New York

2 March 2004

Secretary-General's press encounter upon arrival at Headquarters (unofficial transcript)

Q: Mr. Secretary, I wonder if you could tell us what your thoughts are of these reports from President [Jean Bertrand] Aristide that he says he was abducted by American forces.

SG: I don't think I know more than you know. When the [US Congressional] Black Caucus came to see me yesterday, they raised some of these issues with me and you also know the statements from the [US] Department of State, and so there's nothing further I can tell you about that.

Q: Did Secretary Powell tell you, “Listen, if he doesn't leave, we may have to urge him very strongly to leave,” in effect it was sort of a suggested forced departure?

SG: That, I wouldn't be able to tell you. I wasn't party to the conversations between Washington and the Haitian side.

Q: Is Haiti a better place without President Aristide considering the level of the crisis?

SG: I think what we need to do now is to focus on helping the people. We should put the people of Haiti at the centre of everything we try to do, and try and help them build a better future. And as I have indicated before, I hope this time the international community will go in for the long haul and not a quick turn-around. We need to work with them to stabilize the country, and sustain the effort. It may take years and I hope we will have the patience to do it.

Q: The UN weapons inspectors' latest report says no weapons of mass destruction. Nothing new, but they seem to be saying in effect, “We told you so,” this time. What are your thoughts on their report and their lack of findings of weapons of mass destruction?

SG: I'm not surprised.

Q: What is your meeting with the British Ambassador about at 11:00?

SG: We have quite a few things to talk about.

Q: Will the bugging be part of that?

SG: I have indicated that I've said all that I'm going to say about that issue. I have no further comment. My Spokesman has given a statement and I stand by that statement.

Q: Do you feel comfortable that your office is now bug-free and that you are able to work and meet with world leaders in a comfortable level?

SG: I'm working in a very comfortable manner as usual, and I don't feel impeded or inhibited at all.

Q: So you don't want to meet in a neutral location like Central Park?

SG: [Laughter] I'd like to go for a walk in the woods.