Obama to Preside at UN Security Council

02 September 2009

The United States has taken over the rotating presidency of the 15-member United Nations Security Council for the month of September.   U.S. President Barack Obama and other top U.S. political figures will be at the world body this month to highlight issues of importance to the United States.

September is a traditionally busy month at the United Nations because it is when the world's leaders convene for the annual debate in the U.N. General Assembly.

This year, the U.S. presidency of the Security Council happens to coincide with this and offers the opportunity for important meetings at the highest levels.

U.S. United Nations Ambassador, Susan Rice
U.S. United Nations Ambassador, Susan Rice
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice told reporters on Wednesday that the highlight of the U.S. presidency will be a summit-level Security Council meeting on nuclear non-proliferation. It is scheduled to be held on September 24 and will be chaired by President Obama - the first time a U.S. president has led a Security Council meeting.

"This session will focus on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly, and not on any particular countries. Key areas to be highlighted will include arms control and nuclear disarmament, and strengthening the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] regime, and denying and disrupting trafficking in and the securing of nuclear materials," she said.

Ambassador Rice said she expects a large number, if not all, of the 15 Security Council members to be represented at the head of state or government level. This would include Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi whose country holds a non-permanent seat on the council.

Mr. Gadhafi, a controversial figure, has come under international criticism recently for the hero's welcome in Libya of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi who was released from a U.K. prison because he is dying from cancer.

Ambassador Rice said "virtually every American" has been offended by the reception Megrahi received in his homeland.

"How President Gadhafi chooses to comport himself when he attends the General Assembly and the Security Council in New York has the potential either to further aggravate those feelings and emotions or not," she said.

In addition to the non-proliferation summit, Rice confirmed that President Obama will address the opening session of a climate change summit to be convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on September 22.

In keeping with U.N. tradition, the U.S. president will address the General Assembly on the first day of its annual debate, on September 23. All in all, President Obama is expected to spend three days at the United Nations.

On the Security Council's regular program of work this month will be a debate on the U.N.'s peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Its mandate is due to expire next month, but it is expected to be renewed.

Earlier this year, Secretary-General Ban appointed former U.S. President Bill Clinton as his special envoy for Haiti, and Ambassador Rice announced that Mr. Clinton would attend next week's debate.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also be at the U.N. this month, attending a Security Council session expected to adopt a resolution expanding the protection of women in conflict zones.