OPERATOR: Welcome and thank you for standing by. All participants are in a listen-only mode. During the question-and-answer portion of today’s call, please press *1 if you would like to ask a question. Today’s call is being recorded. If you have any objections, please disconnect. I’d like to now introduce Mr. Mike Hammer, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Public Affairs, and he may begin.
MR. HAMMER: Thank you, everybody, for joining us late this evening. We thought it’d be important to just provide you on background as senior Administration officials a little bit of what has transpired through the course of today in terms of the movement to a NATO mission to take over the no-fly zone over Libya. I will be – probably we’ll be doing this fairly brief, as it’s late. And so with that, let me just turn it over to the first senior Administration official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yesterday, Secretary of State Clinton was involved intensively over the last couple of days working on this. She spoke yesterday with Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu and NATO Secretary General Rasmussen. During the course of today, she spoke separately with French Foreign Minister Juppe as well as with Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, and then they convened a four-way call with their other counterparts from the UK. So it was a four-way call with the French foreign minister, the British, the Turk, and Secretary Clinton, during which time they hammered out the deal that was later announced.
Then after, subsequent to that four-way call, Foreign Minister Davutoglu of Turkey called the Secretary back up and praised her for being a consensus maker. And then finally, when the deal was struck at the end of the four-way call, Foreign Minister Juppe remarked, “Bravo, Hillary.”
During the course of the afternoon, the Secretary also spoke with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who informed her of the decision of the UAE to join the coalition, and she thanked him personally for this. This followed intensive discussions she had had with him in Paris on Monday and subsequently on Saturday about Libya.
With that, let me turn it over to the other senior Administration official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Thanks. Great to be with you guys. Let me focus on what happened in – at NATO. We made a major step forward with an agreement to transfer the command and control of the no-fly zone from the coalition to NATO starting immediately. It will take some – a couple of days to really complete the transfer, but the decision to do the handover was done today.
As important was an agreement by all 28 NATO allies now to take on responsibility for the military implementation of all aspects of UNSCR 1973. As you know, NATO already took on the responsibility for enforcing the arms embargo. It has now agreed to do the no-fly zone, and it has also agreed to take on the protection of civilian and civilian areas through the use of counter-military power, the kind of things that the coalition is doing now.
So we – as the President promised when we started this operation, we would be engaged in the initial phases with our unique capabilities to make significant military advances, which we have in the past five, six days, saving Benghazi from what would have otherwise been a major onslaught, taking down much of the air defense system in Libya, and in effect creating a no-fly zone. Now that we’ve accomplished that, NATO and particularly all the partners within NATO, as well as Arab partners, as well as perhaps others, can now join in a large international effort to enforce the no-fly zone and to provide protection for civilians against the threat of attack.
This was a hard diplomatic battle. Building consensus among 28 nations is never easy. But the United States, just as it showed leadership in getting the UN to approve the new UN Security Council resolution and with a very robust mandate, the U.S., starting with the President in his personal engagement with key leaders in Turkey, France, and Britain, and the Secretary of State worked assiduously, as the other senior official just described, to bring together all the parties into the agreement that was reached tonight here in Brussels.
And with that, I’m happy to take some questions.
MR. HAMMER: Operator, if we could go to the first question, please.
OPERATOR: And if you would like to ask a question please press *1. Again, please press *1 to ask a question. We do have a question from Mary Beth Sheridan. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks a lot for doing this. [Senior Administration Official Two], I just wanted to clarify what has actually happened tonight, because the Secretary General portrayed it differently than you have, and I just want to make sure you’re both talking about the same thing. He said basically that the – NATO has agreed to take military command of the no-fly zone and of the arms embargo enforcement, right, but not yet of the other stuff to protect civilians, meaning, as I understand it, the, like, air operations that would be hitting Libyan troops, Libyan tanks, that kind of thing. And my sense from the Secretary’s comments was that NATO has begun military planning for those sorts of things, but there’s not yet an agreement that it will take over that part. Am I – is that correct?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: No, I think what – here’s what we – we have executed a decision to take over command and control of the no-fly zone, so that’s done. NATO now is responsible for the command and control of the no-fly zone. The actual handover, because you’re dealing with a whole bunch of national militaries that need to be brought together in – within the NATO structure, will take a few days. But the fundamental decision to do that has been taken.
The other fundamental decision that’s been taken is that now NATO will take over the command and control of the other part, which is the protection of civilians. That decision was made. That’s the – the key deal was reached by Secretary Clinton in the call that she had with the foreign ministers for France, the UK and Turkey. There is now consensus at 28 members of the alliance that NATO should include in its mission and under its command and control not just the no-fly zone but also the need to protect civilians.
There are a couple more steps in the planning process that will need to be taken. Those will be taken over the weekend. So within a matter of days, NATO will have taken command and control of the entire operation that the coalition is engaged in. It’s a sequencing issue, not a fundamental issue. The political decision to make this a NATO decision is now one in which every country in NATO agrees. And indeed, those who are not NATO members are willing and eager to participate in a mission that NATO will command and control.
MR. HAMMER: All right, thank you very much. If we can go to the next question.
OPERATOR: All right. The next question comes from Elise Labott. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you for doing this, [Senior Administration Official Two]. I just have to push back a little bit on what you just said. That’s actually completely opposite than what the Secretary General said, so I’m hoping you can clarify. The Secretary General said specifically that you’ve only agreed to, as Mary Beth said, to the no-fly zone and the naval blockade. And so – and then we’re hearing also kind of on the side about this idea of no-fly-plus, that yes, you would control the no-fly zone but that also, if there were specific areas that needed protection or airstrikes, that on a case-by-case basis you could decide.
