|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT ON PROGRAMME OF WORK
The Security Council’s work programme for May would deal primarily with African crises, not because a country from that region held the presidency, but because they were deemed to be the most serious, Council President Basile Ikouebe ( Congo) said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.
Briefing correspondents on the Council’s work programme for May, he said the Council had deadlines, within which to deal with some of those crises, including Darfur, where a transition should take place in less than six months, depending on agreement being reached at the Abuja peace talks. There was also Côte d’Ivoire, where elections were to be held in October, again in less than six months. Then there was the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where elections initially set for June might be deferred until July -- another deadline of less than six months.
There were other matters before the Council, including the question of non-proliferation, he said. Tomorrow, Council members would be examining the report of Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which the Council had requested in 30 days, in its statement of 29 March. The Council was following very closely the consultations going on among the major countries involved, which were meeting today in Paris.
There would be other questions of concern to the Council, such as the Middle East, he said, noting that a new report had been issued since the last meeting on that matter. There were other issues, including Timor-Leste, whose Foreign Minister would brief the Council on Friday regarding developments there. While the United Nations had guided that country to independence and would gradually withdraw, the situation remained fragile and the mandate of the Organization’s Office there was due to expire at the end of the month.
Asked if Mr. ElBaradei would be speaking to the Council, the President said that, for the time being, members would hold internal private consultations before determining whether to invite the Director General.
Responding to another correspondent, who asked if the Secretariat would brief the Council on the Sudan during its consultations on Friday, Mr. Ikouebe said a meeting would be held on 5 May. The delegation of Congo, representing the presidency of the African Union, as well as the Council presidency, wished to see an agreement. The regional organization had set up a committee of five Heads of State to ask the Abuja negotiators about the results of negotiations. If there was agreement, they would sponsor it on behalf of the African Union and, if not, they would involve themselves directly in support of the negotiators. The Presidents of Congo, South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal and Egypt would be the “hard core” of the African Union follow-up committee, but it was possible that there may be others.
What was supposed to happen between now and Thursday, when the Heads of State were expected in Abuja? another journalist asked.
The Council President said the deadline was flexible, and people might leave Abuja for consultations in their capitals. The negotiators had been given an additional 48 hours, beginning on Sunday, but the negotiations were continuing.
Asked by the same correspondent whether the Congo delegation supported a Chapter VII resolution regarding demands that Iran implement the IAEA recommendations, he said Mr. ElBaradei’s report did not suggest what the Council should do. It was up to Council members to meet and decide on the proper action.
He said Congo had signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which had three pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament and the universal right to have access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The third aspect required countries to submit their facilities to the IAEA regime. There was also an approach that stressed dialogue, and Congo favoured negotiations that might impel Iran to greater cooperation. It should give the international community every assurance that its programme was really peaceful. The crux of the matter was to restore confidence, and the question was how to ensure that Iran provided guarantees that it could restore confidence, because there were doubts among some countries. There was no need to rush into sanctions, he stressed.
Another correspondent asked whether the Council would defer Friday’s meeting on the Sudan, if the Abuja mediators decided to defer the deadline again.
Mr. Ikouebe replied that the presidency would keep the meeting on the agenda for Friday, and ask the five Heads of State to keep the Council regularly informed of developments. The Council would not suspend its own discussions, because it had its own timetable as well. Until 30 September it should be preparing for a transition to a possible United Nations mission. There was a human drama taking place on the ground, and things must not be delayed.
Asked what the Council would discuss regarding the next Secretary-General this month, and whether the Security Council or the General Assembly should make the choice, he said that question would be on the agenda. The Council would work closely with the Assembly and, hopefully, those internal contacts would make possible the election of the next Secretary-General by September or October.
Noting that geographical rotation had always been the practice, he said perhaps two approaches or certain other criteria should be considered. There were several options on the table, and they would be discussed openly. The rules of the game should be set before the process got under way, and Asia had been promised its turn.
Given its unique position as President both of the African Union and the Security Council, how did Congo intend to use those platforms to encourage Member States to provide additional support for the African mission in Darfur, which lacked the necessary funding? another journalist asked. Should the country use its Council Presidency to ensure more African membership of that organ?
Mr. Ikouebe said Congo had not waited to gain the Council presidency, in order to seek greater support for the African mission. Since the African Union Peace and Security Council’s 10 March decision on the transition to a United Nations mission, Congo had been Africa’s spokesman at the Council and was encouraging States to participate in the planned donor conference. A favourable outcome in Abuja would ensure greater assistance for the African mission. The difficulty was in sending a joint fact-finding mission to determine the needs of a United Nations force. Agreement in Abuja would enable the United Nations and the African Union to assess the needs, and then it would be up to the international community to send a United Nations mission.
What was Congo’s position regarding sanctions against Iran and the Secretary-General’s election? another journalist asked. Should the United Nations Charter be changed, with respect to the Secretary-General’s election and powers?
The Council President replied that consultations would be held tomorrow on that question. As far as Congo was concerned, all the parties should ensure that all the doors had been opened to urge Iran to cooperate fully with the international community, and to ask it to give every assurance that its nuclear programme was peaceful. If that were the case, Congo would react as a signatory to the NPT in deciding on the proper response.
Cautioning against a hasty response, he said Congo was not the only State concerned about the possible consequences. Dialogue must come first and, if it failed, other measures could be considered. There should be no immediate recourse to extreme measures like sanctions, though, while not opposing sanctions per se, Congo found it necessary to determine who would bear the brunt of them. It was necessary to take timely action that had a real impact.
Regarding possible revisions to the Charter, he pointed out that Heads of State had adopted the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, establishing the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council. It was they who had called for management and Security Council reform. That was not a Congolese agenda, but a global one. However, there were different approaches, he noted.
Asked about the Security Council’s reaction to a letter from the Iranian Ambassador, asking the Council to take resolute action regarding a military threat posed to his country by the United States, he said he had no information about that and that the letter may have been addressed to the outgoing Council President.
Had the African Union thought about transferring former Liberian President Charles Taylor to the international tribunal at Arusha, given that Denmark and other countries seemed unwilling to host his trial? another correspondent asked.
The Council President responded that any decision to try Mr. Taylor outside Africa was a matter of security and stability. Sierra Leone was still very fragile, as was neighbouring Liberia, where President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf needed to consolidate power, and Côte d’Ivoire. Taylor supporters remained in Liberia, and there was much movement across the subregion.
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