January 25, 2006
(3:00 p.m. EST)
MR. MCCORMACK: Hey, everybody. Thanks for coming. We have a special guest from New York down to visit with us, Ambassador Bolton, who's down here for some consultations with the Secretary and he very kindly agreed to take some time to speak with all of you about a number of issues that are on his mind; in particular, UN reform, the Human Rights Council, and all the work that he does up in New York. And then he will also be ready to take some of your questions.
So, this session is on the record and I'll turn it over to Ambassador Bolton.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Okay. Well, glad to be back and I thought what I would do would be to just spend a few minutes on some of the issues that Sean just mentioned and then -- probably better to respond to your questions, but we're in a particularly busy time in New York in the Security Council as we get ready for the U.S.
Presidency next month, where a number of issues, we expect, will get a lot of attention.
Through the end of January, we're actually spending a lot of time on the Lebanon- Syria matter getting ready for the extension of the mandate of UNIFIL, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon where we will support the extension of that mandate and also, make it clear that we take seriously the name of the force, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, and that we're looking to continue to encourage the Government of Lebanon to look at the further extension of control over all of its territory and we want to work with the Government of Lebanon to that end as they extend their legitimate authority.
We had a statement by the President of the Security Council on Monday on follow- up to Resolution 1559 calling on Syria to meet the obligations imposed on it in Resolution 1559, including ceasing the arming of armed groups inside Lebanon, such as Hezbollah and looking to free and fair presidential elections in Lebanon without any outside interference. So, I expect that this -- the ongoing work we've been doing in trying to promote the reestablishment of Lebanese sovereignty over its entire territory through a process of free elections and Syrian withdrawal is going to continue.
On UN reform, this is also going to be a very active period. The Secretariat will be obligated next month by the outcome document adopted in the September summit to produce two major reviews, one we call a Mandate review, the second we call the Rules and Regulations review.
The Mandate review will produce a report by the Secretariat that will consider all of the mandates imposed by the principal organs of the UN, the General Assembly, the Security Council, and others on the Secretariat over the years. The responsibilities that have been allocated to the Secretariat -- we think there is something like 3,000 mandates, which will give us an opportunity to review all of them and decide what are outmoded, what are duplicative, what have produced inefficient or ineffective results.
And this is really the -- probably the major front of the management side of the reform effort that we're undertaking. Not just the question of boxes and lines on an organizational chart, but the real reason we're interested in management reform, which is not an abstract academic interest in management, but in outcomes; what it is the Secretariat actually does and evaluating whether it is still useful today or whether it can be modified, changed, or discarded.
On the governance reform front, we're continuing to push for the abolition of the UN Human Rights Commission, which we think is a completely broken mechanism for intergovernmental decision-making on human rights. We are attempting to, through a variety of suggestions, establish really major reform of the Human Rights Commission.
We think that it would be a very undesirable outcome to be satisfied with a few cosmetic changes that really don't produce different outcomes once these reforms are adopted. I wish I could do better than this in terms of metaphors, but what I've said is, we want a butterfly; we don't intend to put lipstick on a caterpillar and call it a success.
One of the questions that's very important to us is the -- obviously, the role of the United States, because the United States is the only permanent member of the Security Council that's ever been defeated for election to the Human Rights Commission. And it was in that context that I had mentioned a few weeks ago that the Perm 5 Convention, which is an unwritten statement about the participation of the five permanent members of the Security Council in any UN body where they choose to, the tradeoff being that they give up the ability to become chairmen of any of those bodies.
The Russians have been on the Human Rights Council -- Human Rights Commission continuously since 1947. The Chinese were on the Council continuously from '47 until '63 when, in the great struggle between the PRC and Taiwan, they were forced off. When the PRC was then admitted, took the Chinese seat in the UN, they then returned to the Human Rights Commission and they have been on continuously since 1982. France and Britain, for reasons best known to them, from time to time, have not stood for election, but every time they have stood, they have been reelected.
