State Dept.: If Request Were Made for International Monitoring of Papal Election ‘We Would Take It Very Seriously’

by TERRANCE JEFFREY March 17, 2013

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said on Friday that if a request were to "come forward" that the papal election be monitored by an international organization called the Organization for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the U.S. government "would take it very seriously."

Nuland made the remark only after she did some "digging" on the issue because Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee had questioned her at Thursday's briefing about whether the administration believed the papal election had met international standards.

At both Thursday's and Friday's briefings there was more than a little jocularity in the way Nuland handled Lee's questions, and there was some laughter among the reporters who witnessed the exchanges. But Nuland's ultimate answer that the U.S. would take "very seriously" a request to monitor the papal elections was one she did in fact research and did not need to give.

In fact, immediately before substantively responding on Friday to Lee's second-day questions about the papal election, Nuland summarily declined to respond to a reporter who asked her about comments made by a former Japanese prime minister about trials held after World War II.

At Thursday's State Department briefing, reporter Lee had asked Nuland: "Does the United States regard the election of the Pope to--that election to have met international standards for the election of a world leader? He is, after all, a head of state, and a head of government. ... You routinely criticize countries or governments for having elections where there is not universal suffrage, where there is not any possibility of appealing the results, where there is not--where there were no monitors, for example. I'm wondering if this meets the standard for a free and fair election in your mind?"

Nuland responded: "Well, I think the world has watched this conclave go forward as it's gone forward in history down the centuries."

Lee said: "It's probably the least transparent election. I mean, it's more opaque than an election in North Korea or Iraq under Saddam Hussein."

"But it is, nonetheless, an election with designated balloting and multiple rounds of balloting," said Nuland, who then starting joking with the reporter about whether he personally wanted to be named a monitor to the next papal election.

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