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Condoleezza Rice Briefing On UN General Assembly

Press Briefing in Advance of Trip to the UN General Assembly

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
September 9, 2005

(11:08 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. I would like to begin by saying just how grateful all Americans are for the tremendous outpouring of support from the international community as we are seeking to help the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama recover and begin to rebuild. More than one hundred countries now and at least 11 international organizations have offered support and we are grateful for every contribution.

On another matter, I will be leaving this weekend for New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. You have the full planning schedule, so I won't go through every event, but we can talk about what we hope to achieve there. I am going to participate -- prior to the UN activities -- in the New York event on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. As America marks another year, since September 11, 2001, we renew our resolve to never let that day pass from our memory and the families and the victims of September 11 remain in the thoughts and prayers of the American people. Since September 11th, the United States has gone on the offensive against terrorism. We are fighting terrorism on all fronts and we are winning. This work is difficult. But by fighting the terrorists today we will create a safer world for future generations.

During the United National General Assembly, the United States will focus on four key policy areas. We will focus on the importance of trade and lifting people out of poverty in the development agenda. Having dramatically increased official development assistance, it is important to keep focused on creating an environment that can make ODA effective -- the rule of law, free market reforms and reducing corruption. It is essential that the outcome document that we are now negotiating reaffirm this comprehensive approach to financing for development the one that is in the Monterrey Consensus.

Second priority is promoting democracy and human rights. We continue to see progress here and we will work at the United Nations. I will have a number of meetings that focus on this issue of promoting democracy and human rights. The President, for instance, will celebrate the opening of the Democracy Fund while he is in New York. But I will have discussions with the G-8 and with various individual countries about this important set of issues.

We will also focus on making America and the world safer and fighting terrorism. The Security Council summit will consider a resolution on the incitement of terror and we will call for progress on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism to establish a legal framework to deter and prosecute acts of terrorism.

Finally, on the important issue of United Nations reform, we need a United Nations that is strong and reformed and we are going to continue to seek consensus on an aggressive reform agenda to make the United Nations more effective. In order to do so, the United Nations must be fully accountable, transparent and efficient, with a workforce based on high standards of integrity and competency. And that is the work that we are doing and seeking in the UN outcome document.

I am looking forward to the trip to New York. I will be there for a number of days. I am going to come back for the President's meetings with the Iraqi President and with President Putin, but other than that I will effectively move to New York for the better part of eight or so days and engage in a wide variety of diplomatic activities to try and advance our agenda.

Now I'm happy to take your questions. Anne.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, that outcome document you mentioned, the United States has pushed for a lot of changes to it in the last three weeks or so. There's a perception that the United States is sort of kind of swanning in at the last minute and making changes to something that's been in the works for a very long time. How much of that sentiment are you hearing and what will you say about it when you see your counterparts in New York?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I will remind people that we've been working intensively on this process and this document for many months now, including the decision to have a full-time person, Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli, who spent a lot of time at the UN starting in the spring and in the summer to work with the facilitators that President Ping had put together. I myself went to New York and talked about the direction that we needed the document to go. I had a meeting with President Ping.

And so the United States has been clear about the way that we felt this document needed to come out for quite a long time and we have -- we looked at the document, we believe that there were a number of changes that needed to be made. But we are working very effectively, I think, and very cooperatively with others to try and get important changes. So I might just note that, for instance, in order to move the process forward on the development section, we put forward new comprehensive -- new compromise language that would be kind of a broad tent where we can state our concerns about development and our ways of thinking about development. Others might be able to state theirs so that there's a sort of big tent on the development issue. I think that those were changes or proposed changes that were very well received. I've heard back from a number of people that they were very well received.

And so we're trying to work very cooperatively. We do believe that this is an important document and it has to be a document that represents certain key principles. For instance, the Human Rights Council has got to be a human rights council that is effective and that is principled. It cannot be a human rights council, where again, Sudan could be elected to it at the same time that it is being accused of genocide. We believe strongly that the management and -- management reforms and Secretariat reforms have got to be taken in the wake of the oil-for-food problem and a number of problems with peacekeeping around the world. It goes without saying that I think there's a broad consensus that you've got to have strong management and secretariat reforms. Secretary Annan has said that himself.

