Excerpt from State Department Noon Briefing
Mark C. Toner
Daily Press Briefing
October 18, 2011
Excerpt from Transcript
1:06 p.m. EDT
MR. TONER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Department of State. Just briefly at the top, I did want to welcome the first interim report by the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran Dr. Ahmed Shaheed and take note of his assessment regarding the Iranian Government’s pattern of systemic violation of its citizens’ rights. The UN Secretary General’s report on Iran’s human rights situation also described an intensified campaign of abuses.
Under international law and its own constitution, Iran has committed itself – committed to, rather, to protect and defend the rights of its people. But officials continue to stifle all forms of dissent, persecute religious and ethnic minorities, harass and intimidate human rights defenders, and engage in the torture of detainees. The United States stands by the Iranian people who wish nothing more than to make their voices heard and hold their government accountable for its actions. And we call upon the international community to use this occasion of these reports to redouble its condemnation of Iran’s disgraceful abuse of human rights of all its citizens and demand a change.
There’s more to that, but we’ll release it in its entirety.
QUESTION: Can we stay with Iran for a second?
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on this new report by IISS that comes to the conclusion that Iran is facing significant difficulties in its uranium enrichment program, but is still believed to be capable of producing material that could eventually be used for nuclear weapons?
MR. TONER: And you’re talking about some of the pressure points that we saw this morning —
QUESTION: Exactly, yeah, which are based on a report —
MR. TONER: — related to this? Okay. Thank you. Right.
QUESTION: — which I think is now public.
MR. TONER: Right, that’s correct. Well, Arshad, while sanctions – and I think it’s reflected in some of the reporting you saw – while sanctions are clearly impacting Iran’s efforts to procure items in support of its nuclear missile activities, the international community – we don’t believe the international community can become complacent as Iran continues to stockpile enriched uranium in defiance of UN resolutions. Just a reminder that Iran’s enrichment activities are prohibited under multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and UN sanctions also prohibit states from supplying Iran with items that could contribute to its proliferation-sensitive activities.
QUESTION: Has the Department made any or the Administration made any progress in its efforts to, as the President said last week, place the toughest sanctions on Iran? Are you – I mean, beyond the stuff that’s already been announced, are you making any moves at the UN for a new resolution or a PRST, or is all that still sort of under consideration?
MR. TONER: I think I’d characterize it as that dialogue, both at the UN and bilaterally and multilaterally, obviously, continues. We continue to brief some of our partners and allies on some of the allegations that were made last week about this – the assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador. But again, as you mentioned, part of our response to that is that we need to strengthen existing sanctions against Iran, and certainly we would reiterate our call for states to implement fully UN sanctions on Iran as well as remain – maintaining vigilance on – against the threat of Iranian proliferation-related procurement, so that’s an important element there. In terms of additional steps we might take, I think we’re continuing to have those discussions.
Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Staying with Iran —
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: — the Iranians have demanded access to the alleged conspirator, the one who’s in custody. And I’m wondering if this Administration is going to allow the Iranians to have access to him. This is part of their demands in the wake —
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: — of this alleged plot.
MR. TONER: I addressed this in some fashion yesterday. That’s okay. But there is – as you know, there’s consular notification and access obligations that do exist under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. They don’t necessarily apply to dual citizens. This individual is a dual citizen, as I understand it. That said, we do have a history of urging the responsible authorities to permit at their discretion visits by consular officers of the other country or nationality. So we would be predisposed to allow such a visit.
QUESTION: They also demanded —
MR. TONER: But the other – yeah, sorry, just – that’s okay. The other element of this is I believe initial reports talked about that the Iranians had reached out. Press reports said the Iranians had reached out through the Swiss protecting power. It’s important to note that the Iranian protecting power in the U.S. is indeed the Pakistani Government, so —
QUESTION: Has the Pakistani Government actually reached out and asked to see the guy?
MR. TONER: And that is something I have not confirmed, that I’ve not been able to confirm, so —
QUESTION: They also wanted to see the, quote, “evidence.”
QUESTION: Can you check on that?
MR. TONER: Yeah, I’ll check. I checked earlier, but – go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: They wanted to see the, quote, “evidence,” right? Is – that was another one of their demands – the same evidence that was presented to the allies at the UN and such. Are you going to allow them to see the evidence?
MR. TONER: Again – we talked a little bit about this last week – we did initially meet with Iran about this matter, and their response was highly negative. You’ve seen a pattern of public statements that are somewhat confusing. You saw President Ahmadinejad, who seemed to deny the whole affair and dismiss it as folly, but then the Foreign Minister Salehi yesterday made an offer to investigate the plot charges. So we’ve seen a number of different reactions. We continue to make the case, again, as I said to governments around the world that this was a serious breach of international law and that Iran needs to be held accountable.
QUESTION: My question was: Are you going to show them the evidence as they demand?
MR. TONER: Again, without getting into too much detail, we did talk to the Iranians and were met with a very negative response. I don’t know if we’d consider such an additional meeting. None’s been requested.
QUESTION: Judging by your answer earlier, I guess maybe you don’t know that there are Iranian press reports that he has been granted – or they have been granted access to him already. You don’t know that to be the case?
MR. TONER: No. I’ve confirmed it.
MR. TONER: Yeah. In the back.
QUESTION: Mark, I have a question about something you said yesterday regarding the second suspect who’s on the run. Presumably he’s in Iran. You said that the Iranian Government has two choices: one is to either extradite him to the U.S. or – I don’t remember your exact words, but do you mean to say that they themselves prosecute him?
MR. TONER: Well, again, this is – the international convention of protected persons to which Iran is a signatory does offer a choice either to extradite an individual who is alleged to have committed crimes or to submit the case for prosecution on its own. I was just merely stating what the convention details.
QUESTION: And what does that mean, the second part? Submit the —
MR. TONER: The second part means that they would have to – that any country who is a signatory to this convention could either extradite any individual who is alleged to have committed crimes under this convention or hold a trial on their own.
QUESTION: On their own in their own country?
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: For a case that they’re denying totally —
MR. TONER: Right. But obviously – right, but obviously would have to be deemed free and fair and due process.