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Opening Statement Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
Washington, DC
March 15, 2007

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AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Distinguished members, good morning. I would like to introduce my older son Alex. Alex is my joy and pride. He is a law student at Stanford, second year. Unfortunately, my wife Cheryl and my other son Max could not be here with us today. But I'm delighted that Alex could make it.

Mr. Chairman and distinguished members, it's a great honor to come before you as the President's nominee to serve as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. I want to thank the President for his confidence in nominating me for this mission. I wish to thank Secretary Rice and look forward to continuing to work with her, should I be confirmed.

I also want to take a moment to express my deep gratitude to the many great Americans, civilian and military and coalition partners who have served at all levels in our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. I've been inspired by them. I wish to honor their sacrifice, particularly of those who have been wounded or lost their lives. Finally, I wish to thank my wife Cheryl and my two sons, Alex and Max, for their love and support as well as their patience during the past four years that I have spent abroad.

Mr. Chairman, the United Nations is an important and valuable institution. It has been the most successful collective security body in history. Standing up to aggression in Korea in 1950 undertaking taking scores of peacekeeping operations, endorsing decisions, endorsing decisive action to liberate Kuwait in 1991 and supporting the toppling of the Taliban government after the attacks of September the 11th. An effective United Nations is in America's interest.

From my experience as U.S. Ambassador in Afghanistan, I personally know that the United Nations can make a profoundly positive impact if it has the right mandate and if it is properly employed. Our partnership with the United Nations supported the Afghans as they created an interim government at the Bonn conference, convened two loya jirgas, adopted a sound and enlightened constitution and held national elections for president and parliament. None of this was easy, yet all of it was under -- all of it was made easier by working in partnership with the United Nations.

Compared to its role in Afghanistan, where it ran the Bonn process to establish the new government, the United Nations played a more limited role in the political reconstitution of Iraq. Nevertheless, when I arrived as U.S. Ambassador in 2005, I consulted with the UN Special Representative starting during the drafting of the Iraqi constitution and extending through the national elections in 2005. The formation of the Government of National Unity and the negotiations of key internal agreements on the path towards national reconciliation. I believe that changing circumstances are creating opportunities for the United Nations to play a larger role in contributing to progress in Iraq.

At the same time, Mr. Chairman, the United Nations has limitations. When members of the Security Council cannot come to agreement, action is stymied or watered down. The United Nations has struggled to cope with new realities that puts respect for state sovereignty in tension with the imperative to address security threats emanating from failed states or transnational networks or the humanitarian consequences of massive violations of human rights by the governments on their own people.

There has been a lack of appropriate dealings with massive human rights violations by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Also the United Nations itself has had recent failures including the Oil-for-Food scandal -- instances of peacekeeping forces actually abusing members of the local population that they are supposed to protect and weaknesses in management and accountability.

The challenge for the international community is to strengthen the United Nations in those areas where it has proven effective and to address shortcomings in the areas where its performance has been poor. If confirmed, I will work with the representative of other countries and the new Secretary General to increase the contributions of the United Nations, to addressing the central security issues of our time and to make the UN itself a more effective institution through much needed reforms.

The United States , like all countries, faces the challenge of how best to make common cause with others in support of our goals. No one should doubt the legitimacy of U.S. decisions to act unilaterally when taken through our own democratic processes and in accordance with our rights under international law. Yet, collective action is often the preferable course to take, particularly to achieve burden sharing. Also we can enhance the legitimacy of our actions in the eyes of others by enlisting friends and allies to work with us and/or by securing endorsement of our actions through the United Nations.

Though events will drive a good deal of the work of the United Nations, I will place priority on five key issues, Mr. Chairman. First, increasing efforts stabilize and strengthen Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon as immediate objectives in the longer-term transformation of the Broader Middle East which is a defining challenge of our time. Second, achieving compliance with Security Council actions with respect to Iran 's and North Korea 's nuclear programs. Third, ending the massive humanitarian crisis in Darfur in order to save the lives of innocents and fulfill the commitment of the United States and the international community to a responsibility to protect people from atrocities and genocide. Fourth is strengthening the capability of the United Nations to undertake and manage peacekeeping operations effectively. And fifth, promoting effective approaches to address climate and clean energy objectives in a way that supports economic growth in the coming decades.

If confirmed, I'll pursue these objectives through two means. The first is through the formal channels of UN decision-making. I believe that there is great scope for a constructive, collaborative action through result-oriented partnership involving allies and other countries as well as the UN Secretariat. I'll explore ways to increase cooperation among the world's democracies through the democracy caucus. I will also reach out to friends as well as encourage likeminded countries to reach out to their friends in the nonaligned movement and the Group of 77 to discuss how we might make common cause on issues of mutual importance. The second is to advance our national security goals with regard to these issues comes by the virtue of the presence of the representatives from around the world, a setting that enables extensive informal engagement and an opportunity that I will take advantage of toward selected key issues proactively.

I will now like to turn to the issue of UN reform. If confirmed, one of my principle goals will be to promote effective, efficient, transparent, accountable and ethical management of the United Nations. I wish to applaud the key role that members of this committee, as well as members of the House of Representatives have played in identifying needed reforms and in supporting our mission at the United Nations as it pursues change.

If confirmed, I look forward to working with you in pursuing further reform. It is vital for the U.S. taxpayers to have confidence that we are receiving value for the money we paid in dues and assessments. I believe that the United States should pay its dues in full and on time. However, unless the United Nations takes affirmative steps to overcome the legacy of corruption from the Oil-for-Food scandals, and improve its accountability and transparency, the UN will lose support among the American people. Reform is imperative.

I am gratified that the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has pledged to make UN reform his prime goal. We should support him to make the changes he believes are necessary. I look forward to working with him in partnership to advance an ambitious reform agenda. I will also, Mr. Chairman, take a fresh look at our mission, the U.S.-UN mission and come back to you for assistance for the changes that might be needed to make our mission an effective partner in multilateral discussions and negotiations to advance our interests in the United Nations.

If confirmed, I'll take an approach at the United Nations that's similar to the way I work in Kabul and subsequently in Baghdad. I'll focus sharply on the interests of the United States. At the same time, I'm ready to engage, to listen and to work with others in a cooperative spirit. I will pursue our goals by understanding the interests and the concerns of others and by working patiently and persistently and in common to find a way forward. I will be result oriented and I will give it my all.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Released on March 15, 2007

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