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John Bolton: Burma, IAEA Report & Other Matters

Briefing on Burma, the International Atomic Energy Agency Report, and Other Matters

Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Remarks to the media following a Security Council Stakeout
New York City
September 1, 2006


Ambassador Bolton: Well, good morning. Just before you go off to the weekend, I wanted to announce that we have -- today -- written a letter to the incoming president of the Security Council, Ambassador Vassilakis of Greece, asking that the subject of Burma -- known here as Myanmar, know to us as Burma, be added to the agenda of the Security Council because of the threat to international peace and security that the policies and actions of the Burmese regime have caused. As you know, we've had two briefings of the Council in December of last year and June of this year by Under Secretary General Gambari. We ask for another briefing, but this time we want the subject of Burma added formally as an agenda item. So this is a, we think, an important step because of the consequences of what the Burmese regime has been doing and we will be seeking to have that formal addition to the agenda be made in the next few weeks.

Reporter: Ambassador, this has become a semi-regular event that the U.S. tries to get Burma on the Security Council's agenda and then the Russians and the Chinese say "no thank you." Have you done any diplomatic work this time that might suggest a different outcome?

Ambassador Bolton: The fact is that the last two times there were briefings we didn't seek to make it a formal agenda item; we didn't press it to a vote. Our judgment now is that the issue is sufficiently ripe that unless we get unanimous agreement we are prepared to ask for a vote and we think at this point that we would have a sufficient number of supporters within the council to put it on the agenda. But one way or the other, we think this needs to be addressed, and addressed in a formal way by the Security Council, which is why we've taken the action that I'm announcing here.

Reporter: Ambassador, you are a man of action, and this is another briefing. So to the regular human being outside the UN who doesn't understand what all this stuff means on the agenda, could you explain the significance of what it means to actually get something on the agenda and how that advances the interests of international peace and security in Myanmar?

Ambassador Bolton: The reason to take this step is that there has been opposition even to a discussion of Burma in the Security Council. While we're not at this point prepared to say that we've got a Resolution that we want to push or have specific action. We think it is now time to have the council face up to the responsibility that we think its necessary to undertake. And it is a first step, but it's an important first step. And to have Burma formally entered on the agenda signifies that the council acknowledges that there is an issue under it responsibilities under the charter dealing with threats to international peace and security.

Reporter: Have any of the ASEAN member states or any of the other Security Council members, particularly Japan , voiced support or any sort of other concerns about this sort of development, this sort of motion?

Ambassador Bolton: It's our judgment at this point that we've got a sufficient majority on the council that have committed that we are prepared to go forward. But as in the case of another recent vote by the council, as I think I've explained to you before, there are times when you have to vote, there are times when people have to go on the record and say what their position is. We think that the time has come to do that on Burma, and we're prepared to put it to a vote. We obviously feel at this point that we will prevail and that Burma will be added. It's possible that we would lose. There's no question about that. This is a political matter. But we think it's important that now that states declare where they stand on the question.

Reporter: Ambassador is this a specific incident that this is key to, that has just happened? A recent development in Burma? And number two, do you have any reaction to the Arab League call for a September meeting on the Middle East peace plan?

Ambassador Bolton: With respect to Burma , we have been engaged in a substantial amount of diplomatic activity. And we've made this request to the President of the Security Council now because we think its reached a level where we have some view that we will get support to put it on the agenda. But, we're prepared, the point is we're prepared, even given the uncertainty that may exist, to have this come to a vote, and see where members of the council are willing to cast their lot.

In terms of the notion of a meeting of the council on the Middle East , one always wants to know what the outcome is going to be when you ask your foreign minister to come to a meeting. At this point we are still waiting for additional information, but, in terms of the proposal, the timing is difficult. We obviously have a very problematic situation in Lebanon. And the question of diplomatic activity should always be whether it's going to contribute to a solution to existing problems or not. So we have a lot of questions about both the timing and the outcome of such a potential meeting but we're in discussions with other members of the council and with members of the Arab League about the proposal now, which is not uniformally supported, I think, even within the region.

