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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press conference at UN headquarters

New York, 16 July 2007

SG: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

I have just returned from a two-week trip to Afghanistan and European countries. We discussed a range of important matters, from migration in Brussels, and millennium development goals; also climate change in Geneva. My meetings in London were dominated by Browns as you may know?Gordon Brown; Malloch Brown. They are big men, and I think they are good partners to work with. I was very much assured by their strong commitment and support in London.

Before inviting your questions, I'd like to talk briefly about the issue that dominated so many of our discussions. That is the situation in Darfur – where we are now, and where we are going from now. We have made, I think, important progress. We must now push the pace. Hard.

Last month, as you know, the government of Sudan has accepted?unconditionally?the deployment of an AU-UN peacekeeping operation, a hybrid operation. The Security Council has before it a draft resolution authorizing this force. I sincerely hope that the Security Council will take the necessary action within this week – which will allow more than 20,000 military personnel and civilian police. The resolution calls on Member States to finalize their contributions within 90 days.

I think this is fast, by UN standards. But I want to move more rapidly. The political situation on the ground is too fragile, the humanitarian crisis too dire, to waste more precious time.

Working with our many partners, chief among them the African Union, we must start preparing the ground for our peacekeepers immediately. The Chinese Government will soon send a contingent of military engineers in Darfur, where they will begin the essential communications and logistical work that must precede the mission. In fact, a preliminary reconnaissance group leaves for Sudan tomorrow, July 17. I am informed that several hundred international troops, or more, will be ready to deploy by October. I will push for September.

The first units of the so-called “heavy support package” will begin to deploy this fall. I will push to accelerate our timetable to the maximum, to the extent that security and logistics allow.

We will push no less hard on the political front. I have just received this morning from my Special Envoy Mr. [Jan] Eliasson, who co-chaired a successful first round of talks yesterday and today in Tripoli, Libya. Our intention is to step up the pace of political negotiations involving all parties – rebel leaders, tribal leaders, government leaders. The goal is to get them around a table by early September.

I have been invited and intend to visit Sudan, including Darfur, at the earliest possible moment. However the timing will depend on when I think my visit could do most good in terms of cementing our advances. We must lock in our partners' commitments, on the ground and diplomatically.

Above all, we must remember that a peacekeeping force is only a first step. It must be accompanied by an enduring political agreement. And any political agreement must in turn be followed by development programmes that go to the root causes of the conflict. Otherwise there can be no lasting solutions. As we move forward, we will not forget the enormous financial needs of our on-going humanitarian operations.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a few other announcements before taking your questions.

As you know, UN inspectors from the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] traveled to North Korea this weekend to verify whether or not the government of North Korea has closed down its reactor at Yongbyon. I am told that the facility has, in fact, been shut down.

This is welcome. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, and as a former foreign minister of the Republic of Korea, I encourage the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and other parties to continue to implement their commitments to realize the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula as soon as possible.

I also welcome any questions you might have on my visit to Afghanistan, which for security reasons I could not disclose before arriving in Kabul. I met with President Karzai and others. We spoke about the appalling casualties among the civilian population, and the need to act forcefully to address the pandemic problem of corruption at so many levels of government and society.

On Pakistan, I am especially concerned about the situation in Pakistan and the loss of life and destruction of property there over the past week. I condemn the terrorist attacks over the weekend that have claimed the lives of a large number of security forces and innocent civilians. President [Pervez] Musharraf has taken a strong stand against extremism. While I am in favour of firm action against extremism, I am conscious that the Government faces a delicate balance in ensuring the safety of its citizens.

Lastly, I am delighted to announce that next week, on July 26-27, I will make an official visit to San Francisco, the birthplace of the United Nations. I look forward to broadening my conversation with the American people and their leaders about the critical role of the United Nations in our increasingly globalized world. The trip will be organized in cooperation with the United Nations Association of the USA.

San Francisco is a place close to my heart. I was a young foreign exchange student in the Bay Area, a long, long time ago in 1962. The kind lady who opened her home to me lives just across the Bay Bridge. I cannot wait to see her.

And, of course, California is famous for something else close to my heart as Secretary-General of the UN. It is at the very forefront of the global war against climate change.

