Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, outlining the Security Council's September Program of Work, in the UN Press Briefing Room

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
September 2, 2009


Ambassador Rice: Well, good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for coming. I'm pleased to be here to share with you an overview of the month of September's program of work in the Security Council. You should all have copies. And it was unanimously adopted a couple of hours ago, in what I am told by the Secretariat officials was in fact record time.

We have several important meetings on the calendar this month. I'd like to give you an overview of the principal ones among them, and then take your questions.

The first meeting and session I'd like to highlight is the one you're well aware of: On September 24th, the President of the United States will chair a summit-level meeting of the Council on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament. This will be only the fifth occasion in United Nations history for a meeting at the summit level, and the first time in history that an American President will chair the United Nations Security Council.

The Council, as you well know, has a very important role to play in preventing the spread and use of nuclear weapons, and it's the world's principal body for dealing with global security cooperation. The session will focus on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly, and not on any particular countries. Key areas to be highlighted will include arms control and nuclear disarmament, strengthening the NPT regime, and denying and disrupting trafficking in and the securing of nuclear materials. We are consulting with colleagues on a potential product for that session, and will keep you posted as that evolves.

The second item I'd like to draw your attention to is Liberia, UNMIL, which will come up for renewal this month. Liberia has made important progress over the last several years. The Council was privileged to have the opportunity to visit in May. And we look forward to extending and updating the mandate of UNMIL and ensuring that the mission continues to receive the support that we believe it deserves from the Security Council.

We are having on September 3rd a meeting of the troop and police-contributing countries for UNMIL. We are scheduling that deliberately, well in advance of the Council's discussion of Liberia on the 9th and the adoption thereafter. This is part of a pattern that we hope to encourage to enable troop-contributing and police-contributing countries to have genuine and timely input into the discussions and debates on mandate renewals, so that their perspectives can be taken into account both in the Council consultations and in the drafting of the resolutions rolling over the mandates.

The third session I'd like to draw your attention to is also on September 9th. That is on Haiti and where there will be an open debate on MINUSTAH and on Haiti. MINUSTAH's mandate expires on October 14th, so we won't be doing a renewal this month. We'll do that next month. But we will have an open debate based on the Secretary-General's report, which, as you know, came out yesterday. And we're pleased that the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Haiti, President Bill Clinton, will be able to join us for that session.

The Council also visited Haiti in March, and we saw the progress that has been made there despite enormous challenges and setbacks, from tropical storms to the food crisis. And we saw the very vital role that MINUSTAH continues to play in providing security in Haiti.

The report of the secretary-general provides an update on benchmarks for progress, and we look forward to a thorough and substantive session that will engage the broad membership on the subject of Haiti.

Fourth, we intend on the 30th of September to vote a resolution that will be a follow-on to Resolution 1820, on Women, Peace and Security. The United States is leading the drafting and coordination of that effort in the Council, and consultations have begun. Our expectation is that Secretary Hillary Clinton will be in the chair for the adoption of that follow-on resolution and will make a statement at that time.

As you know, 1820 is a landmark resolution. It was passed in response to violent rapes that have occurred in areas wracked by conflict. We think it's very important to keep this topic on the United Nations Security Council agenda because much more work remains to be done. And unfortunately there are numerous reports that confirm that rapes have become even more frequent and more brutal in conflict zones.

The draft that's currently under discussion recommends the creation of a task force of experts to monitor implementation of 1820, work with governments on strategies to combat sexual violence, as well as the submission of annual reports on sexual violence to the Council. It also will request that the Secretary-General appoint an SRSG to provide leadership, advocacy and coordination of these efforts. Obviously, this is just a draft and it's under discussion among Council members, but that is what we hope will emerge.

And finally, on the 29th of the month, there will be a briefing on UNAMA -- Afghanistan. That will be an important and timely session, in that we expect for the first time the UNAMA leadership to provide, in its report to the Council, benchmarks for progress, to measure progress in Afghanistan, and obviously, an assessment of the elections.

So those are the highlights. We also have the renewal of UNIPSIL, the mission in Sierra Leone. We'll have the regular monthly meeting on the Middle East, which, in this case, will be a briefing in the Council and consultations thereafter. We have three sanctions regimes that are up for regular review, chaired by the heads of the sanctions committees. We have Sudan, Iran and North Korea, and these are, I expect, likely to be uneventful and routine considerations of these various regimes.

This is an overview of the program for the month. And I'm happy to take your questions.

Reporter: (Inaudible) -- first to the president of the U.N. Correspondents Association.