Reporter: One Burma and one non- Burma question. Could you summarize on Burma what the threat to international peace and security is that you will be presenting?

Ambassador Bolton: I think we have articulated it in earlier statements to the Security Council. This letter itself is not a restatement of those arguments but the arguments earlier were looking at the Burmese governments involvement in international drug trafficking, the refugee flows out of Burma and in the region that its activities have caused, its violations of human rights and the consequences that have had international implications and a range of other activities including some of its military policies. So all of those are there. We think that the time has come to put it formally on the agenda and that's why we are proceeding.

Reporter: I just wanted to ask on this question of housing subsidies from governments. Yesterday the UK Mission told me that they no longer do it but implied that they have done it in the past. So I wanted to know if the U.S. has ever engaged in this? And also whether the response from the secretariat to your letter, when you get it, will be made public?

Ambassador Bolton: Yeah. I am not aware of that the United States government has ever given subsidies to its nationals who are the employees of the secretariat. It's one reason that I wrote to the Secretary General to ask what the policy was. The charter of the UN is very clear that secretariat employees should not be beholden to their governments. But if you have a situation where a government is providing a housing subsidy or some other kind of subsidy you have to ask how independent the person is. Even if there is a consequent reduction in UN compensation, that in and of itself raises a question. In the U.S. government, as an employee of the government, I can't take any salary from anybody else. And the notion that if I took, let's say fifty percent of my salary from an American corporation, that somehow that's OK, if the U.S. government would to reduce my salary by 50%, I think people in Washington would by horror struck at such a thing. So this question seems to me, it's a long-standing practice, but it goes to the fundamental question that we are trying to change this institution, we are trying to reform this institution. And the fact that the practice may be long standing, the fact that governments, or even private entities may be providing the housing subsidy, doesn't mean that it's justifiable going forward. So that's why we've been pursuing this and we hope that I'll get an answer to my now long pending letter.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, about the Arab ministerial meeting. Do you agree with the core of it though that the Madrid-launched peace process is dead and something needs to be done?

Ambassador Bolton: No.

Reporter: You don't.

Ambassador Bolton: And by the way, is the government of Israel going to be invited to this meeting?

Reporter: In terms of Iran , is there still room for negotiations with Larijani's meeting with Solana and then the political director meeting. What are the expectations to come out? Is there more wiggle room?

Ambassador Bolton: I don't know what are the expectations are for the meeting. The European Union requested it. We've certainly agreed to it. But I would just recall the terms of Resolution 1696 that says Iran has to suspend all uranium enrichment activity. That's not a United States condition. That is the Security Counsel's condition. Before that it was the condition of the International Atomic Energy Agency and before that it was a condition of EU3.

Reporter: On the Iran sanctions. The EU countries are proposing it seems kind of limited sanctions initially that could scale up along the way. Is that a kind of format the U.S. is supportive of?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, we are in consultation with EU and other governments about what the sanctions, the first sanctions resolution could be. One possibility is the kind of procedure you've described of a relatively small number of sanctions escalated over time. Another option is a very tough sanctions resolution as the first one. We haven't made any decision on that point and I'm not aware that any European government has made any decision on that point.

Reporter: This could be put up in the context of the independence of the UN. I don't know if you saw this study by two Harvard economists. One thing was dealing with the affairs of state, fine no one's necessarily requiring states to do anything other than acting in their own self-interest. But the suggestion is that the U.S. also put pressure on UNICEF to give more money to the countries that are on the Security Council at the time of important votes. Do you accept their conclusion that that's what happened or do you reject it?

Ambassador Bolton: I don't accept it. I haven't read the study. I can assure you in all of the years I have been engaged in UN activity, under this job, in my previous job, four years as the Assistant Secretary for the International Organizations in the Bush 41 administration I have never hear of anybody putting pressure on UNICEF or any other UN program or fund to do any such thing. And I've studied the UN even in the years of exile, when I wasn't in the administration; I've never heard anything like this. No, I'm not saying … I'll have to take a look at the study. But it doesn't conform to the reality I know.

