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07:14 2 February 2017

U.N. chief urges U.S. to lift immigration ban

NEW YORK, Feb. 1, Kyodo

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday the United States should rescind President Donald Trump's temporary immigration ban at the earliest possible date.

"I don't think this is the effective way to do so (prevent terrorism), and I think that these measures should be removed sooner rather than later," Guterres told reporters at his first press conference since he took office on Jan. 1, replacing South Korean former Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon.

"I think that those measures indeed violate our basic principles, and I think that they are not effective if the objective is to really avoid terrorists to enter the United States," he noted. Describing the "sophisticated means" that are used by terrorist networks today, he believed it is unlikely they would use passports from conflict-ridden countries, but from other countries that would not raise red flags.

The former head of the U.N. refugee agency also pointed out how the United States had been at the forefront of resettlement, and Guterres particularly hoped Syrians fleeing their country could be helped.

"I strongly hope that the U.S. will be able to re-establish its very solid refugee protection in resettlement, and I hope that the Syrians will not be excluded in that process," he also said.

In addition to the travel ban, the United Nations also has concerns about funding cuts that the United States, as the highest contributor to the international body's budget, is considering, as well as the future of the Paris Climate Change agreement, among other global concerns.

"All complicated things have an easy answer, and the answer is to be firm in assessing our principles and open in engaging in constructive dialogue," the former Portuguese prime minister emphasized when questioned about how he intended to work with Trump and his administration.

"And that is this combination that I will try to make effective in the way we deal with (the) U.S. administration or in the way we deal with any other administration in the world."

Guterres has not yet met Trump in person although he has talked on the telephone with him and plans to meet him in the future. Meanwhile, he has spoken with newly appointed U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley on a range of issues. She presented her U.N. credentials to him last week.

"What I am doing is to do everything I can to prove the added value of the U.N., to recognize the U.N. needs reforms, to be totally committed to those reforms, and to believe that those reforms will be the best way to get the support of all member states, including the United States of America and its new administration," he added.

Trump's executive order, signed Friday, suspends the arrival of refugees for at least 120 days and bars visas for travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries for the next three months.

The order follows through on one of Trump's controversial campaign promises, to subject travelers from Muslim-majority states to strict screening as part of efforts to make America safe from "radical Islamic terrorists."


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