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Bolton Briefing: UNSG, Brammertz & Other Matters

Briefing on the Selection of the Next Secretary-General, the IIIC Report on the Brammertz 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 29, 2006


Ambassador Bolton: Good morning. I'm sure many of you are aware, Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, through his national mission, informed the president of the Security Council this morning that he was withdrawing his candidacy for secretary-general. I've known Ambassador Dhanapala for a number of years, since he was Sri Lankan ambassador in Washington. I think he's a fine man, a fine professional. We appreciate that he stood as a candidate for secretary-general. And just want to say we have the highest respect for him, and wish him well in his future endeavors.

I would not be surprised if there are not other changes in the remaining universe of candidates, that perhaps some others might now withdraw; perhaps depending on how that goes, some others might come in. And I think what this reflects is that as we draw toward the first straw poll using differentiated ballots on Monday, that the pace of the selection process is quickening, and that we are moving into a dispositive phase. Obviously, a lot depends on the decisions that existing or potential candidates might make, and a lot will depend on how the vote goes on Monday. But I don't think there's any doubt that we are more and more rapidly approaching, from the Security Council's point of view, the critical decision.

Reporter: Ambassador, are you glad to hear that there are likely to be new candidates coming into the race? Is that a good thing?

Ambassador Bolton: It's been our position all along we want the broadest possible pool of candidates to choose from on a worldwide basis. And we've said that ever since the U.S. had the presidency of the Security Council in February. And in that sense, of course we welcome additional candidates. But we've also said, roughly since then, we want to have this decision made in a fashion that will give the incoming secretary-general a fully adequate period for transition. So I think we're at the point, since we're close to the decision, if anybody wants to be considered, they need to come forward quickly.

Reporter: Ambassador, have you heard about a new candidate from Thailand, former foreign minister?

Ambassador Bolton: Only what I've read in wire service stories. I am completely unaware of any other circumstances involving that.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, on Hariri again, on Lebanon, I want to go back to what you explained already a couple of days ago when they released the report. But could you explain more a little bit what the U.S. wants in terms of international court in the future? Where are we exactly? Where is the process? What this report gives in terms of availability of this court? Tomorrow what is the UN doing, what the U.S. is doing also.

Ambassador Bolton: Well, remember, what you need the court for is to hear the prosecution, when it's ready. And I think, as Mr. Brammertz said, both in his written report and said today, they're not ready for trial yet. Now, that's not to say that you have to wait to create the court the day before they're prepared to go to trial. But there is a -- I think there is a logic and a pace at which this can go. The discussions between the relevant actors on the establishment of the court are under way, and we're satisfied with the pace of that. I think the main thing is to make sure that the resources are available to Brammertz and others in the investigation, not just of the Hariri assassination but of the other 14 apparently related cases. And that's a point he made again today, and we support.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, are you in favor of a court established way before even knowing who -

Ambassador Bolton: Well, not way before, no. I mean, I think there's -- as I say, you don't want to have a court established that soaks up resources when it's not -- doesn't have anything on its docket. You want the court ready -- I would put it this way: What we're looking for is a just-in-time situation where the court's ready to go and does not slow down the pace of the process, but isn't idle for long periods of time.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, on another subject, the presidential statement on Sudan that's in draft right now -- we understand that there is also a report from the panel of experts with the names of some senior government officials that should be subject to sanctions. Does the United States support going ahead with putting sanctions against senior government officials at a time that the Security Council is trying to reach an agreement with the same government on expanding the African Union force and perhaps going to a transition to a UN force?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, one could make the argument that consideration of sanctions might have a positive effect on reaching agreement with the government of Sudan. We're going to consider the recommendation of the panel of experts very carefully. We've never had any hesitation about seeking sanctions when the evidence was there against anybody who committed the offenses that the panel of experts is studying. So I don't think that the -- I don't think we would be inhibited from seeking sanctions. And as I say, I could certainly construct an argument that moving rapidly on a sanctions resolution would have a positive effect on the negotiations.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, back to Hariri. Is there any -- do you see the nature and the location of the International Tribunal coming into focus? Do you have any -- is that coming into focus --

Ambassador Bolton: Yes. I think discussions are ongoing, and I think we're satisfied with the pace of those discussions. I could see them continuing. I don't see any difficulty there.

