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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press conference - full transcript

New York, 13 September 2006

SG: Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

As you know, I have just come back from a trip to the Middle East.

My first stop was Brussels, where I worked with the European leaders to generate the force necessary for south Lebanon. And I therefore left Brussels with about 7,000 European troops pledged. From there I went to Lebanon, and Israel, and I think you have seen the report I have put out. But let me say that, throughout my visit, almost every leader I met felt that Lebanon was a wake up call, and we should really focus on stabilizing the situation in Lebanon, and relations between Lebanon and Israel, but not stop there – build on from there to deal with other conflicts in the region – Palestine, the Golan Heights. And of course you also know that since then, the Arab League and other leaders have put forward a proposal to the [Security] Council that there be a ministerial meeting next week, discussing the issue of peace in the Middle East.

I should also say that I was really encouraged by the seriousness with which governments are pressing ahead with implementation [of Security Council Resolution 1701]. In both Lebanon and Israel I left convinced that the governments are determined to implement the resolution. As you know the ceasefire has held and is holding, and since you have all read my report I don't want to dwell too much on my visit to the Middle East.

But of course we have other urgent tasks on our agenda. Darfur for one, which the Council discussed only recently. The situation there is desperate. The Government continues to refuse to accept the transition to the UN. The presence of the African Union forces is itself not certain, and we are going to continue our efforts and I have appealed to all the governments with influence to work with the Sudanese Government, and get the Government to change its attitude and its approach, because if the African Union forces were to leave, and we are not able to put in a UN follow-on force, we are heading for a disaster, and I don't think we can allow that to happen, particularly since we only recently passed the Responsibility to Protect resolution. And not only that, when we had Rwanda, almost everyone said we should not let it happen again. So we have a big challenge in Sudan.

We also have another big challenge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country the size of western Europe, where we have organized the first elections in forty years, and the second round is due on 29 October. We are working very seriously with all concerned to ensure that the second round moves ahead as smoothly as the first round, and that the parties and the political leaders play by the rules of the game, and accept the results regardless of who wins.

And of course we also have the Iranian nuclear dossier, where I had the chance also to discuss with Iranian leaders in Teheran. I was very pleased to see that Mr. Javier Solana and Mr. [Ali] Larijani met last Saturday, and another meeting is planned on Thursday. I notice there is a bit of a shift. When I was in Iran, the Iranians maintained that they would not suspend [uranium enrichment] as a precondition, but that suspension can be part of the agenda at the negotiations. And now the discussions that were held on [Saturday] has been reported as constructive and fruitful, and I hope the next meeting will be equally fruitful, and that we will find a way of resolving this issue peacefully. I don't think confrontation is in anyone's interest. I can also say that in the region there was lots of anxiety about this issue, with leaders telling me, 'We cannot afford another crisis in this region.' And I appeal to the Iranians to really work with the international community and lift the cloud of uncertainty surrounding their programme, so hopefully this will be done.

Finally, as you know, the 61st session of the General Assembly formally opened yesterday, and next week a large number of Heads of State and Government will be here attending the meeting, as well as Foreign Ministers, and of course I will have time to have discussions with these leaders on some of the issues we have discussed here.

But today I would like to pay tribute to the 60th session, which has just ended, and which I think will be remembered as a historic one. Certainly no session of the UN's General Assembly has worked as hard, or accomplished as much. Thanks to the hard work that was put in by the Member States, we were able to establish the Central Emergency [Response] Fund, the Human Rights Council, and I hope at its next session the Human Rights Council will focus on respect for human rights throughout the world, without focussing merely on individual countries. It should be fair, and apply the rules consistently across the board.

We also have a Peacebuilding Commission, and recently the comprehensive Counter-Terrorism strategy. I think these are important achievements for the Member States. I would like to pay tribute to Jan Eliasson for the extraordinary leadership he showed as President of the General Assembly. He was able to not only work effectively with all the Member States, but also lead them to concrete results.

I would also want to welcome Sheikha Haya Rashid Al Khalifa, and wish her strength and courage as she takes on this challenge. She is the first woman President of the General Assembly since 1969, so she is also making a bit of history, and we should all give her the support that she will need, and I am sure she is going to do as well as Jan Eliasson, and I wish her every success.

I will now take your questions.

Spokesman: So we can hear as many questions as possible, please limit yourselves to one question. Thank you.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, first of all, welcome to this press conference – and I hope this will not be the last press conference before you leave here, and we hope to see you again and again. We wish you the best.

