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The Situation in Iraq and the Oil-for-Food Program

The Situation in Iraq and the Oil-for-Food Program

Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Remarks at Security Council Stakeout
New York City
August 11, 2005

Ambassador Bolton: Good morning. I just have a minute or two, I thought I'd make a comment on the resolution that the Security Council just adopted and say a word or two about the oil-for-food program and the Volcker Commission's latest report.

The United States is very pleased at the Council's unanimous adoption of Resolution 1619, which extends the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq another year. It was adopted as a presidential text, which shows the extent of consensus within the Council. This is the second resolution on Iraq in two weeks adopted unanimously. And I think that's a very positive sign both for developments in Iraq and for cooperation here in the Council.

I think on the oil-for-food program we're still reviewing the third Volcker Commission report. I certainly don't want to make any comment with respect to any ongoing criminal investigation or prosecution. Our emphasis is on, at this point, using what we have learned from the Volcker Commission, the congressional committees and other investigations to assist us in the ongoing effort toward UN reform, which certainly we'll have an important event in September, but it will be a continuing process beyond September. UN reform is not a one-night stand, UN reform is forever. So I just wanted to briefly comment on that, I have time for a couple of questions on those subjects. Don't you always start with AP or Reuters?

Reporter: For the United States, what is the importance of extending the United Nations Mission, I mean it's a very small mission, there aren't many people in it. What's its importance to what's going on there?

Ambassador Bolton: Well it has a variety of roles, but two issues that have been extremely important are assistance in the constitution drafting process. This is obviously fundamentally Iraqi, but we're encouraged by what the Iraqi political leaders have done, happy that they're going to stick by the August 15th deadline, and I think they have welcomed the UN and other international assistance, recognizing that of course it is a fundamentally Iraqi process. And then second, as we look forward to the referendum in the fall and the election in December, there's considerable international assistance in the electoral area, I think that's all very positive. But, we also see the broader political significance of the resolution, as I said the second, last week's being on condemning the continued flow of terrorists, terrorists' weapons and financing into Iraq. I think this shows the Council as a whole is viewing the question of progress in Iraq from very similar points of view and I think that's very positive.

Reporter: A question on Iran?

Ambassador Bolton: No.

Reporter: Well then, moving on to oil-for-food, do you think Congress is within its rights to ask for documents or subpoena documents from the Volcker Committee while the investigation is ongoing?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I don't want to get into the specifics, but I would say we have welcomed the congressional investigation, all of the investigations, and look to have the investigations cooperate among themselves. Certainly, there's nothing surprising for Americans in seeing congressional committees very interested in very thorough, very wide-ranging circumstances. The program in question was a program of the United Nations and I think when you look at the large sums of money involved and the importance of transparency and confidence in UN administration of such large programs that national governments that have large equities in those programs need to be satisfied that the programs have been administered as they should be. As I say, our focus as well is on taking the lessons we've learned from the oil-for-food program and looking at what that means for UN governance and management into the future. There are lessons to be learned, we shouldn't duplicate the mistakes. We should try and correct the culture that has given rise to some of these problems.

Reporter: NHK, Japanese public broadcaster. How gratified are you that the Secretary General is saying that the Security Council reform specifically should be pushed beyond September as the U.S. has been asking for to the end of the year?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, the composition of the Security Council obviously involves the words of the UN charter, and that's a matter fundamentally for member governments to decide upon. Secretary Rice, as you know, has been very clear that we didn't think there should be an artificial deadline for possible changes to the Security Council. And I think the record in the past in 1990, 1995 and 2000, when somewhat artificial deadlines were proposed that meant that there was no change in the composition of the Council at all. So if you're looking at the historical record, it would be hard to argue that putting any kind of deadline in place is necessarily conducive to success. We think this is a serious subject that deserves serious attention. Our views on why we think Japan should become a permanent member have been consistently and deeply held within the United States. We're prepared to talk about other possibilities, as you know. I think we've got time to watch that process unfold; and that's important.

Reporter: Mark Turner, Financial Times. Given that we've found that it's not just oil-for-food, but it's much wider in the procurement department. First of all how concerned are you that the whole procurement department may be corrupt? Are you demanding a much broader investigation into what's going on there? And do you think this increases the pressure on Secretary General Kofi Annan and Deputy Secretary General Louise Frechette to resign?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I will comment only to this extent. And that is that we are very pleased that Chris Burnham is the new Under-Secretary General for Management. I knew him well during our time at the State Department together. We've already met several times discussing a range of issues, not several times since I've been up here just in the past 8 or 9 days. We know that he is committed to sweeping UN reform, as are we. We have confidence in his ability and look forward to working with him. I think in the first instance, he will be evaluating the Volcker report and will be making recommendations and we'll go from there.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen it's been a pleasure and I hope to see you again.

Released on August 16, 2005


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