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Bolton: Briefing on Sudan, Iran, & the Middle East

Briefing on Sudan, Iran, the Middle East Situation, 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
August 28, 2006


Ambassador Bolton: Okay, why don't we get started. I don't have a lot of time unfortunately but I did want to concentrate on the Sudan. This was a private meeting that had been set up, really, in the hope that we would have, perhaps the vice president of the Sudanese government or failing that -- the Foreign Minister of Sudan, who were invited. As it turns out, they were not able to be here and in fact the Sudanese delegation in New York didn't even address the Council, although the African Union, the Arab League, and the OIC did.

So one thing I added to my prepared text, which I think you have, is how obvious it was that the government of Sudan wasn't even participating in this meeting of the Council; which was disappointing and noticeable to say the least. It's clear to us that we have tried to accommodate in many respects, what members of the Council have said on behalf of the government of Sudan. We continue to expend a considerable diplomatic effort to get the government of Sudan to agree again to what it has already agreed to in the Darfur Peace Agreement. To what the African Union Peace and Security Council has already agreed, namely the transition of the AMIS force in Darfur to a UN command and control. And it will be our objective, which is shared by the United Kingdom, co-sponsor of our current draft, to see if we can't get the transition resolution adopted this month during the Ghanaian presidency. We still have a number of obstacles to overcome there but that will be our intention. Let me just stop there and I can take a few questions.

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Reporter: Where would you expect these troops to come from? I mean, obviously you said in your remarks that African troops would form the core but we're looking at quite a lot of troops. Especially given that -- you know, having trouble coming up with the troops for Lebanon. Where are they going to come from?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, discussions on that are ongoing now and I wouldn't want to get into them since some of the commitments and discussions are private. But it's important that we demonstrate that we are going to transition this from the AMIS force -- from an Africa Union led force to a UN force. And that I think will be an important factor in a number of governments' decisions, which is one reason why we need to move along here.

Reporter: Ambassador, I 'm going to ask a question about Iran --

Ambassador Bolton: Can we do Sudan questions first, please?

Reporter: What are the chances of getting this resolution by the end of the month? And what are the current sticking points?

Ambassador Bolton: The sticking points are basically the question of how to handle the issue of consent by the government of Sudan. I think we've all made it clear that nobody expects the UN force to fight its way into Darfur. But at the same time, for us simply to withhold while the Darfur Peace Agreement, itself, becomes shakier and shakier -- not least of which because of actions by the government of Sudan risks the situation simply getting out of control. So I think we still have a lot of obstacles to overcome but I think the determination that I am trying to express is that we have undertaken many efforts to accommodate the government of Sudan and those on the Council who are speaking for it and there comes a time ultimately that just have to stand up and vote. And that's why we're looking at something at the end of this month.

Reporter: We understand that the president of Sudan refused to receive the envoy of President Bush in Khartoum. That, along with the fact that they took a decision not to participate in this meeting today, does that not leave you with -- I mean, what does it leave you with? I mean, what options will you have because the consent doesn't seem as a likely option?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, it's not clear to me that President Bashir has refused completely to see Assistant Secretary Frazer. My understanding is that such a meeting might take place later today, although it's late in Khartoum, or tomorrow. So the understanding I had before the meeting started was that, while they had not gotten together, that was still possible. The position that we've taken, and I think it's consistent with the government of the United Kingdom and a number of other governments, is that we need to go ahead and work and adopt this resolution, making it clear we're not going to force UN peacekeepers into Darfur. We do expect the cooperation of the government of Sudan, and we expect that cooperation and consent to be forthcoming.

Reporter: (Inaudible) and then how you're going to have a resolution without the consent.

Ambassador Bolton: It's not hard for them to give their consent, and I think there are ways to take account of it in the resolution. We need to make it clear that as the parties to the Darfur peace agreement agreed already, and that includes the government, and as the African Union has agreed, that there's going to be a transition. And that's what we're trying to do.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, have you considered a new proposal by the Sudanese government, sending more than 10,000 troops to Darfur?