Since these are the waning days of your heading the United Nations, can you reflect upon the fact that since you took over, and you inherited a lot of problems, like the Middle East, tense situations, ongoing situations – what is it that you think was success in your time and what is it that was not so successful?

Also, because of the fact that you visited Middle East and everything in Iran, my question to you is on Iran. You have met with the leaders of Iran just now, and you have just now also said that you're asking them to be more flexible and that the talks should continue. What is it that you've seen: the ray of hope have you seen, the ray of hope in order to avoid this crisis which we are about to confront?

SG: On the first question, you said, “during your tenure”. I still have a couple of months to go, and other things may happen between now and then. But I think I can say that, in addition to trying to tackle some of the peace and security issues, one of the important things we've done during the past 10 years is to focus attention on poverty and economic development, to get the world to understand that, in a world where you have immense wealth and extreme poverty living side by side, it's not sustainable, and that we needed to be concerned about weaker members of the family. And I think that's an achievement. We also have to understand that often there is an economic basis to conflict, so in effect it does also touch on the issue of peace and security.

On the Iranian issue, I think I do note there is a slight shift – I wouldn't say it's a major shift – a slight shift in the sense that they are now saying that, “Let's negotiate”. Suspension will be on the agenda and may be possible during the negotiations, not that it's outright rejection. And this is, I think, is something that the parties have to explore. And I suspect this is what Javier Solana is exploring with Larijani. And eventually, when the parties sit together, I hope they will find a way out of this and avoid a confrontation.

Q: Continuing on the Iran situation, the question is how long would the US, the UK, the European partners who are keen to really get possible sanctions against Iran: how much time should they give, and how should they measure whether Iran is just stalling for time? And what is the threshold that they should say, “Enough is enough; let's move ahead”? Or how should they gauge that, do you think? How much patience should they have?

SG: There's quite a bit of mistrust between both sides. That is clear. The West believes that Iran has to reestablish trust and confidence. The Iranians tell me the same thing: that the West has to establish confidence with them. I hope that discussions which are going on will help build some confidence for the two to move forward. When you talk to the two sides, for example, the West will tell you the Iranians have been stringing along the negotiations in order to continue with their enrichment and that they kept stringing us along and suddenly there they were in the midst of enrichment. When you talk to the Iranians, they believe that they have been deceived. They were at the table for two years, were prepared to do all sort of things, and nothing happened. And suddenly, they were before the G-8 and the Security Council.

I'm sharing this with you to underscore the lack of trust on both sides that needs to be rebuilt so that we can go forward. I don't think it's a question of how much time do you have to give before you lose patience. I think it should be dictated by the process of the negotiations or discussions and what progress is being made, and also what tools you have for achieving your goals. What is the goal? How do you get there? How best do you achieve it? Do you do it with sanctions, or do you get them to the table and negotiate? In my judgment, as I've said time and time again, the best solution is a negotiated one. I've also told the Iranians, if their intention is really clear and is peaceful, they should open up their system and tell the inspectors, “We have nothing to hide; come in”; apply, even implement the Additional Protocol even if it's not been signed.

So I think it's a question of, really, a bit more confidence being developed and each focusing on the issue at hand and what it takes to settle it, without artificial deadlines that you have to do it at this time, or else. I think that leads to further complications and difficulties.

Q: I might as well continue on Iran. I understand you told Council members the other day that they should give Iran a ladder to climb down on. Did you have anything in particular in mind for the rungs of the ladder? And I wondered what brought you to that point, because in your Middle East trip that was your one big black hole: on both Lebanon and on the nuclear.

SG: No, let me say that, on Iran, I had not gone to Iran to resolve the nuclear issue. My main purpose for going to the region is to drum up support for 1701 and to shore up the cessation of hostilities.

It was really fortuitous that I was in Iran at the time and I took up this issue with them. But I think if you look at the problem as it is - one party saying, “Suspend and then we negotiate”, the other side says, “Negotiate and then maybe suspend” - one had to find a way of testing the seriousness of this and really bringing them to the table to discuss.

Discussions are going on, as I said, between Javier Solana and Larijani, and also among the Member States. I am also in touch with them, but at this stage I think we should give the process a chance to move forward and let it run its course - the Larijani-Javier Solana discussions. I have indicated it seems to be going well, and I would not want to say or do anything that would interfere.

Q: Do you have any comments on the Hizbollah demand today and yesterday that the Government of Lebanon, the Siniora Government, step down for collusion with Israel and the United States?

SG: That they should step down?

Q: Yes. Is this a breach of resolution 1701?

