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Ban Ki-moon: What's Important Is 'Protecting Human Rights' And 'Lives'

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

NPR's Robert Siegel spoke to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. As we reported last week, the U.N.'s General Assembly voted unanimously to keep Ban for another five-year term.

Robert's conversation with Ban ranged from Libya to Syria to a new report about this leadership. Here are some of the highlights:

-- Robert pressed Ban on why the United Nations approved military action against Libya but hasn't taken any action against countries like Syria or Bahrain. Ban said he had taken "strong views and positions on Syria." He said the United Nations sees no difference between countries when it comes to "protecting human rights and human lives."

When Robert asked him if he could pinpoint the Libya doctrine, that is why take action in Libya and not in other countries, Ban said this:

"The international community has recognized the important principle of the responsibility to protect," Ban said. "When a government is not able to protect their own people or when a government is not willing to protect their own population, the international community should be prepared to take necessary action."

-- Robert asked Ban about a recently completed report by the U.N.'s external oversight body, The Joint Inspection Unit. The report was very critical of Ban for his hiring practices. They said he was secretive and they alleged he tried to stonewall their investigation. Here's what Ban had to say about that:

"I always accept constructive criticism as a basis for reflection and change in management. Recently I have established a change management team ... to make this organization more efficient, effective, transparant and accountable and objective," he said.

-- Ban talked very carefully about the possibility that the U.N. could recognize an independent Palestinian state. He emphasized that what's important, right now, is for Israelis and Palestinians to get back to the negotiating table. He said that the Quartet on the Middle East — which is comprised by the U.N., the U.S., the European Union and Russia — would soon meet to discuss the issue:

Tune into All Things Considered on your local NPR member station to listen the full interview. We'll post the as-aired version of the interview a little later tonight.

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