FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ambassador Rice: Good Evening. I wanted to come and say that the United States strongly supports and warmly embraces the unanimous adoption of Resolution 1975, which is by far the Council’s strongest statement to date since the crisis began in Cote d’Ivoire, the most recent crisis post-election, of the Council’s affirmation that President Ouattara is indeed the legitimately elected leader of Cote d’Ivoire, that it is time for former President Gbagbo to step down. It is a strong affirmation as well of the vital importance of protecting civilians and UNOCI’s role in doing so, including by safeguarding the population from the use of heavy weapons. We welcome very much the adoption of targeted sanctions on former President Gbagbo, his wife, his putative Foreign Minister, and others. We think this sends a very strong signal, both of Council unity and the international community’s determination that the people of Cote d’Ivoire, once and for all, have the opportunity to see a government chosen by the people, installed the country, made peaceful and whole, and back on the road to recovery, both political and economic. I’m happy to take a few questions.
Reporter: There are reports that Miguel d’Escoto, former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, has been named by the now defected Foreign Minister of Libya as the Libyan Permanent Representative. We understand that he was born in the United States. Is he a U.S. citizen? Can he represent Libya in this capacity?
Ambassador Rice: Well, I find it intriguing that the former Foreign Minister of Nicaragua is now seeking to be the Permanent Representative of Libya at the Security Council and in the body as a whole, and has been appointed, as you pointed out, by a former Foreign Minister who no longer is the Foreign Minister of Libya. So I think the first question is whether he has actually been appointed in any legitimate fashion, that anybody needs to consider at this stage. But let me go further and say that it is my understanding that Mr. d’Escoto was born in the United States, but some several years ago renounced his U.S. citizenship. Therefore, he is not a U.S. citizen. He came most recently to the United States on a tourist visa. A tourist visa does not allow you to represent any country, Nicaragua, Libya, or any other at the United Nations. Should he wish and should in fact the Libyan regime seek to re-nominate him by some legitimate representative of the Libyan government, which itself is questionable in its legitimacy, to be the putative Permanent Representative here, that person, if he were to be Mr. d’Escoto, needs to leave the United States and apply for an appropriate G1 visa. If he purports to be or act like a representative of a foreign government on a tourist visa, he will soon find that his visa status will be reviewed. So that’s what I can tell you on that point.
Reporter: There are reports that President Obama signed a finding allowing the CIA to assist the Libyan rebels. Does this in any way implicate the two resolutions, including the arms embargo in 1970 that was modified by 1973? Is this something that you disclosed to other Council Members? Does it raise issues under the various prohibitions of the resolutions?
Ambassador Rice: Well, first of all, obviously, as is longstanding U.S. practice, I’m certainly not going to comment on any intelligence matters. I will reaffirm what President Obama said yesterday which is that we have not made any decision about whether the United States will provide arms to opposition elements in Libya. We have neither ruled it in, nor ruled it out. We are considering all forms of potential assistance to the opposition from humanitarian, which we are already providing, to political and other forms of support.
Reporter: Would you confirm now in advance that you will not grant Mr. D’Escoto the proper appropriate visa? He’s holding a press conference tomorrow in the name of Libya. What’s your take on that?
Ambassador Rice: Well, first of all, as I said earlier, he has not been nominated by anybody who even can claim to represent the Libyan Government at this point. First point. So, his nomination is already in question. Secondly, he is not possessing, the appropriate visa, which is necessary for him to be accredited as a Permanent Representative- same for everybody here at the United Nations. So, in order for him to even be considered, he has to leave the country and apply for a G1 visa.
Reporter: That’s a visa for a UN diplomat?
Ambassador Rice: Yes, it’s to represent a foreign government. He hasn’t done that. So it’s a hypothetical at this point.
Reporter: He’s holding a press conference.
Ambassador Rice: That’s another issue, and I refer you to the United Nations on that. I do think it’s curious to say the least that somebody who represents seemingly nobody is holding a press conference in a UN facility, so I think that is a question that I would direct to the organization. He’s clearly not claiming to represent Nicaragua. He is not the President of the General Assembly. So I’m not sure what he’s doing here under that guise tomorrow.
Reporter: On Cote d’Ivoire, Mr. Gbagbo just said that according to him, the UN forces in Cote d’Ivoire now have a mandate to shoot at heavy weapons and to take them down? Is that your interpretation of the resolution?
Ambassador Rice: Well, the resolution says that UNOCI - reaffirms, frankly, that UNOCI has the authority to use all necessary means to protect civilians, and including protecting them from being attacked by heavy weapons. And to do so, as it has throughout - impartially and consistent with its mandate. Now what means it might use to do that I’m not prepared to speculate on. But all necessary means to protect civilians, which has been the basis of UNOCI’s mandate from the outset, is, indeed, still the case.
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