UN Amb. John R. Bolton Remarks on Iran, HRC Reform
Remarks on Iran, Human Rights Council Reform and Other Matters
Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent
Representative to the United Nations
Remarks at a Security Council Stakeout
New York City
March 9, 2006
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Okay, why don't we go ahead and get started. I really am here - not because I have anything new or different to say but I understand that there was some concern that I was over at the Foreign Press Center. I was really over there today to say what I said here yesterday, but I am always delighted to see everybody, so if you have any questions I'd be happy to try and answer them.
REPORTER: Thank you very much for appearing today, we appreciate it. Could you explain a little bit of the discrepancy between what is coming out of Washington and what you have been saying? I mean, we heard Undersecretary of State, Nick Burns, yesterday talking about the possibility of targeted sanctions for a possible coalition of allies that he seemed to suggest would work outside the Council to impose some sort of sanctions on Iran. And, generally was much harsher than you have been in talking about a cautious approach. Is there any sort of disconnect between what you have been saying here and what's being said in Washington?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I am a moderate and cautious guy. No, I don't think there is any difference at all. I think I have said from the outset that the question of the Iran's nuclear weapons program is a test for the Security Council and that the ability of the Council to deal with the threat of proliferation of nuclear weapons that Iran poses is something that is going to be very important for us to track closely, and that is why the President has said repeatedly that no options are off the table. He said that nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranian government are unacceptable. And our preference, the course we are obviously following, is to try and deal with that through the Security Council. We will see if we are successful, but that is the nature of the test that we are in now, beginning with the Perm 5 consultations yesterday and continuing tomorrow and then further discussions in the Council next week.
REPORTER: Ambassador, do you have a sense what will happen next week? Starting with Monday? Meetings, those sort of things, discussions, how will that take place? What will be public or not?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think the first step will be to see how others in the Perm 5 react to the elements that are being considered and then we will go from there. But I think it is a matter of time before the Council takes it up. And we don't see any reason not to make that available. I think we all feel a sense of urgency, and that has certainly been communicated, but we are going to proceed in a deliberate and orderly fashion as well.
REPORTER: Is the idea of giving (inaudible) 14 days to come back with a report on Iran's compliance? is that on the table?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, as I said yesterday and as I have said the day before, based on 15 years of experience in dealing with this, I am not going to get into the specifics of the draft text as they are considered because there are a lot of elements in it and they change from time to time. But I think the overall direction we are pursuing is clear: to try and strengthen, in the first instance, to try and strengthen the hand of the IAEA and increase international pressure on the Iranians to get them to reconsider the strategic decision that they have been pursuing these last 18 plus years of trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
REPORTER: Ambassador Bolton, Secretary General Annan, the Chinese Foreign Minister, and Minister Lavros have been indicating that more talks are needed, more negotiations are needed. Does that mean you may have trouble in the Council issuing a statement that says anything more than thank you, Mr. Elbaradei for the report.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think I would like to wait and see what the reactions are as communicated, once capitals have had a chance to look at the draft. This is obviously a matter for governments to decide. And we've said, Secretary Rice has said, earlier today, made some comments on our perception of Iran, that I think speak for themselves, and that indicate the direction we think we need to move in. So we are going to press for as vigorous as a response in the Council as we can get, and hope that that gets the Iranians' attention. But, as I've said before, this is a test for the Council. And if the Iranians do not back off from their continued aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons, we will have to make a decision of what the next step will be.
REPORTER: The Russian Foreign Minister yesterday commenting on the Iranian issue, talks of what do you call a déjà vu (inaudible). Without necessarily asking you to comment directly on what he said, how concerned that there is that impression floating around in the area? That people have already been there before? (Inaudible)
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think the first question to ask is: do you care if Iran adheres to the resolutions of the International Atomic Energy Agency? And if you care, as we do, then you can understand why we are here at the Security Council, pursuing multilateral diplomacy. In an effort to thwart this threat to international peace and security by Diplomatic means. So if that is deja vu, then so be it, but that is the course we are on in an effort to get Iran to reverse its decision to acquire nuclear weapons.
REPORTER: There is technically a meeting of the Plenary scheduled tomorrow to vote on the Human Rights Council. And here in the hallway among diplomats, there is the discussion that possibly the United States - there still might be some wiggle room for the United States that the United States might come out. Is the United States position a firm no on this draft resolution or this text, or is there some way it still can be found?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think I have said that, as the Secretary has conveyed to Secretary General Annan, that the current text is unsatisfactory, and if it is put to a vote as it is that the vote by the United States will be no. We have made it clear, changes we need in the text, we have been actively seeking for two weeks now support to re-open negotiations on the text. And I have to say, in all honesty, I haven't found a lot of enthusiasm for reopening the text, indeed quite the contrary, country after country tells us that they don't want to reopen the text. That has not stopped us from continuing to press the point, and we do continue to press the point; in hopes that we can persuade enough countries that reopening the text to fix the problems we have identified could bring us to the point where the text might be acceptable. But if you don't reopen the text you can't fix it.
