Secretary-General's press encounter upon arrival at UNHQ
New York, 13 May 2005SG: Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen.
I have just come in from Geneva where I held very successful talks with the Presidents of Nigeria and Cameroon on the Bakassi issue and I also I was able to meet with the Togo opposition leaders and President Obasanjo to discuss the situation in Togo and the need for them to form a government of national unity and reconcile.
I will take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, there have been, as the nuclear non-proliferation review conference is going on here, both the North Koreans and the Iranians have been making indications that the Iranians enriching uranium possibly, and the North Koreans possibly doing a test and building more weapons…do you have any comments on what should be going on, what you would like to see the NPT review conference doing?
SG: I think the developments you refer to indicate the importance of this conference, and the need for Member States to focus on this NPT conference and to try and strengthen it and make progress. On the Iranian issue, I think the Europeans are trying very hard to keep the talks going, and I don't think it is completely out of the question yet, and I hope they will succeed to keep them at the table, to continue their discussions. On the North Koreans, the only thing is to keep pressing to get the six party talks back, and I hope that will be successful because that is the only game in town, as it were.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the chief of IAEA, Mr. [Mohamed] ElBaradei, had said that one of the reasons why the North Koreans or Iranians are not responding is that the United States is not giving them enough inducement to do what the international community wants. And China is also saying that the United States and the six-party talks is not going to succeed. What is your opinion on that?
SG: I think all the parties engaged in the six-party talks should bring their influence to bear to get the parties back to the table. In our own dealings with the North Koreans where we have been assisting them with humanitarian aid and also encouraging them to cooperate on the nuclear front. We have also tried to get them to realize the economic gains they would make if they were to comply and to cooperate with the international community. I think the long-term economic prospects after they have resolved this should be a real inducement for them to cooperate.
Q: Sir, at a time when there are reports that North Korea may be preparing for a test and harvesting spent fuel rods, does the fact that you don't have right now a Special Envoy to North Korea in any way impede your personal ability to put pressure on North Korea and convince them to come to six-party talks. And also, have you been in touch with any North Koreans yourself, to try to get them to resume the talks?
SG: Not yet, I haven't. But of course we have focused, as I indicated, on the humanitarian aspects and the long-term economic development whilst we have encouraged them to cooperate on the nuclear front. But on the nuclear front the lead has been elsewhere, and I have appealed to them, and I appeal to them to cooperate.
Q: When do you hope to be in a position to report to the Security Council on the work of the verification team that's gone to Syria and Lebanon, and secondly, on your choice of the person to lead the Hariri investigation, can you confirm that you have chosen the German?
SG: The team has finished its work, the verification team has finished its work in Lebanon, and are on their way back to New York where they will finalize their report and present it to me, I hope early next week. On the question of the team leader, the individual who will lead the independent investigative team, I expect to make an announcement today or at the latest by Monday.
Q: Sir, let's talk about the need to strengthen the NPT. It's two weeks into the conference and as of yet the substantive work has not been done. How concerned are you that the NPT is really not taking up its responsibilities.
SG: This is why I've stressed the fact that that is what is happening indicates the urgency for the Member States to really take this conference seriously and try and strengthen the NPT. Of course, I am concerned, like everybody else, that it took two weeks to agree on an agenda, and I hope they will accelerate their work. The issues are known, and I hope they will be able to accelerate their work and make some progress, but I am concerned, yes.
Q: On the agenda for that conference, are you concerned that the points that you have introduced to the conference have not been met?
SG: Well I hope they will bear it in mind as they proceed with their work, because both Mr. ElBaradei and myself did put forward some suggestions for them to pursue, and I hope they will.
Q: Sir, as we get further into the oil for food investigation, we are hearing more and more allegations. Now the names of the British MP, Mr. [George] Galloway, have been brought up, and the French Minister [Charles] Pasqua. To what extent are you concerned that all these allegations and this mud that's flying might damage the prospects for your reform initiative?
SG: I hope that the Member States who are focused on the reform initiative will continue on that. This is a long-term proposal, and it's a proposal which is going to have a longer term impact on the Organization. Yes, there have been allegations, there have been mistakes in the oil-for-food thing. Serious allegations have been made. As you know, we in this house are taking measures to strengthen our own administration and transparency. I think the Member States, who themselves are very much aware of how the oil-for-food [programme] was set up, how it was managed, how it was organized, I think are much more sanguine about the facts than most other people, and I hope they will focus on the work ahead and strengthen this institution. And so I do not expect it to derail the reform process. We are determined to go ahead and I urge all the Member States to go ahead and do so. For some, the oil-for-food crisis will never die down.