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Kofi Annan Condemns Killing of Civilians; John Bolton Comments on U.N. Security Council's Emergency Meeting

Aired July 30, 2006 - 14:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Now in the news. An ominous new turn today in the Middle East crisis. In the deadliest attack in 19 days of fighting. At least 60 Lebanese were killed in an Israeli air strike. Many of the victims were children. The attack took place in a village in southern Lebanon. Israel calls it a tragedy and a mistake but vows to keep up its offensive against Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, on the Israeli side of the border, more rocket attacks. Dozens of rockets have struck the region today.

And around the world, renewed calls for a ceasefire in the Middle East. And at the UN, an emergency session of the Security Council has just ended. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he's deeply disturbed that his calls for a ceasefire have gone unheeded. And he's condemning the killing of civilians. We're going to go now to Kofi Annan live.

KOFI ANNAN, UN SECRETARY-GENERAL: That between now and 4:30, 5:00 when the council comes back, there will be some understanding or agreement on how the council will act.


QUESTION: Are you confident that the council might call for a ceasefire?

ANNAN: Well, I have recommended that. And so let's leave them to see what they come back with.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the United States under secretary -- Mr. Nick Burns just now rejected any call for ceasefire. Now he said he has talked with Secretary Rice and there will be no ceasefire call from the United States. So what could the Security Council do under this.

ANNAN: As I said, the 15 members of the council now are going to be engaged in negotiations, in fact in discussions have started now. And they're going to meet again later in the afternoon. Let's see what happens. I'm sure they'll be discussing with each other here and talking to the capitals. So let's not prejudge what they will do.

QUESTION: Secretary-general, do you think they'll be able to put aside their divisions and come together with swift action. They've been ...

ANNAN: What I can tell you as someone who's been in the room is that all really concerned about what's going on and are aware that if we don't handle it well, it could lead to further escalation and spread and it could spread the conflict.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, did you ask Mrs. Rice -- Ms. Rice, secretary state Rice about the two plain loads of missiles that are coming in to Israel?

ANNAN: No, I did not ask her about that.

QUESTION: Secretary-general, they have broken now and do I understand you right, they will result with capitals, return a 4:30. Presumably with instruction and at 4:30, try to resolve what it is they do today?

ANNAN: That's correct. I think we are headed towards a presidential statement and they are consulting amongst themselves and as I said, I'm sure they'll be calls to capitals but they are heading towards a presidential statement from my understanding. Yes.

QUESTION: Secretary-general, just for clarification, what did Ambassador Bolton say within the meeting just so we understand.

ANNAN: I think Ambassador Bolton is very eloquent. He speaks extremely well for himself. I don't need to be his spokesman. When he comes out, ask him. Yeah.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, two things, please. You expressed your - you conveyed the message, the ultimatum from the Israeli Defense Forces to UNIFIL to remove innocent people in both Ayt Kashab (ph) and Ramiah (ph) and -- this is another tragedy in the making. What are you going to do that besides not do anything about it?

ANNAN: No the council itself -- this came up in the council discussions. And let's see what they say in their statement. Because you know that we ourselves have been under attack. The situation is very unstable. So where we are struggling to protect ourselves is not the time to undertake to evacuate villages. And besides, as I said, such request would normally come from the government and of course I see the implication of your question is a cessation of hostility is the only way to protect the civilians and let them get out of harm's way. We've asked for that, too. So obviously we have no argument with me on that.

QUESTION: No I don't. But is there ...

ANNAN: Any action that can be taken to protect the villages.

QUESTION: Right. OK. Go ahead.

ANNAN: That's what you mean. No, go ahead.

QUESTION: No, I was wondering if there is a certain time that you were told by such and such time they're not evacuated, something will happen and your response? I mean you know? And why is it that you keep using the word cessation of hostilities and not a ceasefire? I'm sure you have a very good reason for the distinction in your mind. Can you share that distinction?

ANNAN: No, I think I have made that distrinction very clear and also with the council members. Cessation of hostilities is -- can be agreed upon by the parties for a limited duration for whatever duration to stop the fighting for assistance, to be given to civilians, to get civilians out of harm's way, to allow more time for diplomatic negotiations. Ceasefire is similar that it has to be negotiated in detail and usually takes time.