I plan to meet with the Governator ... the honorable California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to discuss one of my main priorities at the UN. Together we will tour local businesses in the Bay Area that are using green technologies. I look forward to seeing first-hand how California leads the world on this issue of supreme importance.

Today I have mainly touched on the situation in Darfur. But that does not mean that I'm not paying attention to other geopolitical issues. I will continue to devote myself to matters concerning the Middle East, Kosovo, UN reform and the Millennium Development Goals.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

Merci de votre présence. Je serai heureux de répondre à vos questions. Comme vous le voyez, je continue à faire des efforts et des progrès en français. De plus en plus, je parle français avec des amis comme Alpha Konaré et avec ma Porte-parole. Mais pour les réponses, je préférerais aujourd'hui parler anglais.

[Interpretation from French] Thank you for coming. I will be pleased to answer your questions. As you know, I am continuing to make efforts and progress in French. More and more I am speaking French with my friends such as Alpha Konare and in particular with my Spokesperson, Ms. Montas, in French. During today's press conference I would prefer to speak English. Thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, welcome again on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association. I would like to ask you: On Iraq, the situation is worsening, with almost daily and deadly bombings which kill hundreds and hundreds of civilians. You are going to see President Bush tomorrow. I want to ask you: What is your position as Secretary-General of the United Nations with regard to the White House policy in Iraq? Do you favour what the United States Congress, now dominated by Democrats, is calling for: a quick pullout of United States troops? Do you prefer the United States troops to remain there or withdraw as quickly as possible in order to leave the Iraqis a free hand to run their own country? And what if the United States decides to pull out? What would be the consequences on United Nations programmes in Iraq?

SG: These are very sensitive questions: very difficult, but important, questions, I think. The Iraqi people are going through a very difficult [time] and suffering. That is exactly why the international community – the United Nations – the whole international community should help the Iraqi people and Government, so that they can overcome this difficulty as soon as possible.

For your specific questions: At this time it is not my place to inject myself into this discussion taking place between the American people and Administration and Congress. However, I would like to tell you that great caution should be taken for the sake of the Iraqi people. The international community cannot and should not abandon them. Any abrupt withdrawal or decision may lead to a further deterioration of the situation in Iraq. Of course, this is up to President Bush and the United States Administration, in close coordination with the American Congress, to decide what course of action, measures, they should take. But I would like, as the Secretary-General, as the United Nations has been deeply involved in the Iraqi situation, particularly in terms of political facilitation and humanitarian assistance – I would like to see very harmonious and coordinated measures to be taken.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you mentioned – as a follow-up to Tuyet, could you tell us what else is on your agenda, the top of your agenda, when you see President Bush? And my question was on climate change. Could you give us a preview of what you're hoping to achieve at the special session that you've called for on September 24: who's going to be coming, what's going to come out of it?

SG: First of all, tomorrow, during my meeting with President Bush, you may easily expect that a whole lot of issues will be discussed between me and President Bush, on geopolitical issues, climate changes, United Nations reform and also necessary funding by the United States on peacekeeping operations. Of course, I think, Iraq, as well as other Middle East issues, will be one of the top issues.

On climate change, I'm encouraged by the high level of expectations, as well as representation, on that special high-level meeting on September 24. I would like to use that opportunity to generate very strong political will to give, again, strong political [momentum] and guidelines to the forthcoming Bali meeting. I would like to discuss this matter with President Bush, and would expect President Bush and the American Administration will be represented at the highest possible level in this. American participation is crucially important.

I was encouraged by the initiative President Bush has taken vis-à-vis this, regarding global warming issues, and particularly during the Heiligendamm summit meeting of the G-8 last month.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister of Israel, has just conducted, this week, an interview with Al-Arabiya, in which he offered to speak to the Syrians and hold talks without preconditions, anywhere, any time and without even the mediation of the Americans. There were also signs from the Syrian side that they are willing to talk. Would the United Nations, if asked, help in facilitating such talks between the two parties, knowing the importance of such talks on the principle of land for peace – i.e., the Golan Heights – for lasting peace with Syria?