SG: First of all, I didn't see what Hizbollah said, so I'm a bit hesitant to comment on it. As to whether it was wrong or right or is in breach of 1701, I would want to see the text before I jump into that sort of judgement. But I think that the Siniora Government has done extremely well; he's been a very active and very effective wartime leader. I know the efforts he had to go through to hold the country together and to project the concerns of Lebanon to the world. And I hope all Lebanese will support him and his Government.

Q: You started out by mentioning the need to revive the entire Middle East peace process. The question of whether there is going to be a ministerial meeting next week remains in question. Is this a meeting you support? And what do you believe the outcome should be?

I know we're not allowed second questions, but on the same Mideast issue, could you comment on the meeting that I hear you're planning on Iraq?

SG: I think the Security Council is discussing the meeting. I spoke to the President about it yesterday. He said it's not quite settled yet, but a vast majority of the Council members want it. I don't think the intention - from what the initiators have told me - is to come with concrete solutions, but really to discuss the issue and raise awareness as to the urgency of tackling the outstanding peace issues in the region, as well as perhaps asking the Council to think through and come up with a mechanism or commission a report that would make recommendations as to how to proceed in the future.

I think that sort of discussion can be healthy; I don't think we should be worried about that. Of course, if one is going to take concrete action, that will have to be planned properly, and it will take time. But the kind of frank discussions we are going to have should not bother anyone.

On Iraq, we're going to have the Iraq Compact meeting, which will be attended by about 33 countries and institutions. The Iraq Compact is an idea that the Iraqi Government came up with, and we are working with them on this to really help strengthen their economic and financial systems and also seek international support. They will be setting benchmarks that they will put forward as to what they intend to do in order not only to firm up their own economic situation, but also to provide assurance and confidence to the international community that they have a serious partner on the other side, and for all of us to work together. There will be separate meeting between Iraq and its neighbours, but this is a much broader meeting.

Q: Is there going to be pledges, fund-raising?

SG: No, there will be no pledges and fund-raising. I think it is the 18th of September.

Q: In your report, which I read thoroughly, it's noticeable that you said you were greatly encouraged by Iran. You actually didn't tell us at all why, because there is no other mention but that you're greatly encouraged. You also said you're greatly encouraged by Syria, whereas Syria, you didn't tell us any timelines, any guarantees, anything that was new in their position, whether it is the border delineation or whether it is every other resolution you want to implement.

This resolution, 1701, gave you a mandate to come up with proposals. Forgive me for being very blunt: you did not come up with any proposals. Now, did you choose not to do that? Were you unable to? And why did you waste such an important opportunity for you to really come up with proposals at such a very important time for Lebanon and for the region?

SG: That is an opinion, and I'm not sure people in Lebanon and in the region agree with that assessment. Obviously, my proposals are meant for the Council. Over time they will get these details, and I will be discussing with the Council.

You also have to understand that not everything I discuss with a Head of State is put in the open. I have told you time and time again that I can do that: I can give you verse and chapter of what I discuss with President Ahmadinejad, Assad and everybody, President Bush. You'll be very happy, and maybe I will get certain things off my chest. But next time I meet them, they will talk to me about the weather and their grandchildren. [laughter] I think, as far as the details are concerned, I will provide the details to the Council, and over time it will come out. I think no one in this room or in the region believes that the trip I took was a waste of time or a wasted opportunity.

Next question.

Q: I'd like you to actually give us a picture of what would have to happen in the United Nations for the resolution on the responsibility to protect to be implemented regarding Darfur. What kind of scenario or what kind of procedure has to take place at the United Nations, or what kind of images do we have to get from Darfur, for the United Nations to actually invoke its responsibility to protect the people?

SG: I think when I met with the Council a few days ago, I was very clear as to the situation in Darfur and what was expected of Council members and Member States. Because sometimes when we refer to the United Nations and talk of the United Nations, we absolve the Member States; we behave as if the United Nations is some satellite out there. But here, we are really talking to the Member States. They are the ones who have to have the political will; they are the ones who have to put pressure to influence the Sudanese Government to act and accept the transition, and several of them have indicated that they will do that. In my own trip to the Middle East also, I did ask some of the leaders to help us and work with us on this.

The fact is, without the consent of the Sudanese Government, we are not going to be able to put in the troops. So what we need is to convince the Sudanese Government to bend and change its attitude and allow us to go in.

Q: On answering [a previous] question, you mentioned that in 10 years, you really worked hard fighting against poverty and for economic development. But you also really worked hard for the law in the international arena. How do you assess what you have done? Is there really progress or decline?

SG: I wasn't ignoring the push we gave human rights and the rule of law, but he did ask me for one issue, and I indicated one. I think that was equally important.

