23 September 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


No country, however powerful, could effectively solve the current global financial crisis, stressed France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy today at a Headquarters press conference, following his address this morning to the opening of the General Assembly’s general debate, during which he proposed a meeting of world leaders and regulating authorities for November on the world economy.

Asked by reporters to elaborate on his proposal to unite developed country leaders before year’s end to discuss what he deemed the most serious global financial crisis since the 1930s, he said it would be logical to have the meeting with the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized countries because they represented the major economies of the world.  The participation of countries with emerging economies, such as China, would need to be examined.

He added that he did not want to assume that such a meeting should be a G‑8 meeting, but it was clear to everyone that, in the current financial crisis, the responsibility of the major developed countries was greater than that of the emerging countries.

In talks yesterday with other leaders to better understand what had happened with the major financial institutions, he said he had been told that it was unclear exactly who was responsible.  The United States was correct to defend its banking system; however, the leaders of the financial institutions had previously justified their remuneration saying that they were responsible and accountable, so it was difficult to comprehend how they could not be accountable.  “How can you claim that we’re only responsible for success and not responsible for failure?”

Asked about determining responsibility for the crisis, he said that market economies were working on the basis of two concepts -- freedom and responsibility. Freedom without accountability would lead the world to where it was today.  While he supported the decisions of the United States Government, there must be some degree of coordination between Europe and the United States.   Europe could not overlook what was occurring.  “This is not a question of personal retribution; it’s a question of responsibility.  This has been working like this for many years.  It is now time to respond,” he said.

On human rights, he was asked whether the European Union and the United States had lost their influence, while China and Russia had gained ground.  He said that the European Union, over which he currently presided, had always supported human rights at the United Nations.  The problem was that States were working on the issue in the twenty-first century with principles from the twentieth century.

Today’s major Powers had a right to claim their status, but they also had certain responsibilities and duties, he said, adding:  “The world is no longer a unipolar world with one super-Power, nor is it a bipolar world with the East and the West.  It’s a multipolar world now.”  The United Nations should be organized around that new reality.

He said he was among those who were shocked that there was no permanent member in the Security Council representing Africa, as the population of that continent would be greater than that of China or India by 2030.  There was also no permanent member from South America or India.  It was also rather surprising that the Council talked about major global issues while ignoring the Arab countries. Europe, for its part, could be a major influence in finding responses to issues if it led by example, such as by having proper policies on energy and climate issues.

Asked why, as President of the European Union, he had not met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to address the issue of nuclear weapons, he said it was difficult for him to take the hand of a man who had said that “we have to wipe out Israel”, a statement he called “unacceptable”.   Iran was entitled to peace, but having nuclear weapons for military use presented a huge risk to peace throughout the world.  Fortunately, the sources of power in Iran were numerous and diverse, and there were people “you could talk to”.

However, he added, as long as the current leadership “chooses not to understand”, then France was in favour of strengthening sanctions.   Russia, China and other emerging Powers, “should also be associated with the matter”, because the worst case scenario could be averted if everyone was on board.  He had contacted Syria’s President because he was convinced that Syria could help to get Iran to move ahead.

Responding to a related question, he said that time was against Iran.  He feared that the international community was giving the impression that it was no longer interested in what he thought was the most serious potential crisis and that the world would wake up one day with a further crisis on its hands.   Iran was playing with the world regarding the question of good nuclear power, and part of the Iranian leadership was relying on the inactivity of the international community.

Turning to the Sudan, he said that France wanted the Sudanese authorities to radically change their policies. France wanted to deploy international forces in Darfur to put an end to the scandalous situation in which tens of thousands of people were dying.  His country was ready to speak to anybody, but first, certain principles should be respected.  People in Darfur had the right to live, and the current situation was unacceptable.

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For information media • not an official record