27 September 2005

Activities of Secretary-General in Washington, D.C., 23 September

NEW YORK, 26 September (UN Headquarters) -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan travelled to Washington, D.C., early on Friday, 23 September, where he attended a forum on the theme, "Africa Matters", at the Congressional Black Caucus.  He later held a one-on-one meeting with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In his remarks to the "Africa Matters" forum, the Secretary-General agreed on the importance of Africa, saying, "At a time when African States are addressing their problems with new energy and determination, we must work with them, and invest in them, to build the better future that can be theirs."  (See Press Release SG/SM/10123.)

He reiterated his sympathy for all those who have suffered from Hurricane Katrina, and noted the humanitarian efforts the United Nations has made in support of the victims.  Among them, he said, are the provision of two planeloads of education and recreation kits by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); the work by the World Health Organization (WHO) to assist in tracking support to displaced people; and assistance in coordinating international assistance.

In short, he said, the United Nations is doing whatever it can to help, and wishes the American people strength and courage as they continue the recovery and reconstruction effort.

The Secretary-General also briefed the forum on the "remarkable commitments" agreed to at the World Summit, although he added, "Leaders did not deliver everything I had hoped for."

Speaking to the press after his private meeting with Secretary of State Rice, the Secretary-General said they had discussed quite a few issues:  United Nations reform and its implementation; Haiti; Iran; Iraq; Afghanistan; and peacekeeping operations in Africa.

Asked at the press encounter about reports that the Syrian Government may be angling for some type of amnesty on the United Nations-led investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Secretary-General said the investigations are still going on for another couple of weeks.

He said that he had not yet received the final report and it would be a bit imprudent and premature to comment on that.  He suggested waiting for the investigation's outcome.

The Secretary-General added that he had not received any approaches from the Syrian authorities indicating that they want to make a deal, and besides, he said, at this stage, no Syrian has been accused.

Asked if he had the sense that the new outcome document from the World Summit will be enough to persuade members of the United States Congress to drop a provision on the payment of United States dues to the United Nations budget, the Secretary-General said he hoped it did as it shows determination and seriousness on the part of Member States to move ahead with reform across the board.

He added that he thought everyone should work together to press on and reform the Organization and that care needed to be taken not to take any initiatives that will stall the reform.

Later that afternoon, the Secretary-General returned to United Nations Headquarters in New York.

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