Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

17 December 2004



The Secretary-General travelled to Washington, D.C., Wednesday evening, and on Thursday morning he went to the United States State Department to meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

They first discussed election preparations in Iraq.  They then went on to the peace mission in Haiti, the peace talks in the Sudan and the post-election situation in Afghanistan.  The Secretary-General thanked the Secretary for United States help in getting released unharmed the three United Nations humanitarian workers held hostage in Afghanistan.  They concluded with a discussion of United Nations reform and the recommendations of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.  They then met privately for about 10 minutes.

They jointly addressed the press gathered at the entry of the building on their way out.  Secretary Powell commented that it was possibly their last official meeting before he stepped down as Secretary of State.  The Secretary-General thanked him for his excellent cooperation, saying “we at the UN are going to miss him”.

On Iraq, the Secretary-General said that he was looking beyond the election of next January to assisting Iraq with the drafting of their constitution, should the Iraqis request that, as well as on the next national elections.  He mentioned the work the United Nations had done in Afghanistan, as well as the United Nations reform proposals.

Asked if he thought the United Nations was doing enough to support the Iraqi election, the Secretary-General responded, “from a technical point of view, we have done all that we need to do”.  He added that the United Nations has enough people in Iraq to do the work, adding, “It’s not a question of numbers.  It’s a question of what you need to get the job done.  Are we doing the job?  Yes, we are doing the job.”

To a question on the “oil-for-food” programme for Iraq, the Secretary-General responded, “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.”

He then went to the White House to meet with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.  Their very full agenda included the Sudan, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, Lebanon and Iraq in the Middle East, as well as Afghanistan, Haiti, oil-for-food and United Nations reform.

The Secretary-General then went to the Council on Foreign Relations to join Council President Richard Haas and former United States National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, who was a member of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel, to discuss United Nations reform and take questions from Council members.

In his opening remarks (Press Release SG/SM/9651), the Secretary-General thanked those present for turning out in such numbers, and then quipped, “I must have been in the news lately.”

He directly addressed the oil-for-food scandal, saying, “We must get to the bottom of these allegations”, adding that he would act on the findings of the panel headed by Paul Volcker, which he appointed to look into it.  He also urged that the Volcker inquiry and those being conducted by the United States Congress not be seen as competitors.  “Let’s all work constructively to bring out the truth”, he said.

Moving on to United Nations reform, he commented that the world community is divided over how to deal with new threats, such as international terrorism, but asserted that the world would not easily find a better instrument for forging a sustained, global response to today’s threats than the United Nations. “Tomorrow’s United Nations”, he said, “would unite States in preventing terrorism.”

He praised the High-Level Panel’s proposed definition of terrorism, saying that “Member States should use it to enact a full anti-terrorism convention.”

He laid out his vision for tomorrow’s United Nations as one that would provide a more muscular framework to prevent a cascade of nuclear proliferation, one that would promote development, fight AIDS and provide a framework for the use of force in which all States could have confidence.

He went on to describe the United Nations’ efforts to support the Iraqi electoral process, observing that the United States and the United Nations “are working hand-in-hand around the world -- on peacekeeping, conflict resolution, humanitarian assistance, human rights, good governance and development”.

“I therefore look forward to working with the Government and people of the United States”, he concluded, “to make sure that we build a United Nations fit for the 21st century, and a safer world.”

Later that afternoon, the Secretary-General departed Washington, D.C., for Brussels, to attend the summit of the European Union.

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For information media - not an official record