As I leave office, I'm really satisfied that the Member States have accepted that the United Nations has three pillars on which it should build its work: peace and security; economic and social development; human rights and the rule of law. I think we have made progress in some areas; in other areas we need to work harder. But I think there is greater awareness of the importance of human rights and the rule of law and the whole issue of good governance. And not only are Governments talking about this issue, but you have active civil society elements who are fully engaged in this, and I think it's important.

Q: It was one of the clarion calls of your administration a few years ago in the General Assembly that there may be a need for humanitarian interventionism. Do you personally believe, after years of speaking out on Sudan and on what many call a genocide – and what some there are calling another Rwanda – that now there should be a coalition of the willing to go in? If not, why not?

And 'though I don't want you to talk about grandchildren in your last four months, the quote was so startling – and your aides talked about – did the President of Iran say “Britain and America won the last world war, but they won't win the next one; Iran would”?

SG: On your first question, let me first of all say that the world is different from what it was in 1999, when I made that statement. It's different also in the sense that when you look around at the world today, we are stretched with a number of troops deployed around the world. You have about 150-160,000 in Iraq, thousands in Afghanistan, the UN itself with a deployment to south Lebanon, and the approved deployment to East Timor, we will soon be hitting 100,000 or so people deployed. You have NATO forces in Kosovo and all the area. Governments keep telling us “We are fully stretched.” You've seen the difficulties NATO has had getting an additional 2,500 troops for Afghanistan. So we are competing for the same troops.

Since then there has also been Iraq. The Sudanese have been very clear in exploiting some of these issues, saying, “If you want to have another Iraq, come there.” This has scared away some Governments. So not only would I not have troops, if I do not have the consent of the Sudanese Government, I'm not sure if a coalition of the willing were to be formed that there will be members.

On the second question, I prefer not to comment. I really, I don't know who has said, but I prefer not to comment.

Q: Shab'a farms is used by the militias in Lebanon to justify bearing arms, is used by others to pressure parties to delineate borders. However, in your report yesterday you did not touch on the proposal by the Lebanese Government to hand over the occupied Shab'a farms to United Nations custody. Everybody in the Middle East acknowledges Shab'a farms, including Israel. [Israeli Ambassador] Dan Gillerman admitted here, from the podium outside the Security Council, that it is not Israeli land. Why didn't you take that opportunity to at least address – you abhor occupation. Even in one of the interviews you upheld the right of people to resist occupation without demeaning or detracting from their cause. Yet you didn't touch on the proposal of Lebanon to hand over an occupied part of the Middle East to the custody of the United Nations.

SG: If you look at the report very carefully, I indicated that there will be steps taken to resolve the issue of the border. I also made a reference to Shab'a. The world is not built in a day. Don't expect me, in implementation of a resolution, to put everything in one report in 30 days. You cannot do everything in 30 days; it has to take time. Some of the issues involve several ?. Shab'a may seem simple, but Shab'a involves Israel, it involves Syria, it involves Lebanon. One has to take time to work it out with these Governments and come up with the solution that is optimal and respects the concerns and interests of all. I cannot just take the view of one Government and put it and say we are going to do it this way. But it will be dealt with, and I think the report gives indications that there are further steps to be taken.

Q: But by not taking the view of one Government you are prolonging occupation of a Middle Eastern land.

SG: Take a second look at the report. I'm not prolonging an occupation; we are looking for a solution. That is what we are doing, and there will be a solution. But don't expect the solution in 30 days. A solution does not come from a declaration of the Secretary-General. I need to work it out with all involved.I need to consult Israel; I need to consult Syria; I need to consult Lebanon, and that's what will be done.

Question (interpretation from French): The countdown on your mandate has already begun. In three months we will be speaking of you as the former SG –

The Secretary-General (interpretation from French): Fortunately!

Question (interpretation from French): Among the conflicts in Africa, which would you like to have settled before you go: Côte d'Ivoire? DRC? Northern Uganda? Somalia? Darfur? Could you give us a detailed comment on each of these African problems, please.

The Secretary-General (interpretation from French): I think we're on the right path in the DRC. If the second round goes well, we should be able to quiet things down so long as everybody accepts the result of the vote.

On Côte d'Ivoire, there's going to be a meeting here next week with all the political leaders. I hope an agreement will be possible, to decide what next after October. That will be very difficult to settle, but I hope that everybody will be reasonable and that they will be thinking of the country and of the people's interest, and that a fair solution will be found.

Darfur is complicated, and it's going to take time.

