Washington, D.C.

16 December 2004

Press encounter by the Secretary-General and US Secretary of State Colin Powell

[US Secretary of State Colin Powell gave opening remarks.]

SG: Thank you very much. As the Secretary said, we've had a very good discussion this morning. And let me say a word about Iraq, that apart from the support we are giving to the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission, we are also looking ahead down the line beyond the work we are doing to ensure that the elections in January are successful. We are looking ahead next year, if the government wishes [us] to work with them on the constitution, work with them on the referendum of the constitution and, of course, the next national elections. And so we have a whole agenda ahead of us and we are determined to work and help the Iraqi people succeed in this effort.

I would also want to say that we did discuss Afghanistan, where the UN-- in that situation, the UN ran the elections, which were very successful. This was only the Presidential elections. We are now beginning to look ahead to next year, next spring, for the parliamentary and municipal elections, where we are also going to work with our Afghan partners to ensure that we run a fairly successful election.

We also had the opportunity to talk about UN reform and the proposals put forward by the Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. I think it's an excellent report and it gives the membership an opportunity to bring the UN into the 21st century. And I hope the reform proposals in that report will be taken very, very seriously by members, and I look forward to US leadership and cooperation as we try to reform the Organization.

And this also gave me a chance to thank Secretary Powell for the excellent cooperation and wonderful work he has done around the world and we at the UN are going to miss him. We did work extremely well together. So, thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned that the Iraq election programme and UN support for it is on track. Are you confident, at this point, that the United Nations is doing enough and if not, what specifically would you like to see done differently?

[Secretary Powell responded, then invited the Secretary-General to respond.]

SG: I want to say a word about that. As I said, we are on track with technical preparation. So what we had to do, we've done. Obviously there are other aspects of the elections which the Iraqi government will have to take care of, particularly the context in which the elections are held, security [and] political environment, and the efforts which we are helping them on to try to pull into the process those that are outside the process, to make it as inclusive as possible. The more inclusive the process, the likelier that the results will not be contested. So from a technical point of view, we have done all that we need to do. We have enough people in there to do the work. And if need be, we will put in the staff we need to get the work done. It is not a question of numbers. It's a question of what you need to get the job done. And are we doing the job? Yes, we are doing the job.

Q: Has the Oil-for-Food Programme or the Oil-for-Food investigations been discussed today in your meeting?

[Secretary Powell responded.]

[Secretary Powell took a series of questions on the Bin Laden tape.]

Q: Mr. Secretary, I just want to ask Mr. Annan if he feels disappointed that he did not meet with the President or his deputy to talk about your side of the story of the Oil-for-Food Programme, and whether you feel snubbed, as some reports said, by the President.

SG: No, not at all. I don't feel snubbed. I will be seeing the National Security Adviser and we have lots of technical issues to discuss.

The President and I have met on many occasions and we also do talk on the phone. So I don't feel that if I come to Washington and we don't get the chance to meet, I should feel offended or snubbed. This is the nature of things.

Q: Can you talk about the Oil-for-Food, Sir?

SG: The Oil-for-Food is something that I am concerned about and would want to get to the bottom of it. I am anxious to see the investigations concluded as quickly as possible so that we can put it behind us and focus on the essential work of the United Nations.

[Secretary Powell then answered a related question.]