New York

20 November 2003

Secretary-General's press encounter following Security Council meeting on Great Lakes region of Africa (unofficial transcript)

SG: Good morning. Ladies and gentlemen, let me say that we all woke up to another shocking news, and I condemn totally the latest terrorist attacks in Istanbul, and offer my deepest condolences and sympathy to the Governments and peoples of Turkey and the United Kingdom. And also, of course, I grieve with the loved ones of those who lost friends, relatives, and also those who have been injured. But of course those who carried out these attacks have no respect for human life and we should condemn utterly their actions.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do these attacks, even though they are not located in Iraq or Afghanistan, do they sort of play a role in your thinking of returning the UN operations to full force in both of those countries?

SG: Obviously, we live in a very dangerous world. As I have indicated to you earlier, we are monitoring the security situation on a daily basis, and we will determine what we do with our staff, depending on the evolution of the situation. In the meantime, we are carrying out our work doing as much as we can, with our staff within Iraq, and as much from outside as possible.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, there has been a suggestion that perhaps there should be an Afghan style conference for the Iraqi parties to help form an interim national assembly, and I wonder if you could comment on that. And while I have you, whether you could comment on one other thing: the Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee raise the serious issue that there are a lot of countries that are not complying and that this whole international process has a lot of leaks and isn't being very effective. Is there anything more that you think should be done to beef it up?

SG: I think on the constitutional and political process, how we move forward is something that the Iraqis must have a big say in, and I am not sure they have opted for a conference. But if they were to opt for a conference, obviously one would have to respect that and give them whatever support one can. But my sense is that the current discussion is not for a conference of that sort, but some sort of assembly hall meetings in the eighteen regions to elect people who will then form a group that would determine who will be in the next government, and then prepare elections that would lead to the definition of the constitutional arrangements.

As to your second question, obviously there are some countries which have not responded to the Council's request. There are countries that do not have the capacity and need assistance, and I think one of the initial actions of the Council was to offer assistance to countries that do not have the capacity to do what the Council resolutions requested of them. And I hope that process is going on, but it is important that we all pool our efforts and there is a genuine international cooperation to fight terrorism. That is the only way we will succeed. And so I would urge all the countries that have not done so to do so and those who need assistance to be able to honour their commitments to meet the demand for assistance.

Q: How would you rate the threat from Al Qaeda right now, for this institution, for the United Nations, an organization that was set up really to deal with disputes between countries. And now Turkey is under attack, it might be someone else tomorrow. Do the nations in this house truly understand the threat, or do they think they are exempt from it?

SG: I think everyone understands that we live in a rather dangerous world and a difficult world. We have seen bombs and attacks go on all around us and we have also seen the UN itself and the blue flag targeted directly. We have seen attacks against neutral Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations, and so we are living in a very difficult and a dangerous world and everyone is conscious of that, and not only are they conscious of that, I think measures are being taken to ensure that we have better protection and better security for our staff. Obviously this new environment is going to complicate our work and it is also going to demand additional resources for us to set up better security arrangements for our staff. But I can assure you, in my contacts with the ambassadors around this building, they are very conscious of the dangers we live in.

Q: In your comments on Monday you said that if security wasn't adequate in Iraq, you were thinking of cross-border visits. What does that mean? Or working out of the country, how will you do that?

SG: I think we could conceivably have an office in the region with staff paying regular visits and having consultations in Iraq and going back to their base in the region, so there would be constant back and forth and direct consultations with some people in Iraq - this is what we have in mind. Thank you very much.