You also mentioned Burundi, did you? No? On northern Uganda, there are negotiations under way. Things seem to be going rather well, but it's too soon to say. You have to give us a few more weeks and months.

Somalia – we've just started. IGAD is trying to determine whether troops should be deployed in Somalia. I'm hoping that the Somalis themselves will start talking to each other. There had been a beginning, but we have to encourage them to continue talks leading to a national solution that the international community can support.

Q: The families of the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers repeatedly said that the first thing they need is a sign of life. Have you received one?

Secondly, yesterday Nasrallah said that without Samir Kuntar he will not deal with ? Do you agree that Samir Kuntar should be part of the equation? Or do you agree with the Security Council that the release of the soldiers should be unconditional?

SG: My envoy is very hard at work. He is in the region. I think I would wait for him to report back to me with his preliminary, initial report. He will be in touch by the end of this week, or next, with all the parties and all concerned. He will give me an indication as to where we stand and how his discussions are going. You will understand that I don't want to appoint someone to handle such a delicate issue and comment on it here as to what should be done, who should be part of the issue. I will wait until he comes to me.

Q: No sign of life?

SG: He has not reported back to me yet, but when he does he may be able to indicate there is a sign of life, but as of today he has not indicated. But give him a bit of time; he's just started.

By the way, on the sign of life, we ourselves had asked for it, but let the envoy work with the parties and then come back.

Q: His name is ??

SG: He has a very nice name, actually.

Q: The plan which carries your name, the famous Annan plan, did not roll on. Although it's not perfect, it was a good instrument to bring the parties together and find a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem. While preparing, you and your advisers, this instrument, your people contacted both sides in an early phase of bringing out the plan. Then finally you gave the plan to both sides. Turks said 'yes', and the Greeks said 'no'. Do you feel duped, cheated, betrayed by the Greeks, who did not tell you before that they don't like it so well; don't bring it out?

SG: I think it was a missed opportunity to unify Cyprus. But, of course, once one party rejected the proposal: you could not take it any further. But, obviously, if the crisis had come to a head earlier ? which I think is the implication of your question ? maybe one could have made some adjustments. But, of course, this happens when you put proposals on the table. They are not always accepted 100 per cent. But I hope that the process will continue to go forward. I have a man on the ground working with both communities, trying to build confidence for us to be able to make a judgment, when the situation is right, to start all over again.

Q: And your feeling? How do you feel?

SG: Obviously, I was disappointed. I was disappointed; I thought we missed an opportunity.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, are you disappointed that some of the reform measures that you had advocated have not been adopted by the Member States? Also, the Millennium Goals have so far not been met in a timely manner.

SG: I think, on the question of the reform, obviously, the decisions were up to the Member States. But I think that I did give them a good menu. My plans were ambitious, some would even say overambitious. We got quite a lot done. So I would not say that I am dissatisfied with the outcome of the reform process. Earlier this morning I listed for you some of the achievements. I also applauded Eliasson's leadership. So I think we have achieved quite a lot. But there are areas where I feel we could have done more, and we should continue. I think the management reform should continue. I think efforts to reform the Security Council should not be given up. They should go ahead, because it is a serious problem for this Organization. I have made it clear that, as far as I am concerned, no reform of the UN will be complete without the reform of the Security Council.

Quite honestly, it is an undercurrent to quite a lot of the tensions and the difficulties we have here in the Organization, where many Member States feel the Organization has too narrow a power base, which is in the hands, as they see it, of five Member States. The world has changed. The world is not the world of 1945. If we really want to make this Organization what it ought to be, we need to reform the Council to make it more democratic, more representative. If we do that, the Council would even gain in greater legitimacy.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I would like to ask you about a place that you did not go to on your trip but a place that must have been the subject of conversations with leaders of the places you did go to, and that is Iraq.

Leaders of the region - what do they think the consequences have been for the region of the American invasion of Iraq? Did they have a view as to whether the Americans should stay there or whether they should leave?

SG: Honestly, most of the leaders I spoke to felt that the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath has been a real disaster for them. They believe it has destabilized the region. They also believe that ? actually, there were two schools. Many leaders felt that the Americans should stay until the situation improves and that, having created the problem, they cannot walk away. Then, you have another school of thought, particularly in Iran, that believes that the presence of the US is a problem and that the US should leave and that, if the US were to decided to leave, they would help them leave.

So, in a way, the US has found itself in the position where it cannot stay and it cannot leave. I believe that, if it has to leave, the timing has to be optimum and it has to be arranged in such a way that it does not lead to even greater disruption or violence in the region.

Q: You just said that there is another school in Iran, the one that was content to help the United States leave.

