2 March 2007


2 March 2007
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Briefing correspondents today at a Headquarters press conference on the Security Council’s schedule for March, the Council President, Dumisani S. Kumalo of South Africa, drew attention to the anticipated introduction next week of a further draft resolution on Iran and the launch of a thematic debate later in the month to explore the relationship between the Council and regional organizations, particularly the deepening partnership with the African Union. 

It was South Africa’s first time as a Security Council member, and Mr. Kumalo said he had told the other 14 members that there was rich irony in the fact that his country, once the subject of the Council, was now presiding over it.

A new draft resolution was expected on Iran’s nuclear programme by Wednesday next week, he added.  The political directors would speak again tomorrow, Saturday, following which a text was expected.  The resolution would be handled differently by the permanent members this time than in the lead up to the adoption of resolution 1737 (2006), in that they would bring it before the elected members sooner, “so they won’t just be asked to comment on something that had already been completed; so the Security Council will get a chance to input and discuss it”. 

On Tuesday, 6 March, Jan Eliasson, the former President of the General Assembly, would brief on his recent visit to the Sudan, particularly his focus on the political process.  He had visited Darfur, which was of concern to the Council.  Then, on 7 March, the Council would consult on the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).

South Africa had proposed a presidential statement on the role of peace and security in honour of International Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace, he said.  The Council had adopted several presidential statements on women as victims -– victims of war and violence -– but he had wanted to look at the totality of women –- as legislators, as businesswomen, and, of course, as victims of tragedy.  His presidential statement was on implementation of resolution 1325 (2000).  Hopefully, the text would be adopted on 7 March so that he could present it to the women on 8 March in celebration of the International Day. 

A slightly touchy issue concerned the report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), as there was much debate over whether the Council should consider and pronounce on it before or after the report of Martti Ahtisaari, he said.  He had been asked to consult further with delegations and to schedule the matter appropriately.  Serge Brammertz, head of the Commission investigating the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, would brief the Council on 21 March.  The “1701” report was due out on 16 March. 

Elaborating further on the thematic debate on regional organizations, scheduled for 28 March, he said that the African Union had been called upon to assume a lot of the work that “really belonged to the United Nations”, such as in Somalia and Darfur.  So, there was a need to talk about that relationship.  Other Member States would participate in that discussion, including at the ministerial level because of the importance of that relationship at the United Nations.

He said the Council was also consulting on the possibility of making several trips, adding that members had put their “favourites into a hat” yesterday, and coordinators were sorting out the options.  Also, consultations had begun this morning by welcoming the new Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe of the United States. 

As for where things stood with respect to the letter from Sudanese President Bashir outlining the position of his Government with respect to the United Nations involvement in Darfur, Mr. Kumalo said he had been told that the letter had been signed by President Bashir and was “on its way”.  The letter goes first to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, so Council members would await word from the Secretary-General as to whether he had received it yet.

Replying to a question about whether he thought the African Union had felt “abused” by the United Nations, he said he thought it was “delighted” to be the first to show up to quell conflicts.  It was as if a house was on fire and a neighbour called “911”, only everyone would feel much better if that neighbour came with a bucket of water.  “So, we are the neighbours; we arrive first,” he said of the Union, but the fire engine was still needed.

The African Union wanted to be sure that the Security Council had not absolved its Charter mandate to maintain international peace and security everywhere, including in Africa, he added.  In cases where the Council endorsed an African Union mandate, it was important to understand what was expected of the Council and of the Union.  He was still working on the concept paper, and he would share that with correspondents once it was ready.

It did not look like discussions would begin in the Council on Kosovo until April, although word would likely come from Mr. Ahtisaari by the end of March, he replied to another question.  That was why an item on Kosovo was in the footnotes.

Pressed about what he had meant about the Iran resolution proceeding “differently”, he said it had been felt that the Permanent 5 had held on to the process much longer than they should have and the 10 elected members had “complained bitterly about that”.  In light of that, they were trying to do it differently.  That did not mean, however, that the P-5 would not discuss a text first, because they were being instructed by the Director-Generals on the phone and would talk to them tomorrow.  So the P-5 would meet and then put the matter to the rest of the Council membership.  The P-5 had volunteered to change the way they handled it.

In terms of whether he had participated in any specific mediation on the question of nuclear weapons, given South Africa’s history on that question, he said his country had rolled back a nuclear weapons programme because it had believed that was the right thing to do.  People tended to think that South Africa had just decided to do away with nuclear weapons in 1994, but that desire had a long history in his country. 

As for the Iran question, South Africa had a vested interest in it.  All 192 members did, because it concerned the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, which was a threat to all, and it concerned the peaceful uses of nuclear technology, which was important to some.  The whole issue was of interest to the entire United Nations membership.  So, that resolution did not only belong to some, but to everyone.

The issue of the Central Africa Republic, Chad and the Sudan had been discussed in the Council, and, yes, some members had raised concerns about the Chadians wanting only civilians in United Nations peacekeeping operations, he replied to another question.  However, the Council had been told by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations that even deploying civilians required protection, which meant a military force.  “So, consultations were ongoing on that matter, which was why it was still in the footnotes,” he explained. 

As for whether he felt trapped into dealing with Iran and other non-African issues, he said that anybody who followed South Africa well knew its President was working very hard on African issues and had recently decided to elevate African issues for South Africans and for the continent as a whole.  “We want to see an Africa that is peaceful, because there will be no development in Africa unless there is peace,” he said.  That did not mean that South Africa did not care about what was happening in Iran, or Europe and elsewhere.  He had been elected Council President to address international peace and security, wherever that might be, so he would have views on other issues outside of Africa.  But, Africa was his home.

The issue of small arms was on the calendar as a footnote after a two-month absence, because, for the developing world, those weapons affected those populations, not just in Africa, but in Asia and Latin America and elsewhere.  This month, he wanted to produce a presidential statement asking the Secretary-General to update a report on small arms that had been produced under Argentina.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.