ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN WASHINGTON, D.C., 23 MARCH
The Secretary-General travelled to Washington, D.C., on Friday afternoon, 23 March, for his first meeting with United States President George W. Bush and senior members of his Administration.
He first stopped at the State Department, where he met for half an hour with Secretary of State Colin Powell. They talked on African issues -- Sierra Leone, Ethiopia/Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They then focused on the Middle East, touching on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
They shared concern that the violence in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia could spin out of control, and also talked of the situation in neighbouring Kosovo. Finally, they discussed the Secretary-General's plans to overhaul United Nations peacekeeping operations before talking briefly of Afghanistan.
Their exchange was friendly and relaxed.
The Secretary of State then went ahead to the White House to pre-brief President Bush, while the Secretary-General had a press encounter, where he took questions on the Balkans, Angola and Iraq.
President Bush greeted the Secretary-General in the Oval Office and then escorted him outside before the assembled White House press corps. In response to a question, the President said that he endorsed the Secretary-General's bid for a second term. "I'm looking forward to working not only to make sure that you serve a second term", the President said, "but once that's done, work closely with you to keep the peace and to make the world more prosperous." They then went back inside, where the President was joined by Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Chief of Staff Andrew Card, among others.
The President started by saying he thought the Secretary-General had done a good job and that the United States wanted constructive engagement with the United Nations.
“The world is a messy place”, the Secretary-General replied. “We need to work together.”
They then talked of the need to stop the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, the Syrian track of negotiations, and the situation in Iraq. On the Balkans, they discussed the need to bring the current rebellion in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia under control, without compounding the problem through excessive use of force by the Government. They also touched on Kosovo.
Their discussions grew particularly animated on the subjects of poverty, trade and HIV/AIDS. The Secretary-General said that he hoped the President would attend the special United Nations session on HIV/AIDS in June. They talked of the need to protect the patent rights of the pharmaceutical firms while getting affordable AIDS drugs to poor countries.
The Secretary-General mentioned the Millennium Declaration target for reducing by half the number of people living in extreme poverty by the year 2015. He said that developing countries would rather trade their way out of poverty, and he praised the recent action by the European Union to further open their markets to goods from the developing world.
They also touched on Security Council reform, how to strengthen United Nations peacekeeping operations, United States payments to the United Nations, China, the Caucasus and Cyprus.
The meeting, which ran some 15 minutes late to over 45 minutes, was warm, open and informal.
The Secretary-General then met with the National Security Adviser and two members of her staff for an additional 20 minutes. Their talks centred on the Balkans, the Caucasus, Afghanistan and Iraq.
On leaving the White House, the Secretary-General spoke briefly with the press. "We were both satisfied", he said of his meeting with the President, "that we have put behind us the difficult budgetary issue that has made our relationship difficult and promised to work very closely together... ."
The Secretary-General returned to New York that same evening.
* *** *