I mean, could you just be a little bit more equivocal? Because what he’s saying is that – and then there’s talk about possibly two commands. So it’s really confusing in terms of whether you already have agreement on some of these non-no-fly aspects, or do you think that this is – more has to be worked out over the next couple of days, the dotting of the i’s and the crossing of the t’s and worked out more in London?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: No, we’re going to do this before London. Let me make it very clear what we did. Today, the NATO alliance agreed – two things: number one, to execute a decision to take over command and control of the no-fly zone. So as of today, NATO will have the authority to run the no-fly zone under NATO command and control. The actual transfer of the command and control, because this is complicated, will be done in the matter of a few days, one to two days.
NATO also reached a political agreement that it needs to include under – within that mission and within the command and control all other aspects of UNSCR 1973, including the protection of civilian and civilian areas against the actual threat of attack, to use the language of the UNSCR 1973. We will need to take a couple of more steps in order to be able to execute a command and control of that operation, but the political –
QUESTION: Could you say what those steps are?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: We need to approve the final operational plan, which will happen in the matter of – over the weekend, and then we need to execute it. But these are – the key issue here is a political agreement. Up to this point, there was no agreement in this alliance on two things: one, whether NATO should take over any mission in the no-fly zone; or take over the mission of civilian protection. Today, there was agreement by all 29 allies – 28, sorry – all 28 allies for NATO to do this mission, under NATO, under the control of the North Atlantic Council, with NATO command and control, and working with as many partners as we can find. That is the big political shift. You may have heard – some country said this is not something that NATO should do. Now every single country agrees this is something that NATO will do. That is a very significant political decision.
We then need to move forward in order to finalize the operational plans, which will be done in the next few days. By this weekend, we should be able to execute not only the command and control for the no-fly zone, which we did this evening, but also the command and control of the protection for civilians. So I think what the Secretary said is correct. We are continuing the operational planning, but we have made a fundamental agreement on how to move forward, and even what the Secretary General has said, we are in the midst of a stage. But the key to understand is that what had divided this alliance, which was the question, “Should NATO take control of this entire operation or not,” that division has been overcome. NATO – all 28 members, every single one – has now agreed that this is something that NATO must take on and will take on.
MR. HAMMER: Thank you very much. Operator, if we could go to the next caller, please.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Elcin Poyrazlar. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you very much. [Senior Administration Official Two], I have two questions on Turkey, if I may. The first one is Turkey was very much against the NATO involvement in Libya in the beginning. What do you think the reason behind Turkey’s shift in the position? And was there any kind of condition by the Turks put on the table in the NATO discussions?
And secondly, will there be any usage of American bases in Turkey in this process?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: With respect to Turkey’s position, I would suggest you’d ask the Turks. All I know that within the discussion that we have been having at NATO from day one, Turkey has made very clear that it wanted to support the planning for any operation, including an operation with respect to the arms embargo, humanitarian assistance, and the no-fly zone. It was Turkey that early on said that if NATO gets involved in this operation, particularly in the no-fly zone, it ought to take responsibility for all of it. That has been the position of Turkey for quite a while and that is indeed the position that the NATO alliance has now taken on.
With respect to operational details on which bases get used where, these are issues that the military commanders are still sorting out, and I’m not in a position to comment on it at this point.
MR. HAMMER: Thank you. If we could go to the next question, please.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Daniel Dombey. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, [Senior Administration Official Two]. Two questions as well, if I may. First of all, you’ve cleared up some of the things that the Secretary General has said so far. I wonder if you can keep on doing that. Who’s going to be in charge of this on the military side? Is this going to be run through SACEUR’s office? Who’s going – how is this going to work? Is it going to be completely orthodox NATO consistent*, or something more like ISAF?
And secondly, if I may, are you not worried about a protracted, prolonged state of affairs? Admiral Gortney today made the point that NATO is – that the coalition was shirking from striking Qadhafi’s forces in cities because of the fear of collateral damage. Doesn’t that increase the risk of a stalemate?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Let me leave the operational military questions to the folks in the Pentagon and whoever is going to command these – well, and the commanders of these operations down the line. I’m not the right person to answer that question.
But with respect to the command and control, this is going to be an orthodox military operation. It will be subject to the control of the North Atlantic Council and it will be run through the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, SACEUR, who has designated as the joint task force commander in Naples Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, who will be the joint task force commander and will work with his naval and air component commands to be implementing this operation, both the naval and air part of the arms embargo, now the no-fly zone, and the civilian protection mission.
It will be similar to ISAF in this extent, that we – that NATO will welcome and does welcome the participation of non-NATO members in this operation. And indeed, Qatar and the UAE, which have now announced that they want – want to participate will – as non-NATO members do in the mission with regard to Afghanistan – be partners in and sit at the table where we make the decisions and review these operations. And NATO is going out, as we are individually as countries, to make sure that we get as many partners into this operation to underscore that this not something that NATO is doing or the United States is doing, but the international community writ large, and in particular with large degree of support of regional states.
So that’s the kind of operation we’re looking to have. And as I said with respect to the operational aspects, I’ll leave that the military commanders.
MR. HAMMER: Great. Operator, it’s getting late. Do you have anything further? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: No. I was just going to ask, are you not worried about a stalemate?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Again, let me focus here on the issue of who’s going to do what and leave it to the military commanders to decide on how the best way forward is in terms of the military strategy.
