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Source: Secretary-General
8 March 2005


Secretary-General’s press encounter following
the Manager of the Year Award presentation
8 March 2005
(unofficial transcript)


Q: [US] President [George W.] Bush today made clear that he insists that Syria withdraws from Lebanon by May before the elections are held. Now there is a joint communiqué between the Lebanese and the Syrians in which there is no timetable. Where do you stand on this? Which timetable do you adhere to? And are you worried that the Hizbollah demonstrations today are going to complicate the task of implementing [Security Council resolution] 1559?

SG: I think the Security Council resolution is very clear and does require Syrian withdrawal. I am sending Mr. [Terje Roed] Larsen to the region. He should be there this week to discuss with both the Lebanese and the Syrian leaders the full implementation of the Security Council resolution. And after his discussion, then I will know better how we are going to proceed. But the resolution calls for full withdrawal.

Q: When?

SG: I am going to give a report to the Council in April. I hope I’ll be able to report progress.

Q: Why can’t you tell us when, Sir? Do you mean by April? When do you think they should withdraw? How do you read the resolution?

SG: The resolution requires them to withdraw. I cannot get into the date you are asking me to set. The resolution is clear that there should be full withdrawal. And as I said, I’m sending my Envoy there to sit with them and discuss full and complete withdrawal.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, are you concerned at the message that President Bush is sending to the United Nations with the appointment of a strong UN critic like John Bolton as the new US Ambassador?

SG: It is a President’s prerogative to name his ambassadors. And I have worked well with all previous representatives from the US and I look forward to working with Mr. Bolton.

Q: But there’s been a lot of criticism and concern, certainly among many of the other UN Member States. We see this coming in from all over the world that this is not sending a good message about trying to promote the goals of the UN and trying to achieve multilateral harmony, so to speak.

SG: I think I’ve said all that I need to say on the topic.

Q: How do you hope to handle the disarmament of Hizbollah, which was also in the resolution that the Lebanese Government should control all its territory? They had a big demonstration today; do you have a position on that?

SG: Obviously, that is a responsibility of the Government of Lebanon. I don’t think the resolution requires the Secretary-General of the United Nations to undertake the disarmament. And I think that will have to be the responsibility of the Government.

Q: Do you think this was a hostile act against you and the United Nations by appointing Mr. Bolton? Would [former US] Secretary [of State Colin] Powell have ever done that?

SG: [Laughs] I’m not sure I want to be drawn on that one.

Q: The Americans are saying that the marches organized by the opposition in Lebanon is sending out a message about freedom and liberty. What sort of message is the demonstration russled up by Hizbollah sending out to you and to the rest of the international community?

SG: I think it is normal in every society to have different groups who may not hold identical views or identical positions. And it is a fact of life that we need to accept. Of course, we need to be careful of the forces at work in Lebanese society as we move forward. But even the Hizbollah, if I read the message on the placards they are using, they are talking about non-interference by outsiders or international, which is not entirely at odds with the Security Council resolution that there should be withdrawal of Syrian troops. But that having been said, we need to recognize that they are a force in society that one will have to factor in as we implement the resolution.

Q: Are you willing to send an international force to Lebanon any time soon?

SG: That is an issue that the Security Council will have to decide – whether they want to send in an international force or not. I’ve read in certain newspapers that the UN may have to send in a force to monitor the withdrawal of the Syrian troops, but I have no such mandate as of today.

Q: En occupant la rue aujourd’hui au Liban le Hezbollah, a travers cette gigantesque manifestation vient de marcher sur la résolution 1559 du conseil de securité ?

SG : Je crois que les résolutions tiennent toujours. Evidemment ils sont libres de parler, de donner leur avis, mais ça n’empêche pas qu’on insiste sur le retrait des troupes syriennes qui est demandé par le conseil de securité.

Q : L’autre question qui sera la dernière : Aujourd’hui c’est la journée des femmes et le viol aujourd’hui est devenu une arme de guerre par les milices. Quel messsage est-ce que vous avez à adresser a ces milliers de femmes qui, en plus d’être violées, sont humiliées, contaminées par le SIDA, et rejettées par leurs familles et la société?

SG : La comunauté internationale – nous tous – on doît les soutenir, on doît tout faire pour éliminer ces milices, on doît tout faire pour arrêter tous ses complices, surtout en Afrique pour permettre ces femmes de vivre en paix et en dignité.

Q: About the withdrawal of the Syrian troops, there are reports that the Syrians, who are running Lebanon pretty much, are trying to create a situation that if they withdraw, there will be chaos after they leave. What do you think about that? And secondly, is there any talk about an international force?

SG: As to your first question, I have no evidence that there are such plans afoot. On the question of [an] international force, I have indicated that I do not have a mandate from the Security Council to send a force to Lebanon. Obviously, we do have our forces in Southern Lebanon, but they have a separate mandate which does not include the monitoring of the Syrian withdrawal.

Q: Can their mandate be expanded?

SG: That will be up to the Security Council.

Q: Are there any informal discussions going on about an international force that might not even be a UN force – maybe an Arab League force?

SG: I have not been involved in those discussions.

Q: On Sudan, you called the Security Council members. The UN is doing a lot of hand-wringing on the subject, but you called Security Council members into a meeting. Can you tell us why you did that, what you discussed, and what specifically are you advocating right now, whether it’s the African Union, at one point you mentioned NATO? Get more specific maybe on what it is you think needs to be done.

SG: I think, basically, what I discussed with the Council is something that everybody was aware of, that we are concerned that we are not moving fast enough in Darfur. We are concerned that the atrocities have not stopped. We are concerned that we are not gaining access to all those in need. We are concerned that the parties are not respecting the ceasefire. The question is what measures should be taken to create a secure environment. And we looked at various options. Of course, the African Union forces are on the ground. From all accounts, they are effective where they are, but there are very few of them. So we need to increase the numbers either by helping the African Union to strengthen the force and also give them logistical and financial support. They need communications. They have very few trucks, planes, cars. And we need to sort of help them to do the work if we expect them to do it. And if we come to the conclusion that they need additional help and they are not provide it themselves, what should be the responsibility of the international community? Should the UN send in troops to co-deploy with them, to cover Darfur? Should the UN eventually take over that operation? Should eventually a multinational force be considered? These are all options that were on the table. Of course, we know the pros and cons of each of the options. And of course, I also indicated that we are sending a mission which will be led by the African Union to Darfur to assess the situation on the ground. The European Union and US would also have members on the team. And after that mission, we’ll do a serious reassessment of what needs to be done.

And I also indicated that we were all very happy when the Naivasha agreement was signed, but we do not have enough money to help the returning refugees. They are returning spontaneously. We have asked for $500 million and we got five percent of that amount. So we have managed to get a political agreement, but we are not doing enough on the ground to make sure the agreement holds. So we also did appeal for additional resources generally, and of course, we are going to deploy the 10,000 UN troops in the south.

And I was also concerned that if we did not take measures to strengthen the operations in Darfur, it’s going to look very awkward that you have 10,000 troops in the south where it is safe, but you don’t have enough troops in Darfur where the fighting is going on and protection and security of the people is urgent. So these are some of the issues that we discussed.

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