Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ambassador Bolton on Lebanon

Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Remarks in the Security Council                                               
New York City                                                                 
November 27, 2006         
Reporter: In the aftermath of the Lebanese government's approval, what
are the next steps as far as you see them? Are they supposed to be a signature
between the United Nations and the Lebanese government first, and then it goes
to the Parliament for ratification? Or is the president of the republic's     
position changed that -- has it changed that?                                 
And in that case, would there be Plan B, Chapter VII resolution, if that cannot
happen? And lastly, there is a Syrian letter, if you don't mind telling use   
your action to it and whether you are worried about further assassinations.   
Ambassador Bolton: Yeah. The question of how the government of Lebanon proceeds
to undertake its own constitutional procedures is really a matter for that    
government to decided. And when they have finished those pr ocedures, then we  
can move to the question of signature and so on. But this is something that's 
now in the hands of the government of Lebanon, and as I say, we await their   
I think that the danger that the White House forecast of Iranian and Syrian   
interference in Lebanon forecast some weeks ago remains very much on our minds.
And I think it'll be the subject of discussions on the president's trip.      
Certainly when he goes to the region, this could well be a decisive point in  
Lebanon's history and hopefully its progress toward a freely elected and      
democratic government and a stable situation. And if it -- if that's          
unsuccessful there, it will obviously have dramatically negative consequences 
for the region as a whole.                                              
So we're following it very carefully and want to do everything we can to      
support the democratically elected forces in the government of Lebanon.        
Reporter: Syrian letter -- can you give us your reaction to the Syrian letter,
in which the said that basically they don't see a purpose of a tribunal before
the investigation is set up, and that they will not cooperate, basically. The 
bottom-line answer is --                                                       
Ambassador Bolton: Yeah. Well, that's certainly nothing new from Syria. They  
haven't cooperated adequately from the beginning. And if I were in their shoes,
I guess I'd worry even more about establishing a tribunal than the            
investigation. So no surprises there from Syria, as usual.                    
Reporter: Yeah. We know that the opposition, especially Hezbollah and Amal,   
have made a statement over the weekend stating that they are not against the  
international tribunal and they support that. Don't you think that a national 
unity government in Lebanon is a prerequisite here for the stability of Lebanon
to prevent any change or any coup that may happen, since the current government
is illegitimate, does not represent the people? And we have seen that, and we 
are expecting an escalation this week in Lebanon in order to change the       
situation there.                                                               
Ambassador Bolton: Well, if Hezbollah and Amal support the establishment of the
tribunal -- which they signaled when they agreed to the negotiators and agreed
to the process -- then presumably they can express that by voting in favor of 
the agreement in parliament, where i t will then receive -- will receive an    
overwhelming vote.                                                            
I mean, this is -- we are doing nothing more than was forecast, really, from  
the beginning of the p rocess beginning with Resolution 1595 and other         
resolutions, so it should come as no surprise to anybody. This has been       
negotiated between the lawyers for the secretariat acting on behalf of the    
Security Council and senior jurisprudents from Lebanon, very well-respected   
individuals. I think it's a very straightforward agreement, and the statute   
creating the tribunal is very straightforward. So I would hope that all the   
various confessional elements within Lebanon would agree to this.             
Reporter: There are many in Lebanon, Mr. Ambassador, skeptical about the      
possibility of ratifying the agreement with the United Nations because of     
dilly-dallying of Nabih Berri, the speaker of the parliament, to call the     
parliament into session because of the president's bias to Syria.              
In the absence of ratifying it, there are -- many are speaking about the      
possibility of the Security Council moving and issuing a resolution to Chapter
VII. Is this at all a possibility, taking in consideration that Lebanon       
requested for a tribunal in the first place?                                   
Ambassador Bolton: Yeah. Well, I'd rather not speculate on what might or might
not happen if the government of Lebanon is prevented one way or another from  
following its own constitutional procedures. We have done what was required of
the Security Council, to put this back in the government's court in Beirut, and
the cabinet has now approved the draft agreement and the statute establishing 
the tribunal. As I understand it, it awaits the president's decision; if he   
does not decide within, you know, a 15-day period, then it's -- the government
may submit it to the parliament, and the parliament has the authority to ratify
with a simple majority. So I think -- as I said, I'd rather not speculate about
what else might be out there. We'll wait and see if this doesn't play out inside Lebanon.