SG: It's encouraging to see that the Israeli Prime Minister and Palestinian President [Mahmoud] Abbas met again, and also it is encouraging that Israel has expressed the willingness to talk with the Syrian President, and all other regional players. As Secretary-General, as well as the United Nations, firmly supporting such initiatives, I would be happy to facilitate such peace initiatives.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, concerning your trip to Washington and the subject of Darfur: Give us some idea of the strength of your appeal to President Bush that the United States commit significantly to the hybrid force. What would you like to see him contribute in terms of technology, aerial resources, et cetera? Also, considering the fact that you're very much in a hurry for the – want the Security Council to act as quickly as possible on the hybrid resolution – would you ask the United States to sort of hold off or amend their text to take away the threat of “further measures”, in other words, sanctions, in the resolution, which some members of the Council – I don't know, it'll be China and South Africa – are saying this will hold up adoption of the resolution, because they don't think that would be productive, to have that threat in there?

SG: For that second portion of your question, on detailed matters, the members of the Security Council are in the process of consulting among the members. I would expect – and again, urge – the Security Council should take action authorizing this joint hybrid operation as soon as possible. The Security Council visited Sudan on June 17; it's going to be almost one month since their visit, and it's over one month since the Sudanese Government has agreed unconditionally to this joint proposal. So it is highly appropriate that the United Nations, at this time, take necessary actions giving the Secretary-General authority to take necessary measures.

With President Bush –I appreciate the American Government's, President Bush's, strong support for my initiative in addressing these Darfur situations. This will continue to be a top priority on my agenda. I'd like to get strong political support, as well as I'd like to discuss how to expedite the political process. In that course of action, United States contributions will be very much important. I have been closely coordinating with the special envoy of the United States Government on this matter.

Q: Just to follow up, then, if I may: You are – is that saying you're not really going to be pressing the Bush Administration to contribute militarily in a significant manner to the hybrid?

SG: As you know very well, this joint hybrid operation will be manned mainly by the African Union. That's the agreement between the African Union, the United Nations and the Sudanese Government. If there is some area where the African Union cannot provide sufficiently, then non-African Union troops will be manned. And in the area of special administrative and financial elements, non-African Union peacekeepers will be sent. Therefore, this is something which we will have to discuss later.

Q: After all your meetings with the leaders of the world, what is your opinion about the United Nations? Do you believe your Administration will accomplish progress on those problems that exist now, including Cyprus?

SG: We are faced with so many challenges around the world, including of course the situation in Cyprus. The United Nations – as the Secretary-General, I have been engaging with many leaders around the world. I've been speaking over the phone, and meeting them in person, at least three or four times, or sometimes five or six times, engaging myself. I have not announced all these, my contacts with world leaders in addressing all the various challenges. That's because some journalists have told me that I'm a faceless person. But even behind the scenes, you should know that I have been very active. I had good talks, again, with one of the parties to this Cyprus question, Mr. [Mehmet Ali] Talat, I think last Friday, and I am continuing to encourage the two leaders of the two communities to engage in dialogue. And this is what I will continue to do.

Q: Secretary-General, 10 days or two weeks ago, you warned that, on Kosovo, progress was unravelling if there were not prompt action. Since then, the sponsors of the resolution have offered a number of concessions. The opponents of that resolution; namely, more specifically, Russia, has said it is unacceptable in its present form, and Serbia says it will never agree to a resolution that would end up with independence for Kosovo. Some of the sponsors of the resolution are now suggesting they may go outside the United Nations to solve the problem. My question is: Is it still “unravelling”, in your words, and what would you say to those people who are opposing United Nations action now on this issue?

SG: As I have been repeatedly saying, I am deeply concerned about the lack of progress on this issue. Any further delay or prolongation in this issue is not desirable, not only for Balkan States, but also for all European countries. I would really hope that the members of the Security Council will be able to address this issue on the basis of my Special Envoy's recommendation. I myself have been engaged in dialogue with the leaders of most of the Security Council, including Russian President [Vladimir] Putin, and I met last week, in Brussels, with President [Fatmir] Sejdiu of Kosovo, when he was in Brussels.

