MR. TONER: Again, I think you’re reading far too much into this. I think what we’ve said all along is that we’ve been working with the Syrian opposition. We’ve been working with the Syrian opposition outside of the country, inside the country. Our goal here is to help them build a political structure that can –

QUESTION: I will drop it, but –

MR. TONER: — lead to that democratic transition.

QUESTION: I understand all that. I don’t understand why it is, all of the sudden, unless it’s not all of the sudden, you’re recommending names and organizations that should – that you think should be part of this opposition grouping. If you have been doing it all along, fine. But you’ve been saying that you haven’t been. Now, today, you’re saying that you have been, so I’m wondering is this some kind of a change. And if it’s not, why for the past eight months have you guys been saying that you’re not doing anything like this?

MR. TONER: I don’t think – I think you’re seeing a disconnect that’s not there. We’ve been working closely with the Syrian opposition. Ambassador Ford and his team have been working closely with Syrian opposition within the country. Certainly his views, our recommendations, are going to feed into that process.

QUESTION: But so —

MR. TONER: But ultimately, it’s up to the Syrians themselves, the Syrian opposition, to decide the composition.

QUESTION: All right. But you do understand, Mark, that none of that reconciles the inconsistency here, right? You do understand that?


QUESTION: You do understand that you’re trying to —

MR. TONER: I do not. But we can continue this or we can move on.

QUESTION: You’re trying to explain – I’m trying to reconcile two completely opposite positions. Anyway, I’ll drop it.

MR. TONER: Okay. All right. Yeah, go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Sorry, excuse me. On Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi today is talking about that he saw a need for China to have an expanded role in the crisis in Syria. I wondered if you could explain or expand on that. What role could China play within this crisis?

MR. TONER: Well, I mean, it goes without saying that we’ve been seeking broader support from Russia and China throughout this process. But as the Secretary said, we can’t wait for either China or Beijing to – either Moscow or Beijing to come onboard to support this UN process. We have to continue to working – to work on the other tracks that we’ve got going here, which are sanctions, which are humanitarian assistance, and which are working with the Syrian opposition to try to build them into a more cohesive organization. And so that’s the goal, obviously, of Doha next week. But we certainly want to see Russia and China recognize, in fact, what’s going on in Syria, support the Syrian people, and support a stronger UN action. That’s always been our goal.

QUESTION: Do you see any shifting in Beijing’s position?

MR. TONER: Not that we’ve seen, no.


QUESTION: Mr. Lavrov was saying that the Geneva declaration could be used as a base for a solution in Syria if the veto thing about representative of both parties is removed. Do you see this as a reasonable —

MR. TONER: I don’t think we’ve ever discounted the Geneva declaration. In fact, we’re supportive of it. But the idea here is that at the same time we’ve got the UN bogged down, frankly, in talking about next steps, we’ve got to work these other tracks. We’ve got to continue to apply pressure. Until China and Russia can come onboard, we’re going to continue to meet resistance.


QUESTION: But he’s saying that it may be a good idea to start on the – if we remove the veto thing.

MR. TONER: I haven’t seen his exact remarks, so it’s hard for me to comment on them. But we’ve been supportive of the Geneva declaration.


MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Last week U.S. Army Commander of Europe Mark Hertling stated that regarding the shelling more than a month ago that killed five Turkish citizen in Akcakale, this is quote. He said that, “We are not sure if these shells are from the Syrian army, from rebels who want to get Turkey involved in the issue, or from PKK organization.” Is this your current stance? I thought that you condemned the Syrian regime a month ago and all that.

MR. TONER: Again, I haven’t seen his remarks. We’ve been clear that it’s the Syrian Government, the Syrian military that has escalated border tensions. And again, it’s – this is – all of these tensions, all the escalation of violence, the onus rests squarely on the Assad regime. We wouldn’t be in this situation if it weren’t for Assad’s brutal crackdown of a largely peaceful – or a peaceful opposition to the government. Eventually we saw these Syrian citizens take up arms against the government and the military as a result of the crackdown to defend their homes and families, but let’s be very clear that it’s Assad and his regime that bear responsibility here.