As I say, the only Perm 5 member other than in the context, in effect, of a civil war -- the only Perm 5 member ever to have been defeated for membership on the Human Rights Commission was the United States in 2001. And I can tell you I remember very well sitting in Secretary Powell's conference room when some poor unfortunate had to report to him that we had been defeated. I want to say I had nothing to do with it that year, but it is something that's very much in our interest, I think, to have the United States on the new body and we're working hard on that as well.
There are a lot of other governance reform issues that we're working on that we can get into, but this is part of the overall reform effort that I think is a little bit misunderstood. It's not simply trying to have an ethics office at the UN, although we're pleased that there now is one, or whistleblower protection, although we're glad we finally got it 20 years overdue, or that the UN has now made progress toward establishing a gift limit on what UN employees can accept in terms of gifts. They've just recently revised the limit so that the upper limit for gifts is only $250. A couple of months ago is when they put that into effect and revising it downward from the previous limit, which was $10,000.
So, that's part of what comes out of the Oil-for-Food scandal and one of the reasons we think there should be UN reform. And why don't I just stop there; I'd be happy to answer your questions.
QUESTION: Can you get a lunch for under 250 bucks?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: In New York, well, I don't know. It's -- I don't -- I try to encourage people from the U.S. mission to eat in the UN delegates lounge.
QUESTION: Food is terrible.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Where prices are more moderate.
QUESTION: Is it possible during that period there won?t be a meeting this March of
the UN Human Rights Commission if things stay as they are?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think if things stay as they are, there will be a
meeting, because the regular order of business will be followed. In fact, the new
Chairman of the Human Rights Commission is in New York this week as he prepares to
get the Commission started. And we're in negotiations over the replacement of the
Commission, but I think the issue of whether there's a meeting is one of those issues --
whether there's a meeting of the old Commission is one of those issues that's still not
QUESTION: Could you talk a little bit about who's opposing and on what grounds
the reforms you want?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, a lot of countries oppose the reforms that we're
seeking because they fundamentally object to the scrutiny that the Human Rights
Commission can put on the conduct of individual governments. There's a lot of different
kinds of work the Human Rights Commission can do, but we think one of its most important aspects has been the country -- what we call country-specific resolutions focusing on human rights abuses in countries like Zimbabwe, Cuba, Burma, North
In fact, it's precisely those kinds of country-specific resolutions that spark the
greatest opposition and it's one of the reasons that some of the world's worst human
rights abusers seek to be on the Human Rights Commission, which is precisely to
protect themselves against that kind of scrutiny.
So, the real issue is whether we're going to continue with the current ineffective
system or whether we can have a sufficiently robust reform, but the UN will, in fact,
have an intergovernmental decision-making body on human rights that's capable of
doing what we think it needs to do.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? If you don't get that and the, kind of, strongest
thing you can get is this non-country specific resolution, I mean, are you willing -- is the
U.S. willing to take part in something like that or do you think that you need to start
working outside the UN with other international instruments to be more effective in
human rights? Is this a red line?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: We're always optimistic that sweet reason is going to
prevail and so, our objective is to succeed in getting major reform. But I did make a
statement two weeks ago that basically said, "We are not going to accept cosmetic
change," and that remains our position.
QUESTION: So -- but what is the alternative?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: That remains our position.
QUESTION: Let me just ask you, a time scale when you want this achieved by,
when you think it can be achieved by?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well --
QUESTION: And also, just to follow up, I know you're not here to talk about Iran, but
most people's minds are focused on Iran. And you have said that it's a credibility test,
again, for the UN Security Council on Iran. Are you suggesting that and I just --
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I've said it.
QUESTION: You've said it, okay. And I just wonder, isn't there a danger, when you
use that kind of language, that people immediately think Iraq and see that as a sort of a
sign post of where they're going?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, on your first question, which I know must have
been uppermost on your mind, the question -- the timing of the Human Rights Council
reform, we had said last year we wanted to achieve the reform by the end of calendar
2005, because we felt that if we were able to do that, then we could have answered the
question that George was really asking, "Do you have to have another meeting of the
Right now, it's the end of January. Realistically, whether we can get agreement in
February, I think, is open to question. And that then leads to the issue of what would
happen with the meeting on the Commission. But I think it's clear, although we'd like to
move forward, this is an objective that we have had for some time. Nobody should
come away with the impression that we're so desperate for reform in a short period of
time that we're going to give away major substantive elements that we think are critical
to the reform process.