REPORTER: Mr. Ambassador, to follow up on the issue of the Human Rights Council, I understand that the U.S. put a hold on the budget committee considering the Human Rights Council, which means the Plenary actually could not vote on it tomorrow.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Sure, they could.
REPORTER: They could? Well, why then did you put on a hold? And as a quick follow up to the Iran question.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, before you follow up. There were a number of governments that felt that it was not appropriate to have a vote in the Fifth Committee today if there were some chance that maybe the text could be reopened. And that's what we are continuing to pursue. I have had, I can't count how many discussions, already today, on trying to do that, so we are pursuing very vigorously as we have before, articulating what our position is and seeing if we can get the text reopened.
REPORTER: So just a quick follow up on that issue.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: This is question 1a.
REPORTER: Are you then expecting the Plenary to take any action or just hold sort of an assessment tomorrow of where things are?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I really can't predict what they're going to do tomorrow. We're pressing to reopen the text that's what we feel is necessary, that's what we'd like to do, that's what we're trying to do.
REPORTER: Just to clarify, a follow-up?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: This is question 2a or 2b?
REPORTER: On Iran, Undersecretary Burns said that he expected the Security Council on Iran to sort of meet and take action on Monday or Tuesday. Are you looking at that timeframe as well?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think it's possible. We'll see what the reaction is among the Permanent Five tomorrow - tomorrow afternoon. And if we make good progress, I think it'd be important to go to the remaining members of the Council and begin to get their reactions, but I long ago stopped predicting timing in the Council. Like I stopped about 16 years ago and it stands me in good stead not to make predictions.
REPORTER: Here's a question you obviously weren't asked at the Foreign Press Center. Yesterday the UN staff union passed a resolution of no confidence - expressing no confidence in Secretary General Annan. What do you think of that?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I don't think I'm going to get involved in labor-management relations at the United Nations. And we'll let the Secretary General handle the staff union.
REPORTER: What do you think about the outsourcing of the jobs from the UN?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think it's -- you know we are still reviewing the particulars of the report that the Secretary General put forward and we don't -- we haven't had enough time to evaluate all of it. But I think any organization, any effectively managed organization, always has to consider questions of what it does in-house and what it contracts out for. And I think the best way to do that is through a periodic review of what can be done internally most efficiently. So I think raising the question is the right thing to do, but I can't, at this point, comment on the specifics because we're still taking a look at them, but as a principle an effective manager is always looking at the cost-effectiveness of doing something inside versus outside.
REPORTER: On Sudan, a couple weeks ago the Secretary General sent you a letter requesting close air support - a couple UN officials saying they'd like close air support - the US to play some role in that. NATO has sort of indicated that they wouldn't be putting any NATO troops on the ground in Darfur. It seems like this whole effort that the Secretary General is trying to bring in some of these more advanced countries to bring in the support he's looking for is really not happening. And I wonder if you could comment on what the US is thinking about providing the kind of force they're asking for?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think the hurdle that we've encountered is the aggressive opposition from the government of Sudan to a UN rehatting, that resulted first in the delay of the African Union Peace and Security Council meeting from March 3 to March 10, tomorrow, and also to opposition within the Security Council to our effort to move forward with a resolution that would advance the planning and begin to define the concept of the mission. So I think the right order horse then cart - is you define what the potential mission is, assess what capabilities may be necessary and then try and make a judgment where they might come from. And that is the orderly planning that we hope to do in an expeditious fashion, which we have not yet been able to achieve because of this lack of support within the Security Council despite our best efforts to move ahead.
REPORTER: But the US has a certain degree of influence with Sudan, you have a lot of cooperation on counter-terrorism and an array of issues. Relations aren't quite as bad as one might imagine. I mean, are senior officials going to Khartoum and saying you've got to take this?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Senior U.S. officials, like the Deputy Secretary of State, have been there four times. And you know, Jendayi Frazer has been very involved in our diplomacy, the Secretary herself has made a number of calls, we've encouraged other friends and allies to do the same our focus, unfortunately in the last ten days, has been to avoid a situation where the AU changes or obscures its initial decision in principle to welcome the rehatting of the AMIS mission. So in a sense that's where our diplomatic activity has been focused to eliminate the roadblock to the Security Council mandating this rehatting and beginning the transition and conducting it in an expeditious fashion.