SG: Yes, that is correct.

Q: Did they say how they had to leave?

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, picking up on the Iraq issue, that is one issue over which you and the United States have had defined differences since you've come here ?

SG: Since the beginning.

Q: Yes, since the beginning?

SG: You wouldn't hurt me.

Q: Of course. And from that moment it seemed as though you earned a reputation, justly or unjustly, for being an obstacle to US interests around the world. Can you talk about your relations with the US now and how they have differed between the time you took office and what they are now?

SG: I think my relations with the US Administration are very good. I work very well with the Secretary of State and with the President himself. On key and important issues, we are able to discuss, sometimes agree - often agree. There are times, perforce, we disagree. I think everyone has to respect that. So my relations with the Administration, in that sense, are good. I cannot say that my relations with everybody in Washington are good; there are so many Washingtons. But at least with the Administration ? that is, those whom I deal with, the President and the Secretary of State ? they are good. I have some friends on the Hill, and some who are not so friendly. We have to accept that also.

Q: Mr. Secretary. I would like to ask you, in the light of having a non-nuclear Middle East, what have you done, or what would you do, to encourage Israel to join the NPT? A follow-up question is, from your point of view, what is the optimal solution to overcome the existing problem among the parties?

The President: Existing problem?

Q: Existing problems among the parties, that means get rid of the differences, come up with the optimal solution. You know what I mean by optimal solution?

SG: I know that the question of Israel having a nuclear bomb has been at the top of the discussions in the region. Even as we discuss the Iranian issues, sometimes the question is raised: Why are you focusing on Iran but not on Israel? But the fact is that Iran is a member of the NPT. Iran entered into certain commitments and certain understandings with the international community, and it is being asked to live up to them.

I think, as far as the nuclear-free zone region, I think most of the Governments in the region would prefer to see a nuclear-free zone. They would prefer to avoid an arms race, an arms race that becomes more than the acquisition of conventional weapons but even competition to acquire nuclear weapons. So they are following what is happening in the debate on this whole nuclear issue very, very carefully. So the stakes are quite high as to how we handle this problem.

Question (interpretation from French): Mr. Secretary-General, among the crises that you have had to deal with over the last 10 years, which ones have left their mark on you the most? There are rumours in the Secretariat that you might be asked to stay another year. Would this be true?

The Secretary-General (interpretation from French): Well, I think Iraq is what has impressed and marked me the most. I think it has marked the Organization and everybody else as well.

I should say quite clearly that, starting 1 January, I have projects. I am not available as of 1 January, to stay an extra three months, six months or a year. I think the Member States have the possibility of choosing a Secretary-General. They have more than three months in which to do so. I encourage them to do it as soon as possible. I will not be available. Anyway, nobody has asked me to be available.

Q: Sir, you have just been in the area. Do you sincerely and personally really believe that Syria is really an obstacle to peace? You have been there; you've talked to them. Can you put us in the picture of what happened and what you were told, how predisposed to peace?

SG: As I have indicated, I had constructive discussions with the President and urged him to support the implementation of 1701, bearing in mind that all Lebanese, all the political parties, groups in Lebanon, including Hizbollah, had accepted 1701, and that it was incumbent on the international community and neighbours and countries in the region to work with us to implement it. And they did confirm to me they will work with us. We talked about improving security and border control, which we are going to help them do.

The German Government is going to be providing technical assistance to Lebanon in terms of equipment, training of border personnel and expertise. And I have suggested to Syria that they accept the same assistance and I have approached the Germans to provide it. They indicated they will accept it. So at least on this one, they've indicated full cooperation, but of course, they also raised their own issue - that whilst we resolve this Lebanese issue and we talk of Sheba'a, we should not forget the Golan.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, this is on Côte d'Ivoire, following up on an earlier question. I know that you're meeting on the 20th of September in the G.A., or on the sideline of the G.A. Do you think with the postponed elections, when should they be held? Should President Laurent Gbagbo stay in power until the elections are held? And what about this toxic dumping that's taken place? It's actually by a company, Trafigura, which shows up in the Volcker report in connection with Cotecna.

Also, if you could just address one thing, and this is for your able spokesman, that said, “Have you filed your financial disclosure and if so, why not?”

SG: Let me take it in turn. First of all, on the question of Côte d'Ivoire, we are going to have a mini-summit here with all the leaders of the political parties and regional leaders. And we will resolve some of the issues that you have raised.

On the question of the toxic waste, I think that this is a serious issue. We need to be careful that the developing world and the poor countries do not become dumping grounds for these kinds of waste, and I hope serious action will be taken against the company and all involved. And of course UN agencies have been active in helping the Government resolve this.