QUESTION: So this is specifically (inaudible.)

MR. TONER: But it is specific– No, the specific – we’ve said it was the Syrian military.

Yeah. Were we still on Syria?


MR. TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: Iran is offering to host a new meeting of – around Syria.

MR. TONER: And we’ve been clear that we don’t believe Iran can play a constructive role in this process.

Yeah, Goyal. Done with Syria? Okay. Goyal and then —

QUESTION: Thank you. Mark, this week, India, there was a ruffle-shuffle in the ministry of Dr. Manmohan Singh’s government and Mr. Salman Khurshid is the new foreign minister of India. One, if U.S. had any advance notice about this change? And second, how was the relation between the Secretary and Mr. Krishna? And finally, do we see any change because of this under new Mr. Salman Khurshid?

MR. TONER: Well, in answer to your first question, I’m not going to get into discussions about what the Indian – the Government of India may or may not tell us, except that we highly value our strong strategic partnership with India. Certainly we’ve had an especially productive relationship with Minister Khurshid in his prior service at the Ministry of External Affairs as well as other positions in the Government of India. And we believe he’ll be a valued partner in carrying forward the Strategic Dialogue that Secretary Clinton has co-chaired and in building what President Obama has called a defining partnership with India. His experience and his expertise in the business community or on business issues are also important to our bilateral relationship and are particularly welcome. And certainly the Secretary, Secretary Clinton, enjoyed a very productive, constructive relationship with Minister Krishna and she looks forward to working closely now with Minister Khurshid.

QUESTION: Do you – is there any invitation for him to visit the new —

MR. TONER: I’m not aware that they’ve spoken yet, and so I don’t know.

Yeah, go ahead, (inaudible).

QUESTION: This is Senkaku Islands.

MR. TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: U.S. Government applied U.S.-Japan Defense Treaty to the Senkaku Islands and then still U.S. Government kept saying they don’t have – they have not – they take no position on this dispute. How do you respond to the criticism U.S. policy on this island is contradictory?

MR. TONER: Well, again, our policy vis-a-vis the Senkaku Islands is longstanding. It’s not changed. We don’t take a position on the question of ultimate sovereignty of the islands and we expect the claimants to resolve this issue through peaceful means among themselves.


QUESTION: So – a follow-up. So does that mean if military conflict happens, U.S. will defend Japan, but since it’s not —

MR. TONER: Again, I’m not going to get into speculation. That’s our policy.


QUESTION: Mark, I understand your position on the island, but the new Japanese Ambassador to the United States said yesterday the U.S. Government can’t be neutral over the island issue. So my question is: Do you agree with his statement? Are you neutral?

MR. TONER: I don’t know how to say it more clearly than I just did. We don’t take a position on the question of ultimate sovereignty of the islands.

QUESTION: So he’s coming next month. Will you talk with him about his statement or his accusation against the U.S.?

MR. TONER: I’m sure we’ll talk on a broad range of issues, including the islands.


QUESTION: Yeah, a follow-up. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell just finished his meeting – his travel to Japan, and apparently he met with a high-level Japanese official. Do you have a readout of his meeting on this particular issue? Thank you.

QUESTION: Right. I don’t. I know that he – you’re right; he did – he was in Tokyo. He met with Vice Foreign Minister Kawai and other Japanese counterparts. It’s a fair question. I don’t have a readout of his meetings, so I’ll try to get that for you.

QUESTION: Does he come back okay? Was he stuck or affected by the hurricane?

MR. TONER: I have no idea. I’m sure he managed quite effectively. He’s a resourceful individual.

Go ahead, Michel.

QUESTION: Yeah. On Lebanon.

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Beth Jones is in Beirut.

MR. TONER: Right.

QUESTION: And what’s the purpose of this visit at this time, and what’s the message that she’s been delivering?

