New York

02 October 2003

Secretary-General's press encounter following Security Council luncheon

Q: Was there any change in direction over lunch this morning, Mr. Secretary-General? You said it wasn't going in the direction you hoped it was going?

SG: No, there's no change in direction, but we did exchange some views on the text. I think that we are at preliminary stages yet.

Q: What direction would you like to see it going in? Would you like to still see a transfer of sovereignty in a few months and then a longer time to draft a constitution?

SG: Obviously, that is not what is in the draft. This had been my suggestion in the sense that it may change the dynamics on the ground, in terms of the security situation, and send a message to the Iraqi people and also to the region. That doesn't mean that the international community walks away. I mean -- you stay on and work with them through the transition, with reconstruction, and with security arrangements, the kind of thing we are doing it in Afghanistan, but at least the Iraqis will be responsible and they will be the government, going through the transition with the support of the international community, and you get rid of the idea that it is an occupation and cut back on the resistance.

Q: What would it take for you to pull out the forces?

SG: Which forces?

Q: The UN forces, the 30 people that are left in Iraq.

SG: Well, they are doing essential work on the humanitarian and other activities, staying in touch with key partners on the ground. We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis. I have a team going to Baghdad over the weekend led by former President Ahtisaari to look into the previous incidents and perhaps they will come back with some advice for me. But we monitor it on a daily basis and as long as the security situation permits a small group to carry on this work, we will do it. If it deteriorates further, we will not hesitate to pull everyone out.

Q: Do you sense any sign of movement from the United States at all, from your conversations with Ambassador Negroponte?

SG: Well, as I said, this is early stages of discussions and negotiations, and I think that as long as we are talking we are making progress.

Q: How difficult is it to have these discussions when you have so few people there –discussions about a stronger, more central role, for the United Nations?

SG: That is one of the issues that the Council and us are going to discuss. We started the discussion this afternoon. Obviously we would want to help. We would want to have an effective mandate, but we also have to be realistic as to the capacity on the ground

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, one final question: you've been quoted as saying that you would like to see the Governing Council transformed into a provisional authority to take over sovereignty within three to four months. Is that the case and would you like it also to be expanded?

SG: I have indicated that it had to be expanded, that is why I said that it should be adapted and adjusted, and bring in people who are outside the process to play a role, but of course the decision is with the Council, not with me. My views are quite well known.