White House Press Briefing by Mike McCurry on U.S. opposition to Boutros Boutros-Ghali
June 20, 1996
REPORTER: Mike, what is it that the United States doesn't like about Boutros Boutros-Ghali?
MIKE MCCURRY, White House Press Secretary: Well, there are a long list of points that we have had disagreement with him in recent years. Rather than go through that record, I'd say, in somewhat different fashion -- and they've already had an extensive briefing on this at the State Department, as you probably know -- that as a general proposition, the President, who has challenged the General Assembly in two consecutive speeches to pay more attention to reform, to pay more attention to the needs that the United Nations as an institution will have in the 21st century, believes that that institution requires aggressive leadership to meet the mandates that the United States people have, the United States government has when it comes to reform, cost efficiency and making that a vibrant institution for the 21st century.
We believe there are others in the world community, international community, with the stature, experience and leadership capability to do a superior job to Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Furthermore, our understanding at the time we supported his election five years ago is that he would seek but one term. And we feel that, at this point, there is ample justification to turn to other leadership as we look ahead to the needs of that institution and prepare for the 21st century.
REPORTER: What action is the United States prepared to take to barr, prevent, a second term?
MIKE MCCURRY: We are confident that we will be able to make sure that there is a new U.N. Secretary General. And we hope it will not come to the point that we must exercise a veto in the Security Council because we believe we can make a very strong argument that there are other suitable candidates available. In fact, indeed, one reason why we've now addressed this matter publicly is to encourage those type of candidates for leadership to come forward.
REPORTER: What other candidates, and do we have favorite?
MIKE MCCURRY: We don't have a favorite, and we will be in close dialogue with other members of the international community as we search for suitable candidates.
REPORTER: Did you discuss it with Mrs. Robinson when she was here?
MIKE MCCURRY: No, and he answered that question directly, I think, when he had his little press conference with her. This general utility of the United Nations and its importance in the post-Cold War era was a subject of their conversation. As the President indicated, she is very well-respected for the work she has done in Africa, particularly in Somalia and Rwanda. They did review those matters but, as the President indicated, they did not discuss any particular opportunity for leadership.
REPORTER: And will Boutros-Ghali be at this G-7 when they meet with the four groups after? He will be the representative of the United Nations?
MIKE MCCURRY: My understanding is that he will be there.
REPORTER: Mike, up to this point, I know there have been disagreements between especially Madeleine Albright and Boutros Boutros-Ghali, but mostly it has been supportive comments about the U.N., some indication by the President that he wanted reform. But it hasn't been this personal criticism of Boutros-Ghali. Why are we not to believe that since Bob Dole has been very overtly criticizing, and other Republicans, that this is timed to that?
MIKE MCCURRY: Well, mostly because, as often in matters of international diplomacy, we try to work matters out quietly before they become public. Indeed, dating back to late 1995 we have been working with -- not only with the Secretary General, but with others to talk about the need for new leadership potential within the United Nations. And the President began discussions about this particular issue as far back as late 1995, early 1996, and made the decision to pursue this course March 25th. I don't know when Mr. Dole was addressing this matter.
But I would say this, one factor in our decision is it is quite clear that Boutros Boutros-Ghali lacks confidence within the United States Congress. And we must go to the Congress to request the funding necessary to pay United States portions of the cost of the U.N. budget. And in order to get that support and get that type of funding for the United States obligations at the United Nations, there would have to be confidence in Boutros Boutros-Ghali. And clearly he lacks that confidence within the United States Congress. That is a subject that we have raised repeatedly in the United Nations as we pressed the need for reform of U.N. bureaucracy, cutting back a lot of the more than ample bureaucracy that exists there and reducing wasteful spending.