23 January 1997

Press Release



WASHINGTON, D.C., 22-23 January -- Upon arrival in Washington, D.C., yesterday, 22 January, Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his party travelled directly to the Capitol building, where they were received by Congressman Benjamin Gilman (Republican-New York).

Congressman Gilman and the Secretary-General discussed reform issues. Congressman Gilman stated that the United States Congress was happy that the Secretary-General had eliminated a layer of bureaucracy; the Congress was trying to work out a formula for paying United States arrears, conditional on reform. Among measures Congress would hope the United Nations would implement, he cited establishment of a code of conduct, a salary freeze, and procurement reform.

Congressman Gilman expressed concern over the suggestion that the United Nations impose a global tax, and mentioned the possibility of the United States reducing its contributions to both the regular and peace-keeping budgets. The Secretary-General responded that he approved of a code of conduct. He added that the United States cannot be delinquent and a leader at the same time. On global taxation, he said that there was no support among Member States for a tax on citizens.

The Secretary-General invited Congressman Gilman, as a representative from the state of New York, to visit the United Nations and told him that he should feel "that the United Nations was home".

Senator Rod Grams (Republican-Minnesota) joined the meeting and escorted the Secretary-General to the Senate building. Following a private meeting with Senator Grams, the Secretary-General met with other members of the Minnesota delegation and with the press. The Secretary-General stressed that he was in Washington to start a process; that the United States needed the United Nations as much as the United Nations needed the United States.

The Secretary-General then proceeded to the United Nations offices in Washington, where he addressed the staff telling them that "it's time to make the United Nations more relevant and I'm counting on you".

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After his meeting with United Nations staff in Washington, the Secretary-General went to Blair House where he was received by congressmen, senators and State Department personnel.

The Secretary-General was warmly welcomed by the Vice-President of the United States, Albert Gore, who said that there would be differences, "that friends don't always agree", but that the United States would "do its part". He recognized the burden of credibility attached to that statement, but assured the gathering that the depth of commitment inside the Administration was enormous, and that the United States would pay and would "do its part", he reiterated. He assured the Secretary-General that he was among friends.

The Secretary-General said that "the world is changing and we must change with it". He joked to the Vice-President asking him to "please tell your citizens we have no black helicopters, in fact, we have no designs on the United States".

Continuing, the Secretary-General said that the United States had always respected the rule of law; that the United Nations needed its support; that the United Nations must reform; that he, as Secretary-General, would do his part. He concluded by saying that "we're in this thing together, we either hang together or hang separately".

On the second day of his visit to Washington, D.C., Secretary-General Annan held a breakfast meeting with the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Cesar Gaviria. They discussed matters related to Guatemala, electoral assistance, relations between the United Nations and the OAS, the experience of the OAS with reform in the 1980s, environmental issues and South-South cooperation. The Secretary-General said that was the first in a series of meetings he intended to hold with regional organizations as an important part of the reform effort. He expressed the hope that reform would spread to regional organizations as well.

After the meeting, speaking to the press, the Secretary-General said he was happy with the good start of his visit yesterday, and was hoping for equally positive responses today and tomorrow. He said that reform would go forward, but "we can't do it on a shoestring"; the focus was not just on arrears but on the future. "Is this a new beginning"? he was asked. "Definitely, the Administration says that payments will be made", he said.

The Secretary-General then proceeded to the State Department, where he met with the Acting Secretary of State, Peter Tarnoff, and others. They spoke extensively and in-depth on three main issues: the Great Lakes region of Africa, Iraq and the Balkans.

The Secretary-General then met with The Washington Post Editorial Board at their headquarters.

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For information media. Not an official record.