In terms of Iran and the Security Council, the two major threats that the civilized
world faces today, two major threats to international peace and security, which is the
buzz phrase in the UN charter that defines the baseline jurisdiction of the Security
Council -- the two major threats we face are terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
So, the question for the Council is whether it can play an effective role in preventing
WMD proliferation and participating in the global war on terror or whether it can't. Iran
has been pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program for close to two decades.
It's following an obvious strategic decision that it wants a nuclear weapons capability.
We have made it clear over and over again that we seek a peaceful diplomatic solution
to that problem. But it's not only appropriate, it's been our view for quite some time that
because the Iranian program constitutes a threat to international peace and security,
that it should be handled by the Security Council.
Now, the question of what the Council does depends in large part on how Iran
reacts. The key to this really lies in Iran's hands. And if it makes the correct decision,
which is to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons, then I think all kinds of things are
possible. That's really what this effort diplomatically has been, is to show them that it's to their advantage not to pursue complete capability throughout the entire nuclear fuel cycle.
QUESTION: Can I follow that up, please? Your reference to terrorism as the second
biggest problem, does that mean as the U.S. pursues its agenda on Iran's nuclear
program, you will mix in or the U.S. will mix in or involve -- mix in -- maybe I don't have
the right phrase -- will bring terrorism into the argument or is there reason enough to
oppose Iran's program, irrespective of its support for terror groups?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think whether I said terrorism first or second, it's a
tough decision, which is worse. But the absolute worst eventuality is the confluence
between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. And I think that's why Iran is a
particularly acute case, given that Iran, over the years, has been one of the most prolific
state sponsors of terrorism in terms of supplies, manpower, finance.
One obviously has to worry that a nuclear-capable Iran would have the ability to
deliver nuclear weapons not only through ballistic missiles, but also by giving these
weapons to terrorist groups. It's a huge fear. And the fact is that Iran's pursuit of nuclear
weapons is in clear violation of the obligation that it undertook under the
Nonproliferation Treaty not to seek such a capability. So this, again, is another reason
why the Security Council's role, as defined in the UN charter, seems to us to be entirely
QUESTION: Let me just ask, though, because the Security Council, what it did on
Iraq is, it had sanctions and we know what happened with those sanctions. I wonder
why you think getting it to the Security Council is so urgent if there's limited, you know,
things on the table to threaten Iran with and when it risks the possibility that Iran could
kick out IAEA inspectors and then the world would be blind?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, let me answer the last point first. The IAEA
inspectors know what the IAEA inspectors know and they don't know what they don't
know. Iran is a big country. And the idea that we know everything that Iran is doing in
the nuclear field, I don?t think is self-evident.
The issue for the Security Council on the first instance is whether we can show Iran
much more unmistakably than I think is -- that they perceive it now, that their pursuit of
nuclear weapons is unacceptable. And I think that the -- simply bringing this matter to
the agenda of the Security Council changes the political dynamic for them and hopefully
will increase the international pressure to get them to give up that pursuit.
I think that's one of the reasons why we see the Security Council and the IAEA
working together on this; that if the Security Council, as we said, becomes seized of the
Iranian nuclear weapons program, then we can strengthen the hand of the IAEA in its
efforts to get the Iranians to back off and comply with the existing IAEA resolutions.
QUESTION: Can you go under Chapter 7 on that?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, we haven't made any decision about the long-
range course of action. I think the first thing that we're concentrating on now is getting
the IAEA to -- Board of Governors to vote next week to report this to the Security
Council and then we'll go from there.
QUESTION: Do you contemplate then that the Security Council might do something
to strengthen the hand of the IAEA and essentially send the case back there? Would
that be acceptable?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well,I don't think it's a case of sending it here or there.
The mandate of the IAEA is the enforcement of Safeguards Agreements that individual
countries signed with the IAEA. And the Safeguards Agreements are intended to
measure the input of nuclear fuels into reactors and what the countries do with the
outputs and they are obligated under the Safeguards Agreements as augmented by
additional protocols to allow IAEA inspections. That's the IAEA's mandate.
