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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Press Encounter with the Secretary-General after his meeting with African Union Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare

New York, 17 April 2007

SG: Glad to see you and I'm happy to be with His Excellency Chairman [Alpha Oumar] Konaré of the African Union. Yesterday and today, during two days, we have had very intensive discussions on how to address the Darfur situation. While we were encouraged by the positive signs we have received from the Sudanese Government, the more important thing is how to implement these agreements into action. Both the United Nations and African Union have agreed and intend to move swiftly for the implementation of this agreement, so that we can finish the heavy support package and move on to the third phase, finally deploying a hybrid operation in Darfur. We have also agreed to intensify our political process, embracing all rebel leaders. We hope that the Government of Sudan and the rebel groups will be committed to an ongoing political process. There will be a two-track approach: the political process and we are also trying to work on a development package for the Sudanese and Darfur people. We have instructed our respective Special Envoys, Mr. [Salim A.] Salim and [Mr.] Jan Eliasson, to come up with a more detailed and workable roadmap for a political process, so that this political process and military operation can proceed hand-in-hand. All in all, it has been a very useful and constructive consultation. We have formed a strong partnership between the African Union and the United Nations and I appreciate the leadership of Chairman Konaré and we agreed to continue such a strong partnership. Thank you very much.

AK: I share all the views that the Secretary-General expressed and we will continue to strengthen this partnership between the African Union and the United Nations. Of course, also with all the other partners, because in this situation we need a united front on the basis of strong principles, which does not rule out dialogue and listening in order to be able to go ahead.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General. On a timetable – could you give us your idea of when you actually think this package could get on the ground and when we could really seriously start talking about a hybrid force? And on a much more personal note for you, it's just been announced that the young student who killed all of those other students and professors in Virginia was a South Korean, and I wondered if you had a comment on that?

SG: First of all, on the time schedule, we agreed to do it as soon as possible. At the same time I hope that Security Council members will work to authorize the support. Robust funding and support for this peacekeeping operation heavy support package, as well as AMIS [the African Union Mission in Sudan] is crucial. And this is what I am going to discuss continuously with the members of the Security Council.

On this very tragic [incident], I feel very much sorry and troubled, and any such rampant killing of innocent citizens and children is totally not acceptable and I condemn it in strongest terms possible.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, back to the Sudan. The people are asking, when will blue helmeted troops be on the ground. Can you see your way, in light of what has developed in the last 24 hours, to have seen blue helmeted UN peacekeepers heavily armed on the ground in Darfur?

SG This is what we are working in close coordination with the African Union, and we also hope that the African countries will actively support and participate in

AMIS, as well as the hybrid operation. For the United Nations, I will coordinate with the leaders of the countries and coordinate with the Security Council for all necessary assistance and funding, at the same time as this hybrid will be mainly on a priority basis manned by African people. We need the full participation and support from African countries.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General. We asked Chairman Konaré yesterday about the nature of the troops and he said that there will be African troops first of all and if we can't find the African troops, then we must look outside for other troops. But, Chairman Konaré, do you accept that these troops, whether Africans or non-Africans, will be under the command and control of the UN, not the AU?

AK: Let's go step by step. What we have achieved today, a few months ago we did not have. What we have achieved today, has to be applied. That will change because we know why the situation was not managed, because our troops were not sufficient in numbers. We did not have the necessary weapons and the mandate itself was limited. All this has been changed now and there is a greater involvement of the United Nations. Let us implement that and then let's go ahead with firmness and determination towards all the parties, whether the government or the movements. And then we will see what other step is coming up. Otherwise we cannot make progress. We will be locked into discussions while the situation is deteriorating.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General - you will be leaving this evening on your trip back to the Middle East. One, will you surprise us with an Iran stop, like you did with an Iraq stop in the past. And then, will you be taking to Syria your idea of monitoring the borders between Lebanon and Syria? What else would you discuss with the Syrian leadership, as this is a very important trip for the region, from that point of view?

SG: With Syrian leaders, I would like to discuss all the matters concerning the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, particularly the situation in Lebanon, ensuring the implementation of [resolution] 1701, and all other situations in the region, monitoring issues and all other relevant issues in the region. In my agenda, I will try to exchange views on all the matters in which Syria can constructively play a role.

Q: Will you go to Iran on this trip?

SG: This time, I have not any plan to visit Iran, but I will consider it in due course.