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Briefing on Sudan, Iran, 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 29, 2006


Ambassador Bolton: Good Morning. Let me just say on Sudan we're continuing to work on the draft resolution to transition the African Union force in Darfur to a UN peacekeeping operation and still going to try to have that vote by Thursday, and I think that's feasible to do. The discussions continue, but we think we're pretty close. And that's really -- there's a consultation on Cyprus ongoing now, but nothing particularly new there.

Reporter: Does that mean that your representative, he went to Khartoum, Jendayi Frazer, got a more positive response?

Ambassador Bolton: I know that she saw President Bashir. I don't have a readout on the meeting, but our judgment here is that we think we've found a formulation that will win acceptance on the Council and achieve the objective we've been seeking, which is the early transfer of responsibility in Darfur to the United Nations.

Reporter: (Inaudible) the language and -

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think the resolution we're looking to have the vote by Thursday.

Reporter: (Inaudible) transfer itself, the sort of language in the resolution would be -- look into it or we need it by which time? I mean, can you help us out a bit on the substance?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, we're still working on the substance, but as soon as possible remains our objective. October 1 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Reporter: There's an AP source saying that Jendayi Frazer didn't meet with President Bashir, that he had said he was too busy. Is that story false or --

Ambassador Bolton: Let's -- my understanding is maybe he was too busy yesterday, but that his schedule opened up this morning. But my information is she did meet with him and has now left Khartoum . But as I said, I don't have a readout on what happened at the meeting.

Reporter: President Ahmadinejad challenged President George Bush to a TV debate. Any reaction to that?

Ambassador Bolton: It's not a debate I would look forward to or waste any time thinking about.

Reporter: On the Lebanon force, Tom Lantos has been saying that he's going to be calling on the administration not to provide reconstruction money for Lebanon unless there's a UN force patrolling the border. Can you address that issue? Is the administration happy with the arrangement that the Lebanese government says it can do it by itself?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I haven't heard Congressman Lantos' comment, but our view for some time has been that the most effective way to police the border is -- in the short term -- with a combination of international forces and the Lebanese Armed Forces. Obviously, our objective throughout remains the full implementation of 1559, which ultimately would have the Lebanese institutions, including the armed forces, capable of carrying out all the functions of a sovereign government. But I think clearly, as in the southern part of the country providing security south of the Litani River , that international cooperation would be effective, and those discussions are continuing, as far as I know.

Reporter: It wants to do it by itself.

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think they've had extensive discussions with a number of countries that have offered to provide assistance. And as far as I know, those discussions are continuing. Yes, sir?

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, is it your sense on Sudan that the council or the P-5 at least are willing to go ahead with the resolution, even though Sudan, by all indications, will not agree to the UN force?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, the question is whether you have to wait for some action before we pass the resolution, or we can pass the resolution and continue the work. And that's one of the formulations we're working on. We think it's important -- this is going to be a long and complex operation, as reflected by the fact it's a long and complex resolution. And simply waiting around for the right signal we don't think is the way to go. That's why I said earlier this week this is the time for us to act, and things will then follow from that.

Reporter: Ambassador, you're a seasoned diplomat. What do you think of Ahmadinejad's statements as of lately?

Ambassador Bolton: Not an awful lot. What we'd like to see is Iran comply with Resolution 1696, which said unequivocally that they have to suspend all of their enrichment-related activities. Now they have until the 31st of August, but we've made it very clear, unless we get an unequivocal acceptance of that condition in the Security Council resolution, that sanctions would follow. That condition, by the way, is not something the United States has imposed. That's the condition that the European 3 have been operating under from the outset of their negotiations.

Reporter: And this idea of a debate -- is that something unprecedented? What's your thought on that?

Ambassador Bolton: I don't really even think that's worth talking about.

Reporter: Can you explain -- this is somewhat following up on Raghida's question -- the formulation that you found? And it may be getting into the dull details of the wordsmithing, as you call it, but what makes this formulation more acceptable to all? And why also, separately, does it seem the Sudanese feel they are above this fray here at the council, that they're impervious to its action?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, what we have principally been trying to do is find agreement among the five permanent members. And I think -- in our discussion yesterday, I think there's a clear desire on the part of all five, including Russia and China , to find a way to move this forward. And so what we're engaged in now is an effort that will do that. And we've said publicly, we have said on a variety of occasions nobody expects that the UN force will have to fight its way into Darfur . The question is whether the government of Sudan is actively going to obstruct what the African Union and in fact the government of Sudan itself has agreed to in the Darfur peace agreement. We think we're close to working that out in a way that will allow progress to begin on transitioning to UN control over the peace-keeping force. And that's really what's critical. It's the operational changes on the ground to bring increased security to the people of Darfur .

