Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on International Human Rights Day, Iran and Burma, at the Security Council Stakeout

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
December 10, 2009


Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon everybody. As you know today is International Human Rights Day and it is a day in which we reaffirm our commitment to the purposes and principals of this organization. I issued a statement on this earlier, which I hope you all will take note of. It also comes on the very same day that President Obama delivered a historic speech in Oslo and much of what he discussed is directly relevant to the work that we do here everyday as it relates to preventing conflict, urging adherence to international obligations, and building a world more peaceful more democratic and more prosperous.

In his remarks, the President spoke of the vital importance of accountability and accountability under International law and consequences when accountability is not forthcoming. And coincidentally, we had a discussion this morning in the Council on Iran and its violation of its Security Resolutions, in which the theme of accountability was quite prominent. The President also spoke of the importance of a just peace and peace that is founded on the principals of human rights, democracy and an understanding and appreciation of the equality and dignity of every human being. And thirdly, he spoke of the central importance to peace and security, of economic development and opportunity, and how security rests on development and how development cannot be obtained in any lasting way in the absence security. These themes are profoundly important, universal themes, but they are also the meat and potatoes of what we do here every day at the United Nations. With that, I am happy to take your questions.

Reporter: Ambassador, this morning in the discussion on Iran the French Ambassador Araud displays a real urgency in terms of the Security Council moving ahead. He specifically said there is no longer any reason to wait meaning movement toward a further sanctions resolution. Does the US share that sense of urgency and really believe there is no longer any reason to wait?

Ambassador Rice: Well first of all, I refer you to the US statement in which we described in significant detail our grave concern about the breadth and frequency of Iran’s violations of existing UN Security Council resolutions both with respect to the Qom Facility and the various instances of Iran violating the arms embargo under which it is under, and we think that these violations need to be treated urgently and seriously and we welcome the work of the 1737 Committee in that regard.

With respect to the larger challenge of Iran’s pursuit of its nuclear program, we underscored that we have been and remain implementing a dual track policy and that as Iran’s seeming non-compliance and refusal to take the opportunities that have been offered it by the P-5+1 on the engagement track seem to be the course that they are committed to, we are ready to increase pressure on the other track. And we have said repeatedly that time is short. I think you have heard in my statement, as well as implicitly in the President’s remarks in Oslo, that those under sanctions and pressure have the potential of an off ramp but they have to take it. The choice is now Iran’s. Time is short and we have not yet seen the kind of response from Iran that we think would be in their interests and in the interests of international peace and security, and absent that in the very short term, we will be back here as I suggested in my remarks to talk about further actions that may be necessary.

Reporter: Ambassador Rice would those actions be sanctions? You keep… you seem to be shying away from using the actual word “sanctions.”

Ambassador Rice: I have no problem using the word “sanctions,” that’s by definition included in the realm of action.

Reporter: And… and in the Council, Russia and China, your colleagues from Russia and China, they didn’t seem to go as far. They, in fact, said just “restraints” and “patience.” They, is there disunity among the P-5 on this?

Ambassador Rice: I think that the P-5 has demonstrated repeatedly, most recently, in Vienna at the IAEA Board of Governors, both unity and resolve with respect to Iran’s nuclear program and the need for Iran to adhere to its international obligations. They both reaffirmed that today and at the appropriate time if and when we are talking about further actions, further pressure, further sanctions, we will hear from them as to how they choose to proceed.

Reporter: Ambassador, the President has said, the Pres…(off mike)

Ambassador Rice: I think you’ve heard me and many other senior administration officials say that time is short.

Reporter: The President actually has said that by the end of the year there will be a reassessment, so we are pretty much there with the holidays and all that. Is… do you feel that there’s any movement inside the Council, any more appetite, or agreement towards movement to sanctions?

Ambassador Rice: Well, I think the President has affirmed and is… we are all indeed on record as saying the P-5+1 will assess at the end of the year, or thereabouts, where we are with respect to Iran’s program. And the United States’ view as I said today, absent a more forthcoming approach from Iran, and the door remains open, is that the emphasis will increase substantially in that dual track approach to pressure. Thank you.

Reporter: Parliamentarians from 29 countries have written to the Council asking for them to setup a commission of inquiry on what the call crimes against humanity committed by the military government of Myanmar/Burma. I’m wondering if you received that and what you think of it. And the State Department report on Sri Lanka that seemed to allege war crimes. What’s the next steps for the State Department on Mr. Rapp’s report? What steps are going to be taken?

Ambassador Rice: I have not seen the letter you reference on Burma so I won’t comment. With respect to Sri Lanka, and frankly other instances of alleged and definite human rights abuses, we will examine these with seriousness internally, and look at what steps we might take bilaterally to reflect those concerns, with respect to any nation. And the President in his remarks in Oslo mentioned today Zimbabwe, Sudan and Burma specifically. And obviously we will continue our discussions here in the United Nations and in Geneva at the Human Rights Council on what action might be desirable and feasible multilaterally. Thank you.


PRN: 2009/309