As to your second, your third question, I honour all my obligations to the UN, and I think that is as I have always done.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, as part of the Quartet, do you think that the Quartet reached a dead end with each Roadmap? And in the light of the forthcoming meeting on the issues of the Middle East, do you have any ideas about any creative new mechanisms that could be proposed? Or are we going to start from point one again?

The Secretary General: I think the Roadmap could have been implemented much faster, or we had hoped it would have been implemented much faster. Alas, it has not been. We are going to meet here next week, and we are meeting at a very critical time for the people in Palestine.

[On Monday] I got a call from President Abbas to tell me that they have reached an agreement with Hamas about forming a unity Government. I think this is a very important development. He also went on to say that the programme they have adopted requires all members of the Government to accept the programme of the PLO and all the agreements they had entered into earlier, and that he felt this decision should satisfy the requirements and the conditions demanded by the international community.

If that is indeed the case, he should really allow the international community and the donor community to move ahead very quickly and provide the assistance that the Palestinian people need, because it is a very desperate and serious situation. Teachers are on strike, people have not been paid for 6 months. We have a temporary mechanism, which allows some money to go in, but to pay for humanitarian services, but not for salaries. It's become a very complex situation that the Quartet will be looking at when we meet next week to review the impact of our own policies and what has happened on the ground.

I was also very encouraged to see that the Israeli courts released 18 parliamentarians who had been in prison. So justice took its course, and it shows what an effective justice system in a democracy can do. I was very relieved to see that these people can go back and resume their work in their parliament.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you think the world needed to be more patient and give more opportunity and time to Iran for solution of the nuclear problem?

SG: I believe that the negotiations should continue, and as I said, I am encouraged by the recent developments between Mr. Solana and Mr. Larijani. I hope this will lead to constructive talks that will help us resolve this problem once and for all.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, about that Mercedes ? Just kidding.

SG: I'll give you a ride. [laughter]

Q: Great. You certainly got a few more months to go; we shouldn't write you off just yet. So could you tell us exactly what you would like to accomplish in those last few months, specifically at the General Assembly, when all the heads of State are here? And what advice would you give your successor to transcend the paralysis of the UN when its Member States disagree?

SG: I think this morning some of the issues I highlighted for you will be very much on the agenda. I think Lebanon and the broader Middle East, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, I suspect Kosovo would also come up high on the agenda. And, of course, other issues we are dealing with, the fight against HIV and some others, will continue. But I think with the heads of States here, these will be some of the key issues that we will deal with, and I think for the next couple of months it should keep us busy.

I also believe that it is extremely important that the international community and the UN - which has a reputation in the Middle East, a reputation that indicates that UN resolutions are never implemented and that the UN has double standards in the Middle East - if the UN, if we could, I would want to see us move expeditiously to implement 1701. Quite honestly, when I look at what needs to be done, and having been in the region and discussed this with everybody, I think with a bit of goodwill, reasonableness and hard work, this can be done within three to six months. This would also send a message that resolutions dealing with peace in the Middle East can be implemented and help establish peace and stability between nations and borders and that we can build on from there and tackle Palestine and others. So I think we are going to be seeing quite a lot of action on some of these three or four crises I have given you.

As to my successors, I have often said, “My predecessors did it their way. I did it my way, and I hope he or she will do it his or her way.” I know I got into trouble in Turkey when I said, “When she takes over.” And they asked me, “Why are you talking about a 'she'?” I said, “Because a 'she' has never had it.”

But let me say that, on the question of how do you transcend the paralysis of the Member States, I don't think a Secretary-General can transcend the paralysis of the Member States. The Secretary-General always needs the Member States, and you need to work with them. There are times when they lead, but there are times when the Secretary-General has to lead, become the general and lead them.

But even in those instances, he cannot act alone. The UN is its Member States, and so he or she has to find a way of working very effectively with them. I think what happened in Lebanon was a clear demonstration of what can happen when the Secretary-General and the Member States work very effectively together.

When I left New York on this trip, we did not have the force. I was on the phone talking to heads of States. In Brussels that Friday, things gelled, and we had a force, a force of 7,000, and on to the region. But to give you an indication of how it works – and it has to work – when it came to the question of lifting the embargo, the German naval task force, which had to come, couldn't get there for two weeks. And the Israeli Government indicated, “If we don't have a naval task force protecting the coast, we are not going to lift the embargo.” So you had a two-week gap, but another blockade for two weeks would have been disastrous for Lebanon, its people and its reconstruction. So, I picked up the phone and called a few leaders. I spoke to President Chirac, Prime Minister Prodi, Prime Minister Karamanlis, we got hold of the Brits, and we had a temporary naval task force to go in.