The Security Council's mandate is international peace and security, which is
obviously much broader. But the statute of the IAEA, from the time it was written,
contemplated a close relationship with the Security Council because the pursuit of
nuclear weapons obviously implicates international peace and security. So, that's why I
said earlier one could imagine a quite close working relationship between the Security
Council and the IAEA to address this problem.
QUESTION: But is that a sort of a -- is that an outcome from the Security Council, is
my question now. I mean, if -- once referred to the Security Council, what do you expect
the Security Council to do? Does the mere presence of the Iranian case at the Security
Council provide enough pressure to dissuade Iran from the path or --
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, we don't know the answer to that question because
it depends on what Iran does. But I do think it changes the dynamic to have the Iranian
weapons program in the spotlight in the Security Council, rather than considered in a
technical agency of the UN.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. I didn't -- can you just -- just to clarify, so you're saying it's
not necessary to have a vote at the IAEA, as far as you're concerned?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think the course we've been following for quite
some time, since I worked on it -- and my other capacity as well is to have a report by
the IAEA to the Security Council.
QUESTION: This is kind of -- this is a follow-up on both of those, but in a slightly
different way. You said that the question for the Security Council is to determine
whether or not they can play a constructive -- I'm not sure what adjective you used.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I'm sure it was constructive.
QUESTION: Effective, constructive role in this question. But since, as Michelle
brought up, it seems every measure was taken at the Security Council with Iraq and it
wasn't effective, what is your recommended path forward so that they could be effective
in this case? What are you recommending that the Security Council could do?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think in the first instance, what we're
recommending is that the Council help dramatize the extent of the opposition to Iran
achieving a nuclear weapons capability. And I might say that there's not a single
permanent member of the Security Council that accepts that Iran should have nuclear
weapons. I mean, on the broad strategic question, there really is complete agreement. I
think foreign ministers and indeed, heads of government going back to the Sea Island
Summit in 2004 have made that clear.
The issue is how to demonstrate to the Iranians that the course they're pursuing is
not acceptable. And the nature of the effort, really, I don't think can be projected very far
into the future because it depends -- the nature of the actions we would take depend on
Iran's responses. You know, we have a very good example of what can happen when a
country makes a strategic decision to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons in the
case of Libya, where Colonel Qadhafi decided that he was safer not pursuing those
weapons and where we were able to reach agreement very satisfactory to us that
involved our ability to look across the entire Libyan nuclear program and remove it from
So the -- and Colonel Qadhafi remains in power. So, I mean, the Iranians have that
example before them and that's one response that they could give.
QUESTION: But that?s not a Security Council effort -- because the Security Council
was particularly effective. Was it?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, that was done outside of the Security Council, to
be sure. But as of now, every indication we have is that Iran continues to pursue
nuclear weapons, so that the non-Security Council options have proven unsuccessful.
QUESTION: So you're saying that until you see what Iran does in light of February
2nd or getting to the Security Council, you can't give us any ideas about what the
Security Council might do to fulfill a more effective role?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I mean, there are lots of ideas, but the idea -- the course
we're pursuing is, at this point, to mobilize international political opinion. And I think
that's part of what the President and the Secretary have been doing. I think it's been
quite successful. I think we now see that the EU-3, as we call them, have joined the
longstanding American view that this matter had to be taken to the Security Council.
The Russians have said publicly they're not going to oppose a report by the IAEA to the
Security Council and so, that's the approach we're pursing in the IAEA. And we need to
see -- we need to have that meeting take place. We need to see how the Iranians react
and then we'll proceed in New York.
QUESTION: Regarding Darfur, is the U.S. Government exerting any influence in
determining the final lists of names of individuals targeted by UN Security Council
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: We're exerting a lot of influence on it. It's a very serious
matter for us and we're trying to move ahead on it and we've been proceeding in the
Council and I'm hoping we're going to get progress on that within a very short period of
QUESTION: John, you're taking over the presidency in February --
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: The United States is taking over the presidency.
