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[casi] Transcript of press conference Annan/Vieira de Mello

UN Secretary-General
27 May 2003

Transcript of press conference by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Special
Representative for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, 27 May


The Secretary-General: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Last week the Security Council came together in Resolution 1483 to chart the
way forward for post-conflict Iraq. The Council has called on the United
Nations to assist the Iraqi people, in coordination with the Authority, in a
wide range of areas, including humanitarian relief, reconstruction,
infrastructure rehabilitation, legal and judicial reforms, human rights and
return of refugees, and also to assist with civilian police. These efforts
are going to demand a lot from us and from the international community.

I have asked Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello to serve as my Special
Representative. He will lead the United Nations effort in Iraq for the next
four months.

You saw him at work in Kosovo and in East Timor, running a complex mission
there. I don't think he needs an introduction. He has an exceptional and
unique experience in running these operations and is also known as a good
team builder and a consensus builder. I think he is someone who will hit the
ground running.

Obviously, I have to admit it was a rather difficult decision for me to name
a sitting High Commissioner as my Representative in Iraq, even on a
temporary basis, particularly as human rights has been on top of my own
agenda and it is absolutely important to this organization. It was not an
easy decision, but it also reflects the important challenge that we need to
take on.

No one has more experience in this area than Sergio Vieira de Mello, and I
think for us to really get organized and become operational and effective
immediately I needed someone who can hit the ground running and help us set
up the operation at its early stages, so Sergio will be there for four
months and will then return to his assignment in Geneva. In the meantime,
Bertie Ramcharan will serve as Acting High Commissioner. I hope Sergio will
have the support of all the Member States, and I am confident he will work
well with the coalition Authority in Baghdad and with all the other groups
in Iraq.
I will now invite Sergio to say a few words.

Mr. Vieira de Mello: Thank you, Secretary-General, for your kind words and
for your renewed confidence in me.
The people of Iraq, as we know only too well, have suffered and have
suffered enough. It is time that we all -- the Iraqis first, the coalition
Authority and the United Nations -- come together to ensure that this
suffering comes to an end and that the Iraqi people take their destiny into
their own hands, as the Security Council resolution calls for, as quickly as
possible. We must not fail.

It will not come to you as a surprise, as the Secretary-General just
indicated, that I consider the development of a culture of human rights in
Iraq as fundamental to stability and true peace in that country. You may
have read me in recent weeks, writing to that effect in the media. I
believe, on the basis of my experience, that respect for human rights is the
only solid foundation for durable peace and for development. I shall place
particular importance, as agreed with the Secretary-General, on the need to
ensure women's rights and their full participation in the consultative
processes -- not least the political one -- that lie ahead.

As the Secretary-General said, the decision to appoint me to this relatively
short-term assignment was not easy for him and for me, which is why we kept
it to a relatively short duration, in order to lay the foundations of the
United Nations role in that country. But I will leave behind, as he pointed
out, a very strong team in Bertie Ramcharan and the senior management in my
Office, and I will remain in very, very close touch with them.
I think I will stop here, and we will take your questions.

Question [UNCA President]: Thank you, Secretary-General, for coming here
today, and Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, as well.
I would like to abuse my role, if I may, Sir, by asking a question about
housekeeping before I ask a substantive question about Iraq. The
housekeeping question has to do with a briefing that the United Nations
Correspondents Association wanted to have on Friday of last week, which we
were prevented from having because of pressures by one of the Member States.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stands solidly in
defence of the principle of freedom of the press. I was hoping to get an
assurance from you, Sir, that in the future you would be able to rely on
this Article in defending our right to meet with whoever we choose. If I
could get your answer to that, and then I will ask you a question about

The Secretary-General: Let me say that we have always respected that right.
And I think you in this room are very much aware of the practice and my own
approach towards that issue. While we respect your rights, I think as an
Organization we also have certain principles. I think you have to respect
those principles just as much as we have to. I think the explanation you got
was that the event you planned conflicted with the "one China" policy, that
you had an individual who was coming here to discuss with you Taiwan's
relationship with the World Health Organization and its efforts to become an
observer. That, quite frankly, you will have to admit, was not in line with
the United Nations policy. So, this was an exceptional and unique situation.
In the past, we have not interfered, and in the future we will not

Question: Obviously, this is not the place for a debate on the issue, and we
will be taking this up in the future. I thank you for your answer.
To move on to the issue of Iraq, resolution 1483 (2003) is silent on the
issue of human rights, silent on the proposals by the occupying powers to
establish military courts. I was wondering if you are distressed or upset in
any way by that omission.
More specifically, there have been reports today that the United States is
now considering establishing a death row for its camp in Guantanamo, and I
am wondering what your reaction to that is.

