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Interview of the President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr Janez Drnovšek, World News Europe - CNN (unedited version)

New York, USA, 01/23/2006  |  interview

Fionnuala Sweeney: Slovenia’s president says he wants to send a wakeup call to the world about the humanitarian disaster in Darfur. Coming up, we will hear his ideas for helping the hundreds of thousands of refugees in Sudan. Janez Drnovšek is our guest next on World news Europe.

Sweeney: Slovenia’s president is in the United States meeting high-level officials to discuss his initiatives on Sudan. President Janez Drnovšek is planning to travel back to Sudan next month in order to draw more attention to the refugee situation in Darfur. His has contacted world leaders in an effort to get them to organize support for peacekeepers in the region and to raise money for the thousands of refugees displaced by the violence. He has also called for an international conference on the war there to be convened by the African and European unions and the United Nations with an active role played by the group of eight nations. Well, president Janez Drnovšek joins me now from New York to talk about his initiatives on Darfur as well as Kosovo. First of all lets talk about Darfur. Are you surprised that two years after it first raised its head on the international stage as a crisis in the making that it still has not been resolved.

Janez Drnovšek: It should be surprising. Two years ago United Congress and United States administration described the situation in Darfur as genocide, but then nothing followed. There are many humanitarian workers working in terrible conditions, but United Nations Security Council does not follow their effort and nothing has been done to ensure their safety, safety of the people of Darfur and safety of the humanitarian workers. And now the world…

Sweeney: How much support have you been getting in New York speaking to the United Nations and other government representatives for this initiative that you are proposing?

Drnovšek: The Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Anan was very positive about my initiative. Somehow I felt that he needs help, that his efforts have been blocked till now and that we have to do something to raise the pressure, to wake up the international opinion again, to make institutions move. And indeed I have an impression that Mr. Kofi Anan needs help. Security Council is blocked. Permanent members, they have their stakes in Sudan, China – oil contracts, Russia – selling arms to the Sudanese government, United States found and ally in antiterror fight in Sudanese government and suddenly nobody is interested in the humanitarian tragedy there. So we have to do something, the people, the others…

Sweeney: Your proposals include among other things establishing a camp in Slovenia to take as many as 10.000 refugees from Darfur. How has that been reacted to among the Slovenian people? What kind of reaction has there been there?

Drnovšek: At first there was perhaps some surprise. Why would Slovenia do something in far Sudan or Darfur? But then we started to talk about it and I see now more and more response among people. There is some kind of awareness rising now that something should be done, that today there are the people in Darfur who are in danger, who are dying. But tomorrow maybe there will be somebody else. Perhaps we will need help or anybody in the world. So we have interconnected and people are starting to answer positively. They are willing to help; they would like to do something.

Sweeney: Kosovo is another situation, which is of a pressing urgency for you. The death of Ibrahim Rugova, the president of Kosovo, at the weekend and his impending funeral later in the week, how complicated a situation does he leave behind?

Drnovšek: It is very unfortunate time now that the Kosovo has lost its leader. He was a wise man, moderate politician, very important. And just now the negotiations on the future of the Kosovo, on the political status of Kosovo started and now it is very important that Kosovo leaders will somehow come together and that there will not be a crisis in their leadership. This problem should be resolved soon, certainly this year. Too much time has been lost.

Sweeney: Finally, sir, if I may ask you, because we are already out of time, a personal question. I know that your health has not been the best in recent years. Is that what has given you a motivation to press the situations in Kosovo and Darfur on the international stage and is it your vision for Slovenia that it becomes somewhat like the Scandinavian countries, taking on a humanitarian role internationally?

Drnovšek: It is true. Slovenia now, we are in good condition, if I say so, member of European Union. Somehow we left our problems behind and now I think it is the time that we should look around the world, that we should help the others. And the Scandinavian countries give us a very good example, so we would like to work with them and also with the others. And I think, perhaps we are a small country but perhaps a small country is needed sometimes to move things, because the big countries have their geopolitical interests, they have always their special stakes and somehow I think we represent more the consciousness of the people than they do.

Sweeney: Thank you indeed, President Drnovšek of Slovenia. Thank you very much for joining us from the United States.

Drnovšek: Thank you.
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