QUESTION: Excuse me. But, obviously, the Ambassador sets an agenda with the
rest of the Administration and the Secretary of State, of course. Could you talk a little bit
about what you see your agenda being for the month and what you hope to accomplish
in the seat?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, don't exaggerate what the influence of the
presidency is. It's a procedural office, really not so much a substantive office, and we
have a number of peacekeeping activities that -- whose mandates have to be
considered during that period. But we're also obviously cognizant of the ongoing
developments in Lebanon and Syria, where there may be additional activity. And as
we've now just discussed for the last 20 minutes, there's the subject of Iran. So I think
it's potentially going to be quite a busy month.
QUESTION: How would you deal with Syria if it will not cooperate with the
international investigation committee? And Syrian President Bashar al-Asad has said
that the integrity of Syria is above the UN resolution.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, Resolution 1636 clearly says that Syria has an
obligation to comply with 1595 and its other obligations for cooperating with the IIIC and
we've made it clear that failure to cooperate would be taken very seriously by the
Security Council. That's what we said in Resolution 1644 and the obvious implication of it is that if Syria doesn't fulfill its obligations, that the Security Council could take steps.
What we want is for the Syrians to stop obstructing the investigative commission,
make witnesses available, and otherwise facilitate the commission's work. And that's --
we're now in a period where there's a transition between Detlev Mehlis, the outgoing
commissioner, and Serge Brammertz, the incoming commissioner. We want to do what
we can to help Brammertz to get off to a fast start. And he is either on his way to the
region or going there in a couple days and he's been briefed in New York and -- you
know, our job is not to play junior investigator ourselves; our job is to support
Brammertz and his work. His commission is the creature of the Security Council and
aide of the Government of Lebanon and that's what we're pursing.
QUESTION: You have used the budgetary process to put a lot of pressure on the
UN for reform and I was wondering if you could evaluate whether you think that that
was successful? Did you get the response that you wanted? And I have a second
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Can I answer that one first?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I don't consider it applying pressure. I consider it a form
of intellectual discipline, because the point is that there are a lot of important decisions
that have to be made about the mandates and the rules and regulations of the United
Nations. And by putting in place the expenditure cap that we did, such that the
Secretariat's ability to spend money runs out in June, I think it sharpens everybody's
attention to the priority that we place on management reform. And I think the closer we
get to June, the sharper their attention will be.
QUESTION: And my second question was on the Human Rights Council reform
efforts. Some newspaper editorial boards have criticized the U.S. position, which was --
they've characterized it as the U.S. asking for permanent members to be allowed -- you
know, to be automatically allowed to serve on the Commission, rather -- or on the
Council, rather than some human rights -- more objective human rights-based criteria.
And obviously, the U.S. request to allow permanent Security Council members to be
allowed to serve, you know, would guarantee a position to China and Russia, which --
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, that's what I just got finished explaining. Russia's
had a position since 1947, so I'll tell you -- I'll make a prediction, whether there's a Perm
5 convention or not, Russia and China are going to be on the new Human Rights
Council. The issue is whether the United States is going to be on the Human Rights
Council. That's what that's about.
QUESTION: So have we just given up on having a human rights-based criteria?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No. And there was never any implication that we would
not, for example, continue to offer our resolution on Chinese human rights violations.
The issue is whether the United States is going to get on this Council, for us.
STAFF: We're still pushing the criteria on all the others issues for -- so, no, we're
not backing away from that.
QUESTION: The issue isn't that awful human rights abusers sit on the Council?
That's not part of the issue?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: The issue -- I mean, this is a long, involved struggle in
New York between the effort we're making, which is to have a major difference in the
way the Human Rights Commission is selected, versus some countries who are content
for -- to take measures that are less inclusive, less far-reaching than the ones we want.
And that's really what the discussion is all about.
But our priority in any event -- let's be clear, our priority is management reform,
because that is the -- that's where the -- I think the major difficulties in the UN system
have been. There's no doubt, as I've said, and the United States led the way in arguing
that the existing Human Rights Commission was fundamentally broken and to start the process by which we could have the reform.
