FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Good afternoon, everybody. I’ve just come from the ECOSOC chamber, where we had the elections for the board of the new entity, UN Women. As you all know, UN Women is a very important institution, newly created, that will consolidate and streamline the UN institutions that are committed to enhancing and supporting the rights and the status of women around the world. It’s an institution that the United States strongly supports. We’re delighted that former President Bachelet is heading that institution, and today’s elections, we believe, will enable the institution to be launched well with a strong foundation. And we welcome today’s outcome.
I’m happy to take a few questions.
REPORTER: Why did the United States speak out so strongly against the candidacy of Iran, and say nothing about Saudi Arabia, because even the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi had said that it’s worse for women in Saudi Arabia than it is for women in Iran. Does the United States think Saudi Arabia is a suitable candidate for an agency pushing for women’s rights?
AMBASSADOR RICE: What we think is that, first and foremost, UN Women is a vitally important institution. We have every expectation that its establishment under the leadership of Michelle Bachelet will lead to a strengthening of capacity within the UN system to support women, enhance their rights, defend their security around their world. Now I am not going to deny that there were several countries that are going to join the board of UN women that have less than stellar records on women’s rights, indeed human rights. But what happened today in the ECOSOC Council, when we had a vote on a handful of slates, and one of them was, of course, the contested Asian slate – where Iran had sought a seat on the board of UN Women, they lost, and they lost handily. And the slate that was selected, including the late candidacy of Timor-Leste, is one that is largely comprised of countries that are committed to women’s rights and have a good record of support of women’s rights and human rights, and we welcome that.
REPORTER: Ambassador, was the U.S. among those countries that was encouraging Timor-Leste to join the fray and make it a competitive slate? I’ve heard that the United States was among those (inaudible).
AMBASSADOR RICE: We’ve made no secret of our concern that Iran joining the board UN women would have been an inauspicious start to that board. We welcome contested elections where there are competitors that exemplify the values and ideals of the institution for which they are seeking office. We therefore welcome Timor-Leste candidacy and that of many others on the Asian slate, and we think that it was a very good outcome today.
REPORTER: Ambassador, what is the U.S. position on the request by the Government of Iraq for an extension for another year of the immunity for the Development Fund for Iraq, after the Iraqis take full control of the fund at the end of this year.
AMBASSADOR RICE: Well, as you know, Bill, last year the Council expressed its unanimous view that it was timely and possible for their soon to be a successor to the DFI established. We continue to think that’s achievable. And we look forward to its realization.
REPORTER: Thank you, Ambassador Rice. Could you speak about President Obama’s endorsement for India on the Security Council? It’s being characterized as largely symbolic just because the Security Council reform process is so slow. Could you talk about whether you think it’s symbolic at this stage, how you intend to take it forward, and could you put a timeframe on it? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR RICE: Well, I think as you all as the UN press corps know as well as anybody else, the process here in New York on Security Council reform has been slow, it is complicated by the fact that there are very different views among member states, and so I think reality is that this will continue to be a complex and potentially lengthy negotiation. The United States has long said that it supports a modest expansion of permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council. The President’s statement in support of India’s candidacy for permanent membership reflects our, the recognition of the obvious fact that India is a large democracy that is making meaningful contributions to international peace and security, and it’s hard to conceive of a reformed United Nations Security Council that includes new permanent members that wouldn’t include India as a permanent member, and that was the significance of the statement the President made, and it reflects the United States’ view.
REPORTER: Madame Ambassador, the Council did give Iraq one more year to settle (inaudible) and claims with regard to the Iraq Development Fund, but you know, eight months at least this year, Iraq has no government. Why (inaudible) so adamant not to review, give them another chance to avoid…(inaudible).
AMBASSADOR RICE: Well obviously this is something that we’ll continue to discuss with the Council, but it was the Council’s view expressed last year, and indeed foreshadowed in the previous year, that the time was fast approaching for Iraq’s relationship with the international community to be normalized. Iraq itself has long sought to cease to be constrained by Chapter VII resolutions and we’ve supported Iraq in that quest. Thank you all very much.
REPORTER: … (inaudible)decoupling Darfur from the state sponsorship of terrorism, with a State department official quoted, unnamed saying that the Obama administration would move to take Sudan off the state sponsored terrorism list if the referenda go forward, but that … (inaudible)… I just wanted to understand, how is one to read that in terms of the importance of humanitarian and the escalating violence in Darfur?
AMBASSADOR RICE: Well first of all the United States, as you’ve heard me express on many occasions, and so have my colleagues and counterparts in Washington, is very much focused on the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Darfur. We’re very concerned about it. We’re focused on it. There are a number, frankly a large number, of sanctions in U.S. law that relate not only to the situation between the north and the south, but also to Darfur, and they will not be alleviated and lessened until the situation in Darfur is adequately addressed consistent with U.S. law. What we have also said to the Government of Sudan is that were it to take the steps that it’s committed to and allow the peaceful and on-time conduct of the referendum in the South, and resolve all of the outstanding issues that remain between the two sides, including Abyei and borders and security and citizenship, to name just a few, as well as respect the outcome of the referendum, then that could initiate a process of improved relations with the United States. We’ve communicated to them what that process might look like, and we think it’s in the interest of the Government of Sudan and the people, all of the people of Sudan, to fulfill their commitment to implement the CPA and choose a peaceful resolution to this longstanding conflict. Thank you very much.
This site is managed by U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City and the Bureau of Public Affairs in Washington, DC. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.