QUESTION: She’s in Beirut for two days. She’s there for discussions with Ambassador Connelly. Obviously she went on as a follow-on with her – she went with the Secretary and then followed on to Lebanon. She’ll have meetings, as I said, with Ambassador Connelly and her team, as well as meetings with political leaders in Lebanon as well as LAF generals. And she’s going to return back to Washington from Lebanon.

She’ll clearly convey our condolences to the Lebanese people on the October 19th terrorist attack, and she’ll express support for the political consultative process initiated by President Suleiman, and then will reiterate our view, as we’ve been clear throughout the past week, that a new, better government needs to be formed.

QUESTION: Anything in particular for the LAF?

MR. TONER: No, I think just to – obviously to reiterate our strong support for Lebanon’s sovereignty.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Mark, this story still goes on in Pakistan about this Mr. Imran Khan, who said that he was interrogated for hours in New York because of his views against the drones, and he said that his mission will continue against drone attacks because they’re killing innocent Pakistanis. But also he said that he’s seeking apology from the U.S.

MR. TONER: Well, okay. That differs slightly from my knowledge of the incident. We are aware that he was detained briefly in Toronto before boarding his flight to the United States. My understanding is that the issue was quickly resolved and that he traveled into the United States and certainly he is welcome in the United States.

QUESTION: And finally, is it now issue settled as far as Khans are concerned to visit the U.S.? They will not be stopped anymore, like Khans from India, Khans from Pakistan?

MR. TONER: I think I’d direct you to our Border and Customs agencies, who handle those kinds of issues. But certainly we have a very stringent system in place, but also one that recognizes the ethnic and cultural family names.

QUESTION: Why do you say that the account that Goyal just gave —

MR. TONER: He just said hours and hours. My understanding was it – he was briefly delayed. That’s all.

QUESTION: Briefly, like 30 seconds briefly?

MR. TONER: I don’t know if it was 30 seconds. I don’t think it was hours and hours.


MR. TONER: If that’s incorrect, I will —

QUESTION: Is that it? I mean, has he asked for an apology?

MR. TONER: He was detained. Yes, he was briefly delayed in Toronto.

QUESTION: Has he asked for an apology?

MR. TONER: I don’t know. My understanding is that he has not. I don’t know.

QUESTION: Are you offering an apology?

MR. TONER: I would just say that we certainly don’t want any legitimate traveler delayed for no reason. But in this case, I think I just said he’s welcome in the United States and —

QUESTION: So he was delayed for no reason?

MR. TONER: Again, I don’t know the specifics of why he was delayed. I’d refer you to Border and Customs. All I know is it was resolved quickly.


QUESTION: Was he detained or delayed?

MR. TONER: Delayed, let’s say.


QUESTION: This is a question on Pakistan. Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, one of the alleged masterminds of the Mumbai attacks in 2008, has apparently offered assistance in the form of medicine, food, and that sort of thing to the victims of Sandy. Apart from the – I saw the tweets that the Embassy in Islamabad put out today, but can you elaborate anything more on the reasoning that his assistance was denied?

MR. TONER: Well, first of all, obviously, we at the State Department, like all Americans, our hearts go out to those affected, the victims of Hurricane Sandy. In this particular case, as you all well know, Mr. Saeed is believed to be behind organizing the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, in which I’ll remind you 166 people were killed, including six Americans. That is why he is actually now the subject of a Rewards For Justice program, and furthermore, both the United States and the United Nations have designated his organization, Jamaat ud-Daawa, a terrorist organization.

So Jamie, while we have great respect, obviously, for the Islamic tradition of social assistance to those who are in need no matter where they might be, this particular offer strikes us as very hollow.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. seeking any kind of trials against these people in the U.S. because – since Americans were among those killed in that attack?

MR. TONER: No. That’s a good question. Again, I would just refer you to our Rewards For Justice program, which is – our basic goal here is to bring them to a court no matter where that might be, but to find hard evidence in the public sphere that we can use against them.

QUESTION: And finally —

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — is there – was there any kind of discussion? I know the U.S. and India had been discussing. How about anything U.S. and Pakistan? Had they offered anything to the U.S. in this connection?