MR. HAMMER: Right. If we could do just two more, just single questions, hopefully, and I know everybody’s trying to move on and do other things. Operator?
OPERATOR: Great. We have a question from Josh Rogin. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you. I was late on the call, so I apologize if you covered this. But is the French idea of having a political steering committee made up of foreign ministers – is that dead, is that over? And also, how did you get the Germans to sign on? Can you give us a little insight on that? And have they pledged not to contribute militarily to this effort?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: With respect to the Germans, Germans have made from the very beginning a very clear – a clear statement that they would not participate militarily with their own troops in any operation. But they’ve also made clear that they would not block any activity by NATO to move forward. So Germany has joined the consensus at each and every stage, while making clear that it is not participating in the operation itself.
I should add, however, that while it may not participate directly in – with its own soldiers, it is taking other actions that make the operation that much more feasible. For example, it has decided to deploy its troops as part of the AWACS, the NATO AWACS crews for Afghanistan, freeing up crews for AWACS aircraft to be deployed in support of the Libyan operation. And of course, all the bases and infrastructure within Germany is open for the use of the NATO alliance in any operation, including many of our bases. So that’s how – while Germany hasn’t directly participated, it indirectly (inaudible) to the ability of the alliance to do what it has now decided to do.
With respect to the first question on France, there is an agreement that this operation will be commanded and controlled by NATO, and as such, it will be directed by the North Atlantic Council, which is the guiding and deciding body for any military operation that is conducted by NATO and under NATO. There are various proposals and ideas, which will be further discussed in the London conference on Tuesday, about how different groups can support that effort. But when it comes to deciding on what will or will not happen within a NATO operation, that gets done in Brussels by the North Atlantic Council in close cooperation with the allies who – and partners who are participating in the operation.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. HAMMER: All right. We have time for one last question. Operator?
OPERATOR: All right. That question comes from Tom Cohen. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Just to follow up one more time, I hear very clearly you’re saying that there was a political agreement to – NATO to adopt all of the aspects of the resolution. But Secretary General Rasmussen very clearly said that there isn’t such an agreement, that the only agreement at this point is what you’re calling the execution of the no-fly zone and that there’s still consideration of the other, and that for now at least, there’s two missions. So there’s a discrepancy between what you’re saying and what Rasmussen said.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Well, I’ll just repeat what I said. And there is a political agreement, a fundamental agreement on an issue in which there was no agreement until today, that NATO, as an organization, will conduct all missions with respect to the enforcement of 1973. That includes the arms embargo enforcement, which has already been executed. That includes the no-fly zone, which is executed as of today. And it includes the protection of civilian and civilian areas against the actual threat of attack.
That latter part, we are still completing the operational planning and expect to have that done by this weekend. So in that sense, I think that what the Secretary General and I are saying is exactly the same thing. We have done the execution of two of those parts, the arms embargo and the no-fly zone, and we have an agreement to move – to plan for and execute by this weekend the third part. And in that sense, I think we’re both saying the same thing.
MR. HAMMER: Well, thank you very much everybody. Obviously, you all know it’s [Senior Administration Official Two], but for the purposes of this call it was a senior Administration official. Again, thank you for joining us late this evening, and we look forward to keeping you up to date as events warrant. Thank you very much and good night.
OPERATOR: Thank you. This concludes today’s conference. You may disconnect at this time.
Security Council Stakeout on UN Security Council Resolution 1973
Ambassador Rice: Good evening, the U.S. is very pleased with today’s vote and with the strong provisions of Resolution 1973. This resolution should send a strong message to Colonel Qadhafi and his regime that the violence must stop, the killing must stop, and the people of Libya must be protected and have the opportunity to express themselves freely.
This resolution was designed to do two important things: protect civilians as well as strengthen the pressure on the Qadhafi regime through a substantial tightening of sanctions. Provisions for enforcement of the arms embargo, a ban on flights in and out of Libya with, in particular, a focus on those that may be carrying mercenaries, the designation of additional individuals and core Libyan-owned government companies for asset freezes, and a range of other very important measures. Taken together, the elements of Resolution 1973 are powerful and they ought to be heeded by the Qadhafi regime. I’m happy to take a few questions.
Reporter: Your Secretary of State has met with a legion of the rebels in France, you have passed a resolution that protects Benghazi and the rest of the cities and villages and you have called the regime illegitimate and you have asked for him to step down. Isn’t it time that you recognize the government of the transitional council, like France, as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people? And I’d like to know how you got the Nigerians and South Africans to go back to the fault?
Ambassador Rice: We think that today’s resolution is a strong message that reemphasizes what was already in 1970. As many of our colleagues you heard today on the Council said, and as the United States has said repeatedly, Qadhafi has lost his legitimacy. There is no justification for his continued leadership now that he has perpetrated violence against his own people. We have had the opportunity, as you acknowledged, to meet with the opposition, and we are actively looking at what options might follow.
Reporter: How many troops, or how many assets, does the United States intend to throw into this battle and also, since the resolution calls on those who operate to consult the Secretary General to have a meeting with him in the next few hours.
Ambassador Rice: Well I’m not going to get into operational matters or matters pertaining to the application of the use of force. Obviously, we will comply with all the terms of the resolution.
Reporter: Madame Ambassador, do you consider this resolution an ultimatum for Mr. Qadhafi, and what’s the range of time that you can give for the Libyan regime?
Ambassador Rice: I think it should be noted that the first operative paragraph of the resolution calls for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the violence, and the second operative paragraph demands respect for the rights of the Libyan people and we are very serious about seeing those provisions respected.