Moderator: I apologize.

Reporter: I welcome the Ambassador, and thank you very much for coming to Room 226 after so many years. This is a change that's really appreciated.

Ambassador Rice: It's an honor to be here.

Reporter: And we hope to have you in the UNCA Club soon, too. And the question is this: The second letter that President Obama sent to Ayatollah Khamenei, is it -- (if it's true ?) -- is it a new, you know, start toward direct negotiation pretty soon, or just to avoid the strong sanctions or what?

Ambassador Rice: I'm not prepared to discuss the diplomatic correspondence, if any. I will say that the United States' interest has been and remains in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear- weapons capacity. That is of importance to the United States, for our national security; to the region, as well as and including Israel. We have put on the table from April a P5 +1 proposal that we hope Iran will consider and respond to promptly. We've seen press reports that a response may be forthcoming, but we haven't seen the -- any formal response.

As you know, the P5 +1 political directors are meeting today in Frankfurt, and we will await a response from Iran if, in fact, it is forthcoming.

Moderator: Are there questions on the program, before -- (inaudible) --

Ambassador Rice: Yeah. If we can just -- even though you'll --

Reporter: (Off mike)?

Moderator: (Name inaudible).

Reporter: First of all, the DPRK panel thing on the 12th, there are some discussions that that might be put off because the panel hasn't been around long enough.

But most important, I want to ask about Haiti. I know you said that that renewal isn't coming up until October, but there has been some discussion that sort of to put an end to -- an end date on MINUSTAH, there has to be some change in the mandate in terms of getting it more involved in economic and political stabilization. And I'm wondering if that is going to be part of the debate in sort of changing the mandate of MINUSTAH.

Ambassador Rice: Well, let me answer your second question first and then come back to the DPRK.

I have not personally had an opportunity to read the Secretary-General's report. It was just issued yesterday afternoon. I obviously look forward to having the opportunity to do so. So I'm not aware of whether or not there are recommendations to change the mandate in that report.

But obviously, for Haiti as for the other mandate renewals, we're going to take a good look at the circumstances on the ground, the requirements to bring the mission to successful closure. And I imagine the United States and others that participate in the debate on the 9th will offer their thoughts at that time on the appropriate scope and nature of a mandate to be renewed in October.

Let me also say that when it comes to Haiti, just as we are doing for Liberia, having the troop-contributing and police-contributing countries meet in advance of this discussion, although it is -- you can see on the 4th we'll be having a similar meeting for Haiti's troop- and police-contributing countries so that their inputs as well can be taken into account.

With respect to the 1874 panel of experts, as you know, that panel is being constituted. There is some possibility that we will -- I should be careful -- there's the likelihood that they will not yet be in a position to provide a substantive report to the Council through the committee, but we look forward to hearing an update on their progress.

We're pleased that the panel has been constituted. It's a high- quality panel and I think it will be quite effective in overseeing and facilitating implementation of 1874, which has proceeded well to date.

Moderator: Continuing on the program of work?

Reporter: Okay.

Madame Ambassador, you have two letters that you have received, one on Iraq and one on Iran and North Korea. And let me just start out with the North Korea one, because you said that for the sanctions regime review, you expected them to be uneventful and routine, although you have a letter from the UAE, the United Arab Emirates, saying that there is 10 containers of ammunition destined to Iran from North Korea. So why did you say it would be uneventful and routine? Is it not a violation?

And the other letter is from Mr. Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in which he asks the Secretary-General to request from you, the Security Council, to establish a tribunal on the events of the August 19 -- I mean, insinuating it's -- whatever their problems they have with Syria.

Are you going to act on that? Did the Secretary-General recommend that you act on that?

Ambassador Rice: We have not -- let me answer the Iraq question first and then come back to Iran. We, as the United States and president of the Security Council, have not received the letter that you described from the Secretary-General as an official transmission yet. I'm aware that it exists, but we have not had an opportunity, nor has the Council, to review its contents.

And obviously, we are not aware of whether or not the Secretary-General intends to make a recommendation to the Council in that regard.

So we'll get the letter. We'll hear what if anything the Secretary-General has to say. And we'll consult with colleagues in the Council on the appropriate response.

With respect to Iran, I'm certainly aware of the reports, in the press, about the UAE action. The work of the 1718 committee is confidential. So I'm not going to get into the details here. But I will say that we are pleased with the efforts, of a wide range of member states, to implement with seriousness and promptness 1874. And we will hear the report that the chairman of the -- sorry, I said 1718, I meant to say 1737 and 1718, all the sanctions committees.

