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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's encounter with the UN press corps

New York, 2 January 2007

SG: Happy New Year to you all.

I am very much delighted to see you out in full force, and I thank you very much for welcoming me most warmly.

I think I have met most of you during the last several months, either during the campaign process or the transition period. But only today, taking office as Secretary-General, I can see the full power of the UN press corps. I am very much overwhelmed by all this warm welcome and much attention you have shown to me. In fact, I am meeting all of you even before I meet my own staff.

I was just in the Meditation Room to pay my tribute to those colleagues fallen in the line of service to the United Nations.

Your presence this morning is very good proof that the United Nations is much alive, in the front lines, addressing all the challenges and issues, and trying to give hope to all the people around the world. It is a force to be reckoned with among governments and people everywhere.

I start my day as Secretary-General of the United Nations with much expectation and hope and promise. I need your strong support. I start my duties at a daunting time in international affairs, starting from Darfur to Middle East, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, North Korea - many other crises that trouble our world - from defending human rights and to the need to step up our efforts to reach the target by 2015 the Millennium Development Goals.

These challenges and issues need to be addressed collectively, with collective wisdom and collective efforts. Not a single person, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations; not a single country, however strong, powerful, resourceful, maybe, cannot address this. We need to have some common effort, therefore I need your support. In that regard, I think I am privileged to be able to draw upon the experience and expertise of many distinguished colleagues of the United Nations family; many distinguished predecessors, Secretaries-General, and throughout the wider community I have come to know while serving as Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea.

My first priority today will be to meet my own staff. I am going to have my first staff meeting today. During the transition period, I have been very much impressed by the high level of professionalism, exemplary professionalism and dedication of my Secretariat staff. At the same time, I am determined to help my staff to serve even more and better for the international organization, by persevering in our efforts to change the United Nations, this Organization, and by building a staff equipped to address all the challenges in the 21st century, and also by trying to bridge the gap and divide and mistrust which have been plaguing too much the United Nations.

I am very much eager to get down to my work today, and I regard you as a very important, essential asset and persons who will connect the important works of our United Nations to all the people around the world, and I need your strong support and I promise you that I will try to have, as often as possible, contacts and discussions and dialogue with press corps members, and I wish you again all the best and Happy New Year, and I count on your continued support and friendship. Thank you very much, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Q: Should Saddam Hussein have been executed, Mr. Secretary-General?

SG: Saddam Hussein was responsible for committing heinous crimes and unspeakable atrocities against the Iraqi people. We should never forget the victims of his crimes. The issue of capital punishment is for each and every Member State to decide. As a Secretary-General, at the same time, while I am firmly against impunity, I also hope that the members of the international community should pay due regard to all aspects of international humanitarian laws. During my entire tenure, I will try my best to help Member States, the international community, to strengthen the rule of law.

Q: Will his death help in bringing stability to Iraq in your opinion, with the death of Saddam Hussein in this way, or might it break a civil war there?

SG: The Iraqi people and Government have taken steps to address their past, and I hope that the international community should also understand the stakes and try to build the rule of law nationally and internationally.

Q: With regard to your information policy, under your tenure will you encourage staff to talk to members of the press. Do you authorize staff to talk to members of the press? If we call them up do they have your blessing to tell us what's going on?

SG: Basically, I think it is very important for United Nations Member States, as well as staff, including myself and Under-Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General, to have close contact, continuous dialogue with Member States so that we will be able to connect important work that we are doing to the outside world. In fact, unfortunately, the United Nations has been, 'though we have been playing a very instrumental role for peace and prosperity and development, we have been underappreciated, sometimes unfairly criticized, so it is necessary for staff, senior staff particularly, to have continuous dialogue with the press.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, there is no progress in the six-party talks. What are you going to try to resolve the North Korean nuclear problems?

SG: The North Korean nuclear issue is one of the priorities on my agenda. As I come from the Republic of Korea, having served as Foreign Minister, having [been] deeply involved personally since the beginning of this nuclear issue, you may understand, and it may be very natural that you can expect that I will have much more attention and priority on this issue. As Secretary-General, I will first try to facilitate the smooth progress of the six-party talks, and I will discuss this matter very closely with the members of the six parties, as well as with Security Council members, so that I can be able to do my own role.

Q: What are the first steps that you are going to take to try and deal with the crisis in Darfur? There seems to be a big gap between what the Sudanese Government is prepared to do, and what the United Nations would like to see.

SG: The crisis situation in Darfur is very high on my agenda. I will turn immediately my attention to this issue. I am going to meet with Special Envoy of the Secretary-General [for Darfur], Jan Eliasson, tomorrow morning. I have already spoken over the telephone yesterday, on New Years Day, to discuss this issue, and I will pay my highest attention on this. I intend to attend the African Union summit meeting in the latter part of this month. There I hope I will be able to consult with the President of Sudan and other leaders of Africa, including the [African Union] Commission President, Mr. [Alpha Oumar] Konare. By engaging myself in the diplomatic process, I hope that we will be able to resolve peacefully, as soon as possible, this very serious issue.

Thank you very much, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am sure we will have other opportunities. I have to meet with the staff and?

Q: [inaudible on death penalty, moratorium]

SG: I said that capital punishment, the death penalty, is the issue for each and every Member State to decide. At the same time, I would hope that the international member states would pay due regard to all aspects of international humanitarian laws.

Thank you very much, Ladies and Gentlemen.