I would really hope that the parties concerned would base their judgment on the practical reality; this is very important. And this recommendation by Mr. [Martti] Ahtisaari contains all the good elements for the future status of Kosovo. There have been some flexible initiatives taken by major countries. I hope that countries concerned will very seriously look at this issue. What I would like to urge at this time is that any premature unilateral action should be avoided by any parties on this issue, which will really complicate the already complex problems.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, early on in your term, you started a system-wide audit of many of the agencies within the Organization to rout out corruption or possible corruption and allegations and make sure that the Organization was streamlined and functioning well. I'd like to know how that process is going in your estimation. And also, perhaps you could mention how it's going in two particular cases: recently, you sent – or at least you ordered to have a team of auditors dispatched to the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo to look into some of the allegations coming out of that country. And also, with UNDP in North Korea, there were issues of the auditing team being blocked by the regime there from going and doing a site visit and exploration there. How do you ensure that you get the audits done in a proper fashion, make sure the job gets done and that you're on the right track in both these locations and elsewhere within the Organization, Sir?

SG: I took quick and early action as soon as the reports of irregularities about the United Nations work in the DPRK or elsewhere came to my attention. Now, regarding the UNDP's activities in North Korea, the report of the auditors was released, and the first phase of investigation has been completed. Now, I requested ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions] and the Board of Auditors to continue their investigation into this issue, because, while we have found that there were not much funds misused, but there were certainly irregularities found in their activities, in their operations. I have also requested the Board of Auditors to proceed to Pyongyang so that they can have first-hand investigations there. And I am also discussing this matter with the UNDP – Mr. Kemal Derviþ, the Administrator; and also the Associate Administrator, Mr. Ad Melkert; and other important Executive Board members – to find out what would be the best and most effective ways to look into this matter further, if and when the people are not fully satisfied with the result of the Board of Auditors investigation.

And on the Congo, since I have instructed – the DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] has sent the investigation team, I think we will have to wait until I receive their report.

Q: Just a follow-up on Congo, Sir: Congo you visited last November, and you gave a speech where you heralded the return of democracy. But since then we've seen pitched battles in the streets of Kinshasa; the main opposition leader in DRC is now in exile; and almost weekly we see headlines about allegations of mismanagement or misbehaviour by United Nations peacekeepers. How disappointed are you about what's happening in Congo? And don't you feel it's time for a management shakeup in this mission, which does so much of the United Nations' work in Africa?

SG: On the first part, the political and social situation in Congo, I am deeply concerned about the situation, particularly in North Kivu. I have spoken with President [Joseph] Kabila last week again, to refrain, to the maximum degree possible, from taking any military action; to resolve all the issues through peaceful means, through dialogue engaging all the opposition leaders.

On mismanagement, on what you say, I am also very much concerned, and as soon as I have received such reports we have taken very swift action by investigating those people concerned. Now, the problem is that the United Nations – and the Secretary-General – does not have any real administrative power to take action on those perpetrators, on those people who committed wrongdoing. It is up to the countries who sent those troops. We've been urging those countries to bring those people to justice, and I would again urge those people: first of all, train the troops properly; and whenever they find such wrongdoing by their own troops, they should take necessary administrative and judicial measures against those people. This is what I am going to continuously discuss.

And this internal justice system is antiquated within the United Nations, and I am going to discuss this matter with the General Assembly so that we can introduce updated internal justice systems.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, in your opening introduction statement, you have mentioned the hot spots of the world and at the same time the agenda of your meeting with President Bush in the White House. You have not mentioned Iraq, except in general terms you used “Middle East”. But yet, the chaos in Iraq is still continuing. One out of seven Iraqis were forced to leave involuntarily their homes, and more than 2 million are living in the neighbouring countries. And then, there's a very miserable life over there for these people. And also, the country has become a hub of international terrorism, which a cause of concern for all the countries around. And the Security Council has power to somehow stop it or to show the ways of handling this problem. And in the Charter, it's a threat to the world's peace and security. Why is the Security Council not handling this case? And is it because it's getting to be irrelevant throughout the next years or so, in the near future? And your predecessor named the war in Iraq as illegal. Do you share this definition of the Iraq situation?

SG: I think, as everybody will agree, the situation in Iraq is a problem of the whole world. That is why we have multinational forces working in Iraq under extremely dangerous situations. This is what we should appreciate. At the same time, the United Nations, since the beginning of this situation, has been involved in the area of humanitarian assistance, trying to help them in having political dialogue. We are going to continue to do that.