We look forward to hearing the report on Iran and North Korea. And we'll take action accordingly. But what I meant to say when I indicated that I didn't expect anything particularly eventful was that we are simply receiving, from the sanctions committees, a regularly scheduled update. And we will respond accordingly. This is not an opportunity to review or revisit the nature of either of those regimes.

Reporter: (Off mike.)

Moderator: I need to get around the room. I'm sorry.

Reporter: Madame Ambassador, on the same question of North Korea and Iran's ship, we understand from sources, official sources in Dubai, that this is not the first ship. There have been more than 10 ships that have been captured by Dubai. And the sanctions committee has been informed.

If this is the case, why aren't they made public, to show that the system is working? And also, why -- people in the Emirates are asking, why wait till the ship arrives, to Dubai or to Abu Dhabi or one of the ports of the Emirates, to inform or ask the government of the UAE to capture them, although they have stopped in other ports? Causing -- you know the sensitive relation between Iran and the Emirates.

And my second question is actually on Sudan. Quickly --

Ambassador Rice: Hold up for a second, because I don't want to lose the thought.

Reporter: Okay, go ahead.

Ambassador Rice: The -- I'll refer you to the government of the Emirates for details on their actions and what they've done or not done. I'm not aware of all of the suggestions that you are making.

I will say this, that we are --

Reporter: (Off mike.)

Ambassador Rice: We are very much working through Ambassador Goldberg, we being the United States in this instance, with countries in the region and beyond, on effective enforcement of the 1874 regime. And we're pleased that this is being well and thoroughly enforced in many instances.

Reporter: On Sudan, if I may quickly, where do we stand now on the priorities of the Security Council, implementing justice or just humanitarian or ensuring the deployment of UNAMID? Many people see the ICC and Ocampo as the party that's been isolated and not the President of Sudan, who was indicted.

Ambassador Rice: Well, speaking again as now President of the Council, that's why I'm trying to keep some clarity to this discussion. As you know, in the month of September, we expect Sudan to arise only in the context of a regular review of the sanctions regime.

Obviously Sudan is a topic, both the north-south conflict in Darfur, which receives regular attention by the Council. And I think are Council members are concerned that there be effective and thorough implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and protection of civilians in Darfur.

We've been following the progress of UNAMID in terms of coming up to full strength, and I think clearly there remains broad agreement on the importance of UNAMID achieving its full strength and being effective.

On the issue of the ICC, as you well know, there are very different views within the Council on that topic, but it really is not a topic that has arisen in any formal fashion for Council decision.

Reporter: Madame Ambassador, could you tell us why the United States chose nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament as the focus of this summit-level meeting of the Security Council? And what broad message that -- would the United States like to see come out of this meeting, regardless of what kind of document may or may not come out of the Council?

Ambassador Rice: Well, the United States views nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament as one of the principal and most pressing challenges of our time. It's an issue which the Obama administration -- indeed, the President, himself -- has focused on early and with a great degree of attention, both in the broadest sense, as described in his speech in Prague, and in specific cases, as we've dealt with here and elsewhere.

This is an opportunity for the Council to give profile and impetus to efforts that are under way -- in some instances in a national or bilateral context, in other instances in a multilateral context -- as we proceed to the NPT review conference next year, so that the international community is saying from the body responsible for peace and security that we are united in support of effective steps to ensure nuclear nonproliferation and that we are committed to appropriate progress on nuclear disarmament.

So we're pleased that this is an opportunity to build momentum behind what is a very important priority not only for the United States, but indeed for all members of the United Nations.

Moderator: Yes, sir.

Reporter: Thank you for going beyond the first and second row. (Laughter.)

Madame Ambassador, first of all, congratulations on your appointment as the Permanent Representative by the President Obama, and also on your accession to the functions of the President of Security Council, and thank you for this briefing.

You just indicated regarding the first item that will be discussed on the 24th of September, I believe. Do you think that all the other members of the Council would be represented at the head-of- state level, as your president will be attending?

And second, what do you hope will come out of that meeting: a resolution, statement, or nothing?

Ambassador Rice: First of all, I obviously don't want to speak for other national delegations, but I can say that every indication we have thus far is that we will have a large number of heads of state or government present in the Council for that event, and maybe all of them -- I can't be certain of that -- but certainly a majority.

The second part of your question -- remind me.

Reporter: What would come out of it?

Ambassador Rice: What will come out. We are still in the process of consulting with colleagues on the Council on whether there will be a product and the nature of that product. I think that our view -- and I think it's a view shared by many -- is that this is an event and an occasion and a topic that's worthy of a substantive output.

