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Bolton Briefing: UN Official Arrest - UNSC Seat

Briefing on the Arrest of a UN Official, the Security Council Election for the Latin American Seat, 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
November 2, 2006


Ambassador Bolton: Let me just make two points quickly. First, I'm sure you're aware of the statement put out by the U.S. Attorney's Office concerning the arrest of Sanjaya Bahel on charges of wire fraud and mail fraud and other charges. I'm obviously not going to comment on a pending indictment, but I do want to say that the work of the FBI and the prosecutors was assisted by the procurement task force set up here in the Secretariat largely at the behest of Chris Burnham. And I think that we welcome this cooperation, and its testament to the effective work that Chris Burnham has done during his tenure as Undersecretary General for management, uncovering one more piece of fraud here in the UN procurement system.

Second, I know you've seen the announcement by Ambassador Diego Cordovez concerning the agreement reached by Venezuela and Guatemala in the Security Council election. The tentative agreement that they've reached obviously needs to be considered by GRULAC, and that will occur later; about noon is my understanding. So this is not entirely final. Obviously, the question is for GRULAC to decide. But I do want to say first that if, in fact, GRULAC endorses Panama, we congratulate them and we'll look forward to working with them on the Security Council.

I think Guatemala really deserves to be commended for waging an honorable and decent and effective campaign to get elected to the Security Council. We're sorry that it didn't work out for them. I'd just say as a matter of campaigning I don't know what else they could have done to overcome what -- the steps Venezuela had taken against them. We would have looked forward to working with Guatemala on the Council. We'll now look forward to working with Panama if, in fact, GRULAC endorses that. But I would say the defeat of Venezuela certainly accomplishes our principal objective.

Reporter: How did the U.S. defeat Venezuela?

Ambassador Bolton: The Venezuelans defeated themselves through a variety of their tactics. And as I've said repeatedly to this group, we don't normally get involved in regional group decisions on this kind of election. We did only because of the threat that we thought that Venezuelan obstructionism would pose to the good operation of the Security Council. And I think that the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly members understood that.

Reporter: But -- sorry -- when you say the variety of tactics, could you just specify a little bit more about --

Ambassador Bolton: Well, for example, President Chavez's unconscionable speech to the General Assembly, which I think was taken by many of the members of the General Assembly to be indicative of how they'd behave on the council. And it was -- it was an act of podiacide.

Reporter: Some would say that President Chavez actually won since the --

Ambassador Bolton: Podiacide. P-O-D -- shooting yourself in the foot. Podiacide.

Reporter: -- that President Chavez won because he blocked the U.S. candidate or, you know, the U.S.-sponsored or -endorsed candidate.

Ambassador Bolton: You know, the United States had done nothing in connection with this race until Venezuela came in. We never encouraged Guatemala to get in. We had no discussion with GRULAC members on this subject. We thought Guatemala had a compelling case for Security Council membership. It's a founding member of the UN. It's never been a member of the Security Council; a variety of other reasons, including its contributions to peacekeeping. But the idea that this was -- as the Venezuelans have tried to portray it is just part of their overall propaganda effort, and yet another indication of why their involvement in the Council would not have been constructive.

Reporter: Is there some confusion on whether there is a discrepancy between the position of your delegation here and Washington in terms of the timing of that tribunal of international character? Could you clarify that part? And could you say who is it who doesn't want a speedy establishment of tribunal, you or the Russians? What's the timeline you're working on anyway?

Ambassador Bolton: I don't -- our timeline is exactly what I said to you yesterday: as soon as possible. I met with Walid Jumblatt this morning and made it clear that we want this to move as rapidly as possible to get the document forming the court fully negotiated and ratified. And I don't know where these reports of differences between the Mission and Washington come from.

Reporter: (inaudible) the substance in terms of positions taken by Russia. Is it your understanding that they dropped their objections, or they have gotten a little more adamant and added new objections?

Ambassador Bolton: The Russians didn't send an ambassadorial-level person to the meeting yesterday, so I'm not sure exactly what the status of their position is. But we want to move on this as quickly as possible.

Reporter: (inaudible)

Ambassador Bolton: I just have a couple of minutes here because I --

Reporter: Today's arrest --

Ambassador Bolton: Yesterday's arrest.

Reporter: Excuse me – that you credit Mr. Burnham with. What was OIOS's involvement in it? And do you think it's -- OIOS has refused to come and kind of brief reporters, and if you think that's appropriate --

Ambassador Bolton: The procurement task force I think was largely put together by the management in OIOS operations, and I'm sure they're not briefing for the same reason that I'm not going to comment on the substance of the indictment. You just don't do that. Their investigation continues, and I don't think they want to get into the substance of it.

Reporter: (Inaudible) their audits and stuff. They haven't come to -- many reporters have asked whether they can come to a briefing, just about their general work and --

Ambassador Bolton: A general briefing I think would make a lot of sense.

Reporter: (Inaudible) I gather there are eight people who received housing subsidies. Do any of them receive housing subsidies from nongovernmental entities? Ambassador Bolton: I don't know the answer to that question because the letter that you're referring to that I received several months ago now didn't specify that. I will be writing a letter back to the Secretary-General shortly, perhaps as soon as today, to inquire further into that matter. Okay, I've got to get inside, so I'll see you all later.

Released on November 2, 2006


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