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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press encounter upon arrival at UNHQ

New York, 7 September 2004

Q: I see you have several high-level meetings on Sudan today. I wonder if you're satisfied with the progress there or you think that further steps need to be taken?

SG: I think that the report which I submitted to the Council and the briefing to the Council by my Representative, Mr. [Jan] Pronk was very clear, indicating that whilst we have a great access on the humanitarian front, a lot needs to be done on the security front, and that the Government must redouble its efforts to protect the population.

Q: How quickly, how soon? I mean, there seems to be a lot of pressure, there seems to be more distressing news from North Darfur over the weekend.

SG: Yes, I think this is an issue. You know that the Council is actively seized of this problem and the report is before them, and I expect the Council to be taking action within the next week, and we will see where we will go from here, but obviously the situation on the ground could be better. We are not satisfied with the security front. We believe that more can and should be done.

Q: Mr. Garang says that any solution in Darfur must come through the South somehow. Do you agree with that view, Sir?

SG: Who said that?

Q: Dr. John Garang.

SG: I think the peace talks between the North and the South have to proceed. They have made very good progress, and I think they should press ahead and bring it to conclusion. There are lessons, and I think positive aspects of that process, which could have impact on the Darfur negotiations. I think there are lessons there that can be relied upon in efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis. And so in that sense, I think they should press ahead and in my own conversations with President [Omar] al-Bashir I have encouraged them to press ahead and conclude the peace process between the North and the South.

Q: But can you see the Darfur situation resolved before the South has reached a final agreement?

SG: I think the main thing is for them to press ahead on both fronts and make progress as they can, and I think they are so far advanced on the Southern process that they should be able to make progress. What is important is that the Government adopt a strategic approach for bringing peace to the whole of Sudan, and that means between the North and the South and the situation in the West, and whichever is ready to be concluded, they should go ahead and conclude it. One should not wait for the other to come onstream.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, as we move toward the date for elections in Iraq, the campaign is beginning – the fighting seems to be increasing, or at least continuing, what role do you think the UN is going to be able to play in Iraq in preparing for elections?

SG: Obviously we are monitoring the situation on a daily basis, and if you're going to have credible and fair elections, you have to have it in the right environment. The environment has to be conducive, and we are monitoring the situation on a daily basis, and down the line, judgments will have to be made.

Q: Sir, how happy were you to see the French and the Americans working together on the issue of Lebanon and Syria? And were you at any one time tempted to make a comparison between what the French are doing in Africa, what the Americans are doing in Iraq on the one hand, and what the Syrians are doing in Lebanon?

SG: I haven't gotten into those comparisons, but I saw the resolution which was adopted and, of course, this is an issue for the Government concerned to decide. But I myself have had an opportunity recently at the African Union Summit to remind Governments and their populations that one should refrain from tampering with the Constitution and the conditions they accepted before they got into office, and that they should not change the Constitution to suit the needs of one individual, but the Constitutions are for the long-term interest of the nation. And so on that issue of tampering with constitutions, my position has been very clear.

Q: A follow-up, sir, in terms of the next four years, beginning November 2; how do you assess the UN may fare over the next four years?

SG: You are linking it to the results of the US elections. I think the UN will continue to do its work. I think we are working well with this administration, and we did work well with the previous administration, and I am confident we'll work well with the next one. We have work to do, and we'll press ahead and do it. I think many Governments around the world believe that the only way to deal with some of the crises we are confronting is through multilateral efforts, and the UN has an important role to play, and many Governments consider the UN an important institution, and I think it is.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, during the Republican Convention though, the UN was used as sort of a battering device there. An Austrian native, [Arnold] Schwarzenegger, was saying that you're a Republican if you believe in democracy, but not if you believe in the UN. You believe in the US. [Vice President Dick] Cheney was saying that the UN is how John Kerry wants to fight wars. Do you accept this?

SG: This is electioneering. During the election period all sort of statements are made. But I think that you need to look at the facts: every country, including this administration, is working very seriously with the UN. And they seem to accept that there are occasions where you have to work with allies and with other countries. They also accept that in certain situations, the collective interest is a national interest, and sometimes you even further your national interest by working collectively with others. There's nothing wrong with that. And I think many regions and Governments have demonstrated how coming together to work together enhances the progress of countries and individuals. The European Union is a great example. Yes, some have given up a wee bit of their sovereignty, but they are all better off. I don't think it has worked against them, and so I think on the question of multilateralism, I think the world is on our side.

Q: Welcome back, Mr. Secretary-General. Has there been any change in the UN stand on the Taiwanese issue, that they will not even allow the Taiwanese to do a tele-conference at the UNCA Club?

SG: I think the UN policy, as far as one China is concerned, obviously remains. I am not aware of the details of the issue you've raised but the one-China policy remains.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, before you disappear, would you have any comment on the situation in Russia, and particularly, the fact that this whole issue of Chechnya, and the Caucasus has really been kept out of the Security Council. Is there anything that the United Nations can and should be doing now?

SG: Let me first start by offering my deepest sympathy and condolences to the families that lost family members, loved ones, and particularly the children. There can be no excuse for this brutal and senseless slaughter of children, whatever one's cause. It's terrorism, pure and simple. That having been said, I would urge everybody to look at the situation critically to reassess and decide what is the best way to deal with the situation in that region.

Q: How much has the situation in Russia, this last attack, changed the war on terror in its complexity, in its complexion for you? How much more urgent is it now for the world to take collective action to defeating terrorism?

SG: Even without what happened in Beslan, we are all aware of the terrible toll terrorism has taken on people and nations around the world, and the need for the international community of nations to come together and work to confront this phenomenon. And I think the Security Council resolutions and the action the Council has taken does underscore the UN's belief that this is an issue we all need to come together to fight. And I think what happened in Russia underscores that point even more.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General. One eminent person's group seems to have made a certain amount of progress on Security Council reform, the perennial subject. Are you intending to endorse yourself a particular proposal this autumn?

SG: Well, I'm waiting to get their final report. They've put forward some ideas and, as you may gather, there have been quite a lot of reactions, and additional inputs have been given to them. I do not know what their final report would look like, so I'll wait to get the final report in the beginning of December, and I hope to be able to make a judgment then, but I have charged them to make recommendations for Security Council reform, because quite honestly I do not believe that anyone will consider the UN reform complete without Security Council reform bringing it into line with today's realities.

Q: One more question on Darfur. What do you hope to see in the Council resolution that might be moving this week on Darfur? Another pressure on sanctions, or pressure to accept an African Union force or logistical support for the African Union?

SG: I think in the study that we did with the African Union, we indicated a number of troops or observers that they will require, because the original number was woefully inadequate, and so for them to be effective, and they agreed with us. They need to get higher numbers, which I indicated in my report and also indicated logistical support and financial support that they will need and I hope the international community will support them financially, logistically and also in other ways. And I hope the Council will support the need for a larger force to go in.

Q: What's the theme of this year's General Assembly, that you want the speakers to concentrate on? In the past, you've talked about AIDS, humanitarian intervention, protecting sovereignty in a country. Is there one theme, so that it's not just two weeks of everyone saying their own thing?

SG: I think it would not be a bad idea if we all concentrated on the rule of law.