Reporter: Ambassador Rice, clearly the United States has a vested interest in what happens in Afghanistan. In the meeting on the 29th, if there is not a decision in terms of the election outcome, is there a plan of action that you in the Security Council propose to put forward to get this resolved?

Ambassador Rice: Not at this stage. That would be premature. We're obviously awaiting the final results. We're awaiting the results of the investigations that are ongoing by the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission into allegations of fraud. Not clear where we'll be in that regard for sure on the 29th, but we'll obviously be very interested in UNAMA's assessment of the situation and any recommendations that the Secretary-General brings to the -- I mean -- excuse me -- the Special Representative brings to the Council, and the Secretary-General as well.

Reporter: Sure. Myanmar's in the footnotes of your program, and it's been reported that you warned the Secretary-General against going this summer to Myanmar, that it might buttress the regime in some way. Could -- so Myanmar also shows up in this Mona Juul memo that many people have spoken about, talking about where the U.N. stands in terms of what she called a lack of moral authority on Myanmar, Sri Lanka and even Sudan. Can you say, I guess, either -- you know, why is it in the footnotes? What do you expect to come up? Do you -- can you confirm sort of your thinking on the Secretary-General's trip to Myanmar?

And also, on Sri Lanka, there's this video that came out of the army apparently shooting, you know, naked prisoners. Do you expect the Council to take that issue up in any way?

Ambassador Rice: Let me begin with Myanmar, which we call Burma, in my national hat.

It's in the footnotes because members of the Council, including the United States, felt it timely to stay focused on events there.

We're aware that Aung San Suu Kyi has appealed her sentence, and that could potentially result in an outcome that the Council might want to consider. In addition, the Secretary-General has said, as a result of his meetings there, that he received commitments from the leadership to take very swiftly positive political steps, including the release of all political prisoners. And so we think it merits continued inclusion in the footnotes of the Council agenda for the month of September.

Just to finish the answer, with respect to my own advice or counsel provided to the Secretary-General, I think it would be wise for me to keep that private. So I'm not going to discuss press reports in that regard.

With respect to Sri Lanka, again speaking in a national capacity, these reports are very disturbing. They're of grave concern. We'd like more information as we formulate our own national response.

And to date, going back now to Council President, I'm not aware of a Council member proposing that this be discussed on the Council agenda, but obviously these reports are very fresh and that could change.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.

Ambassador Rice: Madame?

Reporter: Madame Ambassador. I'm so sorry. (Laughter.)

Can you confirm -- can you confirm the report that there will be a summit between President Obama and President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu on the sidelines of the General Assembly? And will it be a prelude for the Israeli -- restart the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations?

And are you disturbed by the long delay regarding the formation of the Lebanese government?

Ambassador Rice: No, I'm not able to make any announcements today about a potential meeting related to the Middle East on the margins of the General Assembly. We very much await the formation of a new government in Lebanon. That's obviously work for the people and the government of Lebanon to do. And we look forward to the outcome.

Reporter: Can I follow up on that? Excuse me, I had my hand up.

Just as a follow-up on the 9/24 meeting, where you said that there will be consultations with the other members of the Council with regard to whether there should be or will be a substantive output document, since the United States is taking the leadership role and President Obama said in Prague that the U.S. must lead the world toward total nuclear disarmament, can you discuss whether the U.S. will be contributing a concrete proposal to help guide the outcome of that meeting?

Ambassador Rice: We're obviously chairing the Council and chairing that summit. We proposed this initiative. We have an interest in the quality of its outcome. And obviously, what we are suggesting and consulting with our colleagues on reflects the thinking and the aims of the U.S. government.

But obviously, any product of the Council is a product of 15, and I'm simply reflecting that reality in saying that this will be a process of consultation and discussion; and what, if anything, emerges will be a consequence not only of what the United States might propose but what others embrace.

Moderator: We've got time for a couple more questions.

Reporter: Ambassador, another issue on the footnote is the Iraq and the 1859 report. This is the first -- this is the third consecutive time that it's in the footnote. Please, why is the delay, and what is the U.S. position on Iraq seeking to get out of Chapter VII?

Ambassador Rice: It remains in the footnotes because it's an issue of interest and concern to members of the Council. And it will be taken up at an appropriate time, when it is ripe for constructive discussion and progress.

The United States' view has been, as you're well aware, that we want to work with Iraq and other members of the council to -- to ensure that Iraq's status under the United Nations Security Council and Chapter VII is reflective of today's realities, as opposed to the past.