Reporter: Countries that abstained repeatedly said that they felt that this resolution was going to exacerbate, rather than mitigate, conditions on the ground. What is your response to that?
Ambassador Rice: Well our response is that the Council today acted in response to a strong request by the League of Arab States. This resolution was supported by the African members of the Council, by Lebanon, by a strong majority of the Council who agreed that the situation had become so grave that the provisions of 1970 had been flouted so dramatically and that the people of Libya were under imminent threat and continued risk of violence and took the decision to act. So I think the result speaks for itself. I won’t characterize other countries’ positions, but I will reiterate that the United States is pleased with the outcome.
Reporter: Those who abstained also said that many questions weren’t answered, rules of engagement, limit of force, who would take part in this mission. Do you believe you have answered those questions? Who will take part? Can you give us some idea of what Arab countries and other countries might take part in?
Ambassador Rice: I’ll let other countries speak for themselves, but I will say there were many questions asked, many questions answered, but frankly the fact is this Council moved with remarkable speed in response to the great urgency of the situation on the ground. And that necessitated doing so without all of the questions that some might have asked, immediately answered. But the fact is, the bulk of the Council, we spent many hours, as you know, going over all of these issues. We and others were very clear in outlining our intentions and expectations. Members of the Council heard that and took their decisions accordingly. Thank you very much.
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, NY
Thank you, Mr. President. Today the Security Council has responded to the Libyan people’s cry for help. This Council’s purpose is clear: to protect innocent civilians.
On February 26, acting under Chapter VII, the Security Council demanded a halt to the violence in Libya and enabled genuine accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity by referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. We adopted strong sanctions that target Libya’s leadership. We have also strongly supported all aspects of UN Special Envoy al-Khatib’s mandate. But Colonel Qadhafi and those who still stand by him continue to grossly and systematically abuse the most fundamental human rights of Libya’s people. On March 12, the League of Arab States called on the Security Council to establish a no-fly zone and take other measures to protect civilians. Today’s resolution is a powerful response to that call—and to the urgent needs on the ground.
This resolution demands an immediate cease fire and a complete end to violence and attacks against civilians. Responding to the Libyan people and to the League of Arab States, the Security Council has authorized the use of force, including enforcement of a no-fly zone, to protect civilians and civilian areas targeted by Colonel Qadhafi, his intelligence and security forces, and his mercenaries. The resolution also strengthens enforcement of the arms embargo and bans all international flights by Libyan-owned or -operated aircraft. The resolution freezes the assets of seven more individuals and five entities—including key state-owned Libyan companies. The resolution empowers the newly established Libyan Sanctions Committee to impose sanctions on those who violate the arms embargo, including by providing Qadhafi with mercenaries. Finally, the Council established a panel of experts to monitor and enhance short- and long-term implementation of the sanctions on Libya.
The future of Libya should be decided by the people of Libya. The United States stands with the Libyan people in support of their universal rights.
Thank you, Mr. President.
QUESTION: Thank you again, Madam Secretary, and we hear repeatedly it will be days, not weeks, before the U.S. turns over the lead; it will be one week on Saturday. Will it happen by Saturday?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it will be days. Whether it’s by Saturday or not depends upon the evaluation made by our military commanders along with our allies and partners. But the President was very clear that the United States had unique capabilities that we would bring to bear in the enforcement of the UN Security Council resolution, and that is exactly what we’re doing.
QUESTION: So it might go into next week?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think we’re making real progress, so I think that it will be days, and the days, I hope, will be sooner instead of later.
QUESTION: Sounds as if you don’t think it will be next week. You might even think this weekend?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it’s moving well. From our assessment – and we do a call every day to check in, plus during the day getting updates – the work that the United States and our allies have been doing to take out the air defense systems; to clear the field to enable a no-fly zone to be effectively implemented; to help level the playing field, because there have also been strikes on some of the other assets that the Qadhafi forces have, will enable the United States to do what we said we would do, which is to fulfill this initial phase and then to transition to the no-fly zone and the work that will be led by our partners.
QUESTION: Will it be NATO?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That is still being worked out, I mean, because we do have a broad international participation. And as we speak in NATO headquarters in Brussels, they’re working on the planning for the no-fly zone, for the arms embargo because everyone believes that having NATO assets and coordinating mechanisms behind what we’re doing makes a lot of sense.
QUESTION: So it might be something outside NATO but with NATO assets and coordination?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That is also being looked at, but NATO will be definitely involved, because we do have a lot of NATO members who are committed to this process, and they want to see command and control that is organized, but we also are integrating others from outside of NATO. But I’m very relaxed about it, Diane. I think it is – it’s proceeding, it’s moving forward in the right direction, and we will have what we need in the next few days.
QUESTION: Muammar Qadhafi – will this intervention be a success if he’s still in power?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we have to separate the two sides of the equation, if you will. The United Nations Security Council resolution was very broad but explicit about what was legally authorized by the international community. And we are a hundred percent committed to enforcing it and helping others enforce it. There is nothing in there about getting rid of anybody. It is about protecting civilians, providing humanitarian assistance, but also enabling nations to use whatever means necessary in order to bring that about.
There are many aspects to what the international community is doing to put a lot of pressure on Qadhafi and those around him. So it does –
QUESTION: Are you saying you’re confident the end result will be that he’s out, whether it’s under the NATO –
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, it’s – no, I don’t want to make any predictions because we’re taking this one step at time. I mean, I don’t want to jump beyond where we are right now. We are implementing the UN Security Council resolution. We are establishing the no-fly zone, which everybody was calling for, from the United States Senate to the Arab League – please do a no-fly zone, get UN Security Council support to do it. And that is what we are doing.
