Remarks On UN Reform, Somalia, and Other Matters
Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to
the United Nations
Remarks at a Security Council Stakeout
New York City
June 15, 2006
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I understand that you don't yet have copies of the statement that I read on Iraq inside is that right? Basically, this is the quarterly report by the US on behalf of the Multinational Force. Since the last quarterly report, I noted the notable success of bringing al-Zarqawi to a well-deserved end and the significance of the formulation now of the full Iraqi government, the first democratically elected government in the country's history. And the importance that President Bush attached to these developments such that he went to Baghdad this week in order to show our commitment to those who are supporting peace and democracy and those who are opposing terrorists. So we will get you a copy of that complete statement.
I also wanted to say since it's now public that the United States welcomes the decision by the United Kingdom to offer detention facilities for Charles Taylor should he be convicted by the Sierra Leone court. This is a significant step forward; we're very grateful to the government of the United Kingdom and appreciate their willingness to undertake that responsibility. So now let me take a few questions.
REPORTER: In the press conference today, the Secretary General said basically what you said that the damage had been done is grave when Mr. Malloch Brown gave last week. He said he has had several conversations with Ms Rice and so forth. Things are normal. And he doesn't anticipate any problems.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: The Secretary expressed her dissatisfaction to the Secretary General in her conversation.
REPORTER: He is basically suggesting that the US and the other developing countries should get together and discuss.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: We are getting together.
REPORTER: So how's it going?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, we are having discussions. This is basically a discussion among member governments since it's a responsibility of the governments to come to a conclusion on these questions. And those discussions have been underway extensively for weeks and they continued this week. Yesterday at my request we met with the Group of 77 together with the European Union and Japan and numbers of other discussions are going on, so consultations continue as they say.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: We hope that we can agree on a consensus decision with respect to the expenditure cap that United States and European Union and Japan all said should be based on substantial movement on the reform question by June 30 and a roadmap through the end of the year. So our positions, I think, were quite in accord with one another and we conveyed them to the G-77 yesterday.
REPORTER: (inaudible) Somalia some of us are mildly confused about what is going to happen at this meeting today. And why now? Why did the United States want to convene this meeting now? What do you hope to achieve, and what really can be done in Somalia when there is no government that actually wields any sort of power?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think that the developments in Mogadishu over the past several weeks were the principal motivating factor. And I think the purpose for the discussion is to examine the issues that you've described and we'll see how the discussions turn out. But beyond that I don't really have any.
REPORTER: (inaudible) an announcement of aid?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No, I think this is a, as they say at the UN, an exchange of views. And you know we'll see what comes out of it.
REPORTER: The SG seems to be criticizing the United States support of warlords in Somalia. In some ways is this meeting a recognition of that policy, I don't know that you have confirmed at this point, but that that policy was sort of misdirected and that there needs to be a real re-thinking of the approach to Somalia?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I didn't hear what the SG said. But the situation in Somalia, and I certainly hope that its not an implicit criticism of American efforts to round up terrorists, I hope that's not what he was saying. But we'll see what the discussion holds.
REPORTER: Sir, can you explain to us in your own terms why the US is the only one now coming up with an initiative on Somalia? Where you surprised on the turnout?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I can't answer a question like that: "Why is the United States the only one?" You really can't ask me that question.
REPORTER: Why are you so concerned about the turn of the events there militarily?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think that many of the other nations are concerned as well. That's why we are going to have the contact group meeting to decide what comes next.
REPORTER: Terrorism is a part of the war on terror East Africa has always been as claimed here and there -- that it was a support place for terrorism, or suspected terror. Is this really the concern that motivates the US initiative today?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think that's part of the concern. As I said, the military developments in Mogadishu generally is another concern. So there are a variety of reasons to call this meeting.
REPORTER: Are you looking to send African Union forces to Somalia?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I don't think there is any question at this point of that kind of discussion because what we need to do first is get a better understanding of the situation in the country and consulting with others as will happen later today about what might be possible. So I think it's premature to frame this in terms of decisions or potential decisions at this point.
REPORTER: Do you think that the fact that Kofi Annan refuses to do what you told him to do and that is to repudiate Mark Malloch Brown's speech, does that make it more difficult for you to sell the spending cap and other issues such as the Capital Master Plan to legislators in Washington?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I can tell you that criticism of the intelligence of the American people is never a smart thing to do politically. And I do believe that the comments have had a negative impact politically and that impact continues. I'm not trying to dwell on it, I just think it's a fact of life if you don't realize it you are blinking reality in Washington.
REPORTER: Has it become a partisan politics in Washington with one said of the aisle criticizing it and one side applauding it?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I don't really want to get into it any further. I said what I believed at the time. I thought it was a mistake, that remains my view and that's the view of my superiors.
