Ambassador Rice: Good morning everyone. We are in the midst of a very important meeting today on Sudan where we are marking the historic completion of the Southern Sudan referendum, and the decision by over ninety-eight percent of the people of Southern Sudan to choose independence. I reiterated the United States’ determination, as expressed by President Obama, to recognize the new independent state of Southern Sudan next July, and we underscore that we very much uphold to that moment. There are many issues that remain to be resolved in the interim including implementation of the CPA, full implementation of its critical post referendum issues, and we also expressed our deep and continuing concern about the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Darfur and our determination to work with others to ensure that civilians are protected, that that conflict is resolved in a just and lasting way. And that UNAMID performs its responsibilities consistent with its Chapter VII mandate.
With that I’m happy to take a couple of brief questions.
Reporter: Ambassador, thank you. Does the US believe that it would be constructive, at this time, with situation in the Middle East (inaudible) that the Security Council engage in the proposed shuttle diplomacy?
Ambassador Rice: I’m not sure it was a proposed shuttle diplomacy. But let me be clear, no decisions were taken by the Security Council yesterday. A number of delegations, including our own, asked a series of important questions, such as what is this meant to achieve? Why now? Why this itinerary? And, would it in fact have the stated intention of contributing to promoting greater peace and stability in the region at this quite fragile time. We await further answers to those questions, and we will take our own decision accordingly, but I can assure you that many council members, including us, were very clear that this is something we would have to consider very, very carefully, and consult with our capitals. So this will be a process, not a decision that’s been taken yet.
Reporter: On Sudan, what do you make of this fighting in Malakal? The army, there are several dozens of people who have been killed of late, what does the US think of that? And I wanted to ask, on the Tax Equalization Fund—there’s a dispute in the House about this $100 million that the State Department has told the UN it can use for security improvements. Who approved that at the State Department and are other countries going to be contributing to that, or is the US paying the whole $100 million with no offset on the CMP payments?
Ambassador Rice: Well, let me start with Malakal. Obviously we’re very concerned about the violence in Malakal and along that border area. This is a function, as you know, of the need for these units that have been joint to now separate, and it is of concern that lives have been lost and violence has occurred, and it underscores the need for this process of disintegrating the joint units to be done carefully and with some supervision.
Let me turn now to the Tax Equalization Fund, and the application of these credits. The legislation that is pending in the House today is a piece of legislation the administration strongly opposes. And we do so because it was the City of New York that underscored the vital importance to US national security to enhance security—physical security—in this structure, above and beyond what was originally contemplated during the Capital Master Plan. We have thousands of New Yorkers who pass through this building and under this building every day. We have school children, we have members of the public, we have the President of the United States, come in this building on a regular basis. And the City of New York and the State Department and the administration feel that it’s in our national interests and in the interests of the people of New York that steps be taken swiftly to upgrade the physical security of this building. And that is what we have done, in coordination with the United Nations. That is also why Representative Peter King—a New Yorker—who is chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House, said very plainly yesterday that this is a crucial commitment that we’ve made, one that should be honored, and he opposes this legislation because it unwisely would make that impossible.
Let me just say also, Matt, we share, however, the spirit in which the legislation is offered, which is to reduce the deficit and to address the need for spending reductions. But the other portion of those credits—the $79 million—will do just that, because we intend to apply those to assessments that we would otherwise have to request resources from Congress to pay. So this is a way of ensuring that we are utilizing taxpayer dollars wisely.
Reporter: So it’s kind of a slush fund, there’s no approval?
Ambassador Rice: Slush fund? No, there’s no slush fund.
Reporter: Would you agree. Would you consider a new visit for the Security Council to Sudan?
Ambassador Rice: We’re looking at, we, the entire Council, are looking at our upcoming travel plans for 2011 and obviously Sudan is an issue in which there is continuing intense interest. So it’s something that we’re all thinking about.
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