Now obviously, if we want to see a stable, peaceful, hopefully someday democratic Libya, it is highly unlikely that can be accomplished if he stays in power as he is.
QUESTION: But at this moment, he is pummeling Misrata, the rebels in Misrata. Are we going to go the extra step if air power alone – if prevention of air power alone is not enough, are we going the extra step? Are we going to let him go ahead?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the United States has been clear from the beginning – President Obama has stated numerous times we’re going to do what we said we would do. We’re not telling others what they can or cannot do, but we have a limited, discrete mission that we are going to fulfill. And that includes making sure that all of our partners, both European, Canadian, Arab, the Turks, everybody is involved in making sure that we meet the obligations of the Security Council.
QUESTION: So the answer is yes, we will let him go ahead? Because that’s not under the Security Council charter.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but I think that’s too – not simplistic, maybe, too black or white. I mean, we have seen in the last days ever since the effort to create the conditions for the no-fly zone begin late on Saturday night, that our allied international forces have gone after tanks, have gone after other assets of the Qadhafi forces, and it made it very clear there is a price to pay.
But we’re also trying to create the opportunity for there to be a more level playing field. If there is a true opposition in Libya that is trying to assert itself, we’re going to give them a much better chance than they had before the Security Council acted.
QUESTION: There is a report that two of Qadhafi’s sons – at least one but maybe two have been killed. Can you confirm this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can’t confirm it, but we’ve heard it, and we’ve heard a lot.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we hear it from many different sources, and I – that’s why I can’t confirm it. I can’t give any confirmation because the evidence is not sufficient. But we’ve heard that, we’ve heard about other people close to him reaching out to people that they know around the world – Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America, beyond saying, “What do we do? How do we get out of this? What happens next?”
QUESTION: Including him? Do you know where he is?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not aware that he personally has reached out, but I do know that people allegedly on his behalf have been reaching out. So that’s why I say this is a very dynamic situation, and I often wonder how, in the past, anybody could engage in these kinds of actions and then have to basically answer every tweet or every posting from anyone, because these are fast-moving, evolving situations.
We are sending a clear message by our actions in the international community that we would like to see Qadhafi leave power and transition to a different future for the Libyan people.
QUESTION: But are you indicating that there’s someone close to him on his behalf reaching out to say, “How do we get out? How does he get out?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: This is what we hear from so many sources, Diane. It is a constant –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Today, yesterday, the day before. Some of it, I’ll be very – it’s my personal opinion – some of it is theater, some of it is kind of, shall we say, game-playing, to try to do one message to one group, another message to somebody else. Because as you recall, after the Security Council acted, Qadhafi said, “Well, we’re going to do a ceasefire,” and then immediately urged his forces to move even more quickly toward Benghazi.
So a lot of it is just the way he behaves. It’s somewhat unpredictable. But some of it, we think, is exploring – what are my options, where could I go, what could I do. And we would encourage that.
QUESTION: If his sons were killed, were they killed by the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, uh-uh, uh-uh, no.
QUESTION: Do we know who?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We hear many different things, but we know it’s not us.
QUESTION: A couple of quick questions about the operation itself. We keep hearing that someone likened it to pick up – a pickup game of basketball, and that the French are going in, we’re not sure what they’re going to target, the British go in and actually launch an attack on the compound, but the Norwegians won’t go in because they don’t know who’s in charge, and the Italians say unless NATO’s in charge, they don’t want their bases to be used.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That is preliminary. That is, like, the prelude to any kind of organizational effort. That is not at all surprising. We have a very significant number of nations who have pledged assets. Those who are members of NATO want to see a role for NATO, and that is what is being worked on right now, and is taking shape, and will be available for command and control going forward. But we also want to integrate our other partners. We don’t want those who are not in NATO to feel that they’re on the outside looking in.
QUESTION: But is the – does the dynamic in this sense mean confusing?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, it does not mean confusing. I mean, the way that the action has already taken place has been disciplined and focused. And people have been doing different parts of what is an overall mission. The United States and the UK, following on the French, who sent a very clear signal that the international community was serious, have done a lot of the targeting of the defense systems. But others are also up in the air. They are working to try to contribute.
Once there’s a no-fly zone – because there’s a preliminary period that we’re finishing up now. We couldn’t have a no-fly zone until we took out the air defense, the radar, and the other threats to the aircraft of all of our international partners. And people are anxious to get going. They want to be part of that no-fly zone. They want to, if they see the Qadhafi forces moving on innocent civilians, to take action against them. But there had to be a little bit of time to get the theater prepared, and that’s what we’re doing, and we’re nearly complete with that.
QUESTION: We have read repeatedly that you were decisive in this. Did you persuade President Obama? Was yours the voice that turned around the opponents?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That is absolutely, I think, part of a storyline that needs to be corrected soon and decisively. There was a broad debate and discussion within the Administration, and that’s one of the –
QUESTION: Secretary Gates opposed, we were told.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t – I’m not going to characterize anybody’s opinion, because what happened indeed was that the facts evolved in a way that made the President and the Administration convinced that we had to support UN action against Qadhafi and his forces. And I think it was a very thoughtful process. And I don’t believe that there would have been the level of commitment had there not been a series of actions culminating with the Arab League statement Saturday before last, which was so unprecedented and which called on the United Nations Security Council to take this action.
