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Transcript: Richard Holbrooke on Kofi Annan

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Jan. 4, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The O'Reilly Factor" weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the "Radio Factor!"

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman (search ) is the latest power broker to say Kofi Annan is doing a bad job at the U.N.-- Leiberman says he's lost all credibility.

But others disagree. Last December 5, there was a secret meeting at the home of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke here in New York City that "The New York Times " reports was held to help Kofi Annan save his job.

With us now is Ambassador Holbrooke.

Now since I don't trust "The New York Times," is their report accurate? Did you guys get together? It was you and a few professors, a couple other pinheads trying to give him advice to save his job. Is that true?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: Well, the pinhead thing is...

O'REILLY: Oh, I always -- that's an affectionate term here.

HOLBROOKE: Is it really? I -- you know, if I'd known that, I would have invited you.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLBROOKE: It's only a secret because we didn't put out a press release.

O'REILLY: OK, but did you...

HOLBROOKE: Kofi Annan...

O'REILLY: Did you want to give him advice to save his job?

HOLBROOKE: In -- after the presidential election, a bunch of people, most of whom voted for the other guy, not the winner, sat down with Kofi Annan at his request to brainstorm about how he could improve relations with the United States government because the U.N. -- without U.S. support -- the U.N. goes down.

O'REILLY: Sure.

HOLBROOKE: You can't have the founding nation, the host country, the largest contributor, i.e., the U.S., at opposition...

O'REILLY: At odds with...

HOLBROOKE: ... at odds. It won't work.

O'REILLY: But -- but you seem to be...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLBROOKE: Let me -- let me finish the sentence.

O'REILLY: Al right, but you seem to be sympathetic to Annan, and that's what I'm not getting.

HOLBROOKE: Of course, I'm sympathetic to Annan. First...

O'REILLY: Why?

HOLBROOKE: Well, for two reasons. First of all, he's a friend, and, secondly, a good chunk of the attacks on him that call for his resignation are absolutely unfair and really designed to paralyze the U.N. -- The United States needs a strong U.N.

O'REILLY: Lieberman? Lieberman?

HOLBROOKE: I don't know what Joe Lieberman said. He's a very good friend of mine, and I greatly respect him. But I am...

O'REILLY: You know, I mean...

HOLBROOKE: Well, Bill, let me just make the point. We need in our own interests a strong and effective U.N.

O'REILLY: We don't have it now.

HOLBROOKE: Of course, we don't have it, and...

O'REILLY: We haven't had it for a while.

HOLBROOKE: No, the -- the administration has tended to undermine it, and I know a lot of your viewers...

O'REILLY: Oh, I don't know about that.

HOLBROOKE: I know a lot of your viewers enjoy that, and they're going to send e-mails afterwards.

O'REILLY: I know if the administration was undermining it.

HOLBROOKE: So...

O'REILLY: Look...

HOLBROOKE: So -- well, let me finish, let me finish. The -- in the tsunami [disaster relief efforts], in Iraq, the U.N. is doing essential things. The administration is utterly dependent on the outcome of that election in Baghdad at the end of this month.

O'REILLY: Right. I agree.

HOLBROOKE: Who is in charge of it? --The U.N.

The U.S. and the U.N. are working hand in glove. Governor Jeb Bush and Colin Powell, Kofi Annan and his team are all together in Jakarta as we speak, starting the big pledging conferences. The Palestinian Authority elections -- the U.N. is overseeing those. Darfur --worldwide crisis.

And yet the U.N. is in -- a flawed institution. We've got as a nation two choices: abandon and undermine the thing we created or make it better.

O'REILLY: Let's make it better. Get rid of Annan. Put somebody who's stronger in there.

HOLBROOKE: And the next time there's a "secret meeting," you should come.

O'REILLY: Yes, have me in there, and I'll -- but here's what I don't understand. I read your book, and everybody knows that you were involved in Bosnia, and you probably know Bosnia better than anybody, OK. Annan blew it in Bosnia. I mean, you know about the 7,000 Muslims who were slaughtered by the Serbs there. You know that the United Nations didn't help those people.