And I might just note that we have bipartisan consensus in this country to that effect. I want to thank Congressmen Lantos and Hyde who have been in New York and Senator Coleman, trying to promote the reform agenda. And we appreciate their efforts.

So there are a number of very important issues. Is the peace building commission going to really be effective? This is a very important document. We are working cooperatively and hard to get a document. We also have got have a document that really means something and so the United States is working with all of our colleagues. I think I'll probably be making a number of phone calls today. I talked to my Indian counterpart just a little bit ago about the importance of getting this moving.


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you'll also be having a meeting with the Quartet outside the General Assembly there.


QUESTION: What do you hope to get out of this meeting and will you be pressing for a quick return to the roadmap or do you think there's a need for a cooling-off period after the Gaza withdrawal?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first, let me just say that a lot has happened in the last few weeks and the fact that the Gaza withdrawal has, to date, gone as smoothly as it has, I think, is a testament to the hard work that everybody put in to prepare that withdrawal. Those of you who were with me know that we went out a couple of times. We talked about the need for coordination between the parties. The coordination has really been quite remarkable between the two parties. General Ward has been out there. Mr. Wolfensohn has been out there. The Israeli defense forces -- and I would like to say this to the Israeli people -- the Israeli defense forces, these young soldiers, behaved in an exemplary way in removing the settlers in a way that is in accordance with how armed forces who belong to democratic societies -- you would hope they would always behave.

So, we've had some success in this Gaza withdrawal. There is still an important moment to come when the IDF is fully out of Gaza and when the Palestinians fully take control, but we're working very closely with them to see that we -- to hopefully have a peaceful transfer.

Now, as to what comes next, the roadmap is a reliable guide to how we get to a two state solution. And so, we will try to use the momentum of the Gaza withdrawal to get a return to the roadmap, hopefully, with new momentum. The roadmap has a number of obligations for both sides and we will be talking to the sides about how to meet those obligations, but there are also other potential sources of momentum. The Sharm understandings between Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister -- and President Abbas, that's another source of momentum.

And of course, we are very hopeful that the Palestinians will take advantage of the security force reform that is being spearheaded by General Ward but which is a multinational effort to help them in security reform so that they can deal with the terrorist threat and that they can also provide security for the Palestinian people. So it's a rich agenda ahead once we have secured the Gaza withdrawal.


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, many in Washington appeared to believe that the EU's plans to lift the arms embargo against China was all but dead, but Javier Solana said in China this week that it will be lifted and EU diplomats privately say that any code of conduct that would accompany the lifting of the embargo will be limited in time so European countries can actually start making sales right away on the grounds that a code will be gone by delivery time.

What is your reaction to these comments, these developments, and will you be raising this with your European counterparts at the UN?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we've made our views very clear about the EU arms embargo -- the potential lifting of the arms embargo against China. I think we've made it clear that we, after all, defend the Pacific and we believe very strongly that that needs to be understood by our European colleagues.

We've made a lot of progress with the Europeans in beginning to work toward a common strategic understanding of Asia. When you think about it, this is not a conversation that we have tended to have with our European colleagues. We've tended to talk about Europe or about the Middle East, but not about China and about Asia. And so our -- some State Department diplomats, Dan Fried and from the White House others went out to Europe. We've had policy planning talks with the Europeans about Asia and I think we will continue that discussion.

But our view of a lifting of the arms embargo has certainly not changed and I'll make that very clear. I don't want to start reacting to a comment here or a comment there. I think we've gone quite a long way to a common understanding of why the lifting of the arms embargo is problematic for the United States. And yes, I'll raise it but for now I'll leave it at that.


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, yesterday your new Envoy for Human Rights to North Korea seemed to signal that there's the possibility that the U.S. could withdraw humanitarian assistance from North Korea if it doesn't improve its human rights record. Is that something that is on the table?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Andrea, I don't know precisely what you're referring to. I haven't seen it. But let me just be clear on what our policy is. Our policy is that we don't use food as a weapon. There is a reason that the United States was for many years the largest food aid donor to North Korea and was just before the war in Afghanistan the largest food aid donor to Afghanistan under the Taliban. We don't use food as a weapon.

