Susan Rice Presents Her Crendentials at the UN

Rice is officially, official. And in her first interview with reporters as UN Ambassador, she suggests that reviving the “P-5 plus one” diplomacy on Iran (short hand for the Security Council plus Germany) is a top priority.

Meanwhile, the official Chinese news service Xinhua seems to forget that civil rights icon and longtime Atlanta mayor Andrew Young served as President Carter’s UN Ambassador.

Susan Rice, the new U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Monday presented her credentials to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon here.

Rice is the first African American to assume the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as the new U.S. administration and the United Nations both vowed to work closely with each other to address major global problems, such as the Middle East peace process and the climate change.

UPDATE: Read below the fold for a transcript of Amb. Rice’s first press availability at the UN.

Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative, After Presentation of Credentials to the Secretary General, at the United Nations Stakeout, January 26, 2009

Ambassador Rice: Good Morning. How are you all? Well, I’m delighted to be here on my first day. It really is a great honor and a privilege to represent the United States at the United Nations. I come at a time when there are many, many important and pressing issues on the United Nations agenda, issues that are of central importance to the United States and indeed to the entire world.

President Obama’s view is clear, that our security and well-being can best be advanced in cooperation and in partnership with other nations. And there is no more important forum, for that effective cooperation, than the United Nations. And I am looking very much forward to engaging in a cooperative, constructive fashion with my colleagues here in New York.

I will listen. I will engage. And I will work to advance the United States interest, recognizing that in many, many instances, our national interests are best advanced when we are working hand in hand with that of others.

I had a very good, excellent meeting with the Secretary-General this morning. It was a privilege to present my credentials. And then we had about 45 minutes of detailed discussion. We covered a range of issues, including climate change, the Millennium Development Goals, the challenges and importance of United Nations peacekeeping. We touched on non-proliferation, on Sudan, on the situation in the Middle East and a number of other issues. It was obviously an initial conversation. And I look very much forward to continuing my dialogue with him and the leadership here in the Secretariat.

During the rest of the day, I’ll begin the process of meeting my colleagues and counterparts here, other permanent representatives. And it is very much a beginning, but a beginning that I am enthusiastic about and very much looking forward to pursuing.

The United Nations is a vitally important institution. It has great potential. It still has room for great improvement. And in this regard, with the Secretary-General, we had an opportunity also to touch on the challenge of how we make the organization more efficient and effective and continue the process of reform, so that it’s best-suited to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

I am delighted to take a couple of your questions. And I look forward to continuing our dialogue beyond today.

Reporter: Ambassador, welcome to the U.N.

Ambassador Rice:Thank you

Reporter: John Heilprin with the Associated Press. I’m wondering, if you can, outline for us what your goals and priorities will be and how quickly and what sort of action we can expect in places like Darfur, Iran, North Korea, Mideast.

Ambassador Rice: Well, you’ve listed a large range of challenges. And all of these are daily on the agenda of the United Nations and important to the United States. The President has spoken of his commitment to act with determination in the face of genocide and poverty and disease. And that will be an important part of our agenda.

But in my testimony before Congress, I outlined four priorities that are of equal importance that we will pursue energetically, over a period of months and years, in partnership with other member states.

Strengthening the capacity of the organization to engage effectively in complex peace operations, at a time when the burdens and the challenges placed on the institution are greater than ever. Advancing our national and collective agenda to address climate change and the challenges of non-proliferation are two other important objectives. And putting the United States at the center of international efforts to support poverty reduction, development, fighting disease and achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which President Obama has said repeatedly, will now be America’s goals as well.

Reporter: Madame Ambassador, welcome. On Iran, will you be taking up the issue again here in the Security Council? Or will this wait till President Obama makes contact with Iran directly?

And on Gaza, will you be building up on 1860, the last resolution, with all its details? Could that be possible if there is no investigation?

Ambassador Rice: Well, let me say broadly on Iran, as the President has said on a number of occasions, we remain deeply concerned about the threat that Iran’s nuclear program poses to the region, indeed to the United States and the entire international community. We look forward to engaging in vigorous diplomacy, that includes direct diplomacy with Iran as well as continued collaboration and partnership with the P-5 plus one. And we will look at what is necessary and appropriate with respect to maintaining pressure towards that goal of ending Iran’s nuclear program.

The dialogue and diplomacy must go hand in hand with a very firm message from the United States and the international community that Iran needs to meet its obligations as defined by the Security Council, and its continued refusal to do so will only cause pressure to increase.

And with respect to Gaza, let me say that you have heard the President speak very forthrightly about his grave concern about the current humanitarian crisis. This is an issue that we will have an opportunity to discuss in the Council tomorrow and it is our desire to contribute in a very active and concerted away, along with other members of the international community, to respond effectively to those humanitarian needs.

But what is required is a durable cease-fire. And we will work diplomatically and through other means to try to support efforts to ensure that that cease-fire is lasting, and in that context for border crossings to open and be available for humanitarian as well as day-to-day economic development imperatives.

And the President, who will be meeting with his new special envoy, Senator Mitchell, and as Senator Mitchell goes out into the region later this week, has underscored the United States commitment to be engaged in an active and sustained way from the earliest days of this administration in the longer-term effort to promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict based on two states living side by side in peace and security.

Just one more question.

Reporter: Ambassador, Darfur. The Democrats are back here. When the Democrats were in power last, Rwanda happened. You’ve talked about a need to be more robust in places like Darfur after what happened with Rwanda. Perhaps you can talk about what new specifics you would bring here, the administration, or is it going to be more of the same? You said it was genocide in Washington. And what are the implications if al-Bashir is — an arrest warrant is sent for him?

Ambassador Rice: Well, obviously we remain very deeply concerned about the ongoing genocide in Darfur. The priority at this point has to be effective protection for civilians. And in that regard, our effort and attention will be, and as we discussed this morning with the Secretary-General and colleagues, on effective efforts to support the full and complete deployment of UNAMID so that there is the capacity on the ground to begin to effect that civilian protection.

Obviously, we will continue to look at what is necessary to deal with any obstruction, continued violence or reprisals that may occur anyway or may emanate as a result of a potential indictment. And we want to be supportive of the Special Envoy’s efforts to negotiate a lasting peace and resolve the underlying political differences.

Thank you very much.