Reporter: On Sudan, the reports before the Council constantly from the Secretary-General ask for transport and other kinds of helicopters. Would the United States consider sending them over? Would Sudan accept an American pilot and helicopter? And would it be safe, if they did go?

And secondly, just briefly, who's going to represent the U.S. at the climate-change conference?

Ambassador Rice: Okay. On Sudan, the request for helicopters is long-standing. It is one that has been around since the prior administration, and it remains on the table today. It's something that the United States feels is an important element to strengthen and support UNAMID.

I will not speak for the government of Sudan. You should direct their question -- that question to them, as to whether they would accept any particular national contingent. But as you well know, they have rejected a number of national contingents in the past, not only but including those offered by Western governments. The United States, for its part, is working with the Secretariat and others to try to help the Secretariat locate appropriate helicopters and crews to fulfill that gap -- to fill that gap in the mission.

With respect to the climate summit, I'm happy to say that President Obama will speak at the opening of the climate summit, having been invited by the Secretary-General. And he will represent the United States. Do you want to –

Moderator: One more question. Right up here.

Reporter: Ambassador Rice, could I ask about Colonel Qadhafi, who's coming? There's been a lot of public controversy about Colonel Qadhafi. The first question is, in the Security Council, what are the parameters of what he can talk about? Is there a time element he can talk? Is he restricted to the subject at hand, or does he have free rein? (Laughter.)

And the second one is, in your capacity -- in your capacity as the Ambassador of the host country, there have been some calls from senators and congressmen to place restrictions on Colonel Qadhafi's movements. Is the United States going to place restrictions on Colonel Qadhafi's movements within the United States when he visits the U.N.?

Ambassador Rice: The subject of the meeting of the Security Council, the summit meeting on the 24th, is nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament. So it would be out of order and inappropriate for any head of state to address topics unrelated to that.

As President of the Council, we are mindful of the very tight time frame that is available for this session. We want to be respectful of the heads of state in attendance. And we have asked and we expect and have been assured, by most delegations, that their heads of state will keep their remarks to five minutes or less. And we expect no less from President Qadhafi, should he come.

Let me just say more broadly on the subject of Libya, it goes without saying that virtually every American has been offended by the reception accorded to Mr. Megrahi in Libya upon his return from the U.K.

This is a very raw and sensitive subject for all Americans, having lost 270 of our compatriots in a terrorist act. And how President Qadhafi chooses to comport himself, when he attends the General Assembly and the Security Council in New York, has the potential either to further aggravate those feelings and emotions or not.

So we are certainly hoping that this will be an opportunity for a constructive General Assembly session and a constructive meeting of the Security Council.

Reporter: And restrictions on his movement? I mean, because sometimes the host country places restrictions, even to the point where sometimes people couldn't go across 3rd Avenue. In some cases, people have come with a visa that restricts them to this side of 3rd Avenue, for instance. So sometimes it's Manhattan. Sometimes it's 25 miles.

What kind of restrictions is the United States, as host country, going to place on Mr. Qadhafi?

Ambassador Rice: I'm not prepared to answer that question with specificity; simply to say that it's my understanding from Libyan counterparts that their intention is to confine their program to New York City.

Moderator: Thank you all very much.

(Cross talk.)

Ambassador Rice: I need to wrap. But let me -- I will answer your question. And I will also give you some more information, if you'll be kind enough to let me.

You asked about the President's -- or U.S. attendance at the climate summit. I'm able to give you a little information about the President's program while he's here, assuming you're interested.

The President will not only address the opening session of the climate summit and chair the Council session -- the first time ever for an American President -- he will, obviously, also give his -- the traditional speech before the United Nations General Assembly. He will attend the Secretary-General's luncheon for heads of states and government, and he will host what is the traditional American reception for other heads of state and delegation.

With respect to Sudan, our priority has been and remains to stop the killing and the dying in Darfur. President Obama has referred on more than one occasion to the genocide that is taking place in Sudan, so I think that reflects clearly the American perception.

But the fact is that our focus is on steps that can be taken to reduce the suffering of people, the displaced, the refugees, other civilians in Darfur and throughout Sudan. And that is part and parcel of the good work that the President's Special Envoy, General Scott Gration, is doing every day, and part of the work that is being supported by the envoys and the efforts of other members of the security council, indeed, of the United Nations.

So that is our focus. It is a high priority for this administration. It will continue to be.

Moderator: Thank you all very much.

Ambassador Rice: Thank you.


PRN: 2009/167