Reporter: The nature and location of it?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, certainly those are issues that will have to be resolved. We've said in the resolution that it's a court of an international character. But this is -- and there are obvious reasons why we need that, because of the Syrian involvement in the assassinations -- but also I think it's important that it be a Lebanese court. This was the assassination of a Lebanese prime minister -- and perhaps the others that the court might get to. So we're trying to work out exactly how that would put together, and those discussions are going on.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, do you have any comment or views on the Syrians' statement in the Council saying that the Lebanese mission issued a statement on the 11th of June that what he described as a terrorist group was responsible for the killing -- (inaudible) -- probably working for Mossad and including into this investigation of Hariri's murder?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I leave it to Brammertz and the commission to conduct investigations of what they feel they need to conduct investigations on, and if the Syrians would spend more time cooperating with the commission and less time making suggestions, we might move this along more quickly.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, the Syrian -- also -- ambassador confirmed that his country is cooperating with the investigation. Do you see it that way, or can you comment on that?

Ambassador Bolton: I think the Brammertz report this time says that during this period covered by the report that cooperation was adequate based on what they asked for. But I think the long history of obstructionism and lack of cooperation shows that a number of problems still remain.

Reporter: Yeah, I got twofer. One on the -- MINURSO is coming up at the end of this month. Where do things stand with that? You'd said in comments previously that this was something you wanted to see action on before talking about extending the mandate.

And two, do you want to take a swing at this report out of Geneva on the new detainee law as being equivalent to torture?

Ambassador Bolton: You mean MINURSO or UNMEE?

Reporter: I'm talking about MINURSO.

Ambassador Bolton: Well, let's put that off till next month when the discussions are appropriate. In terms of the comments by the rapporteur, you know, that advice is worth about as much as we paid for it.

Reporter: (Inaudible) the Russian presidential draft on Georgia?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, we have a number of difficulties with the draft as it's currently written and we'll be discussing it here this morning. We'll see where that comes out.

Reporter: On the secretary-general transition and the World Food Program looking for a new executive director, I've heard that the U.S. put forward Josette Sheeran Shiner. Is it your position that this should not be done until January 1st or that she could be appointed and given a five-year term prior to that?

Ambassador Bolton: She could be appointed prior to January 1 or thereafter. And the precedent has differed from reappointment to reappointment. But we'll see how that goes.

Reporter: (Inaudible) you had difficulties or problems with the statement on Georgia. What is the nature of those problems; the tone of the statement or some particular words that you would like to --

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think that's what we'll discuss in the Council, so I'd rather avoid commenting on it out here.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, on the potential trial on the Hariri case, you mentioned that it should be, of course, a Lebanese court. Is it possible that that said Lebanese court might be convened somewhere other than on Lebanese territory?

Ambassador Bolton: That's a suggestion that's been made. I think that has to be considered in light of the security situation. But, you know, let's keep in mind that the principal function of the court would be looking at the assassination of the Lebanese prime minister.

Reporter: (Inaudible) generally trying to get the best person for the job or jobs in the UN. Do you think it's time to end the practice that certain jobs go to certain nationalities; you might say the long-standing practice of an American always getting the head of the World Food Program, or certain Europeans getting the head of certain departments here. Is it time to end that and go for the best people for the jobs there, as well?

Ambassador Bolton: We think we've got the best candidate for the World Food Program, and I'm sure we're going to prevail.

Reporter: Back on the selection of the secretary-general. You have pressed over and over again that there should be some sort of -- as soon as possible. Do you have any specific timeline on this, especially? Do you think that by Monday we should decide, or we should go till the middle of October?

Ambassador Bolton: I'd like to decide by the end of September or early October.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, a quick follow-up.

Ambassador Bolton: All right. One more. Yeah.

Reporter: If you could just go back a little bit on Syria, I'd like to hear you more explicitly -- (inaudible) -- what you call the Syrian involvement. Even though the report this time seems to be very positively -- very positive on the Syrian --

Ambassador Bolton: Sure. If you go back to the earlier reports by Detlev Mehlis and by Brammertz, there's -- I think there's a lot on that. And I don't have anything to add to what's already been reported. But I think the conclusions that they're moving to are clear, and I think if you look at the -- some of the specifics that were presented in the oral report today, that that's further corroboration of it.

But obviously neither Mehlis nor Brammertz are going to reveal all that they know, because doing that could compromise their case. It's a very frustrating position for a prosecutor to be in. Normally they don't like to have to make these kinds of reports. The way they report is when they indict somebody. But because of the nature of this commission that they -- they're in the difficult position of having to make reports, but it's perfectly obvious that he's not revealing everything that he knows.

Reporter: You believe certainly that Damascus had a role to play there and this is your personal conviction?

Ambassador Bolton: I think that's what the earlier reports have indicated.

Reporter: Venezuela's foreign minister was here yesterday, making some denunciations. But do you have any update on how the voting effort is going for the U.S. in backing Guatemala. I realize you're not going to be able to give numbers -- or just any sense, a week later, of the impact of the Chavez remarks, as October 16th nears?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think his conduct demonstrated exactly what we're concerned about, about them being on the Security Council. See y'all later.

Released on September 29, 2006


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