The Secretary-General: Let me say that the resolution does talk about
promoting human rights, so human rights is covered. But on the legal and
judicial issue, I think we are going to have lots of work to do. That is one
of the areas that I am sure my Representative will have to tackle with the
coalition Authority, and discuss this issue on the ground.
Concerning the Guantanamo Bay development, I have not seen the details of
it, and I would hesitate to comment on it at the moment.

Question: There are critics in the Middle East who are very strongly
criticizing the United Nations, first, for in their eyes legitimizing the
results of an illegal war -- which you yourself described as illegal -- in
resolution 1483 (2003). Secondly, it has proved once again that the United
Nations is unable to stop the unilateral action of a powerful State if it
wishes to do so.
My question concerning the special envoy is, why so short? Why only four
months? Why not longer?

The Secretary-General: On your first question, let me say that this is an
issue that the Council debated and considered for a long period. There have
been divisions, and we cannot overlook that. Those divisions and issues --
positions of principle that governments and individuals took -- are a matter
for the record. I do not think that the resolution that the Council adopted
last week is going to change the history of the recent past. However, the
Council has given us a solid and a legal basis for our operations in Iraq,
and I think at this stage that all the Council members are focused on what
they can do to help Iraq and the Iraqi people -- and I think that should be
our focus and our emphasis. I think if we pursue our actions on that basis,
we will be able to make a difference.
On the question of the duration of Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello's appointment,
obviously, as I said, he has an important assignment in Geneva. Yet he was
uniquely qualified for this, and I have asked him to go and help establish
the United Nations presence -- establish a relationship, mount the
operation. He will be replaced at the end of the four months. I had to use
him in a similar vein in Kosovo, as some of you may remember, and at that
time, I limited it to two months. This time it will be four months. Iraq is
a much more complex operation.

Question: I think the forthcoming interim Government is going to be an
important one for the Iraqi people. People are wondering how the leader of
the interim Government, as well as the cabinet members, will be decided on
or selected. I hear that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General
is going to assist in establishing the interim Government. Are you going to
make suggestions, and the Americans will decide who is going to be the head,
and the cabinet members? Would you explain the role of the Special

Mr. Vieira de Mello: I think I will be in a better position to answer your
question after I have reached Baghdad
and had an opportunity to consult, as I said, with a broad spectrum of Iraqi
leaders and opinion-makers, as it were. I am not privy to the intentions of
the Authority in terms of establishing this Iraqi interim administration --
transitional administration. I will do my best, however, on behalf of the
Secretary-General and the Security Council to make sure that the interests
of the Iraqi people come first.

The Secretary-General: And you should also remember that everyone is
agreed -- and it is in the Council resolution -- that the Iraqis should be
responsible for their own political future. They are going to be very much
at the centre of this. We will be there to assist and to work with them; we
are not going to impose any leaders on them.

Question: You are apparently reluctant during this process to delineate the
role that the United Nations could or should play in Iraq. But after the
Security Council has spoken, the United Nations has ended up with quite a
broad and long-ranging mandate. How close does the resulting role come to
what you think the ideal United Nations role should be? Secondly, since Mr.
Vieira de Mello's appointment is only for four months, are you preparing a
successor? Who might that be?

The Secretary-General: Good try. No, let me say that the resolution, indeed,
does give us a broad mandate, and each situation is unique. When one refers
to an ideal United Nations mandate -- it is difficult to describe an ideal
United Nations mandate. First of all, this is a unique situation. It is the
first time we are working on the ground with an occupying Power,
side-by-side, trying to help the population in the territory. Therefore,
there are certain things that we will have to work out on the ground. We
have to define and work out our relationship with the coalition Authority or
the occupying Power, and also our relationship with occupied Iraq. As he
said, we are going to be in touch -- he will be in touch -- not only with
the coalition but with a broad range of authorities. Some of the activities
are very clear. The humanitarian mandate is very clear. We have a direct
responsibility for it and we are going to carry it out as we are doing.
In other areas, we have to work in partnership with the coalition and, of
course, with Iraqi civil society and leaders. And, of course, these
relationships will have to be worked out on the ground; we cannot decide it
here before Mr. Vieira de Mello gets in. As he indicated earlier, most of it
he will have to work out on the ground. But as far as the resolution is
concerned, I think we can work with it. I think it gives us specific areas
of responsibility, and we are going to carry on with it.
Mr. Vieira de Mello will be replaced in four months, and I will announce his
successor in due course -- but not today.