Since everybody is fully aware of what has transpired during the last four years in terms of the debate or – the debate on this issue in the Security Council and the United Nations as a whole, what we need to do is, we need to look for the future rather than looking back at what has happened. The future of the Iraqi people is very important, and it has very serious and important implications not only for the peace and security in the region, but the whole world. Therefore, at this time, while we know that it's a very difficult process, the international community, together with the United Nations, should do whatever we can to help the people. The United Nations, under my chairmanship, has taken an International Compact in May, and we also had the regional Foreign Ministers' meeting, which was an expanded one. I am going to chair, as a follow-up of the International Compact, [later this] week again in New York, to follow up this agreement of the International Compact.

Q: Do you share your predecessor's definition of the war in Iraq as illegal?

SG: I think I have answered many times on that particular question. Therefore, I think I have already answered your questions.

Q: The Office of the Special Adviser on Africa was a mandate of the General Assembly, and in the last few days, or over a week, it seems to have been relegated under another office. There is concern, you know, among Africans that this might cause some kind of turbulence between the Secretariat and the African Group, if not with the G-77. My question is: Why did you choose not to appoint a USG directly for that Office and rather preferred to lump it with another office in the United Nations Secretariat?

SG: I am fully aware of the importance of this post, Office of the Special Adviser on Africa -- which has been taken by Mr. [Legwaila Joseph] Legwaila. I am now in the process of reconfiguring all these positions, including this OSAA. If you look at all these organizations and appointments in Africa, we have a number of Special Representatives and Special Envoys who are working on African issues. African issues, the African challenge is the highest priority on my agenda, as I have said from day one. That is why I have appointed an African woman, a very distinguished woman, Dr. [Asha-Rose] Migiro, as Deputy Secretary-General.

As a part of the reconfiguration of this whole Organization, I am going to delegate this – assign this work on NEPAD [the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development], which has been done mainly by OSAA, to the Office of the High Representative of Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Countries and Small Island Developing [States], for whose post I have appointed Ambassador [Cheikh Sidi] Diarra of Mali recently. He'll be in charge of all this. And, at the same time, reflecting all these concerns raised by African countries, I am going to appoint him as a focal point at the United Nations Headquarters dealing with African issues. At the same time, I am going to concurrently appoint him as my Special Representative to UNCTAD. This least developed countries position has been established in connection with the activities of the UNCTAD; I have discussed this matter with Mr. Supachai [Panitchpakdi], Director General of UNCTAD.

Therefore, what I am doing as a part of reconfiguration is to strengthen the United Nations focus and attention on African issues. This is part of integrating and consolidating United Nations efficiencies, as well as resources, to better address African issues.

Q: Yeah, but the follow-up: The concern among Africans is that you have lumped up this Office, and they see it as a relegation of their Office.

SG: I think it may look so, but again, you have Mr. Gambari, who is a very distinguished African, who was appointed as a Special Adviser [for the International Compact with Iraq and other Political Issues]. And he [had] been also taking care of all these African issues and any other important political issues. If you look at what and how this Office has been managed during the last several years, I think we need – there may be a better way to use limited resources and limited posts for overall African issues.

Q: I have a question regarding Darfur and your top prioritizing it. You mentioned it's a top priority for your agenda. Looking at it from the perspective of the United Nations' credibility, do you think it is your top priority because you think that this is, like, one of the good examples that the United Nations can show the power of multilateral diplomacy and that it could be good chance to show to the world that, after the failure in Iraq, that the United Nations can function?

SG: I think that you should look at why the whole international community and the United Nations have been concentrating to address this Darfur situation. There have been 100,000 people dead from violent means, as well as humanitarian suffering. And this is what the United Nations has to do. It's not just to divert attention which some organizations, some countries, have made mistakes or failures in the Iraqi situation. We are addressing these Darfur issues exactly on the right purpose which has been posed to the international community. So I hope there should be no misunderstandings.

From day one of my office, when I declared that the Darfur situation will be my highest priority, that is exactly because I have seen that, unless we address this issue as soon as possible, there will be more suffering on the part of Darfurian and Sudanese people. And I think that they have suffered too much. It is high time now; we must see the end of this conflict.

Q: Mr. Secretary, thousands of people will be demonstrating a few blocks from here regarding kidnapped Israeli soldiers. That was a main reason for the war last summer. It's been a year; they haven't been freed. What is the latest that you can tell them regarding the fate of those soldiers? And will you be speaking out more to demonstrate the need for their release, although we understand there are other prisoner issues related, as always, to the Middle East?

