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Obama to chair UN Security Council


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Press Conference by Security Council President on September Work Programme

For the first time in history, a President of the United States would chair a meeting of the Security Council, the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations said at a Headquarters press conference today.

Briefing on the Council’s programme of work for this month, during which her country holds the 15-member organ’s rotating presidency, Susan Rice said that on 24 September, President Barack Obama would chair a Council summit on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, the fifth such meeting in the history of the United Nations. The meeting would not focus on any particular country, but on arms control, nuclear disarmament, strengthening the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and denying and disrupting trafficking in nuclear materials while ensuring they were secured.

She said that, with the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) set to expire on 30 September, that country was among other important items on the Council’s agenda. A private meeting with troop- and police-contributing countries would be convened on 3 September, well in advance of consultations on 9 September, and the adoption of a resolution on 15 September. That scheduling was part of a pattern she hoped to encourage in order to give troop- and police-contributing countries genuine and timely input that they could take into account at mandate renewal time.

Also on 9 September, Ms. Rice continued, the Council would hold an open debate on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which would be attended by former President Bill Clinton, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Haiti. Other participants would offer their perspectives on the scope and nature of a mandate to be renewed in October. Countries contributing troops and police personnel to MINUSTAH would meet on 4 September.

On 30 September, the Council would vote on a follow-on text to resolution 1820 (2008) on women, peace and security, she said, adding that Hillary Clinton, her country’s Secretary of State, would preside over that meeting. On 29 September, the Council would gear a briefing on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which would address benchmarks for progress and provide an assessment of the recent elections. Other matters expected to come before the Council included the mandate renewal of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), the monthly briefing on the Middle East and reviews of three sanctions regimes imposed on Sudan, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which were expected to be “routine”.

Responding to questions about the 24 September summit, the Council President said she had indications that many, if not all, of the 15 Heads of State or Government whose countries formed the Council’s membership would attend. Consultations on the meeting’s possible outcome were ongoing, but the topic was worthy of a substantive one.

Speaking in her national capacity, Ms. Rice went on to say that the United States viewed nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament as one of the most pressing current challenges, and that President Obama had focused on the issue both in the broadest sense and in specific cases. It was an opportunity for the Council to give impetus to national, bilateral and multilateral efforts. The international community, through the body responsible for peace and security, could show that it was united in support of effective steps to ensure nuclear non-proliferation, and committed to appropriate progress on nuclear disarmament.

Asked about the attendance of Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi of Libya, she said nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation was the subject of the summit and it would be inappropriate for him not to confine himself to that topic. As for restrictions on his movements, it was understood that Libya intended to confine his visit to New York City.

She added that “virtually every American” had been offended by the reception that Libya had accorded convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi upon his return home from the United Kingdom. It was a raw and sensitive subject for all Americans, who had lost 270 compatriots in a terrorist act. How Colonel Qadhafi chose to comport himself when he attended the General Assembly and the Security Council could potentially aggravate those emotions further or not.

Asked about the sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea she said the Panel of Experts established by resolution 1874 (2009) was being constituted. It was likely that they would not yet be in a position to provide a substantive report, but she looked forward to hearing an update on their progress. The high-quality panel would be quite effective in overseeing and facilitating implementation of the resolution.

As for a letter from the United Arab Emirates reporting the existence of 10 containers of ammunition aboard a ship destined for Iran from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Council President said the work of the Sanctions Committee was confidential, but she was pleased with efforts by Member States seriously to implement resolution 1874 (2009).

Responding to several questions about Sudan, she said that issue would arise in the context of a regular review of the relevant sanctions regime. Sudan received regular attention from the Council, and all members were concerned about ensuring effective implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the protection of civilians. As for the International Criminal Court’s indictments, there were different views within the Council, but the topic had not arisen in any formal fashion.

She went on to emphasize that stopping the killing in Darfur remained her country’s priority, noting that President Obama had referred several times to the genocide taking place in Sudan. However, the focus was on steps that could help reduce the suffering of the refugees and displaced persons in Darfur, as well as people throughout the country.

In response to a question about the meeting on Afghanistan, she said the Council would first await the final election results as well as those of investigations by the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission. However, Council members were very interested in UNAMA’s assessment of the situation and possible recommendations by the Secretary-General.

Asked why Myanmar was a footnote in the programme of work, Ms. Rice replied that Council members might want to consider the outcome of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s appeal. In addition, the Secretary-General had said that, as a result of his meetings in the country, he had received commitments from the leadership that it would swiftly take positive political steps, including the release of all political prisoners.

Responding to another question about the work programme’s footnotes, with respect to Iraq’ status under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, she said that issue remained a matter of concern for Council members and would be taken up at an appropriate time. The United States wished to work with Iraq and other Council members to ensure that the country’s status under Chapter VII reflected today’s realities rather than those of the past.

Asked about Iran, she said her country’s interest had always been, and continued to be, preventing that country from acquiring a nuclear-weapon capacity. That was a matter of importance to the security of the United States and the Middle East region, including Israel.

In conclusion, she announced that President Obama would speak at the opening of the upcoming summit on climate change. He would also deliver the traditional speech to the General Assembly during the general debate and attend the Secretary-General’s luncheon for Heads of State and Government. In addition, the President would host the host country’s traditional reception for Heads of State and Government as well as delegations.

The provisional programme of work of the Security Council is available at http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/powe.htm.

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