And the United States, of course, is going to support the kind of coalition that was coalescing around the goal of protecting the people on the ground from this onslaught from the air and even prepared from the sea as well as the ground against civilians.
QUESTION: So you’re not going to characterize yourself in the hierarchy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I’m not going to characterize anyone because it was a decision that was made, and the decision speaks for itself.
QUESTION: A quick question if I can about the rebels, because we did read that John Brennan – counterterrorism head John Brennan had expressed concern that maybe there were al-Qaida elements inside the rebel community. Are you concerned? Are you sure there are not?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Of course not. We are well aware that there are many different forces of opposition against Qadhafi. But let’s put this in context. There was a grave humanitarian crisis unfolding. There was a clear message coming from Qadhafi that he would show no mercy, that he would go, as he said, from house to house dragging people out. We had already seen examples of the kind of brutality that he was prepared to inflict on his own people. This is a man who has been unpredictable and dangerous over many years to many people, including the United States, who, as we learn more, we could not know what he might do next.
So there were many reasons why the international community expressed such concern about what was unfolding, and people across the political spectrum began to speak out. It was March 1st that the Senate passed a resolution, a bipartisan resolution, calling for action. So as we carefully evaluated what our options were, it was clear that if the international community was willing to act and if the Arab League was willing to support that action, then the United States would be willing to enforce it.
QUESTION: A quick and final personal question: You have indicated that should the President be reelected, that you will not be Secretary of State any longer.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Will you stay until the election?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I will stay until the beginning of the next term because I know it takes a while for people to get appointed and confirmed. I mean, obviously, there needs to be a seamless transition with whomever President Obama decides to appoint after he is reelected, which I am confident he will be.
QUESTION: And one last question, I promise.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I’m afraid – but so many people have expressed what we see on the cover of Newsweek, that you wake up every day – tsunami, earthquakes, nuclear meltdown, global economic crisis –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: — revolution country after country. Do you ever wake up and say, “What has happened to this world? What is going on?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I do wake up and feel increasingly that we are living in a historic turning point on so many fronts, and that our country and the world has some hard thinking to do that needs to lead to transformational action. I don’t think the old answers are good enough.
I think we have to ask hard across the board what are the values that we want to see moving into the rest of the 21st century; how are we going to organize ourselves; how do we get the benefits of integration and stand against the forces of disintegration; how do protect this planet, which I don’t mean to sound like it’s a touchy-feely question, but as we’re looking at everything that’s going on – and I just came on International Water Day from an event over at the World Bank – because water is going to become one of the most precious resources we have – that’s not only what’s in the headlines that keep me awake. It’s what’s in the trend lines. It’s where we’re headed.
And I just want to see the United States assume the role that we have historically assumed, which is that we are the people of the future, we are the ones who are innovating our ways and building our ways into a much better, more prosperous, peaceful future. But it’s going to take a lot of hard work, and our political system and the political systems of so many other countries have to be prepared to make some tough decisions.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thanks for your time this afternoon. In this whole debate about the Libyan no-fly zone and who participates, you several times expressed a sense of urgency, certainly about the international consultations. But you’re also waiting on this UN resolution at the Security Council that’s still being drafted, and which you’re pretty sure is going to be opposed by the Russians and the Chinese. So where’s the urgency?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Wyatt, first I think that there was a sea change in opinion when the Arab League issued its statement on Saturday. For the Arab League to call for military action to protect civilians in Libya against a member of the Arab League was an extraordinary statement of leadership and real conviction. That has changed the thinking of a lot of people. In fact, as we consult in New York on a UN resolution, there’s a much greater openness than there was a week ago.
And the answer to why a UN resolution is because we need to have international support for anything that anyone does on behalf of the opposition and the civilians in Libya. To go unilaterally, whether it was a European nation, the United States, or an Arab nation, would fly in the face of the international community. And it would also limit the kind of support that would be necessary. I think what you’re seeing today is a recognition that whatever is decided in the UN Security Council must include Arab leadership and Arab participation. So many different actions are being considered. Yes, a no-fly zone, but others as well, to enable the protection of Libyan citizens against their own leader, who seems to determined to turn the clock back and kill as many of them as possible.
So I think that it is certainly fair to say that it took a while for people to feel that there was going to be international support, including Arab support, for any action. But now that’s being considered.
QUESTION: But you’re saying something important here. Arab support – do you see a time where you might ask Arab air forces and Arab pilots to take on some of the risk that they were previously asking of the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we’re going to take this one step at a time. We’re going to try to see what can be negotiated. And right now, that is ongoing as we speak. But certainly, we and others have made it clear that there must be Arab leadership and Arab participation. How that will be defined depends in large measure on what the Security Council decides to call for.
QUESTION: But I’m sure you remember that during the first Gulf War, Arab armies took the field against Saddam Hussein.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you think it’s possible that you will be asking for Arab air forces to be included in any action against Qadhafi?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it is important to see what the Security Council will come up with, but I think the Arab League statement, their very courageous stance, suggests that they know that they have to step up and lead and participate in any action that would be internationally authorized. The details of that have not been in any way determined.
QUESTION: They have to step up. You want to leave it vague, but you believe they have to step up. Fair to say?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: Outside of the no-fly zone, there is pressure in Congress for the United States to help arm the Libyan resistance. Do you support that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I want to see what we can get out of the United Nations because there is no way that the United States will take unilateral action on any of these issues. We are not going to act alone. There would be unforeseen consequences to that that I believe would be detrimental. But as part of the international community, there will be a wide range of actions discussed. As you know, I met with one of the key leaders of the Libyan opposition. They had many requests for what they thought would help them. All of those are being considered by the Security Council. But I do think that it’s important to go back to the very basic point about why we are all discussing this. We want to do what we can to protect innocent Libyans against the marauders let loose by the Qadhafi regime.