Reporter: Ambassador Bolton, both you and the ambassador Emyr Jones Perry pushed to have the Sudan resolution voted on before the end of the month and it happened. Now the numbers are being released that for UNMIS, for the next twelve months, is going to be more than a billion dollars. Are you going to also attack the donors to get them to donate money with the same gusto that you did in the Security Council?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, we're obviously aware that the extension of the UN mission in Sudan to Darfur was going to be an expensive proposition. It was, in fact, the absence of financing for the African Union force that was a principal reason why changing the force to a UN mission was thought to be advisable. Like France and like Japan, which have both expressed concerns about the cost of the Darfur mission, we and I 'm sure the United Kingdom, will be very cognizant of how the force is structured and what the financial and human resources implications will be. But we think it's important, we have worked, the government of the United States , the Bush administration in particular, has devoted a very substantial amount of effort to Sudan. First, to resolving the North-South conflict, in creating the government of national unity, and now on Darfur. So, I have no doubt our efforts will remain very energetic.

Reporter: On the subject of Iran sanctions. I believe you said that the U.S. and its allies in this are not looking to target Iranian citizens. Can you explain, even in a ramping up, what that means? How Iranians would understand that what you are doing in any scaling up of sanctions, how that would work?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, what we are talking about is not targeting the general Iranian population. We don't have a quarrel with the people of Iran; we have a quarrel with government of Iran that's pursuing nuclear weapons. So I am not saying that some individuals wouldn't be the targets of sanctions. I think very defiantly they would be. Individuals that are engage in weapons proliferation, the nuclear program, the ballistic missile program, leadership that has enriched themselves at the expense of people of Iran. I think we are thinking about a lot of those things, but the point is the sanctions would be targeted and not general and therefore would hopefully have a minimal impact on the regular lives of the citizens of Iran. Yes sir.

Reporter: Ambassador, on the issue of Iranian sanctions that you stipulating. Have you had conversations with the Chinese or the Russian Ambassadors or do you think it is not worth it to pursue that conversation now?

Ambassador Bolton: We haven't discussed the specifics, but obviously in the run-up to Resolution 1696, we had a full discussion of the possible implications. Our foreign ministers, the foreign ministers of the five permanent members in Germany have had that conversation and there have been discussions about it during the month since the passage of 1696. And those discussions will continue after the Solana-Larijani meeting next week.

Reporter: Could you disclose … or not disclose …

Ambassador Bolton: (laughing) … No, I won't disclose. Whatever it is you want, I won't disclose.

Reporter: Who are the coalition partners that you eventually foresee will be on board with the United States in imposing sanctions on Iran ?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think with respect to the possibility of Security Council action we'll be consulting in the Council but there are a wide variety of countries that we cooperate with in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The proliferation security initiative already has over sixty countries that work with us in that effort. So we expect that our efforts will make the coalition as broad as possible. Ok, anything else then?

Reporter: On sanctions. There's obviously two forms of sanctions. One is sort of a the punishment of individuals to get their behavior changed but another is actually putting in place the mechanisms to actually stop things from getting in and out of the country. To what extent would you be interested in the latter sort of sanctions, i.e. containment restriction, that kind of thing?

Ambassador Bolton: I think that if you look at the sort of sanctions imposed on North Korea in 1965, in trying to keep North Korea from continuing to make its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs function, that those are the sorts of things, in addition to financial transactions, that we'll be looking at. But, again, no decision has been made on the specifics.

OK I'll just … one more then.

Reporter: Do you worry that if you impose sanctions on Iran, they could retaliate? You know they are the biggest producer on oil. Would they use that against a country like yours or ours? That could be their weapon.

Ambassador Bolton: I can't speculate on what the government of Iran will do. But I can say that President Bush has been very emphatic that it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons. And it's a country with a lot of natural resources, oil and natural gas, which by the way is one reason why its argument that it needs a civil nuclear power program is not a credible argument. But it's also why we're not targeting the people of Iran with the sanctions we are considering. But what they do really, the ball is in their court, whether they want to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons or not. And that's what's important for us to pursue.

Have a nice weekend. See you later.

Released on September 1, 2006


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