So -- and so if you -- cessation of hostilities is like a truce. Where parties can agree to without detailed, nailed down negotiations which is very time consuming. And this is why -- I'm also interested in ceasefire, but that will take a bit of time and I wanted to see the cessation of hostilities.

QUESTION: ... charter enshrines the concept of self-defense but I guess that was written at a time when you have a concept of two armies fighting each other. Now you have a situation where you have this asymmetrical warfare and one army or militia or armed group is interspersed and sometimes undistinguishable from civilians. So what does the right of self-defense entail when you have that situation? Or does international law need to be updated to take account of this different type of warfare?

ANNAN: Obviously law is being interpreted and adapted all the time to situations. But there's also a question o of -- when you talk of protecting civilians, whether, if civilians -- if you have to take military action in a situation where civilians are likely to be hurt or to be killed, what do you do? Do you go ahead with it, or you stick with the basic principle of sparing civilians and avoiding any action, any action that could remotely harm civilians? It's a tough call what you say. But I think the idea of protecting civilians and sparing civilians and ensuring that noncombatants are protected and not placed in harm's way I think should be very high on the agenda of fighting force regard little of whether it's militia or a government.

QUESTION: Just to follow-up on this. Because it cuts to the heart of the situation. Does that, then, essentially give a militia that intersperses itself within civilians and hides behind civilian shields the ability practically to attack another country, but have the weight of international law behind it when it comes to a response.

ANNAN: No, I don't think this is -- first of all, we've made it quite clear -- I've made it quite clear that in this conflict what Hezbollah did was unacceptable. Secondly, it is also quite clear that there's no military solution to this situation. There has to be a political agreement. A political agreement that leads to disarmament of all militia including Hezbollah. A political agreement that allows the Lebanese government to strengthen its own army with the support of the international committee and extend its authority throughout the territory.

So the urgency of stopping the fighting and getting the political agreement is underscored by the exchanges that we're having. There is no military solution. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: One question. Have you contacted the Lebanese government? They said they will not talk to anybody.

ANNAN: I did speak to the prime minister this morning. He -- I did speak to him this morning. And he confirmed to me that the government has taken a decision not engage in any further diplomatic exchanges or air force to resolve the problem until there is a cessation of hostilities. This situation may change. But that is a position they took this morning.

KEILAR: Now secretary-general of the UN Kofi Annan, he has been calling for an immediate ceasefire. And he says the Security Council is talking today but semantics of the situation seem to be changing. Obviously this ceasefire has been a contentious issue and he's now using the words cessation of hostilities, which seems to be tone down. He's talking about stopping the fighting, to deliver humanitarian aid and assistance and also to get diplomatic efforts going there.

We're expecting to be hearing later today, and of course we will break in with any new developments on the crisis in the Middle East. At this point, we're waiting to see if anyone else is going to be coming to the podium. Is there anyone else? No, all right.

We're going to go on now to CNN PRESENTS: "Inside Hezbollah." We will join it in progress.


JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: The tragedy in the deaths of the civilians at Qana. And I think what we're going to try to on today is see if we can agree on a presidential statement or a press statement that will express our profound regrets and condolences to the families of those who have died. And things along that line. That'll be worked out. We'll be meeting later in the afternoon. And that would certainly be the objective we would be seeking to work on. And hopefully be able to do that today.

QUESTION: Ambassador, this has led to renewed calls for a immediate cessation of hostilities. Is there any chance the U.S. will change its position on that? And what do you think of the French draft resolution.

BOLTON: Our view for quite some time has been and remains to work toward a permanent solution to the problems in the region and obviously we want to move urgently to try and find a way to reach that solution which will help create an enduring cessation of hostilities in the region.

That's the -- that's the reason Secretary Rice is in the region now and has been working so hard. That's why we've worked on the provision of humanitarian assistance in Lebanon. To make sure that the innocent civilians there are not deprived. That remains the policy we're pursuing.