QUESTION: Can you update us on the -- anything that might be happening up in
New York on the search for the next Secretary General and are you actively involved in
that, is the Commission involved?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Yeah, the Secretary General's term expires on
December the 31st, 2006. We have suggested that the next Secretary General be
elected in the summer of this year so that whomever is selected has an opportunity to
have a kind of transition period, rather than follow the way it's been done too often in the past, where the Secretary General is selected in November or December and takes office on January the 1st and doesn't have an adequate time to consider the priorities that they want to have in terms of their work ahead. The conventional wisdom in New York is that the Asian region is due for its "turn," not having had a Secretary General since U Thant and so, a lot of attention is being focused on Asia.
It's been the U.S. position consistently for decades that we don't recognize the
principle of geographic rotation. So, our objective is to find the best-qualified individual
from wherever in the world that person might come from. Somebody?s thing clicked off
there. If that person turns out to be an Asian, that's fine with us. If that person turns out
to be from somewhere else, that's fine with us, too.
There's never been a Secretary General from Eastern Europe, for example. So, if
you talk about rotation among geographical groups, it would seem before you get a
second Asian Secretary General, maybe somebody from Eastern or Central Europe
ought to have a chance. But fundamentally, we think we ought to look for the best- qualified person and that's what we're trying to do.
QUESTION: Have you seen a copy of the UN procurement report and what do you
think of the redactions and the names?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I've been briefed on the report and we received it
up in New York today. I think the real issue in the report is the depth and the breadth of
corruption and mismanagement in procurement and UN peacekeeping activities. We've
seen the Volcker Commission report, which detailed the corruption and mismanagement in the oil-for-food program. Within the past six weeks, there was
another audit report on procurement -- procurement by the central UN in New York.
Eight employees of the UN have been put on administrative leave, pending further
investigation because of their work in the procurement area. Now, we have this audit
that shows that the trouble with procurement goes worldwide.
Since the United States pays 22 percent of the assessed budget in the central UN
and 27 percent in peacekeeping, every dollar of waste, fraud and abuse contains --
peacekeeping contains 27 American cents. So that's something that we should pay a
lot of attention to. This is absolutely compelling evidence of the need for sweeping reform. And although I don't know if all of you were up in New York with the Secretary in September, you know, she called for a lasting revolution of reform. And it's not often that an American Secretary of State goes to New York and calls for revolution, but her calling for revolution I think shows just how strongly we feel about this.
QUESTION: But you don't think it should name names?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, you know, I haven't read the report itself. I'm not
sure I want to get into the specifics. I'm not sure what was the cause of the decision. I
think the substance of the report, though, is pretty compelling.
QUESTION: One quick follow-up from what you said earlier about reform. You were
talking about the Secretariat, whether it be modified or discarded. I wanted to make
sure that was one of the words that you used.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Sure. If a mandate is obsolete or ineffective, I don't see
any reason why we should continue it. That's what this review is about. That's why the
leaders -- this is a directive by the summit to engage in this mandate review and the
UN's own financial regulations call for these kinds of considerations to be applied. I
think the unfortunate fact is that years and years and years and years and years and
years have gone by without effective review, and that's what we're going to start once
we get the mandate review in February.
QUESTION: One other question because yours was a recess appointment, which I
understand is just for a year. Is a year going to be enough to push through this
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: The struggle will go on. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can you help me understand something on Iran I think a lot of us don't
really understand? A week ago we had a briefing with Mr. Solana, who tried to explain
the difference between reporting Iran to the Security Council and referring Iran to the
Security Council. He basically summarized by saying that referring has more guts, it's
more significant, and I think Mr. McCormack today said a referral is a referral is a
Now you've just used the word "report" twice, I think "refer" once. But in your eyes,
sitting on the Security Council, does it make any difference to you how it gets to you
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: The lawyers have been cogitating about the nature of
the language and I am confident that when the lawyers finish cogitating they will come
up with the right language and when it gets to the Security Council we will know what to
do with it.
QUESTION: My question is on Oil-for-Food. Are you done, Guy?
QUESTION: Well, so they haven't come up with the right language yet, then?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No, I think the word is probably "report" and that's fine.