What we do is we try to determine through the World Food Program and whatever resources we can bring to bear, that those food resources are actually being used to the benefit of the people. And there have been concerns about the monitoring, the ability to monitor the uses of that food aid, because we would want it to go to most needy of the North Korean people, not to the North Korean elite.

But those are the considerations that go into our decisions about how to make food aid donations and when, but not to try and use it politically.

Yes, Barry.

QUESTION: While you are speaking of common understanding, are you improving understanding with countries about their offered contributions to the hurricane recovery? I know you referred to Dan Fried. He was bound for Stockholm to talk to the Swedes, who feel miffed, I guess is the word, that their offers are not being accepted right away. Is that little imbroglio calming, ma'am?

SECRETARY RICE: You know, Barry, I hear these anonymous -- or read in all of your papers these anonymous comments about people being miffed. I talk to the foreign ministers. They understand, especially places that have gone through major disasters, understand that this is a complex operation; that you have to, first of all, match what is offered with what is needed; that some things are needed immediately, some things are needed somewhat later; that they understand that because the United States can mobilize some kinds of resources like medical personnel from around this very large country that there's certain kinds of aid that may not be needed.

People understand how complicated this is and we have made considerable progress. I think, more than 20 planes of assistance from various countries have landed in the region and there will now be the possibility to disperse that aid. We've made good use already of a lot of the aid that has been offered. We have UN disaster relief personnel that are embedded with us and therefore -- and also helping FEMA.

So we are using the assistance; we're getting it in. But it is a complex operation. In New Orleans, they're just now getting to the point that the evacuation is almost completed. And obviously, you wouldn't want to do anything that competes with the evacuation of people who need to get out.

So everything that I hear is people understand how complicated this is and what we have been communicating is that the offers of aid are greatly appreciated. The President just said it in his swearing in of Karen Hughes; that the offers are being used, that there is a timeline of what's needed now and what may be needed later. We've, in fact, gone out and made some requests ourselves to countries for specific kinds of needs that have come up to us through FEMA.

So it's not an easy process because disaster relief is difficult. But I don't hear from my colleagues, and I'm sure that I would, that they somehow think that the United States is spurning their offers. Quite the opposite. I think people know that we're very grateful for the assistance and that we're using it.


QUESTION: Yes. The decision was made to grant President Ahmadi-Nejad a visa to come to New York. And I understand that what happens is essentially you ruled that he is ineligible because of the rule says visas cannot be granted to anybody with terrorist ties and then there was a decision made to waive that. What I'm wondering is what the evidence of that the United States has that President Ahmadi-Nejad has ties to terrorism that would make him ineligible?

And secondly, if you get a chance to bump into him while you're in New York, what would you have to say to him?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't know that I'll have a chance to bump into him. But, you know, I'm a pleasant person. I suppose I would say hello, John. (Laughter.) But let me just explain the process here.

First of all, the United States has obligations as the host country to make certain that heads of delegations, heads of state can participate in official UN activities. And so we have discharged that obligation by the issuance of a visa to the Iranian President. You know that there were a number of questions raised about his potential activities, in not the least by our own former hostages. And so there has been some work done. I'm not going to get into the details of what may or may not have transpired. There were concerns about his past, but those concerns about his past have been expressed. I think the Iranian Government, perhaps, will want to clear up with us and I think there are other places that concerns have been expressed -- what may have happened there.

The important point is he's coming. Or if he wants to come, he's coming, because the United States is going to fulfill its obligation to allow heads of state to come to the UN.


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the latest release from Paul Volcker's commission comes just days before UNGA and the reform agenda gets launched. Do you think this is a huge blight on the organization? How does the U.S. view these latest allegations, particularly against Kofi Annan and that he was -- that he should have known better? And also if you could enlighten us on any initiative you plan on Syria.

