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Source: Secretary-General
29 April 2005

New York, 29 April 2005 - Press encounter with the Secretary-General at the Security Council stakeout

SG: I have just returned from Asia where I had the opportunity of attending the 50th Commemoration of the Bandung Conference. It was a very constructive meeting and it was wonderful to see the Asian and African leaders gather to discuss cooperation and to discuss issues of common interest. I also had the chance to discuss with them the reform proposals before the United Nations and the Summit in September. From there I went to India where I also had very useful discussions on developments in the region and around the world and also discussed the issue of UN reform. And I left the region very encouraged that we are making progress on the reform proposals and that in September we should be able to come up with something positive and definitive.

I am also very pleased that we are seeing progress in Lebanon. I just came from the Council meeting where we reported to the Council on the withdrawal of Syrian troops. Obviously, there is visible progress and we are monitoring the situation and are going to work with the Government on other aspects of the resolution. I was very happy with the work that my Special Envoy Larsen has done and I was not surprised to hear President Bush yesterday praise him in his comments.

Finally, on Iraq, I am happy that at last there is a government but it is unfortunate that the designation of government will coincide with the atrocities that we saw [today]. I appeal to all Iraqis to desist from these violent acts. The people deserve better. They want to get on with their lives and we should do everything we can to assist the Iraqis in creating a society that is inclusive, that is participatory and I have instructed my Special Representative to work with the parties towards that end.

Q: What provisions in 1559 do you feel specifically have not been implemented, and do you think that the withdrawal of the Syrians from Lebanon will strengthen or weaken stability in Syria itself?

SG: Well, the resolution also calls for disarmament, for example, disarmament of all militia and that aspect of the resolution has not been implemented. We are also monitoring the elections, hoping that it will be free and fair, because the resolution did refer to that. On the question of what impact the withdrawal of Syrian military forces and security forces from Lebanon will have on Syria itself, it is difficult to tell but what is important is whatever we do, we should manage it in such a way that it leads to stability and strengthens governments in the region. We would not want to do anything that would destabilize one or the other government in the region and I don't think that is the intention of the Council. And so your question is relevant, but we are very sensitive that we do not do anything that destabilizes. We want to strengthen stability and unity of Lebanon and in the region.

Q: Do you see a role for Syria and the disarmament of all militia, and in particular Hezbollah? And secondly, is a three-man team enough to ascertain that Syrian intelligence is out of Lebanon, particularly that you made it a point to mention complaints by the opposition to say that [unintelligible] in Lebanon.

SG: I think we've sent an experienced team in that I think should be able to do the job. If, once they are on the ground, they believe they need additional resources, we will consider it, but I think the three of them should be able to do it. Obviously, we may not be able to verify everything but we should be able to check the locations, both the military and the security forces, to be able to confirm that they are no longer there. We would also, of course, be working with Lebanese authorities who also have some knowledge to share with us.

Q: The part of the question, sir, on whether you see a role for Syria…

SG: I think whether Syria should be involved in the issue of disarming militia in Lebanon is an awkward question because quite frankly, if we have asked them to withdraw, and they have withdrawn, the disarmament would have to be done by the Government of Lebanon. Hopefully, the groups concerned will agree to disarm themselves and cooperate with the Lebanese authorities because it is not going to be an easy task if it has to be done by force or imposition. And I would hope governments in the region that have influence and can be helpful in the process would do so.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, what importance would you place on the Security Council, as has been proposed, adopting some sort of presidential statement, resolution, sort of continuing the pressure on Syria, on the militia groups, or do you think it would be wiser to wait until the verification report is done and sort of let that be the timing?

SG: I would hope to give the verification report to the [Security] Council as soon as it is ready, because when I discussed the verification issue with President Assad, which I did face to face during the Algiers meeting, it was the understanding that as soon as I get the confirmation from them that they have withdrawn, the verification team will go in, verify and submit a report to me which I will share with the Council. And I think the process will be concluded at that stage, and therefore any definitive assessment or statements one is going to make, I suggest should wait until after the verification report is in.

Q: Les palestiniens ne se considerent pas comme des milicienss comme vous l'avez rapporté dans votre rapport. Est-ce que vous allez faire un ammendement - et il se considerent comme une organisation de resistance de la même maniere que le Hizbollah est une organisation de résistance.

SG: Les palestiniens?

Q: Les palestiniens et le Hizbollah, moi je parle des palestiniens maintenant. Est-ce que vous allez changer avec un ammendement, changer quelque chose dans ce texte?

SG: Pas nécessairement, pas nécessairement, par-ce que je crois que le gouvernement libanais et d'autres personnes sur le terrain estiment qu'on peut les considerer comme des milices – ils sont des milices – évidemment Hizbollah insiste qu'ils travaillent pour la résistance – ça, c'est une autre chose. Donc je n'ai pas besoin de changer le rapport.

Q: While you were away, your interview appeared in New York magazine where you had expressed that you were hurt and you had even said that they're out to lynch me and that you had considered resigning at one point in time with your wife, Nane Annan. Is it true? Does that thought still remain in your mind and do you think the way things are going at the United Nations and with all the scandals unfolding, do you still hold your ground?

SG: Heavens no, heavens no. Look at the work ahead of me and agenda we have laid out. I'm going to press ahead with my work.

Q: Mr. Benon Sevan says [unintelligible] talked about his legal fees, does this concern you?

SG: I don't know what Mr. Sevan has said. I've just got back and I need to get myself briefed.

Q: Back to Lebanon and 1559. The Syrians in their letter to you a few days ago suggested that the Sheba'a Farm are Lebanese territory and as long as Hezbollah considers itself a resistance movement fighting the occupation of Israel in that territory, how do you expect this to impact on the dismantling of Hezbollah?

SG: You would recall that in the year 2000, when I worked with the Lebanese Government and the Israeli Government for the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from southern Lebanon, we did not only draw the blue line, but we also issued a report to the Security Council indicating that the Israeli Government has complied fully with Resolution 426. And that in our official documents and records we have, which we checked with other capitals and libraries, Sheba'a Farm was Syrian and not Lebanese. And indeed Sheba'a Farm falls into the area of operation of the UN forces in Syria.

Q: Sir, as a follow-up if I may, the Syrians, when they announced officially completion of their withdrawal from Lebanon, they also called on the Israelis to implement Security Council resolutions relevant to them. Do you take that call seriously or do you think it's more for public consumption in the Arab world, and Syria specifically?

SG: I take it seriously, and I think the Syrians meant it and it is not only the Syrians who are saying that. Other prominent leaders in the region are saying the same thing, and I've said the same thing all along.

Q: On the Lebanese detainees in Syria, are you ready to do something for the Lebanese detainees in Syria, are you willing to help them out?

SG: Well, if our help is needed, we will consider it, but for the moment we have not been asked to help.

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