MR. TONER: I’m sorry, we’re talking about the Mumbai attacks?


MR. TONER: Okay. No, I’m not aware of any new developments there. I thought you were talking about Hurricane Sandy, sorry. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No. Thank you, sir.

MR. TONER: Okay. Anything else, guys?


MR. TONER: Go ahead, Jo.

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: — 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.


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.


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.

QUESTION: Vietnam?

MR. TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have an answer to the question posed by me the other day —

MR. TONER: (Laughter.) You want to fill folks in?

QUESTION: — in – well, I am just curious as to what the logic or the rationale is for the Embassy in Hanoi to be using a apparently notorious – a website that is notorious for pirating American intellectual property to try to promote respect for intellectual property rights in Vietnam.

MR. TONER: Well, first of all, Vietnam is a demanding environment for public diplomacy and for reaching appropriate audiences on any given issue – bilateral or multilateral issue. So the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi did create a ZingMe page – ZingMe is the site you’re referring to – in addition to its Facebook presence as a way to deliver important messages on a range of, as I said, bilateral and multilateral issues, including intellectual property rights. That said, I can say that the use of this particular site is now under review.

QUESTION: Okay. Why is that?

MR. TONER: Well, I think for all of the reasons you stipulated.

QUESTION: Which would be?

MR. TONER: Which would be that some of the contents of this website are suspect and run counter to our internet freedom policy.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, can you – then can you explain how – why it was that they decided to do (inaudible)?

MR. TONER: I think I just tried to explain that, that they were trying to use this format as a way to reach new audiences, to – among other issues – also to put out our views on intellectual property and rights and the importance of them. But I think – we’re now reviewing that.

QUESTION: So, you mean the idea was that while they were downloading the new James Bond film illegally, they would also be reading the U.S. proscription warning about stealing intellectual property? I don’t really understand why – how someone came to the decision that it would be good to have an account with a website that is —

MR. TONER: Matt, it’s under it’s under review.

QUESTION: — basically violating the very law that you’re trying to promote.

MR. TONER: It’s under review, okay?

QUESTION: Well, I understand. But under review with the – with an eye toward what? Toward cancelling it?

MR. TONER: Under review.


MR. TONER: I’ll let you know when that – when its status changes.

QUESTION: Now, the – okay, the answer that I got yesterday didn’t have anything about that, “under review.” Does that mean that something has changed between yesterday and today?

MR. TONER: I would just say that we do have concerns about the content of the website. I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: But what – can you just tell me what’s changed between yesterday and today?

MR. TONER: Well, first of all, yesterday I think we responded to your query with the reasons why we were – why Embassy Hanoi decided to create a ZingMe page. But we’re obviously, given this – the content on this page, we’re looking at that. Again, under review. I don’t know a better way to say it.

QUESTION: All right. And so that review will be completed when?

MR. TONER: I’ll let you know.

QUESTION: About the same time the ARB comes back, which is we don’t know? (Laughter.) Yeah? It’s – is —

MR. TONER: Are you going trick-or-treating tonight, Matt? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Is this is going to be a – only if I can go with you.

MR. TONER: Or just tricking? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Only if I can go with you, Mark. (Laughter.) Do you have any idea how long this review’s going to take?

MR. TONER: I don’t. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s done.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll keep us honest on it.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Go back to Lebanon very quickly?

MR. TONER: Yeah, sure. Yeah.

QUESTION: More and more voices are asking for the government to resign. Does this have anything to do with the visit of Beth Jones there?

MR. TONER: Look, I think she – it was an opportunity; she was in the region. She certainly wanted to go convey our condolences to the – directly to the Lebanese people, and deliver a message of support to Lebanon, to the Lebanese Government as they navigate this period.

But I don’t want to get into it any more than that.

QUESTION: The position hasn’t changed?


QUESTION: I mean, the U.S. supporting a change of government?

MR. TONER: No. There – our position has not changed.

Is that it?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Happy Halloween.

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

Source: state.gov

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