And yes, time is fast upon us. There is an urgency to it, which is why I think that once the Arab League acted, there has been much more intensive consultations. And many of the countries on the Security Council that were reluctant or opposed are now willing to discuss what might be possible because of that Arab League statement.
QUESTION: Do you think the Arab League statement means that Russia and China are not quite as opposed as they used to be? Is that what you’re saying?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think they’re willing to talk about what’s at stake here. A regime that is acting as he is, with all of the consequences that that entails, not only for the Libyans but for the region and beyond, I think has been given new impetus because of the Arab League statement which made it clear that this is not something Europeans are concerned about or Americans are concerned about, but this hits very close to home right here in the region. And the Arab League taking that position has, I think, opened up some doors that were closed.
QUESTION: Let’s move to Bahrain, please. There was renewed violence in Bahrain today. Several pro-democracy demonstrators were killed. This comes on the heels, in just the last week where both Secretary Gates and you have asked the Bahraini leadership for restraint. So what is American policy now that the Bahraini leadership doesn’t seem to be listening?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we find what’s happening in Bahrain alarming. We think that there is no security answer to the aspirations and demands of the demonstrators. We’ve made it very clear to the Bahraini Government at the highest levels that we expect them to exercise restraint. We would remind them of their humanitarian obligation to keep medical facilities open and to facilitate the treatment of the injured, and to get back to the negotiating table. We have also made that very clear to our Gulf partners who are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council, four of whose members have sent troops to support the Bahraini Government. They are on the wrong track. There is no security answer to this. And the sooner they get back to the negotiating table and start trying to answer the legitimate needs of the people, the sooner there can be a resolution that will be in the best interest of everyone.
QUESTION: But right now, Madam Secretary, does it make the United States look bad? Does it give the United States a black eye to be so allied with a monarchy that is now shooting its own people?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are absolutely opposed to the use of force, and we have said that repeatedly. Secretary Gates gave a very strong message to the Bahraini Government when he was there, and not only urging restraint but pointing out all of the problems if they were to pursue any other alternative. So we have been very clear about that, and we are going to continue to stress what we think is in the best interests not only of Bahrain and the people of Bahrain, but of the entire region. This kind of use of force against peaceful demonstrators, a refusal on all sides – because we want to make sure that no one is using force, whether they are in the security forces or in the demonstrators, everyone needs to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner and to look for a political solution. There is no long-term alternative other than that.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon. It’s been a very busy and productive day here in Geneva, so let me give you a brief rundown.
I have been holding intensive consultations with friends and allies on developments in Libya, and these have been action-oriented discussions focused on determining the international community’s next steps to hold Colonel Qadhafi and his regime accountable for its human rights abuses and violence against its own people, to determine the best way forward after the Security Council resolution to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need, and to support the Libyan people as they pursue a transition to democracy.
It has been a remarkable international response, where the international community has been speaking with one voice, saying very clearly that Colonel Qadhafi’s brutal attacks on his own people are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Qadhafi has lost the legitimacy to govern and it is time for him to go without further violence or delay.
Saturday’s unanimous UN Security Council resolution was a significant beginning. It will impose an arms embargo on Libya, freeze the assets of key human rights violators and other members of the Qadhafi family, and refer the Libyan case to the International Criminal Court. The United States has imposed additional sanctions of our own, and today I discussed with our European allies the specific measures that they will pursue to keep increasing the pressure in further isolating Qadhafi and his regime.
As the violence in Libya continues, we are very concerned about the humanitarian situation, so we are working with the United Nations, partner nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, and other NGOs to launch an effective, robust response. To start, USAID, our American development agency, has set aside an additional $10 million in emergency assistance to support the efforts of organizations on the ground already to meet the most urgent needs of Libyans and of others who are guest workers or migrants who’ve been caught up in the violence and dislocation. We are also immediately dispatching two expert humanitarian teams to Libya’s borders with Tunisia and Egypt to assist with the displaced people who are fleeing the violence.
Our immediate attention is focused on the need to keep medical supplies in the pipelines well-stocked and intact. We are also concerned that the ongoing violence may disrupt distribution networks and led to food shortages, so we have conducted an inventory of all American food aid resources in the region and are prepared to divert or dispatch other food stocks to Libya as the need arises. Now, as we move forward on these fronts, we will continue to explore all possible options for additional actions. As we have said, nothing is off the table so long as the Libyan Government continues to threaten and kill Libyan citizens.
I want to add that today I also had important discussions on a wide range of other key issues, including the progress of democratic transitions in Tunisia and Egypt. In Tunisia, we welcome the interim leadership’s efforts to form an inclusive broad-based government and its pledge to hold free and open elections within six months, but we remain concerned about new violence. We were heartened to hear from Tunisia’s state secretary for foreign affairs, whom I had a chance to meet with as well, that Tunisia will welcome the opening of a UN Human Rights office and open its doors to all UN special rapporteurs.
In Egypt, we are heartened also by the efforts that are undertaken in order to meet the commitments that have been made. We hope that the military leaders will reach out to broad array of opposition voices and representatives from civil society to ensure that the reform process is transparent and inclusive, that it leads to free and fair elections, and that it respects the rights of women and minorities. Egyptians are asking for concrete steps in the run up to elections, including enacting constitutional reform, releasing political detainees, and lifting the state of emergency. And the United States stands ready to support the Egyptian people in this process as appropriate, including through economic assistance that does help promote jobs and create more opportunities.