Ambassador Bolton: That does not appear, from what we see of it, to be consistent with the Darfur agreement, and it certainly doesn't substitute for the transition from AMIS to a UN force.

Reporter: Ambassador, we've heard about the Chinese position on Darfur and Sudan. How about the other Council members? How about the Russians? We heard some information that they are sort of minimizing the calamity in Darfur. Is this a change of mood? Is this yet another Security Council member that may be slipping away?

Ambassador Bolton: We're going to have a meeting with the five permanent members here shortly, to see if we can't find a way through this. But I think our intention is to have something that's pretty much ready to go to a vote within the next couple of days. Governments can vote yes, they can abstain, or they can vote no. But there comes a point where you just have to say, we've negotiated long enough; we need to put this to a vote.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, President Bashir has said at various times that he will never admit a UN force, because, among other things, it's a colonial force, that the Jews put the UN up to it. It seems to me there's an awful lot of diplomacy going on, where people are dying in all sort of ways in increasingly alarming numbers. And also, what is the particular significance of wanting to do it this month? Are there any trepidations about the next presidency?

Ambassador Bolton: I think as you can see from my prepared statement, we're quite concerned with the deteriorating situation in Darfur. I think it would be appropriate to pass the resolution this month, because Ghana, a member of the African Union, holds the rotating presidency, and it's something they feel strongly about. And I think it would show the determination of the council to support the efforts the African Union has already put in to making this agreement work. You know, as for the notion that the Security Council is about to dispatch a neocolonialist force into the Sudan, I think that just falls of its own weight.

Reporter: Do you think there will ever come a point to which the Security Council would authorize this, sort of, mandatory deployment of a force, even if the Sudanese government doesn't accept it?

Ambassador Bolton: I think we've said repeatedly we don't expect to have to overcome the objections of the government of Sudan. They should do what's right by their own citizens, stick by their commitments and consent to the deployment of this force.

Reporter: (Inaudible) you thought you would have the resolution then, on Sudan. The U.S. government has called this a genocide. Is this your biggest disappointment as an ambassador here?

Ambassador Bolton: I have a lot of disappointments. But the main thing is to accomplish this transition as rapidly as possible. We had agreed earlier in the year that the African Union force would continue until September the 30th, but that the transition should occur on October 1st. And that's the position we're still seeking. I'm just going to take --

Reporter: (Inaudible) I'm sorry. This is a letter that you wrote to Kofi Annan in June, about housing subsidies by senior UN officials. So they told me Friday that it's two months but they haven't responded yet. What do you think of the timing? What were you getting at? And one final question: are you aware if the Secretary General has filed his financial disclosure?

Ambassador Bolton: I'm not aware whether he has or not. The reason I wrote the letter about housing subsidies is that it appears to violate UN regulations, and I wanted an answer to it.

Reporter: Ambassador, how determined is, really, the United States to go along with these UN forces in Darfur, knowing what you know? It seems that Khartoum is definitely, from what we hear now, not ready to accept any international force. If it keeps like it is, would the U.S. keep on the pressure? Would you abandon, would you change the terms of the resolution?

Ambassador Bolton: No. One of the reasons we want to adopt this resolution within the next few days is to make it clear that the Security Council intends to continue, consistent with the Darfur Peace Agreement, to implement its terms, and that we expect the government of Sudan and all of the interested stakeholders to do the same.

So I don't think that's going to change our view. We have made any number of diplomatic efforts to get the government of Sudan to see reason, not the least of which is Assistant Secretary Frazer's presence out there now.

Reporter: Since you've been here, I guess, you've been working on Sudan. It is clear that, to say the least, the Security Council is not going to move in a rapid manner. Is it time to think of ways to do this outside the Security Council, in other fora?

Ambassador Bolton: For right now, our horizon is fixed on trying to get this resolution adopted, which we're going to try and do, as I said, by the end of this month.

Reporter: Do you think, given some of the president of Sudan's statements that the situation in Lebanon has in any way emboldened the Sudanese government? And how does that play into your calculations?

Ambassador Bolton: I don't know that I would draw a connection between the two. There are a lot of unhelpful statements, even before the war in Lebanon.

