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

4 March 2002

Comments made by the Secretary-General this morning at the entrance of UN HQ in NY.

Press encounter upon arrival at UNHQ, 4 March 2002 (unofficial transcript)

SG: Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, in light of the escalating violence in the Middle East, do you think that it is even realistic to consider addressing Crown Prince Abdullah's vision for a settlement at this time?

SG: I think the tragic situation should prepare us to continue our search for a solution, and I think as I have said before the [Security] Council, we really need to look at all creative ideas and try to help the parties come back from the brink, and therefore I don't think what has happened should detract us from focussing on the search for a durable solution and attempt to bring the parties to the table and to break the impasse. I believe that it is when the killing is going on that it is even more urgent to intensify the search for peace, and I therefore think that the Crown Prince's ideas are still very useful and should be pursued.

Q: On Iraq, what are your expectations for the meeting on Thursday, and are you concerned the U.S. might launch a strike?

SG: I think I am going to discuss with the Iraqi delegation the implementation of Security Council resolutions and the return of the inspectors. That is the basis on which I am going to discuss with the Iraqis. As far as the U.S. intentions, I cannot speak for Washington. I have no evidence or no communication or indication that the U.S. attack on Iraq is imminent, so I would prefer not to be drawn on that at this stage.

Q: As a resident of New York do you feel that you should have been notified that authorities in Washington were concerned that there was a loose nuclear weapon that could have been detonated in New York in October, and were you notified?

SG: I was not notified and I am not unduly distressed that I was not notified. I don't think I could have done much with the information. What was important was that the authorities who have the responsibility for security did what had to be done.

Q: Sir, do you have any indication from the Iraqis ahead of time on whether they are willing to talk about letting inspectors back in.

SG: We will find out. We are only two days away. We will meet on the 7th. It is very much on my agenda. Let's be patient. On the 7th we will know what they think.

Q: What do you think of Washington's attempt to say now it's the time to stop the International Criminal Court tribunals?

SG: I think we have always known that Washington has not fully supported the establishment of international courts, and I think that statement you are referring to is an extension of that debate and that discussion. I don't think there is anything new in it. What I thought was odd was that the attack came at a critical time when Milosevic was on trial in the Hague and in fact the [Security] Council itself was discussing the future of these courts. We do not intend these courts to be everlasting. As soon as we've finished our work those courts will be shut down, and I hope by then the International Criminal Court would have been established.

Q: Mr. Secretary, is there a specific direction you would like to see the United States take in relation to bringing the parties in Israel and Palestine to the negotiation table.

SG: Washington has been active on this issue, and I understand General Zinni may go back. I also know that Assistant Secretary of State Burns is in the region. We as a quartet have been working together - by quartet I mean the United States, the European Union, the Russian Federation, and myself - and we will continue our efforts to try and help the parties come back from the brink. It is an extremely dangerous situation now. I send my deepest sympathies to the families - both Israeli and Palestinian - who have lost loved ones, and I appeal to the leaders to do whatever they can and whatever possible to stop the cycle of violence, this cycle of revenge, where only the innocent and unarmed civilians often get caught in the middle. So we will continue our efforts but I think the leaders also have a role to play.

For information media - not an official record