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President Obama's Meeting With UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

During a press briefing, UN Ambassador Susan Rice speaks on President Obama's meeting with Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, on issues ranging from the situation in Lybia to the violence in Côte d’Ivoire.
President Obama Meets with Ban Ki-Moon

President Barack Obama meets with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the Oval Office, February 28, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On Monday afternoon, President Obama hosted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for a discussion of events in the Middle East and around the world. A readout of their meeting, provided by UN Ambassador Susan Rice during yesterday's press briefing, is below.

AMBASSADOR RICE: Thank you very much, Jay. Good afternoon, everyone. I want to start by giving a brief readout of the President’s meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that just finished a little while ago.

As you might expect, a significant portion of that meeting was devoted to discussing the situation in Libya. The U.N. has played a positive and very important role in efforts to end the bloodshed there and to hold the Qaddafi regime accountable, and support the Libyan people. Indeed, in Libya, the United Nations is demonstrating the indispensable role that it can play in advancing our interests and defending our values.

We'll come back to Libya in a few minutes, but let me just finish with the brief readout of the President’s meeting with the Secretary General.

The President and the Secretary General also discussed the situation elsewhere in the Middle East as well as the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. And with respect to Côte d’Ivoire, they expressed their concern about the escalation of violence there and the need to enable the legitimately elected president, Alassane Quattara, to assume responsibility for governing Côte d’Ivoire.

They also discussed the historic referendum that recently took place in Southern Sudan, where the people overwhelmingly voted for independence. And they discussed the vital work that the U.N. and the international community have still to do, along with the parties to the Sudanese conflict, to resolve outstanding issues and ensure lasting peace as the South gains its independence in July of this year.

The President and the Secretary General also discussed their shared agenda to build on the strengths of the United Nations while pursuing and implementing very important management reforms as well as budgetary discipline.

And finally, President Obama reaffirmed the administration’s strong belief that the United Nations continues to play a vital role in addressing tough, global and transnational threats, and in doing so, its work enhances the safety and well-being of the American people.

Now, coming back to Libya, as you know on Saturday night in New York, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1970, a tough and binding set of sanctions aimed at stopping the Libyan regime from killing its own people.

As you know, from the very beginning of the crisis in Libya, we’ve been clear that it’s vitally important for the international community to speak with one voice, and it has done so with an unusual and important sense of urgency, determination and unity of purpose.

This resolution that we passed had several important components. First, it refers the situation in Libya directly to the International Criminal Court. This is the first time that the Security Council has unanimously voted to refer a case of heinous human rights violations to the ICC.

Secondly, it includes a travel ban and an assets freeze on key Libyan leaders. It imposes a complete arms embargo on Libya and mechanisms to enforce it. And finally, it takes new steps against the use of mercenaries by the Libyan government to attack its own people, and it facilitates the delivery of vital humanitarian assistance.

These sanctions and accountability mechanisms should make all members of the Libyan regime think about the choice they have before them: Violate human rights and be held accountable, or stop the violence and respect the Libyan peoples’ call for change. There’s no escaping that critical choice.

Meanwhile, all the members of the United Nations Security Council are united in their determination that these sanctions work and work as swiftly as possible. But the Security Council has not finished its business and will continue to monitor the situation in Libya quite closely.

And I’ll reiterate what the President said over the weekend. Now is the time for Colonel Qaddafi to step aside to prevent further bloodshed and to allow the Libyan people to have a government that is responsive to their aspirations.