Reporter: What do you think is emboldening the Sudanese?

Ambassador Bolton: I don't understand, frankly. I know what we face here in New York. And that's why I was as clear as I could be today that we need to adopt this resolution in the next few days.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, what are the objections of the other council members?

Ambassador Bolton: Actually, I think we've got a very substantial number of Council members that would vote in favor of this draft. And that's another reason that leads us to think it's time to put it to a vote within the next few days.

Reporter: What do you hear today from the Arab League? Did they object? Because they seem, so far, you know, supporting the --

Ambassador Bolton: The Arab League gave a very brief statement that said its policies were closely coordinated with those of the African Union, which sounds, to me, like they should support implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and, therefore, also, support the decision of the African Union's Peace and Security Council, given on repeated occasions, to transition from the African Union force to a UN force.

Reporter: One more on Sudan: Both UN and U.S. officials have said that they are concerned that Sudan's offer to stabilize Darfur is really preparations for an offensive. So if that turns out to be true, at what point do you consider invoking responsibility to protect?

Ambassador Bolton: I think the first thing is to make it clear, as I did in my statement, that the deployment of a purely Sudanese government force is not the kind of stabilization that we have in mind and that the Darfur Peace Agreement contemplates. What we need is the transition to a UN force. That's as clear as it can be.

Reporter: Iran? Over the weekend, you gave an interview to the Los Angeles Times in which --

Ambassador Bolton: Actually, it was not over the weekend.

Reporter: I think on Friday, I guess --

Ambassador Bolton: No, it wasn't on Friday either.

Reporter: Thursday, perhaps?

Ambassador Bolton: Keep going. Try again. (Laughter)

Reporter: Well, it was an exclusive interview of the Los Angeles Times in which you indicated that you're considering making a coalition of the willing, if you will, which will be able to impose sanctions on Iran, fearing that the Security Council will not go along this time with the sanctions resolution. Have you, in that case, decided upon a coalition? Who will be the members in coalition?

Ambassador Bolton: That's not what I said, and that's not what they reported. What I said was that you can envision sanctions being imposed outside of the Security Council, as the United States has unilaterally imposed sanctions on Iran pursuant to its own statutes, and other governments can do the same. So the question of what to do about Iran is certainly not confined to the Security Council.

Reporter: Can I ask a question on Lebanon, please?

Ambassador Bolton: Sure.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, do you think, like President Chirac, that 15,000 peacekeepers are too many?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, you know, I saw that remark, and I think it's probably better for me not to comment on it. Resolution 1701 authorizes up to 15,000. We thought that was appropriate, and so did France, which co-sponsored the resolution.

Reporter: Do you have any comments on Mr. Nasrallah's statement that if he knew that the war will be exploded like this, that he would not have taken hostages? This is the first question. The second question --

Ambassador Bolton: And my answer to the first question is, the next time he has a thought, he ought to think twice.

Reporter: Second question, it's on Brammertz. Brammertz is sending a team to Damascus. Do you have any reaction on that? It's the fifth meeting in Damascus.

Ambassador Bolton: I think it's quite important that the Brammertz investigation continue. We're looking forward to a briefing from him here in the next few weeks.

And I think that implementation of Resolution 1595 remains a very high priority for the United States and, I think, for the Security Council as a whole. We need to get to the bottom of who assassinated former Prime Minister Hariri, and we need the help the commission can give to the government of Lebanon. It's part of, I think, consistent with 1559, strengthening the institutions of the government of Lebanon so that they can bring these assassins to justice. Okay, one last question.

Reporter: (Inaudible)

Ambassador Bolton: Hezbollah? I wouldn't want to comment on that.

Reporter: On the issue of Iran, now that it looks like they're probably going to flaunt the Council deadline, what's going to happen here? I mean, are we going to see a Council meeting on September 1st, discussion of -- are you going to table a resolution? How are you going to arrange the timing?

Ambassador Bolton: All of that is still under discussion, and I'm sure I'll have something for you in due course. Okay, thanks very much.

Released on August 28, 2006


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