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United Nations Daily Highlights, 01-03-22

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE

BY KOFI ANNAN

SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Thursday, March 22, 2001

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL'S OPENING REMARKS

"Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am here mainly to answer your questions, but let me start by mentioning three or four things that are particularly on my mind.

My most immediate concern is the situation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which is very serious. If it is not brought under control it could destabilize the entire region.

What's more important is that the international community has come together to re-affirm the unity and territorial integrity of the Republic. Even those who have taken up arms against it accept that. They should understand that the method they have chosen is neither an acceptable nor a credible route by which to reach their stated objective of better representation for their community within Macedonian institutions.

They should heed the call of the Security Council, which yesterday unanimously condemned extremist violence, including terrorist activities, and appealed for dialogue among all legitimate parties.

No less worrying is the situation in the Middle East, where I shall be going next week to attend the Arab Summit. There too, it is important for all to understand that there is no solution to be found in violence, and no sense in postponing the day when they return to the negotiating table.

There is actually somewhat better news coming from Africa. The peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia is being implemented, and there is now a much more hopeful atmosphere in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a good prospect that we shall at last be able to deploy our observer force.

Of course, the continent still faces the most daunting social and economic problems, of which HIV/AIDS is the most dramatic. But I believe African leaders and the whole international community, including the pharmaceutical companies, are at last beginning to respond in a way that fits the urgency of the situation.

But we must not forget that Africa's underlying problem is extreme poverty, or that the most hopeful route out of poverty for all countries is through trade and investment.

That's why I was so pleased by the European Union's decision to remove tariffs and quotas on all products (except arms) coming from the 48 Least Developed Countries. I still hope that other industrialized countries will follow this lead in time for the May conference on the LDCs in Brussels.

That would be an important first step, but the real difference could come with the World Trade [Organization] meeting in Qatar. The developing countries must go there well prepared to defend their interests, and to insist on a true 'development round' of trade negotiations, focusing on giving free access to their products.

Finally, there is another matter on my mind, which I know you are keen to ask me about. For some time, in fact, you and others have been asking me whether I would be prepared to serve a second term as Secretary-General, and I promised to give you an answer in the course of this month.

Indeed, I have been touched and gratified by the numerous expressions of encouragement and support I have received from many Governments - most particularly from the African Group, whose Permanent Representatives last week issued a public appeal for me to stay on.

It has not been an easy issue for me to consider.

On the one hand, I have devoted most of my professional life to advancing the values and work of the United Nations, which I firmly believe embodies humanitys highest aspirations. I am also sensitive to the call of duty. And I am inspired every day by the sacrifices made by the staff of the United Nations - particularly those in the field, in peacekeeping missions or refugee camps - on behalf of the peoples we serve. Whatever I achieve, or hope to achieve, as Secretary-General, can come about only thanks to their dedication.

On the other hand, I had to ask myself, am I willing and able to do this job for five more years, with the same level of energy and commitment I have brought to it during the last four?

This has been a very demanding and challenging responsibility to carry, which inevitably has made exhausting claims on my family and my personal life.

After careful thought, and close consultation with my family and my wife Nane, who has been my strongest support in times both good and bad, I am pleased to tell you today that my answer is Yes.

If the Member States decide to offer me a second term as Secretary-General, I shall be deeply honored to accept.

There is a great deal still to be done to make the United Nations, this indispensable organization, into the effective instrument humanity needs, in this new century, to fulfil the hopes for peace, development and human rights. If asked, I am ready to serve.

Thank you very much. I will now take your questions."

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS FROM THE MEDIA

On a second term

Asked why he would deserve a second term, the Secretary-General said it was not a question of whether he deserved it. He added that, over the past four years, he had done his best to bring new energy to the Organization and worked with Member States to define a new agenda for the United Nations. He thought the Millennium Declaration is "something we can all be proud of," and he also noted the growing UN partnership with the private sector.