Reporter: And though -- but on the question of why the Sudanese government seems to think it can thumb its nose at the council for now, why -- what's your read on what --

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I'm not -- I can't really address the question what goes on in the minds of the leadership of the Sudanese government. What I can say is that we're going to move here, and I think we're going to move by Thursday, in a way that makes it clear that we're going to support the Darfur peace agreement, we're going to support the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council, and we're going to begin to change the situation in Darfur to provide more security to the people in the camps.

Reporter: Two questions. One, it seems that five permanent members yesterday discussed the so-called Arab Initiative for the Middle East and I don't know who put it on the agenda. Could you tell us who did and what sort of discussions you had? And then I have an Iran question, please.

Ambassador Bolton: Okay. Well, we've had a variety of discussions on that proposal. I'm not ready at the moment to say anything publicly about it, but we're obviously considering it.

Reporter: And on Iran .

Ambassador Bolton: Now your Iran question.

Reporter: On Iran , Ahmadinejad seems confident nothing is going to happen here, and so far I don't know of any movement here in the Security Council that you're going to go towards this other resolution. Are you doing this in capitals, or have you been actively discussing a resolution, a draft resolution, elements of a resolution here? It's only three days from -- what, two, three days.

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think we've said consistently that the government of Iran has until the 31st of August, and that's still the basis on which we're proceeding.

Reporter: You said you (Inaudible) before, Ambassador. You said you would be working before on that.

Ambassador Bolton: We are. We are working away.

Reporter: Is it fair to say that the environment's changed, that the Europeans and others, because of what's happened in Lebanon, just the rising tensions up and down, that it's now not a good time to get tough with sanctions at this time?

Ambassador Bolton: I don't detect any change in the environment.

Reporter: On Iran and these possible sanctions, the South African Foreign Ministry has asked for the U.S. to clarify the effect that non-Security Council sanctions would have on other countries, I guess both whether they'd have to follow or whether it might impact them economically. There's a speech in Pretoria by the deputy Foreign Minister --

Ambassador Bolton: I haven't seen the speech, so I can't comment on it specifically. But the United Sates has had a multitude of sanctions against Iran for decades because of Iran 's long-standing status as a state sponsor of terrorism, and other countries have had similar kinds of sanctions. These are decisions that individual countries or groups of countries can make, and we have made those kinds of decisions, and other countries can, as well. I'll just take one more here.

Reporter: The African Union peacekeeping operation in Sudan had your agreement, the agreement of the Security Council and the support of Security Council. Why now a new resolution asking for those peacekeeping to be out and changing in the operation for UN peacekeeping?

Ambassador Bolton: Because I think everybody, broadly speaking, had agreed that the African Union mission was at the limit of its capacity, and because of the fragility of the Darfur peace agreement, that we think a UN force would be more suitable. And that is a decision that the African Union itself has endorsed, as have the parties to the Darfur peace agreement. So I don't see that that aspect really has any controversy to it.

Reporter: Because it didn't have your support financially and materially?

Ambassador Bolton: Because I think the circumstances in Darfur, the deteriorating conditions, the increase in fighting, the risks that the Darfur Peace Agreement itself will break down -- all of which, I think, leads everybody to believe that we need a stronger, more mobile, more agile force -- we think can be provided under this resolution.

Reporter: Ambassador, there have been pretty disparaging remarks made by Ahmadinejad against the Security Council. What is the sentiment within the Council about those remarks?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I don't think anybody's going to pay any attention to it, frankly.

Reporter: The president -- for those of us looking to try to figure, you know, scheduling here -- I mean, are we going to see a big -- a Security Council meeting --

Ambassador Bolton: You worried about Labor Day weekend?

Reporter: No. (Laughter.) On the first - I mean, are we going to --

Ambassador Bolton: I'm always here.

Reporter: Well, we're -- I'm just sort of trying to get a sense of how will the Council respond immediately once this deadline ticks over to 12:01 on September 1st?

Ambassador Bolton: We're still discussing that.

Reporter: Can I ask you, Mr. Ambassador, we're heading to the point where if the Darfur Peacekeeping Agreement goes ahead, the UN could have as many as 120,000 troops under its command. Now, a lot of the essential management reforms are thrown back by the G-77. Is the UN being -- are we going into a phase where the UN is being asked to do too much, more than its capacity actually allows it to do?

Ambassador Bolton: I think there's a real risk of overstrain. I think the UN was stressed before this, and I think the establishment of the special command and control office here in New York on the Lebanon Peacekeeping Force is a reflection of that.

Reporter: (inaudible) wants to issue a veto -- the president of Iran says the veto right is the source of problems of the world, it is an insult to the dignity, independence, freedom and sovereignty of nations. The U.S. and Britain are the source of many tensions, since he's really referring -- in this case at least to the ambassadorial role of the veto. What is your response?

Ambassador Bolton: I don't have any response to that. Why should I respond to it? Okay, see you later. 

Released on August 29, 2006

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