SECRETARY RICE: Okay. Well, the Secretary General has himself said that, you know, he accepts the findings and he intends to work on UN accountability issues. And that goes to the first point that I was making in response to Anne's question. It is extremely important that this document that we're working on, in light of the very public nature of this oil-for-food problem, that this document have strong management and secretariat reform aspects.

It simply cannot be the case that you have something like oil-for-food -- and it's not the only case. There were, of course, the peacekeeping problems that have emerged. And I think that there have long been concerns about the efficiency of the United Nations. If you talk with almost anyone who deals with the organizations of the United Nations, there are questions about efficiency. And so, there simply have to be management and secretariat reforms and that is what -- that has been, in many ways, our primary concern in the way that this outcome document comes out.

And if you noticed, when we had the Mitchell-Gingrich report, it was overwhelmingly about this issue. Senator Coleman and his congressional colleagues are there because they have concerns about this. The United States is the largest single donor to the United Nations and we owe the American taxpayers an accounting for the fact that its tax dollars are being used well -- their tax dollars are being used well.

And so, we are going to continue to press management and secretariat reform. They have to be concrete reforms, not just hortatory language about how important it is to reform. And there have to be reforms that those who have run major organizations around the world can recognize as being reforms. In the light of the oil-for-food problem, I think it's even more urgent that those get done.


SECRETARY RICE: Oh, Syria, sorry. Let me just answer a question on Syria. Well, we continue to be concerned about the full implementation of the resolutions concerning Lebanon and that the Mehlis investigation get full support and cooperation from all member-states so that they can -- so that he can do his work.

Yes, I will talk with diplomatic colleagues about Syria when I am there and about 1559, about the importance of moving forward on the fulfillment of the resolutions demands. As you might remember, I met with my French colleague when he was in -- when we were in London, when we were in Brussels. We had a meeting in which the French National Security Advisor was involved here last week and we will continue that diplomacy. So, yes, it is one of the most important issues on the agenda.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up to the earlier question --


QUESTION: -- about the Volcker report.


QUESTION: In light of the language Mr. Volcker used, do you still maintain full confidence in the Secretary General?

SECRETARY RICE: We believe that we will continue to work with the Secretary General and we are confident that he will support the kinds of reforms that are needed to try and make sure that this sort of thing does not happen again.

Yes, you've got the last question.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


SECRETARY RICE: Aren't you generous? My goodness.

Okay, yes, last question.

QUESTION: Do you think the EU-3 course has run -- the EU talks on Iran have run its course and will you be talking about the possibility of referring Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the question of whether or not the reform -- the negotiations have run their course is really one that should be put to the Iranians. The Iranians are the ones who voluntarily entered into these negotiations with the EU-3 because there were concerns in the IAEA about Iranian activities and where the world then -- the state to which we went was that there would be time given for the EU-3 to see if they could work out an arrangement with Iran that gave confidence to the international community, that it was time for Iran to -- that Iran was not intending to violate its NPT obligations.

The European 3, I think, have negotiated in good faith, they've worked very hard at it, and what they've gotten is an Iran that walked out of the agreement and started to convert UF4 to UF6. That's not an acceptable outcome. We have all said that a next step, a next step to be expected would be referral to the Security Council. I think that after the IAEA report of a couple of days ago, it's clear that Iran is not living up to its obligations and so, UN Security Council reform seems to be a reasonable option.

Now, we need leadership on this. The EU-3 led on this issue. The United States supported the EU-3 on this issue. But Iran needs to get a message from the international community that is a unified message and by this, I mean not just the EU-3 and the United States, but also Russia and China and India and others, that it is not acceptable for Iran to enter into negotiations that are aimed at restoring confidence that they are going to live up to their international obligations and then summarily walk out of them and break the agreement, that that is not acceptable.

And so, we will be working with our colleagues on this, but I think the question has been answered by a number of people, including Europeans who have said that -- you know, we're going to have to -- if the Iranians will not come back to the negotiations, if the Iranians will not go back into the Paris agreement, then not many choices are going to be left to the international community but Security Council referral.

Thank you. 2005/848

Released on September 9, 2005


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