In terms of disappointments and challenges, he said that he had hoped that, by this point, the United Nations would have the support it needs for peacekeeping, and he had hoped to do much better in Sierra Leone, but added, "of course, that requires will and resources." He said that, now that the United Nations was re-engaging in peacekeeping, it would not be able to afford the failures of the past.

At the same time, he said that, for the first time in years, the United Nations has a clear agenda on topics ranging from the fight against poverty to girl's education and the environment. He would try to push that agenda with Member States.

Asked about the reaction to his decision to seek a second term, the Secretary-General said he would let Member States speak for themselves. He noted that he has worked well with the five permanent members of the Security Council over the past four years.

In response to a question on the possibility that some Asian countries would want an Asian Secretary-General, and on whether the United Nations would push for geographic representation or merit in selecting posts, Annan said that he had always tried to fill posts on merit. He added, "Going for merit does not mean that you cannot find them all around the world."

He noted that, in the history of the Organization, it has not always been the case that one region has only held the Secretary-General's post for two terms.

The Secretary-General said he had spoken to Asian ambassadors, but not on the question of whether Asia would put up candidates or to plead for support. He said it would be normal for Asian candidates to present themselves, and he said he was not concerned about that possibility. "It's in the normal scheme of things," he said.

Asked about how his travels affect the management of the United Nations, the Secretary-General said that he is able to stay in touch with Headquarters wherever he is.

Asked whether he could serve a shorter term than a full five-year term, he said that the procedure has always been for a five-year term and would remain so, unless Member States decide otherwise.

He noted, in response to a question, that his wife Nane said she would support him.

In response to a question on whether he had acquired a taste for power, the Secretary-General said he was not sure there was that much power in his job. He noted that Pope John Paul I had likened power to a football that is popular among children when it is full, and is ignored once it is deflated. Power, Annan said, "has not got to my head."

On the Balkans

Asked about the situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Annan said that his Personal Envoy for the Balkans, Carl Bildt, has been very active in the region, working with regional organizations and helping to coordinate international efforts. Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette, he noted, has joined Bildt in Brussels to discuss Balkans issues.

He said that he had met recently with the Foreign Minister of FYROM, Srdjan Kerim. He said, "If we do not bring this under control, it can have an impact on regional stability and it may draw in other countries and spill over in a manner that we would not want to see."

On the United States

Asked about his visit Friday to Washington and the US administration's intention to pay its dues, the Secretary-General said the Member States who are owed money by the United Nations would be happy with the payments.

During his meeting Friday with US President George W. Bush, he said he hoped to discuss trouble spots from the Middle East to the Balkans to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also intended to discuss US-UN relations, including the budget and the recent agreement on revising the scale of assessment for UN dues.

He said that he would meet with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice during his visit.

On Afghanistan

The Secretary-General said Member States would have to discuss the question of who holds the Afghan seat at the United Nations, in response to a question on whether the Taliban would ever be recognized as the Afghan Government.

He said he had spoken last week with the Taliban's "Foreign Minister," Wakil Ahmed Mutawakkil, on the destruction of the statues of the Buddha in Bamiyan. He said he had been surprised at how the Taliban saw the situation, adding, "They were so certain about the righteousness of their decision that one could simply not move them." He called the destruction of the statues a tragedy.

Annan also noted that he had discussed with Pakistani Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf ways to improve the conditions of the Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

On the Middle East

Asked about whether a UN observer force to the Middle East could be effective if Israel opposes it, the Secretary-General noted that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reaffirmed when he met Annan Wednesday that his Government does not accept an observer force. He said, "For any force to go in, it will need cooperation of both parties to be effective, and if it doesn't get that cooperation, the question is, should it go in? And if it does, what can it do?"

Asked about Israel's economic restrictions on the Palestinian Authority, the Secretary-General said he has been quite clear that such economic restrictions must be eased, that there has to be a return to the negotiating table, that the violence must stop and that both parties must abide by the Sharm-el-Sheikh agreement to bring the violence to an end. He said he would continue to make his good offices available to the parties.