It's the same thing.
QUESTION: It's the same thing?
STAFF: It's the same thing.
QUESTION: Okay, that's what I wanted to know --
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: It's the difference between what some in Vienna are
saying, which to inform the Security Council, but a report is tantamount to a referral.
QUESTION: On Oil-for-Food --
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: That's my opinion, not as a lawyer but as a policy
QUESTION: Where do you see this going now? It seems to have lost at least some
of the headlines, but I know that it's still definitely percolating up there in New York.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, the trouble is it's not percolating in New York. It is
percolating in Congress. And one of the things I try and do on almost a daily basis is
explain to people that while in New York we're reluctant to talk about waste, fraud,
abuse, mismanagement and corruption, they are not shy about talking about it in
Congress. And you know, I think one of the most compelling things that's been said on
this subject was by Paul Volker when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee. He was asked by Senator Coleman, do you think that there's a culture of
corruption at the UN? And he said, well, no, I don't think there's a culture of corruption,
although there is corruption. He said I think there's a culture of inaction. A culture of
So I've tried to characterize this as Secretary Rice's revolution of reform meets the
culture of inaction, the irresistible force against the immovable object, and we'll see
QUESTION: And also if I could follow up on a different subject. Kofi Annan said that
he was still talking to the Iranians and that he was hoping to not have it reach a referral
as you thought. There?s still room for negotiations before it goes to the IAEA. Have you
had any talks with him about that and do you know, is that still a possibility and is that
something that the U.S. would accept?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think this is fundamentally a question for member
governments to decide because the IAEA and the UN are, after all, intergovernmental
organizations. And Secretary Rice will be meeting with her counterparts next week. The
IAEA Board, which consists of member governments, will meet next Thursday and the
member governments will make the decision.
QUESTION: But have you talked to Kofi about it?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I have not talked to him recently about it, no.
QUESTION: Going back very quick on the idea of appointing someone before Kofi
Annan?s tenure is up.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, we're going to do that anyway. The question is
whether we pick his successor in December or whether we pick his successor earlier.
QUESTION: But do you think -- I mean, what is the likelihood because would that
essentially make Kofi Annan a lame duck? I mean, is it possible that over the summer
that his successor -- (laughter).
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Look, Kofi was elected -- was reelected to a second term
in the summer of 2001 so there's ample precedent for this. The United States elects
presidents in November with roughly a hundred days transition, and it's just -- it just
makes sense. We floated this idea quite broadly in New York. We've got a lot of
support for it. The election process comes from the nomination by the Security Council
to the General Assembly and I've certainly indicated to all of the potential candidates
that I've spoken with, all the candidates for Secretary General, that we have this in
mind, and I haven't heard any objection to it so far.
QUESTION: You don't think it would happen over the summer?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think it's possible. I think the -- we don't have any
particular date in mind, but I think it's important that it not happen in
November/December. I remember in Bush 41 we elected Boutros Boutros-Ghali -- I
can't remember now whether it was late November or early December -- but it was a
great burden for him. He had to move to New York and whatnot and try and hit the
ground running on January the 1st. It's just common sense, I think, especially if we get
somebody from outside the organization, which I would say is likely, that that person needs to come up to speed, they need to think about their priorities, and for the good of the organization and for the good of the individual who becomes the next Secretary General, it just seems to me to be a very practical suggestion that would benefit everybody.
STAFF: I mean, that idea was because September/October is very busy with UNGA
so we would have to do it before September.
QUESTION: Given the status of play with Iran -- back to Iran. In a best case
scenario, if it were to be referred early in February, can you give us any guesstimate of
the time frame since we've heard countries say they want to go slowly, they want to do it
in stages, etc, a guesstimate of the time frame before the word "sanctions" might
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think we've made it clear that our focus is on getting the
matter to the Security Council and then using the political weight of the Council to try
and make it clear to Iran that they're following the wrong course. I mean, we haven't --
we really haven't gotten into the question of timetable or anything else. The hope would
be that Iran would come to its senses and give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons
simply because it understands fully that the international community is completely
united in its opposition to Iran acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
QUESTION: Could I just ask one more question?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Everybody's running out of steam.