If the Member States had said, “No, get lost”, there's nothing the Secretary-General could have done. But they cooperated, and we were able to put in a task force. Then it came to the question of do you have international experts at the airport before we do the lifting? And again, I had to call the German Government to help, and we got the experts to go in very quickly, and both land and sea were lifted.

But I'm giving this as an example as to how the two have to work together. The Secretary-General can do nothing if the Member States are not willing to help him, give him the means, support him and let him do it. So I hope my successor will develop these kind of relations with the leaders, with the countries, and to be able to work with them effectively: not just Washington, but around the world – global network.

Q: They should be more than a bureaucrat?

SG: Absolutely.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you wrote a letter to the President of the Security Council at the end of June, asking the Security Council to use the next four months wisely before the mandate of MINURSO in the Western Sahara is going to be renewed. You said that it couldn't – it shouldn't be at a stalemate and that it shouldn't constantly be renewed. I want to know: it hasn't been on the agenda for the past three months. Are you disappointed in that? And do you think anything will happen next month?

SG: I don't know what they are doing with it – you know, they are probably thinking about it; they're probably going to come with a creative solution. And so I can't say I'm disappointed until I know what they are going to do. But I think it is important. I did indicate it shouldn't be business as usual: we should try and be creative. And we've been down this road before. You remember when former Secretary of State Jim Baker was working on this issue. At one point he came with five options for the Council to choose one. We didn't get an answer. And that's why I hope, if they themselves can come up with some ideas as to how they would want to proceed, we may do better this time around. But the time is not up yet; we still have a month or so.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I wanted to go back to Iraq and the Iraq Compact. Can you tell us what concrete guidance or contributions are expected to come out of this? And some nations are a little bit sceptical; they say it's a fig leaf that you all are putting down over this.

And, since you brought it up, can I ask you to expand upon how Iran has offered to help the Americans leave?

SG: Let me take the second one first. I didn't get into details as to how they intend to help. But, I mean, they were quite clear that the US presence was a problem and they should be withdrawn. What was your first, the other question?

Voice: The Iraq Compact.

SG: The Compact, obviously, is an Iraqi initiative that we are supporting; the US is also very actively involved. And the idea here really is to generate international support for the economic development of Iraq. I think, wait 'til next week; the pessimists may be surprised. I don't know what will happen. But the attendance is good.

Q: (inaudible).

SG: No specifics. We are going to discuss it, and they will put forward some ideas; the Iranians – the Iraqis will put forward some ideas – not the Iranians! You guys are confusing me.

Voice: We're going to take one last question.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, I have a big-picture question. It's now almost a decade since you've been in this position. Do you think in general the world is moving closer or further away from being more tolerant, democratic, open? And you'll be attending the Non-Aligned meeting in Cuba this weekend. What message do you expect to deliver to those nations, some of whom, as we know, represent repressive, non-open and non-tolerant regimes?

SG: I think when we look at the world today, there are more Governments that are elected democratically – more people voting for their leaders – today than there were a decade or so ago. I think there's a greater awareness on what good governance means. Not only a greater awareness on what good governance means: people are aware of their human rights, and civil society has become very active in this. And I think it is a healthy development. And you also in many countries now are seeing very active press who are being heard and questioning. In some cases they are suppressed, and we should resist that. But despite that, you see a broad development of openness around the world.

I think, on the question of the leaders I'm going to meet: Obviously, I have always encouraged good governance; I have also always encouraged respect for human rights and the rule of law. And that message will not change. But we also have to be careful not to try and insist, or see the whole world in a sort of homogeneous sort of way: everyone has to be the same; they have to do things the way we want to see them, or else. I think we live in a world which is varied and is going to remain varied: different cultures, different religions, different systems. Even in democratic systems you have different versions of democracy, although the basic tenets must be the same. And in situations where we think human rights can be improved, governance can be improved, I think we need to work with these Governments and these societies to encourage them. I do not believe in the tendency to isolate countries or leaders; we need to engage them. We need to help them strengthen their institutions. We need to give them assistance. And in fact I hope the new Human Rights Council will be very active in offering technical assistance to Governments in strengthening their human rights mechanisms and institutions. It should be more supportive, provide assistance, steer, guide, rather than condemn. Yes, where necessary we should condemn, but that should not be the main purpose of the Council, as it turned out to be with the Human Rights Commission.

Thank you very much.

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