Secretary-General's press encounter
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 6 February 2006SG: Ladies and Gentlemen, I am extremely happy to be able to attend this meeting here. I think it is an important meeting and the participation and the level of attendance is an indication that we are beginning to take environment very seriously. And the fact that many ministers and delegations are here is also a testimony to the wonderful work in environment being done here by the governments.
Q: Regarding Iran's suspension of its cooperation with the United Nations Atomic Energy, what is the reaction? What is the Security Council will do against this obstinacy of Iran?
SG: The Report from the [International] Atomic [Energy] Agency will go to the Security Council, but I think this is not the end of the road. Both the Iranians and the partners they are negotiating with have indicated that this is not the end of the road. The Atomic Agency, Mr. [Mohamed] El Baradei, will be working on a report that should be submitted to the Board at the end of the month. I hope in between Iran will take steps that would help create an environment and confidence building measures that will bring the parties back to the negotiating table.
Q: Al Jazeera International is premiering a new programme called “Every Woman” which highlights women's issues. What does this mean for women around the world, especially because coming out of the Middle East and also the fact that you have recently appointed the Yemeni Human Rights Minister, a female, to the post recently? Can you comment on that?
SG: I think it is important that societies allow women to play the role they should play. They are talented, they are creative and I have often maintained that this gender balance is not a luxury, it is a necessity. And any society that does not use 50% of the talent of its population is bound to lose out. So this attempt to encourage women, to encourage gender balance, to empower women, I think is something that I cannot but applaud. And we should all support and be very pleased with it.
Q: Do you find it's a breakthrough for Al Jazeera International has a new channel coming in?
SG: I think it's very important that the region is stepping in, and Al Jazeera is doing it. Our own Human Development Report has highlighted the need for gender balance and empowerment of women. So I'm very happy that we have such a dynamic partner.
Q: What do you say on Indo-Pak relations?
SG: I think the two leaders are getting on well. They are determined to work as hard as they can to improve relations and ensure that they have normal stable relations between them. And I'm very pleased. I know both Prime Ministers very well and I think they are sincere, they are determined to improve the situation. And we should do everything we can to support their efforts.
Q: Denmark's newspaper issue. Can you comment?
SG: I have spoken out about this, basically indicating that the cartoons and the re-publishing of the cartoons have given offence to many Muslims. Obviously, I do respect freedom of the press, but freedom of the press is not a licence. It does entail responsibility and judgment. And what I would say is that the paper concerned has apologized and despite the offence that has been caused and the apologies that were made, we need to be sensitive to other religions, we need to respect other religions. And respect what is sacred to others, be sensitive to what is sacred to others. But despite the general offence the publication has caused, I do not think that it justifies the violence we have seen. I don't think it justifies attacking innocent people. And I would appeal to all concerned, all people in authority and with influence, to men and women of goodwill to engage in dialogue and bring this thing to an end. We should de-escalate and avoid any words or actions that will inflame the situation.
Q: One of your priorities at taking office was to restore the credibility of the UN. How much do you think have you achieved over the last two tenures?
SG: I think we have done quite a lot with the UN. When you look at the areas that we have been active in, from the fight against poverty, fight against HIV/AIDS, the rule of law and human rights, and the work in the area of peace and conflict. We have moved on and done quite a lot and reached out in partnership.
Q: Is the UN doing anything about the cartoons?
SG: I've just answered this question.
Q: Is the UN doing anything?
SG: I am in touch with lots of leaders around the world, both in this region and in Europe, trying to see what we can do to calm down the situation. And I know that there are groups also in New York who are discussing it. And when I go back to New York tomorrow, I will be working with concerned delegations to see what we can do to calm the situation.