QUESTION: Quickly, one sort of philosophical question. I mean, you've been
attributed various remarks about United Nations some time ago, sort of seen as having
little faith in it and being quite enthusiastic before your confirmation or non-confirmation
hearings. And I just wondered what your view is, having worked there now for, what is
it, more than six months.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Just under six months.
QUESTION: Yeah, okay. Six months.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: It's exactly what I expected. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: In what sense?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, you just asked me what I thought of it, and I said
it's exactly what I expected.
QUESTION: Just one last one on Iran. You seem to be saying that the idea about
taking Iran to the Security Council backfiring, some have expressed fear that it might
backfire by kicking out the inspectors, you seemed to be saying to us earlier that, you
know, the inspectors don't really have a full picture of what's going on in Iran anyway
and so maybe, you know, there's not so much of a risk of it seriously backfiring. Is that -
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, the question that was put to me was that if the
inspectors were expelled that the IAEA, we would be blind. And my point was that that
assumes that the IAEA inspectors have a full sense or have sealed and are fully
observing everything that Iran is doing in the nuclear area now, and I don't think we can be confident of that.
QUESTION: You're saying that we're already blind so --
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, that's -- but I mean, let me just give you one
example. That's why the proposal that's out there that Iran be allowed to have a pilot
centrifuge cascade purely for research purposes, who can object to that as a
compromise? Well, that's because the answer is if you can master the science and technology of uranium enrichment through the operation of a centrifuge cascade, one centrifuge, one cascade of 150-160 centrifuges, once you master that science, then you can replicate it elsewhere in a vast country with no guarantee that anybody knows where it's going to be.
The worst part of proliferation is intellectual knowledge. It's not tubes for centrifuges.
Equipment follows from the knowledge. And what we're worried about and I think
should be worried about is that as long as this goes on, every day that goes by, the risk
increases that Iran is expanding its knowledge of how to master the nuclear fuel cycle.
And once they get that capability technologically and scientifically and intellectually, then
the risk of proliferation increases.
QUESTION: Could I be absolute, no qualifications, the problem should go to the UN
? to the Security Council? Because Iran and Russia yesterday said IAEA. I just heard
Hans Blix today. You know, he has some expertise. And he says it isn?t so important
where you do it -- maybe the Council, but the main thing is to x, y, z.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I guess I would put it this way: The Council is
charged by the UN Charter with principal responsibility for threats to international peace
and security. So if you take the words of the Charter seriously, then it should be in the
QUESTION: Ambassador, if it were scary enough for Iran that world opinion were
unified against it, wouldn't it already be scared? You don't need to go to the Security
Council if everything that you believe is true, that everyone? that all nations believe it's
crossed the red line and they've all come out and said that. Why isn't Iran threatened
enough by that?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think it's a question of taking the steps that are
available to us to make that opinion manifest. And as I've said, there isn't any guarantee
of what the Security Council is going to do or how Iran is going to respond to it. That's
why this is a test for the Security Council.
QUESTION: But why isn't anyone willing to talk about next steps? Since you've
already got the world opinion unified, why can't you say what comes next?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Because I think there's a fundamental difference in the
political dynamic, among other things, when you go to the Security Council and have it
considered there. I think the five permanent members have a particular obligation for
the maintenance of international peace and security and the operation of the Security
Council, and I think that will weigh on them in a way that it doesn't in Vienna.
QUESTION: But -- how quickly do see the UN taking over Darfur, the AU force?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, we've been pressing ahead. This is something
that's very much on the President's mind and the Secretary's mind. But the African
Union has had a role. The government in Khartoum has its opinions. But we're working
on it and it's a matter of priority because it's obvious that the security situation in Darfur is declining.
QUESTION: And you think the UN can do a better job?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think that the issue is whether the AMIS mission is
reaching the -- because of the change in the circumstances of Darfur, has reached the
limit of its capacity and that by reconfiguring the force and re-hatting it, we have a
greater possibility of restoring security in the Darfur area.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Released on January 25, 2006