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Source: Secretary-General
10 October 2003

Secretary-General’s Press Encounter
On arrival at UNHQ
10 October 2003

Q: Good morning Mr. Secretary-General. I was wondering what you’re reaction was to the new winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and what message you think this sends about women’s rights and human rights in Iran and other Islamic countries?

SG: I think it is a significant award. And it is also important that the human rights and the role of protection of women is stressed, and I think it is significant that she is also the first Islamic woman to win the award. She is a courageous woman and I hope this award will also underscore the importance of expanding human rights throughout the world, and also empower women to speak out and insist on their rights.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, on the subject of Iraq, with the difficulties currently underway concerning the US resolution and possibly being discussed that there might not be a vote before the donor’s conference, if there is no resolution would it still be a good idea to go ahead with the donor’s conference, or do you think just generally, even with the resolution, this is a good idea for such a gathering and that it would be a success?

SG: I think the discussions are still going on on the resolution. I don’t think there has been a decision to pull the resolution. We will know in the next few days what is going to happen. But there are discussions going on, and I myself am intensely involved in this. On the question of the conference, preparations are going ahead and as of today there are no decisions by the organizers to put it off. But obviously many people see the two as linked, the Council resolution and the conference in Madrid, and ideally one would want to see the resolution before the conference, so let’s see what happens.

Q: What is your feeling about the possibility that the resolution might not come to a vote? Would that be a big set back or mistake for the US if they decided that?

SG: I think the important thing is that member states are discussing these issues very, very seriously. It is a very complex and crucial issue. What is important is that we come up with a good resolution, not a quick resolution.

Q: Just a quick question on the issue of the wall. The Palestinians presented a draft resolution on the issue of the wall. Do you think that’s a good idea? Do you expect anything concrete to come out of that, and one more question, on Syria? The Syria Accountability Act in Washington -- do you have any concerns that the US may use that at some point to move towards asking for international sanctions on Syria?

SG: I think on the resolution regarding the wall, I don’t know which way it is going to go but you should also recall that there is an earlier resolution on the table regarding the Israeli attack against Syria. Whether these two are going to be combined or be separate, I do not know, but discussions are going on amongst members and I am not quite sure at what point the Council is going to take it up publicly. But the discussions are going on, and of course there are strong feelings on this issue of the wall. And I myself have spoken out about it.

As to the action of the Administration and Congress, and whether this will lead towards imposing sanctions on Syria, it is too early for me to be drawn into that and I don’t want to prejudge what discussions are going on in Washington. But I think we also have to be careful that this Organization itself has become very sensitive and conscious as to the imposition of sanctions. I mean, there has been quite a lot of debate as to its effectiveness, the kinds of sanctions, the circumstances under which we impose sanctions. I’m not aware that the US is going to come here, but if it were to come with a proposal for sanctions, I suspect it would lead to a very heated debate here.

Thank you.

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