Question: This might be a little unrelated, but it is in the news. On the
Road Map, reportedly one of the 14 conditions or reservations Israel has
made is that the only part of the Quartet that will oversee the
implementation on the ground will be the United States, and not the other
three. Being one of the other three, will you insist that the United Nations
will be in it? Also, what do you think of Israel's acceptance of the Road

The Secretary-General: I think it is a very encouraging development that
Israel has accepted the Road Map. The Prime Minister has indicated that he
has some questions that he is going to pose later. But the fact that he has
accepted it is a positive development. And the Quartet, and the
international community, has the basis for moving forward in assisting the
two parties to resolve their conflict.
As to the suggestion that Israel will only accept the United States as a
party on the ground -- I take it to monitor the Road Map -- it is something
that we will tackle as we move forward. But I think that all the partners
are concerned to see effective action. We want to see progress; we want to
see an end to this painful conflict. And we will, I am sure, accept any
arrangement that will help us achieve that objective.

Question: The sanctions were lifted in the name of the Iraqi people, and now
Mr. Vieira de Mello has been appointed in the name of the Iraqi people. Who
are these Iraqis? Have they been consulted? And secondly, there are 300
million Arabs and 1 billion Muslims in the world. Why not one of them, with
all due respect to Mr. Vieira de Mello?

The Secretary-General: Let me, first of all, correct you. I did not say that
Mr. Vieira de Mello had been named in the name of the Iraqi people. I said
that Sergio Vieira de Mello has been named to go and work with the Iraqi
people, to assist them, and it is their interests and their concerns that
should be forefront in our minds.
As to your second question, I have a great deal of respect for all
religions. It was not a religious factor. I think that, as we move forward
and the team is formed, you will see that your question will be answered.
Question (interpretation from French): How does Mr. Vieira de Mello envisage
the work that lies ahead with the coalition? Could he tell us something
about this four-month mandate?

Mr. Vieira de Mello (interpretation from French): On the four-month mandate,
I believe the Secretary-General has just responded. I have other full-time
functions in Geneva. It was not easy to reach an understanding on the
duration of the mission, so it seemed to us that four months was a
reasonable duration that would not put my other functions in Geneva at risk.
You are well aware of the importance of those functions, although, my
mission in Iraq also relates to the protection of human rights, you will
agree to that.
Working with the Authority is part of the rules of the game. They are
responsible for the administration of the country until there is a new
order. As the Secretary-General has said and as the resolution says, we all
hope that that new order will come soon. It is imperative that the Iraqi
people take the destiny of their country in their own hands. We will
contribute to that, working with the Authority, working with the other
components of the international community: the diplomatic community in
Baghdad, the neighbouring countries -- because Iraq cannot be dealt with in
isolation from those countries -- and with all the representatives of civil
and political society in Iraq.

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, you have said that human rights is at the
top of your agenda, and you, Mr. Vieira de Mello, have pointed to the
importance of promoting women's rights. May I ask you what, specifically, do
you think the United Nations can do to further women's rights in Iraq,
especially when we hear now about various conservative clerics who want to
turn back the clock and limit women's roles?

Mr. Vieira de Mello: I think experience has shown that an assertive policy
in the promotion of the full range of the human rights of women -- be they
civil, political, or economic, social and cultural -- can only lead to
peace, stability, development and tolerance. So, we will do our utmost --
within, obviously, the limitations of our own mandate -- to bring that about
among the components of Iraqi society and to assist the Authority, which is
charged to do the same.

The Secretary-General: I think your question also implied that you are
concerned that Iraqi women, who have had relative freedom, may lose ground
and that one should do everything possible to ensure that that does not
happen and, if possible, that their interests and rights are protected. We
do share that objective and I think that will be one of the efforts Mr.
Vieira de Mello will be making with the Iraqi authorities and with others on
the ground.

Question: Mr. Vieira de Mello, when will you actually be hitting the ground
running in Baghdad, and with what size of staff? What will be the makeup of
that staff? And what is to prevent you hitting the ground running as a lame
duck and with people basically saying: "Well, he is only going to be here
four months. If we don't like him, we'll just deal with his successor"?