QUESTION: Talking about Lebanon. Negotiations and the cessation of hostilities. Where does that leave the process that you're talking about? BOLTON: Well the secretary's still in the region. Still having conversations. She said today in her press statement, she thought progress had been made. I think that's an accurate assessment and she's continuing to work on it. Yeah?

QUESTION: The Lebanese government has said that it will not be able to create those Israelis are said to do but in the event that they don't and the Israelis still do attack, people will be killed. What can be done under such circumstances?

BOLTON: I think that we have said that we have said to the government of Israel on many occasions, they need to exercise care and restraint in the conduct of their military operations. And they have assured us that's what they're doing there. Their ambassador to the UN this morning, I thought very clearly, expressed the deep regret of the government of Israel for the deaths of these civilians. And I think that was a sincere expression of regret.

Anything else then?

QUESTION: Will this affect the resolution on Iran? Maybe adopt it (ph) for tomorrow?

BOLTON: Our intention is still to proceed with a vote on that tomorrow. I would certainly hope so, yeah.

QUESTION: Do you think, ambassador, anything the Security Council can do regarding Hezbollah potentially putting these rockets and the ammunition among the civilians?

BOLTON: I think that Hezbollah's actions as a terrorist organization are obviously the fundamental cause of the current conflict. And it says something about the morality and respect for human life of Hezbollah, that they would use innocent civilians as shields.

That's just something that for civilized people is not acceptable. But that's why as well, in Israel's exercise of its legitimate right self-defense they have to take into account this barbaric practice that Hezbollah has and exercise the utmost restraints so that Lebanese civilians are spared the brunt of this conflict. So we'll be back later this afternoon. See you all then.

KEILAR: That was U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, commenting on the emergency meeting that the UN Security Council has been holding today. Let's go now to Richard Roth, our correspondent at the UN.

So, Richard, urging Israel, the U.S. urging Israel at this point to use care and restraint. But is there really anything new that can be gleaned from Bolton's remarks?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the United States ambassador making it clear that the U.S. might be willing to go along with the statement about the attack, and what happened in Qana, but not necessarily at this point joining in with the others and having a demand or a call for a cessation of hostilities or a ceasefire. Something Washington has been quite dug in on in the last two weeks.

And that's really the essential issue, as to what is happening here and behind the scenes. The French have a resolution they've circulated which calls for a cessation of hostilities. And then should there be a political agreement to have a new international force go in between Lebanon and Israel.

Right now there's a lot of passion and fiery about what happened in Qana. But the overall picture may not have changed at this point despite what may be heavy bargaining in discussions in capitals following Secretary Rice's visit. In Lebanon that the point, refusing to talk diplomacy in the hours and wake of this assault where dozens of its civilians were killed.

KEILAR: Now Secretary Rice has been holding off on calling for an immediate ceasefire. This has really bane sticking point. But today we heard secretary-general of the UN, Kofi Annan, talking about a cessation of hostilities, as you said. It seems like the semantics are changing a little bit. Can you break that down for us?

ROTH: ell, there have been semantics and words that have been used but they are key words. Kofi annan tried to explain what he said. He said that a cessation of hostilities would be quicker. You don't have to work out the details in tradition and history. Ceasefires have to be worked out, negotiated. Then other steps are taken. There really has been no peace treaty yet, 50, 60 years later after the Korean War.

But here, Kofi Annan is just trying to get all sides to put down their guns. Hezbollah's not a UN-member country. Nobody knows how they are going to react towards an international force or to respecting a Security Council resolution which says there should be a cessation of hostilities.

There was a resolution a couple of years ago which said that militias such as Hezbollah should be disarmed. That didn't really happen. So the Security Council is still split with the United States dug in on one side. Along with Britain primarily. And the rest holding out, pushing for a cessation of hostilities. The U.S., of course, has veto power. So you might see a statement today of condolences, sadness, anger about what happened today in southern Lebanon. But so far no indications that we're going to have the overall high demanded for Security Council resolution or statement saying it's time for Israel and Lebanon and everyone else to stop.

KEILAR: Richard Roth live for us at the UN, thanks for that report and we're going to go ahead right now and rejoin CNN PRESENTS: "Inside Hezbollah."


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