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Bolton Briefing on Lebanon and Other Matters

Briefing on Lebanon 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 20, 2006


Ambassador Bolton: We just had a very good discussion; I think, of the draft document, the draft agreement and draft statute establishing the Hariri tribunal. We agreed that a letter from the president of the Security Council to the Secretary-General would be circulated this afternoon under a silence procedure expressing the Council's agreement with the draft agreement and statute, and hopefully we would be able to reach a unanimous Council approval of those documents tomorrow and have that letter transmitted. Obviously it depends on what individual member governments may say, but that's the procedure we're going to follow.

Reporter: What is it -- do you have the content of this letter?

Ambassador Bolton: I think the content would essentially say that the Council approves the documents -- the two documents, the draft agreement and the draft statute, as negotiated between the Secretariat and the government of Lebanon, and that this would give Security Council approval and thus turn it back to the government of Lebanon to decide whether they accept it or not.

Reporter: Do you feel that you have unanimity?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, that's what you find out under a silence procedure. So we're certainly hoping that that will be the case, because our function is to approve the agreement and see then if the government of Lebanon in its turn approves it.

Reporter: Many members are requesting the approval of the parliament of Lebanon and the president of Lebanon to ratify that.

Ambassador Bolton: We had an extensive discussion on this question of what was expected from the government of Lebanon, and I think certainly the strong view that I expressed was that it's up to the government of Lebanon to decide what its constitutional procedures are. It's certainly not up to the Secretariat to decide that, and basically it's not up to the Security Council, either.

The final constitutional mechanism in the government of Lebanon is to have the parliament approve it, and certainly the Lebanese parliament could make a decision on its judgment of whether or not the appropriate constitutional procedures were followed. But it's certainly not for the Secretariat to second-guess that and not for the Security Council either; it's a question for the government of Lebanon. Can you imagine, for example, asking the Secretariat to interpret the U.S. Constitution? I can't.

Reporter: But there are judges here. Did you meet with the judges --

Ambassador Bolton: Yes, I did, with Minister Tarek Mitri as well. And in fact, the -- you know, the negotiators for the government of Lebanon were appointed by a meeting of the government of Lebanon chaired by President Lahoud, so the negotiators clearly had everybody's approval. They do constitute very senior juridical figures within Lebanon, and I think that's a reason it gives us some confidence that this agreement meets the necessary tests under Lebanese -- applicable Lebanese law.

Reporter: Did Minister Mitri raise the issue of the split in the Lebanese government at the moment and the Lebanese parliament?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, whatever the state of play within the Lebanese government, the issue of how and through what procedures the government of Lebanon expresses its formal constitutional approval of the document are fundamentally questions for the government of Lebanon. So there may well be in any political system disagreement by certain political actors. There's no surprise there. But the question of who is competent to approve the document and how it's approved and when it's approved is a decision for Lebanon to convey to the Security Council, not for the Security Council or the Secretariat to second-guess.

Reporter: UNIFIL has reported some unauthorized arms and related materials, their official -- first real official announcement of this, I think, in southern Lebanon -- rockets, explosive devices. Does the U.S. have any information of any threat to UNIFIL, or has the situation changed on the ground? Do you have any information on how things are going?

Ambassador Bolton: I haven't seen that report, and frankly, I'd rather not comment on it or the situation on the ground until I've had a chance to review it.

Reporter: The Third Committee just voted down this morning the resolution on human rights in Uzbekistan. Does the U.S. -- or do you have any comment on that not going forward?

Ambassador Bolton: It's obviously a disappointment to us. I've been involved in the Security Council all morning. I can't -- I don't know what the vote was, so --

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, the Secretary-General was in contact with Tehran and Damascus over the weekend. Do you welcome that kind of diplomacy? What role do you think that will play in moving forward with the tribunal and its success?

Ambassador Bolton: You know, I haven't had any readout about the content of those calls, so I'd rather not comment on them.

Reporter: Speaking of constitutionality, there seems to be a little bit of confusion about whether your term ends at the end of this current -- when people recess, or does it end in January -- in December 31st? Which one is true?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, as I've said frequently, I don't comment on my personal situation. I'm up here doing the job, and you can consult other constitutional experts on what it means.

Reporter: (Inaudible) America is running the government from the U.S. embassy in Beirut --

Ambassador Bolton: Sorry, who said --

Reporter: Sheikh Nasrallah of Hezbollah accused yesterday the Americans of running the government, the present government, from the U.S. embassy in Beirut. What's your response to that?

Ambassador Bolton: That's silly.

Reporter: Just a clarification on the tribunal. Do you expect the Security Council to now issue a letter approving the agreement, but then leaving open the question of whether in the long run it will have to -- it must again be approved by the Lebanese government, is that right?

Ambassador Bolton: The government of Lebanon -- we've been in an iterative process of negotiation, and we wanted review by the Cabinet of the government of Lebanon, and in fact they've given that review and have indicated back to the Secretary-General they approve it. That gives us, speaking for the United States now, confidence that the agreement is satisfactory on their part. But just like any international agreement, even after it's approved by the Security Council or signed by the government of Lebanon, it'll have to be approved by the parliament of Lebanon. That's not surprising, not difficult.

But we wanted -- we were sort of Alphonse and Gaston; we wanted to be sure who -- that it was generally satisfactory. We've received that indication from the Cabinet. Therefore, we hope that through the letter from the president of the Security Council we'll indicate the Security Council approves of it, and then put it through the regular process in Lebanon if that's their decision to accept it.

Reporter: (Inaudible) -- be approved by the parliament and the president, and the president's position is known.

Ambassador Bolton: Well, again, you're asking me a question about the Lebanese constitution. And I'm not going to decide that question, the Secretariat isn't going to decide that question, and the Security Council isn't going to decide that question; the government of Lebanon will decide that question.

Reporter: But you mentioned the parliament -- that the parliament will not be difficult to approve. So my question is, what about the president, who has a letter saying he objects to -- I mean, I'm just asking, how legal will the procedure be?

Ambassador Bolton: I'm sure the parliament can take that into account. But fundamentally, we need to hear from the government of Lebanon, which is represented here in the U.N., whether it approves the document or not, and they are the judge of their own constitutional procedures. It's not for the Secretariat or the Security Council to second-guess it.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, do you know --

Ambassador Bolton: This is just the last question I think.

Reporter: Yeah. Is the letter will indicate the seat of this tribunal?

Ambassador Bolton: I don't believe it will, no. I don't think that's a question we need to resolve at the moment. It's a question that remains outstanding. It will have to be decided shortly, but it does not need to be decided in this letter.

Reporter: Any Sudan comment?

Ambassador Bolton: No. No. As I said --

Reporter: I know it was the last question, but --

Ambassador Bolton: that's -- that was the last question.

Released on November 20, 2006


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