Mr. Vieira de Mello: First of all, the United Nations is not absent from
Iraq. We already have a sizeable presence in that country that is doing a
fabulous job in very, very difficult circumstances. I am speaking of the
humanitarian community.
Secondly, I intend to "hit the ground", as you put it, on Monday morning at
the latest, with a relatively small team, because the conditions in Baghdad
are still not ideal, both in terms of accommodation and office space, not to
speak of security. But that will be reinforced in different, successive
waves until we reach the ideal size, which I still need to determine, of our
mission in Baghdad.
As far as being a lame duck, I don't think I was a lame duck in Kosovo when
I served for two months in the initial phase. We won't have time for that. I
am going there with my team to do immediate, important and urgent work and
you will see that we won't be lame ducks in any way or fashion.

Question: Mr. Vieira de Mello, could you tell us what you actually plan to
do next Monday, next week, when you get there? Specifically, you must have
some ideas of what you would like to do. Also, could you tell us what your
ideas are about doing a Bonn-style large political conference so that there
would really be a great input from the Iraqi people in trying to decide on
their political future?

Mr. Vieira de Mello: Your second question is difficult and you will easily
understand that I cannot answer that now. Let me get there and let us see
how we can contribute to that happening.
Now, as far as I am concerned, as I hit the ground, priority number one will
be to establish contacts with the representative Iraqi leaders,
representatives of the media, of civil society -- and there are many. Iraqi
society is rich and that richness has been suppressed brutally for the last
24 years. But they are there -- they are there or are returning as we
speak -- and they are my priority. Number two: establish good working
relations with the Authority, with the coalition members. Number three:
visit all the provinces, because Iraq is not limited to Baghdad and I think
it is important that I pay attention to what Iraqis in all the 18 provinces
actually feel and aspire to in terms of their future.

Question: Mr. Vieira de Mello, have you in your long travels with the United
Nations ever been in Baghdad and can you compare it to your experiences in
East Timor, which certainly put you on the map for the United Nations in
terms of nation building? The big difference is that you were like the
mayor, governor, first de facto president of that island, and now a quite
different situation. Can you compare the experiences?

Mr. Vieira de Mello: I was in Baghdad as a child with my father when he was
posted in the region, and I have visited once since, but that was a long
time ago.
Secondly, I find it always dangerous to compare one experience with another.
Certainly, East Timor, Kosovo, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone have
taught us many lessons which can be applied in the case of Iraq, but the two
situations are completely different and I'll have to determine how the
lessons I've learned and the Organization has learned could apply to this
particular mandate in Iraq.

Question (interpretation from French): Mr. Vieira de Mello, could you give
us your assessment of the present situation, the problems that seem to you
to be most urgent, most difficult to manage in the immediate term?
Mr. Vieira de Mello (interpretation from French): I believe that, in the
immediate term, it is obvious that the question of law and order is of
priority. Security has not yet been fully restored and it is impossible to
deal with the rest and to build what we want to build: democratic
institutions, a real culture of human rights and a political process, making
it possible for the Iraqis to govern themselves as soon as possible -- it's
impossible without security.

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, a lot has been written about the allegedly
diminished role of the United Nations pre- and post-conflict. What is your
reaction to these kinds of comment?

The Secretary-General: I really will have to say that I obviously don't know
the basis of the definition that before the conflict the United Nations was
not active. I think all of us saw the intensive activities in the Council
and the debate that led to the divisions we've all talked about -- the
debate and the divisions that cut across old, traditional lines. So I think
the Council, in a way, and the United Nations did before the war what it was
supposed to do. The Council acted the way it should have. The fact that they
did not come to a common consensus, and the war took place without the
Council's approval, did not mean that the Council did not do its work. The
Council did debate; the Council really took the issue very, very seriously.
And since the war, the discussions that led to resolution 1483 (2003) were
also extremely difficult. But I think that, if I understand you correctly,
you are implying -- as others have implied -- that the United Nations should
have been able to stop the war, and it was not in the capacity of the United
Nations to do that.

Question (interpretation from French): Mr. Secretary-General, there has been
a great deal of criticism regarding the fact that, despite your very strong
attitude towards the war on Iraq, there was not enough strength to stop the
war. What can you say in response to this type of criticism?

The Secretary-General (interpretation from French): Obviously, Security
Council members discussed and are still discussing this issue. The Council
was fully seized of the matter. The decision was theirs to make, not mine.
My position was clear: I would have preferred a peaceful solution. But that
was not possible, and I believe everyone knows that. That's why today we
have a mandate to help the Iraqi people, and we will do everything possible
to help them.

Spokesman: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

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