Saturday, January 28, 2006

Iran-US: Regarding Referral and Reporting

We know that John Bolton, the unconfirmed-but-serving American ambassador to the United Nations, has no respect for the institution and generally despises diplomatic language. But given the fact that the whole confrontation with Iran hinges, at the moment, on the rather arcane question of whether the board of governors of the IAEA will "refer" Iran to the UN Security Council, the following exchange seems cavalier, to say the least:

QUESTION: Can you help me understand something on Iran I think a lot of us don't really understand? A week ago we had a briefing with Mr. Solana, who tried to explain the difference between reporting Iran to the Security Council and referring Iran to the Security Council. He basically summarized by saying that referring has more guts, it's more significant, and I think Mr. McCormack today said a referral is a referral is a referral. (Laughter.)

Now you've just used the word "report" twice, I think "refer" once. But in your eyes, sitting on the Security Council, does it make any difference to you how it gets to you over there?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: The lawyers have been cogitating about the nature of the language and I am confident that when the lawyers finish cogitating they will come up with the right language and when it gets to the Security Council we will know what to do with it.

QUESTION: My question is on Oil-for-Food. Are you done, Guy?

QUESTION: Well, so they haven't come up with the right language yet, then?

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No, I think the word is probably "report" and that's fine. It's the same thing.

QUESTION: It's the same thing?

STAFF: It's the same thing.

QUESTION: Okay, that's what I wanted to know --

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: It's the difference between what some in Vienna are saying, which to inform the Security Council, but a report is tantamount to a referral.

QUESTION: On Oil-for-Food --

AMBASSADOR BOLTON: That's my opinion, not as a lawyer but as a policy thinker.

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