U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
March 28, 2005
QUESTION: Oil-for-Food. This week, a new Volcker report is expected and I’m wondering, in light of the fact that this scandal has clearly been a blight on the UN during Mr. Annan’s time as Secretary General, if you believe that he has been sufficiently damaged by this that he can’t carry through the reforms that the U.S. is looking for.
MR. ERELI: Let’s wait until the next Volcker report comes out. The fact of the matter is that we’ve said that it’s important that all the facts be known, and when all the facts be known that appropriate accountability be taken. Secretary General Annan has been a firm believer in that and so let’s just — let’s see what happens and see what we find out and make our assessments on that basis.QUESTION: But putting aside the question of accountability, do you believe that, given how the Oil-for-Food scandal has damaged his office, frankly, that he can — he is somebody who can carry through the reforms that the U.S. has called for?
MR. ERELI: I don’t have any judgment to share with you on that.
QUESTION: Does he retain Secretary’s full confidence?
MR. ERELI: No change.
QUESTION: Well, it’s interesting because we went through this several months ago, as you recall, and the State Department for days and days and days refused to give any indication that it had confidence in Secretary General Annan. And now it’s interesting that you’re not — you’re again not doing that. People read into that you guys were sort of waiting for the winds to blow and for him to fall. I mean, do you want to leave that inference in people’s minds?
MR. ERELI: Let me put it this way. The United States and Secretary General Annan share a common desire to get to the bottom of the Oil-for-Food scandal and to take steps necessary to ensure that those responsible are held accountable and that the UN reform itself in a way that would prevent something like this from happening again. Secretary General Annan has been, I think, a forceful and decisive leader in this process. We’re working closely with him and we all want to get to the bottom of it. And, you know, as far as our views on Secretary General Annan’s stewardship of the UN, they remain what they were when we most recently stated them. There’s no change to report.
QUESTION: But why can’t you simply say yes to the question of whether he’s capable of carrying out the reforms –
MR. ERELI: Because I don’t like — I’m not going to pronounce whether he’s capable — it’s not for me to say whether Secretary General Annan is capable or not.
I’m here to tell you that we are working with him, we are supporting him in his efforts to get to the bottom of this, to have accountability and that he is the Secretary General of the United Nations. He has our confidence. We are working with him. Period.
QUESTION: But this –
MR. ERELI: End of story.
QUESTION: But when the Ambassador — was it Ambassador Danforth, I believe — came out — when the last report came out, they said that he was capable of continuing the reforms. And so you believe that he’s still capable?
MR. ERELI: I have — yes. He just released his report. We welcomed his report. We said we’re going to work with him on reform. We have an active agenda with the UN and with Secretary General Annan and we look forward to moving forward on that agenda.