New York

19 February 2004

Secretary-General's press encounter following luncheon with Security Council members

Q: Can you say a couple of words?

SG: We have had a very good discussion with the Council, as you can imagine. We followed up our discussions [of] this morning on Iraq. Then we talked also about [the] Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau, Cote d'Ivoire, and Haiti. Of course, we are all very concerned about developments in Haiti and are reviewing what the UN can do to support the efforts that are being made to try and settle and pacify the situation on the ground. We in the Secretariat have been very busy thinking through what further measures we can take.

But I think you are also interested to know what further discussions we had on Iraq. Basically we focused on the next steps, and how one goes about working with the Iraqi people to design a mechanism that would be used for the establishment of an interim administration or caretaker government, and the UN's role in this phase of the transition and post 1 July.

Q: Of all those options, do you have a preferred one?

SG: We have absolutely no preferred options. We need to have the Iraqis discuss it. They must take ownership, discuss it amongst themselves and we will try and work with them to find a consensus.

Q: But the Iraqis so far have not been able to agree, so do you anticipate Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi going back in again?

SG: Well, let me put it this way. We were dealing with problems of many parts - whether elections were possible before 30 June, and if not, if the caucus system can be refined to make it acceptable, and if both are not possible or acceptable, then what other alternate mechanisms one would propose. So we will assist the Iraqis in defining what the next approach should be.

Q: [inaudible, on Brahimi]

SG: Well, we will stay involved, as we have stayed involved....

Q: And Mr. Brahimi will return after the trip to Japan?

SG: Well, I don't want to run ahead of myself, because there is a lot that has to be done, and the UN will continue to assist.

Q: Are they going to have advice on the transitional mechanism in time for the drafting of the basic law, the transitional administrative law, scheduled at the end of February, or is that irrelevant now?

SG: I think the issues are decoupled. I don't think one has to come to an agreement on the transitional mechanism for it to be reflected in the basic law, because I think there has been a decoupling and we don't have to meet that deadline. That is my understanding.

Q: Is there agreement when elections will eventually be held, later in the year?

SG: That is also being looked at.

Q: December, January?

SG: It is being looked at.

Q: Will that be in your report next week?

SG: I'm not sure.