SG: Because of the sensitivities involving the safe return of Israeli soldiers, I have not said much about this issue, what I have been doing. I think the less said publicly may be better for the resolution of this issue. In fact, I have been doing a lot through my facilitator to have the release of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah. And I have also spoken many times, on numerous occasions, to Palestinian leaders to free, release Corporal [Gilad] Shalit. These efforts will continue.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, back to Kosovo. The Ahtisaari plan provides, in fact, granting independence to Kosovo, and Serbian authorities are very much against granting independence to Kosovo. Authorities in Georgia, in the former Soviet Union, are very much against granting independence to Abkhazia or to South Ossetia. And Azerbaijan authorities are very much against granting independence to Nagorny-Karabakh. The same story with Moldova, Transdniestria. Don't you think that granting independence to Kosovo will set a very bad precedent and would encourage separatists all over the world?

SG: I'd like to make it clear that this issue of Kosovo is a sui generis issue. This will not create any other precedents to other potential such problems – questions. If you look at the history of the involvement of the United Nations and the international community, you will see immediately the difference of this Kosovo issue from other potential issues. Therefore, it is clear – and it has been clearly stated on many occasions – that this resolution, the question of Kosovo, will not create any precedents for other matters.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you may have touched already on my question when you said some journalists find you “faceless”. Last Thursday, two English papers criticized you strongly: criticized your management style, saying there are styles that are not inspiring – that was the word – and that you are too close to some United States official administration former officials. Do you think that this is an unfair and unbalanced criticism? Do you think that they do not understand your cultural background? How would you respond to this criticism?

SG: As a high public official, I believe - and I know - that I need to be scrutinized on all aspects of my leadership, of my life, of my behaviour. But when it comes to those particular journalists' criticism, I think, basically, I'd like to say that it's unfair. On some allegations, they are false; they are not true.

There are some points that there are too many Koreans running this Organization. I have made it quite clear, through all these tables of organizations and who are working on the 38th floor, the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, as any previous Secretary-General, I have brought with me just a few Korean officials. Of course, the Director of the scheduling office is a Korean, but he is not senior. There is only one senior Korean policy adviser; he is Mr. Kim Won-soo. I have one secretary, a female secretary.

This Organization: I don't believe that this Organization is an Organization which can be run or managed by just one or two persons, however capable one may be – including myself. I'm open to any constructive criticisms and suggestions and ideas raised by journalists, Member States or the Secretariat. However, I would hope that there should be deeper appreciation and understanding on myself as well as other Member States. Sometimes, if you say something, it may be an insult, a huge insult, to many thousands of Secretariat staff: very dedicated Secretariat staff who are working here, and even Member States. If you believe that this Organization is run by just one or two Koreans, this is just unfair. I'd like to really appeal to you that you would have sympathetic and kinder understanding.

There have been many criticisms concerning my way or style, how I operate in my work. I am close to [everybody]. I think I have made good friends among yourselves, too. I may be close to Americans, but I may be close to the United Kingdom, or France or some African countries. I regard myself as a middle of the road man, as taught by Confucius. Because of that, I have been really trying to maintain harmonious, very good and friendly relationships with everybody, not only in Korea, but in dealing with international affairs. I have made many friends at the leaders' level, the foreign ministers' level and other levels, and I have made many journalists as friends, and therefore – I would welcome any criticism, but if you really want to know more about me, I would hope that you research or study more about my personal background and character. Then, I think, you are welcome to criticize me. Just listening to casual remarks by a certain person just walking along the corridor - that's unfair.

Q: On Sudan, Mr. Secretary-General, the Council resolution follows the outline of your report. When you say you want to speed it up, do you not want all those things in there on humanitarian and so forth? And on the same subject, do you have a date for naming a new head of UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan], as well as peacekeeping too?

SG: For the post of UNMIS, it is true that it has been vacant several months after Mr. [Jan] Pronk left. I will soon appoint a very distinguished person to be in charge of that, UNMIS. It will be announced soon.

Q: That resolution, – can you spell out what you want to say in that Security Council resolution on Sudan? Do you want them to skip large parts of it that were in your report?

