New York

20 November 2003

Press encounter by the Secretary-General following the Security Council luncheon (unofficial transcript)

SG: We had a very good discussion over lunch. We discussed many African issues, from the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] to Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Burundi, and also the possibility that we may have to embark on new peacekeeping operations in Cote d'Ivoire as well as Burundi. And on Monday, there is a ministerial delegation from ECOWAS coming here to appeal to the [Security] Council to establish a peacekeeping operation in Cote d'Ivoire.

I know you are interested in Iraq. We were very brief on Iraq. We didn't have much to say on Iraq. [Laughter] No, we discussed Iraq and also the new political arrangements, which have been proposed by the Governing Council in a letter I received from Mr. [Jalal] Talabani, asking for UN support and also the expectation of the letter that he's going to send to the Council, which he indicated to me on Sunday. But the Council has not received it yet and they are waiting for it. And of course, the Governing Council was supposed to submit a report to the Council by the 15th of December. And the Council is waiting for that report and wondering whether it will come in sooner or later. And of course, I've also indicated to the Council now that I'll be submitting a report on UN activities in Iraq and how we are going to proceed between now and the beginning of December. And that will indicate how we plan our operations and how we intend to proceed, and how and where we're going to help them.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you foresee a sort of a significant UN role in the political transition, sort of in the very near future, working with the Iraqi leadership as they go through this political process?

SG: I think it's an area where we've had quite a lot of experience and I know that the Governing Council is also going to write to the Council. And we are waiting to see what is in that document. But it is an area where we've had experience, where we can offer advice and perhaps help steer things right. But of course, it depends on the circumstances. And I indicated in my earlier discussions with you that we, in our planning, we are looking at what we can do from outside Iraq, what we can do cross- border, and what we can do once the circumstances permit us to deploy fully back in Iraq. So we are not sitting back and waiting until the circumstances change because there are things that we could do even from outside: offering advice, steering things right, and going in and out.

Q: Do you feel that they're asking you to do tasks that you're not comfortable yet doing with the security situation as it is?

SG: I think the Council resolution left that judgement to me -- as to when the circumstances permit. I don't think we are there yet. I think we need to follow the security situation.

Q: This morning, [German Foreign] Minister [Joschka] Fischer and yesterday, [Russian Foreign Minister Igor] Ivanov was saying, “bigger UN role”, “much bigger UN role,” right in the resolution. How does that get justified with security?

SG: No. I think many people would want to see a UN role. We, ourselves, would want to help the Iraqi people, but one also has to be prudent. And I think that helped me -- not necessarily be something that you always have to do in Iraq. Some of it may be done outside.

Q: What specific kinds of things can you do outside Iraq that can be done going back and forth?

SG: This is something that we need to discuss with the Iraqis. I'm not using Afghanistan as a sort of total …. I'm not looking for a repeat of Afghanistan, that we had a meeting in Bonn and you can have a meeting with the Iraqis somewhere else, not necessarily in the centre of Baghdad. But there are creative things that maybe one can look at.

Q: One of the things that the Governing Council would like the UN to do is help with the local assembly elections or selections, and that has to happen very soon.

SG: Well, that is a plan. That is a plan, and I think we are looking at, we are studying the new plan very carefully, and we will reflect our reaction and how and where we can help in the report I am going to give to the Council. So if you can be just a little patient. You will have it all laid out for you.

Q: Do you think that a new resolution would be useful to endorse this new timetable?

SG: That is something that the members of the Council are going to discuss, but they are waiting for the report from the Governing Council. You will notice that in the document itself, the UN wasn't mentioned –in the document before us. But outside that document, everybody is talking about the UN role. The Ministers are talking about it. [Mr. Jalal] Talabani, in his discussions with me talked about it. They may mention it in their request or the letter that they are going to write to the Council. And it will clarify issues a bit more. And I think the President of the Council is waiting for the document.

Q: If the US had reached this agreement with the Iraqi Governing Council on the sequencing during the negotiations on [Resolution] 1511, do you think that that would have dramatically changed the degree of international support that the Americans could have relied on? They would have made a major concession in those negotiations. It was at a time when some governments were considering giving offers. Is it too late now for that? Would it have made a difference?

SG: I think it would have been helpful, but I think it may not have resolved all the differences. But it definitely would have been helpful.

Q: How close are you to appointing a new Special Representative?

SG: In the not too distant future. [Laughter]

Q: Does that mean before the end of the year?

SG: Well, it depends on how one defines “in the not too distant future”. [Laughter]

Q: How would you define it? Before the end of the year?

SG: I have two appointments to make. I'll be naming somebody to handle the operations on the ground fairly shortly. And then I will appoint a Special Representative.

Q: Before the end of the year?

SG: Both in the not too distant future.

Q: What does “operations on the ground” mean?

SG: In the region. We have operations in the region. And we have people on the ground. We haven't left completely. And we also have lots of activities in –no, we are in the north, but not in Baghdad, but we have activities in the region, both in Larnaca [Cyprus] and in Amman [Jordan]. And I think for the immediate future, we'll probably establish a regional office to focus on the Iraq activities.

Q: In Amman or in Larnaca?

SG: Either one –one or the other. We are reviewing that now.

Okay? Thank you very much.