UN SG's press encounter following Security Council meeting and Luncheon on Iraq

(unofficial transcript)
New York, 5 February 2003
Q: When are you going to Baghdad, Sir?

SG: I was sure you would ask that question!

Let me say that, we have had a very good discussion followed by a working lunch and I still believe that war is not inevitable but a lot depends on President Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi leadership. I think the message today has been clear -- everyone wants Iraq to be proactive in cooperating with the inspectors and fulfil the demands of the international community. I think if they do that, we can avoid a war. The inspectors are going back over the weekend, carrying the message of the international community to the Iraqi authorities, and I urge them to listen and follow through on the demands, as I have said, for the sake of their own people, for the region and for the sake of world order.

As far as my own visit to Baghdad is concerned -- as you know the question was posed in the [Security] Council today and has been floating around for a while - let me say that the message that has been given to Iraq is very clear. That message has come from the united Security Council, it has come from the Arab League, it has come from its neighbours and the inspectors are going back in the next few days to give them the same message in the name of a united international community. And they [Iraq] should listen to them. If I were to go I would not carry a different message. I would be carrying the same message and they should listen to Drs. [Hans] Blix and [Mohammed] ElBaradei, and I hope they do so.

Q: Can you give us your reaction to the US presentation today?

SG: I think the Council members all reacted and we followed up with discussions at lunch. It is expected that the inspectors will take up the new information that the Secretary of State has given. Some of it may be familiar with them. They will factor that into their work and when they are in Iraq they will pursue the leads that they have been given.

Q: When are you going to go to Baghdad exactly?

SG: I have just said I'm not going. I am not going. I am not going to Baghdad. But the inspectors are going and they should be listened to.

Q: After today's presentation , are you convinced by the Americans' argument that Iraq is in material breach of [operative paragraph 4 of Resolution 1441]?

SG: I just indicated that at the discussions this morning the inspectors have been asked to follow through and they will report back as part of their work.

Q: Did you find the Secretary's presentation persuasive, convincing?

SG: I think Secretary of State [Colin Powell] made a strong presentation to the Council members. He was thorough and he took his time to do it.

Q: The last time Mr. Blix and ElBaradei came to the Security Council each one of them presented his report, and each one of those two reports was received in a positive light and in a negative light at the same time, depending on who was looking at it. Is there a mechanism that the UN can set in place whereby it would not be interpreted according to who is interpreting it?

SG: Obviously, the report the inspectors brought back to the Council was not black and white. If you wish, as somebody said, it was grey. And that was to be expected given the nature of their work. But as they keep presenting their reports to the Council, depending on what they come up with, the Council will have to make a judgement at some stage as to whether Iraq is performing, is cooperating, or is not and they should declare material breach. But the judgement has to come some day. It is not up to the inspectors to declare material breach. They will present the facts and it is up to the Council to make that judgement.

Q: How crucial will the Blix and ElBaradei reports on 14 February become in light of today?

SG: I think, given the developments since their last report on 27 January, this would also be an important report. Members will be looking to see if there have been any further developments, any changes in the Iraqi attitude and mindset.

Q: Est ce que le dossier de M. Powell vous a convaincu que jusqu'à maintenant les inspecteurs se sont fait joué par les Iraqiens.

A: Les inspecteurs sont entrain de faire un travail important et les membres du conseil les aident. La plupart des membres du conseil leur demandent de continuer. Monsieur Colin Powell a deposé un dossier important que [les inspecteurs] vont prendrent en consideration en rentrant en Iraq ce weekend. Ils vont demander à l'Iraq d'expliquer et de suivre [...]

Q: Comment est-ce que l'Iraq doit se comporter?

A: Ils doivent être pro-actifs et ne doivent pas s'assoire en attendant que les inspecteurs posent leurs questions. Ils peuvent eux-meme donner des elements aux inspecteurs et cooperer pleinement avec eux.

Q: You expressed the view before that was pretty much the majority of the Council, that the new information should be given to the inspectors to facilitate their work. Did you have a sense that the United States expected a different outcome, that this information actually should have led to force.

SG: I think the United States officials have said all along that they do not believe that war is inevitable provided Iraq complies. So even at this stage, they are not saying peace is out.

Q: If that were the case, they could have given that information to Blix in private.

SG: Well, I think it could have been done but they chose to do it this way and Blix and ElBaradei have been urged to factor into their work the information that has been given and the Americans have indicated that they will give them the information and any further information they have.

Q: Is there any talk of a UN role beyond a possible conflict? Is there any talk at all of that?

SG: Well, I think it is, particularly for those of you in this house, it is clear that if it were to come to that, and I don't think we are there yet, when you look back, whether it is Kosovo or Afghanistan, or everywhere, if it comes to that the UN has always had a role to play.

It has not been discussed. As you know, we are doing some contingency planning on the humanitarian side. This is also something that we have given some preliminary thought to, but we are not there at all. Thank you.