The Secretary-General, in response to a question on prospects for peace in the Middle East following the seating of new US and Israeli administrations, said that the Israeli Government was trying to define its policies. He said that both Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat had expressed their willingness to return to peace talks, but Sharon wanted talks to be based on written agreements -- such as those reached at Oslo and Wye -- and Arafat wanted to work from the basis of understandings reached at Taba. He noted that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had written to him that the proposals discussed at Taba were no longer on the table.

He added that Sharon was aware that the United Nations' good offices are available, although they did not discuss what role he would want to see the United Nations play.

On Security Council reform

Asked about the prospects of Security Council reform, Annan said he hoped that the reform process being discussed by Member States would not drag on indefinitely. He reiterated his support for Council reform.

Asked about proposals to proscribe the use of the veto by the Council's permanent members, Annan said that matter, as well, would be up to the Member States.

On other matters

Asked about Africa's role at the United Nations, Annan said that Africans realized that the United Nations and the Security Council have become more involved in African affairs and he emphasized that Africa is not forgotten at the United Nations.

Asked about Cyprus, Annan noted his Special Adviser, Alvaro de Soto, is in touch with the Cypriot parties, and he hoped that, "in the not too distant future," there would be some indication of when the next round of talks would be held.

In response to questions about Kashmir, the Secretary-General said that, in his visit last week to South Asia, he had discussed with the Indian and Pakistani Governments their bilateral relations and the Kashmir issue. He called for both countries to resolve their differences at the negotiating table in the spirit of the Lahore and Simla agreements. He noted that UN resolutions on the issue are important, but are not self-implementing. He said his trip was quick, and he did not have time to see everyone he would have liked to meet.

Asked about allegations of job discrimination at the United Nations, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations had tried to recruit on as broad a geographic basis as possible, and had an open and transparent system for recruitment and promotion. A UN working group had not substantiated accusations of racism, but he promised vigilance in dealing with any mistreatment or harrassment.

In response to a question, the Secretary-General said he had no plans to visit the Democratic People's Republic of Korea this year.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

After consultations on a draft presidential statement on Bosnia-Herzegovina today, the Security Council heard a briefing in a formal meeting from the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Wolfgang Petritsch. Petritsch, who will meet the Secretary-General later today, told the Council that the international community must build on its successes in Bosnia, and not walk away half done. The Council then adopted its presidential statement on Bosnia following the meeting with Petritsch.

In a separate formal meeting, the Security Council today adopted a presidential statement on the follow-up to its Summit meeting held last September on its role in peace and security, especially in Africa. It noted in the statement that it will consider and take appropriate action on the Secretary-General's forthcoming report on conflict prevention, his recommendations on strengthening UN capacity in peace-building, and the Council's report on general sanctions issues, among other reports.

On Wednesday night, the Security Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution strongly condemning extremist violence, including terrorist activities, in certain parts of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and southern Serbia. It supported efforts by Governments in the region to end the violence in a manner consistent with the rule of law.

The first exhibition of the East Timor National Archives will open this Saturday, at the East Timor Cultural Center with the theme "East Timor: Past and Present." The exhibition will display some of the hundreds of official documents found in the attics of Governors House and Fomento Building in Dili, including the identity registration papers issued in 1964 to Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusm&atilde;o.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) issued a new publication, "Gender mainstreaming in Sub-Saharan Africa: a review of UNDP supported activities," which is based on a sample of 18 of the 45 countries in the region where it has projects.

A joint press release from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS says that there is a close link between tuberculosis and HIV. Figures from a number of developing countries show that up to 70 percent of TB patients are infected with HIV and that up to 50 percent of people living with HIV can expect to develop TB.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank have convened a two-day meeting of donors on the Horn of Africa initiative. The meeting will discuss the strategy proposed by the Task Force launched by the Secretary-General a year ago to eliminate food insecurity in the Horn of Africa and obtain indications of funding.

Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162

Fax. 212-963-7055


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