REPORTER: With the Chinese and Russian objections on sanctions though, and Nick Burns was talking about that yesterday, can you assess the prospects how that would go - would the U.S. join with a coalition of the willing - saying this is it - we now need your support and call it a day here? And the other question is what kind of ambassador will you be here? During 1990 time you had Tom Pickering here, how much freedom do you have in line-by-line negotiations here? How much is Washington telling you what to say, are you your own person on this?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I'm in constant contact with Nick and with Bob Joseph and with the Secretary, when that's appropriate. I think we've got excellent communications between Washington and New York and I've got quite a lot of experience on which to judge how good communications are so I'm quite satisfied with it I think we're all on the same page, and that's the way it should be on a matter this sensitive. But how long, and to what extent we pursue this in the Council, I think principally rests in the hands of Iran. If they begin to show that they understand how isolated they are, how unacceptable it is for them to acquire nuclear weapons, then we could see progress. But make no mistake it's a test for the Security Council. I'll just do one or two more questions and then I've got to go.
REPORTER: (Inaudible) could you elaborate a bit?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: See what politeness gets you? No, I think the test is quite straightforward. The Iranian nuclear weapons program constitutes a threat to international peace and security. It is the Security Council's responsibility under the Charter of the UN to deal with threats to international peace and security and to make sure that the threat doesn't become a reality. We're confronted with a threat here as Iran pursues not only nuclear weapons, but the capability through increasingly longer-range and more accurate ballistic missiles to develop those on targets in the region and the broader world that is obviously very, very dangerous. So we have a responsibility in the Council to try and deal with that threat. That's my definition of the test.
REPORTER: (Inaudible) across the United States seem to be mobilizing to bring pressure to bear on companies that are investing in Chinese oil companies in Sudan to actually threaten to divest. How worried are you that people in the United States are beginning to perhaps reach the conclusion that the Security Council approach has failed in dealing with the Sudan issue?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: You know, one of the great things about the United States is that the people don't wait for the government to tell them what to do, they take matters into their own hands. And this was actually - this question of investment in the Sudan was something we looked at in the US Commission on International Religious Freedom back in 2000. I was one of the original members of that Commission and this was exactly something that we thought ought to be examined. So I don't doubt people are concerned about the genocide in Darfur. And they look at the government of Sudan, they find it inexplicable that the government of Sudan won't prevent the killing of their own citizens and indeed may be contributing to it, and ask themselves, is there nothing we can do? So I think people across the political spectrum and all geographic locations in the United States are not going to have infinite patience with the international community and they will take action on their own.
REPORTER: After all of the lobbying are you confident that the African Union is going to agree to their rehatting as a UN force?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I'm not confident. And we're concerned that Sudan's very aggressive effort to convince people not to go forward with the rehatting may succeed. That's why we have undertaken a diplomatic effort to the extent we have. And I think, I'm sure there are still conversations going on, but at this point tomorrow we'll know what the answer is.
REPORTER: Did somebody from the Israeli Mission contact you about the Iran and how would you react if Israel was thinking of taking some military action?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Why does this question always come up? I've been in very close contact with Ambassador Gillerman on this subject. Our objective, as I've said before, is resolving the matter peacefully and through diplomatic means. Now I really will take one more question.
REPORTER: (Inaudible) tomorrow should President Eliasson bring it to the floor that the United States has already assured him that you will not call for a vote and let it be adopted by consensus and you will make some statement of opposition.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Those are not my instructions. I can tell you this is what the Secretary said to the Secretary General Annan and that we've been saying here and in Washington, that unless the text is amended to take into account our concerns and to be changed sufficiently that we will vote no. So that's why we continue to urge the text be re-opened and negotiations continue. We're doing that all the time.
REPORTER: Would you allow it to go through by consensus or would you stop it before?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, we're not going to stop it. We're going to say we're going to call for a vote and say no. So I don't think anybody -
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: We will call for a vote and vote no, unless the text is amended.
REPORTER: Could you clarify -- are you suggesting that in your view genocide is still under way in Darfur?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think the Secretary of State has made that clear.
REPORTER: But you believe that it is underway still?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: She was asked that precise question and said that she believed the situation in Darfur amounted to genocide.
REPORTER: One more on the Human Rights Council?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I'm just a guy who can't say no. One more, one more, and one more.
REPORTER: If you vote no, does that mean that you will not join the Council?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: We haven't made a decision on that. We have focused our effort on trying to open the text and get some of these deficiencies, at least some of these deficiencies, corrected. And we've not focused on what happens if we don't succeed. Okay. Good-bye.
REPORTER: How do you feel about Monday though?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I like Monday.
Released on March 9, 2006