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

23 September 2002





Question:  From my understanding, there is a strong link between the reform of the United Nations and the situation now in Palestine.  Let me try to put my question in order.

While you are talking about the good will of the two sides in the Middle East, at the same time the Sharon Government is destroying the Palestinian Authority from the roof to the basement, and while the President of the hyper-Power is warning that he will use a new kind of international weapon – a pre-emptive attack with or without the green light of the Security Council – are you not afraid that your reforms will be merely cosmetic?  In other words, are you not afraid that the United Nations will sooner or later face the same fate as the League of Nations?

The Secretary-General:  We will take your question under the rubric of the Middle East.


Question:  Over the weekend there were indications from the Israeli Government that it will engage in the military operations -- should they happen -- against Iraq, and that they will not stand by, in the name of sovereignty and taking care of national security.  I am wondering how dangerous that is in your mind, given the fact that Israel is, just like Iraq, a country that has not implemented resolutions, one of which the Security Council adopted unanimously, and several of which are in the peace plan for Arab-Israeli coexistence.  Are we having a double standard here, and how worried are you about Israel coming in?

The Secretary-General:  I do not want to be drawn into the question of whether, if Iraq attacks Israel, they would respond, because even on the question of what happens – a military operation in Iraq – the President maintains that no decision has been taken.  So I do not want to move into speculative areas.

But let me say that the point you raised about double standards is something that has dogged the United Nations for a long time.  I do not think I have given a press conference in the Middle East or to a Middle Eastern journalist where the question of double standards has not come up.  This is an issue that, as an Organization and as a Council, is a tough one to deal with.  This question comes up often, and I hope that the work that the Quartet and the Council will do will be able to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue once and for all and put this issue behind us.  But it is tough...

Question:  But these are different times, Mr. Secretary-General; this is not business as usual.  We are talking about a country that has been defying resolutions from one point of view and that may require a major military strike, and another country that goes absolved, with a blind eye turned to its rejection of resolutions.  These are not times as usual.

The Secretary-General:  I am not indicating that these are times are usual. As I have said, it is a point that has been raised many times, with me and with other United Nations officials, and it is something that the Council itself is conscious of.


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