We also discussed Iran. I conferred with our P-5+1 colleagues about our concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and at the Human Rights Council I worked to support Sweden’s efforts to pass a resolution establishing a special rapporteur on Iran to investigate and report on Tehran’s human rights abuses. The Iranian Government should allow freedom of speech and freedom of assembly without fear and should immediately end its organized intimidation campaign.
And finally, I took the opportunity to address the conference on disarmament on the need to end the dedicated production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons and to start negotiations on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty without further delay.
So there is a lot that we have been working on here in Geneva today, and I’d be happy to take some of your questions.
MODERATOR: First question is from Viola Gienger of Bloomberg News.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary — can you hear on this microphone? — wanted to ask you what kind of discussions you had with your counterparts today related to a no-fly zone and the potential for that? And also, what sort of next steps, in terms of sanctions, are you considering? For example, any kind of restrictions on oil and gas imports from Libya, exports from Libya?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as we’ve said, a no-fly zone is an option we are actively considering. I discussed it today with allies and partners, and we will proceed with this active consideration. When I said in my remarks that all options are on the table, or another way of saying it, no option is off the table, that, of course, includes a no-fly zone.
With respect to additional measures, the discussions that I had today focused on how we can keep the pressure on the Qadhafi regime without harming the Libyan people. And we believe there are steps we can take that will do that. We are very aware of the need to block access to resources and assets that the Libyan Government, particularly Qadhafi and his family, could get a hold of to continue his reign of violence against the Libyan people. At the same time, we are well aware of the need to keep resources flowing into Libya so that the people themselves can use them to meet their specific needs, to be able to organize themselves.
So we explored a number of potential actions, many of which are more in the European theater than actions that we could take. But I think in the coming days you will see the EU take additional steps to try to prevent the Qadhafi regime from having access to resources going forward.
MODERATOR: Our next question is from Hadat al-Denabi from Al-Ahram.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, may I start by thanking President Obama on behalf of the Egyptian people for his stand and your pronouncements today on Libya and Tunisia. My question is is that there is a deploying – redeployment of naval forces, American U.S. forces, close to the Libyan shores. Is this a sign of an imminent military response?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. No. First of all, we have, as you know, naval assets in the Mediterranean. We have bases that are NATO bases and that are host country bases that we have used on an ongoing basis over the course of many years. We do believe that there will be the need for support for humanitarian intervention. We also know that there will probably, unfortunately, be the need for rescue missions, because, as I’m sure you’re aware, thousands of Tunisians have already left Tunisia heading for Europe. We expect to see Libyans and others who are trapped in Libya, which presents a great danger on the high seas. But there is not any pending military action involving U.S. Naval vessels.
MODERATOR: And our final question is from Brad Klapper, Associated Press.
QUESTION: Yes, Madam Secretary. I’m over here. Are you considering giving aid to the eastern Libyans defending themselves?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You know what, I cannot hear you.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I will speak louder.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. Sorry.
QUESTION: Are you considering giving aid to east – to the eastern Libyans defending themselves against the Qadhafi regime, whether this be military aid or some sort of civilian assistance? And lastly, would you welcome any of Qadhafi’s few remaining friends to offer him asylum? Would the U.S. react – would it welcome, let’s say, an offer from Mugabe, for example, to offer him a soft landing to end the crisis?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, as you know, there is a considerable amount of instability at the moment in Libya, and we are just at the beginning of knowing what will follow from the regime in eastern Libya and in other parts of the country. Our focus is on ending the abuses by the Qadhafi regime and supporting, in a humanitarian effort, those who are suffering because of the violence. And I think it’s important to recognize that, just as in Egypt and in Tunisia before, what is happening in Libya is coming from the people of Libya themselves. And we deeply respect that. I appreciate the Egyptian journalist’s kind words for President Obama, which I will certainly convey.
We understand how challenging this transition is, even in a country as strong in institutions as Egypt is. So imagine how difficult it will be in a country like Libya, which has been denuded of institutions. Qadhafi ruled for 42 years by basically destroying all institutions and never even creating an army, so that it could not be used against him. So the situation in Libya is so much more challenging than what’s happening in Egypt. So our goal is to get the humanitarian relief in on the borders with Egypt and Tunisia, because both the Egyptian and the Tunisian efforts to assist in the humanitarian flow of refugees is very commendable, but they need some help. They can’t be expected to manage all of this on their own. And then we will be reaching out to recognized voices in the opposition who are assuming responsibility and doing what we can appropriately to assist them. So we will definitely be following up on that.
With respect to your question about Colonel Qadhafi finding refuge somewhere – and, I mean, I was almost rendered speechless with the idea of he and Mugabe together. (Laughter.) I think that – we want the violence to end. And if the violence could be ended by his leaving and ending the killing of so many people who are trying to assert their rights, that might be a good step. But, of course, we believe accountability has to be obtained for what he has done. And certainly, I don’t think that the international community, given the unanimity with the Security Council resolution, would just drop all of its concerns were he to leave, although leaving would be a positive in terms of ending the violence, which we would like to see.
MODERATOR: Thank you all.
SECRETARY CLINTON: What?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re going to wait to see how things develop, but we are looking at many different kinds of actions.
QUESTION: One question –
MODERATOR: Thank you all. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, two state solution, soon as possible. That’s what we’re for