SG: Well, this is up to the members of the Security Council. But I only hope that they will take action as soon as possible.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. On the topic of Iran: Iran right now remains in technical breach of the Security Council resolution asking it to cease its uranium enrichment activities. And I was wondering what your thoughts are on what direction the Security Council should move in next. Should they move the sanctions up more incrementally? Is there more of a dramatic action needed on the Council with regard to Iran?

SG: As for me, as Secretary-General, I would hope that the Iranians will continue to engage in negotiation with the European Union and the P-5 [five permanent members of the Security Council]. As for any future course or measures that the Security Council should take, are contemplating, this should be left to the Security Council. But I am encouraged by the recent Iranian Government decision to have a meeting [in Iran] and allow the inspectors of IAEA to talk about the political framework of this issue.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. Your initiative to visit Afghanistan was indeed a welcome one, even though it came as a surprise. But equally surprising was your decision not to visit Pakistan and Iran on the same trip, because you know that without their cooperation, there can be no lasting solution of the Afghan problem.

Secondly, Sir, you met a NATO commander in Afghanistan. Did you discuss steps to limit civilian casualties in the NATO offensive operations?

SG: One of the important areas which I addressed was the appalling and increasing number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. I discussed this matter with the NATO commander general, as well as the Secretary-General of NATO, both in Kabul and in Rome, when I met them. They assured me that they will take necessary precautionary measures to avoid any further civilian casualties. I know that it is extremely difficult, because insurgents and the Taliban are trying to hide behind the general population, so it may be very difficult in the course of military operations to differentiate who are good citizens – innocent citizens – and who are insurgents. But I emphasized strongly, publicly and privately, that they should take necessary measures to do that.

My visit to Iran or Pakistan or any other countries: I have been invited by many countries, many Member States, and I intend to visit, but I have to coordinate my time here, as well as my own commitments elsewhere. So therefore, I am sure that, in due course, not too far, I will be able to visit those countries, too.

Ms. Montas: I have only two more questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, at the top of the press conference, you mentioned North Korea has shut down the nuclear reactor, that has been reported by the IAEA. Would you now recommend to the Security Council and to the Member States to lift all sanctions against North Korea, which are basically – the impoverished country is being destroyed?

Number two, as a follow-up on my colleague's question on the appointments. It is being said, besides the fact that what he was talking about – the African – that most of the place is now being run by the big countries – that most of the appointments that you have made are of top officials of the big nations. The small countries are bothered about that.

SG: On the North Korean issue, this is the initial measure which North Korea has taken, in accordance with the Joint Statement adopted among six parties. There are other road maps. This is a shutting down. After that, they should take necessary measures to disable all these nuclear facilities; and eventually they have to dismantle and destroy all nuclear weapons and related programmes in return for economic assistance, as well as security assurance and political horizons – diplomatic horizons. This is just one step; but I think it is a very important and encouraging step. In the course of implementing this, I am sure that the Security Council members will discuss what to do with all these sanction measures.

On the appointments, again, I have been receiving so many requests, wishes and expectations from all 192 Member States. The positions are limited, and it's very difficult to balance all the expectations and wishes, as well as the reality of this issue. I've been really trying my best efforts to first of all appoint, based on quality and the capabilities of the person concerned, and secondly, gender balance, as well as geographical consideration. But I know that I have not been able to satisfy everybody, particularly when it comes to Africa. I think I have paid much attention to appointing as many Africans as possible, starting with the Deputy Secretary-General. This is the first time. Now, again, the LDC [least developed countries] position is taken by Africa, and you will see many Under-Secretary-General-level Special Representatives and Special Envoys who are working in Africa and elsewhere, who are Africans. Therefore, you should look at the comprehensive number of appointments.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, how about if I ask you a question in French and you answer in English?

(interpretation from French)

On Kosovo, do you think there is a true danger that the United States would unilaterally recognize the independence of Kosovo? And, is this a question that you will bring up with President Bush tomorrow?

SG: There is always a danger for unilateral action, either on the part of Kosovo or any other members. First of all, I would hope that Kosovo will not take any unilateral action. This is what exactly I've been stressing publicly and privately to the leadership of Kosovo. And, secondly, for any other countries, again recognizing this issue, this is something which – you will have to see. This is a kind of hypothetical issue. I would not dwell on that question, the second part.

Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.