REPORTER: Among other things the Secretary General did say that he favors openness and the freedom of information act at the UN, do you think that's something that that US, that you could work together on in the next 6 months to actually get something done?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I had a fascinating meeting yesterday with the head of the UN Staff Union, which was I'm told the first time an American permanent representative has met with the head of the Staff Union. And we discussed a number of aspects of UN reform including a report recently written by Jeffery Robertson, the former chief judge of the Sierra Leone court, and an international human rights lawyer, one of whose books I once wrote a review of and had several debates with over the years. But I had to say I thought the comments made in Jeffery Robertson's report made a lot of sense and his concern about, for example the extent of the ethics office ability to protect whistle blowers, which is a high priority for us and the absence of any kind of freedom of information mechanism in the UN, which in many respects they characterize as one of the fundamental problems in any system of reform. So this is something I'm going to take a look at very carefully. I do know from comments from a number of members from our Congress that some kind of freedom of information act would get support. And I think this was demonstrated in the difficulty of documents in connection with the oil for food program. So I'm certainly going to investigate that its something we have a great deal of familiarity with in United States and one would have to ask why it might not be applicable in this context as well.
REPORTER: The Secretary General indicated that he was all but certain that the spending cap would be lifted by the end of the month. Does it seem like that's your assessment, that it's all but certain?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, as I said, perhaps before you arrived because you were still at the other event, that in the meeting with the G-77 yesterday, the United States, European Union and Japan all said we look to lift the spending cap by consensus if we can achieve the start on reform that we've been talking about. And so I think that's certainly our uniform view and it's why we've been engaged in the very extensive consultations that we have been on that subject over the past several months.
REPORTER: Earlier this week the Secretary General said that finding a landmine on a beach in Gaza is odd just prior to Israeli's finding that that was most likely the reason why for that explosion. Do you have anything to say about the Secretary General's jumping to conclusions?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well did he say anything at the press conference that he just held on that subject?
REPORTER: He said that it was before the Israeli investigation and that there's still an Israeli investigation that might be.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: He had not actually heard the results of the Israeli investigation.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: So perhaps when we have the results and can take a look at it. But I think that the position that I have articulated with respect to Mr. Malloch Brown's comments, that is there is an appropriate place for the Secretariat in this organization, its one of its principal organs of course, but that does not include free-lance criticism of the member states.
REPORTER: (inaudible) what are the minimum aspects of the reform agenda that you expect will be achieved by the end of the month that will then pave the way to be able to lift the expenditure cap.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, we have tried not to draw lines in the sand. I'm sure because we've handed it out to every other government, you've seen what we call our "buckets paper" of the three categories of management reform, transparency and accountability, oversight ability and mandate review. What we'd like to see is substantial progress in some combination in all three of those areas. But we have not said this is an absolute pre-requisite or that is an absolute pre-requisite. Now ironically, I think that's a flexible accommodating position, at least that's what our intention was. We've ironically been criticized for that by not saying really absolutely what it is we want. What we're trying to say is that we'd like to achieve the maximum amount of progress that we can in these various areas, but not to say that one or another is a prerequisite. So we've put that on the table with the G-77, we've got some informal reactions from a number of countries, which I think have been quite positive but as of this point we don't have an express response to the "buckets paper" by the G-77.
REPORTER: (inaudible) candidature of Mr. Shashi Tharoor, the undersecretary general, because in the past you've been saying it should be an outsider of the UN. Do you have an opinion on the candidature?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No.
REPORTER: Somalia (inaudible) I noticed personally that the United States had been almost the only one voicing concern. Do you personally from your position here in New York and (inaudible) in the region. Do you have any sense of urgency? What should be done or is it just an exaggeration of the issue? Do you have a sense of urgency? What needs to be done immediately?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think that there's a great deal of concern about the situation in Somalia. I speak myself as somebody who came to New York with Deputy Secretary Eagleburger on the day before Thanksgiving in November of 1992, when President Bush 41 announce the deployment of the force into Somalia to open the lines of humanitarian assistance. So it's a matter for any of us who were around at that time and for the government as a whole. Of course we are concerned about it. But the situation now is if anything sadly worse than it was in 1992 so trying to ascertain what the best way to proceed is not without difficulty for a variety of reasons. So we want to have broad consultations, a number of governments have approached me here in NY about the situation. I'm sure they've had contacts in capitals and in Washington as well and we need to get an assessment of the situation and then try to make some decisions.
REPORTER: (inaudible) are now taken power in Mogadishu and three-quarters of the country, sent over a letter saying they have nothing to do with groups like Al Qaeda and terrorism etc. Are you comfortable when you see messages like that coming from the area?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I'd really rather not get into the specifics. We've expressed our concern about terrorists operating in Somali territory. That remains a concern and it's a concern we feel need to be addressed along with the obvious political anarchy that exists in much of the country. One more and that's it.
REPORTER: Is one of the difficulties that you just referred to the fact that even thought the situation is worse that the United States would never ever consider sending troops to Somalia right now?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I just don't think -- well I don't think that -- when I don't answer that question, I don't want you to read it as saying implicitly that there is an answer one way or the other. It's just not a consideration that is out there and I think what one does in the first instance is try to get a better understanding of the lay of the land and the conditions that exist and what the political possibilities are and then see where we go from there. And that's really all that's out there and it what we hope will occur in the potential contact group later today.
REPORTER: Have you ever seen the movie Black Hawk Down?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Nope. Never have. But you can read my article in Foreign Affairs on the first Somali Intervention if you like.
Released on June 15, 2006