HOLBROOKE: Boutros Boutros-Ghali was secretary general.

O'REILLY: No, but Annan was in charge of the U.N. peacekeeping forces, as he was in Rwanda.

HOLBROOKE: I wrote -- I wrote a very critical account of the U.N. and...

O'REILLY: But it's...

HOLBROOKE: ... and -- and...

O'REILLY: ... one after another.

HOLBROOKE: Look, our whole policy in Bosnia in '95, '96 was to throw the U.N. out, clean it up, send in NATO, negotiate...

O'REILLY: Because they couldn't do anything. Look, one after another, Annan is...

HOLBROOKE: I agree with -- hey, you're...

O'REILLY: Then why do you want to keep him? He blows it....

HOLBROOKE: Why do I want...

O'REILLY: He blows it in Rwanda.

HOLBROOKE: Why do I want to keep Kofi...

O'REILLY: He blows it in Bosnia. He blows it in Iraq. He blows it in the oil-for-food scandal. Time -- it would be like me getting the ratings of MSNBC. Why would FOX keep me here? OK. You have to do something and succeed to gain credibility.

HOLBROOKE: I love it when I don't have to answer the questions because you ask and answer them yourself.

O'REILLY: All right. Go ahead. Go ahead. I love that, too.

HOLBROOKE: That's one of the reasons I love your show. I don't have to do any work.

O'REILLY: All right.

HOLBROOKE: OK. What's -- what was the question?

O'REILLY: He's incompetent. Why do you want to keep him?

HOLBROOKE: He is not incompetent. He's got -- he has -- he and the U.N. have encountered a very bad year. The administration has not made enough of an effort to strengthen it, although Senator Danforth was a terrific ambassador. -- I'm sorry he's leaving.-- We need to make the U.N. better. Why? Because we need them in Iraq. Ask President Bush.

O'REILLY: I -- we agree on that.

HOLBROOKE: OK. So what do you want to do?

O'REILLY: But he's not -- I want to remove him and put Clinton in there. I think Clinton would be a better U.N. chief, and the world likes Clinton. It would help our image.

HOLBROOKE: No.

O'REILLY: Clinton could do it. He'd keep them out of trouble. You know, Hillary would like it.

HOLBROOKE: Bill, Bill Clinton would be a great secretary general of the U.N., but in order for...

O'REILLY: Right. Get Annan out of there and work for that.

HOLBROOKE: In order for that to happen, he needs two things, the support of the current U.S. administration. So you ought to ask President Bush next time you interview him.

O'REILLY: I don't think Bush would object to that.

HOLBROOKE: Ask him. It's a terrific journalistic question, and, by the way, no other reporter has asked it, and you're raising it. And, secondly, he'd then need the support of the majority of the member states, including the permanent members.

O'REILLY: That would be -- you could get that.

HOLBROOKE: And if he could get those two things, it's a great idea, but...

O'REILLY: Because -- because, look, I don't have anything against Kofi Annan. He might be the nicest guy in the world. But you're looking at a huge scandal with oil-for-food. You're looking at Darfur which is out of control, people...

HOLBROOKE: Not his...

O'REILLY: ... dying over there.

HOLBROOKE: Not his fault.

O'REILLY: Maybe it's not his fault, but it doesn't...

HOLBROOKE: It's -- the U.N....

O'REILLY: ... improve the situation.

HOLBROOKE: Bill -- Bill, the U.N. is -- the U.N. is the sum of its 191 members. In the case of Darfur, we're talking about the 15 members of the Security Council and particularly the five permanent members -- Britain, France, the U.S., Russia and China. Of those five members, three of them -- France, China, and Russia -- have been obstructionistic in Darfur. Now...

O'REILLY: I know that...

HOLBROOKE: Wait. Wait a second.

O'REILLY: ... but you have to have leadership.

HOLBROOKE: Don't...

O'REILLY: Leadership can change that.

HOLBROOKE: Many of your viewers, through no fault of your own -- many of your viewers think that Kofi Annan is like the CEO of the U.N., the way the president is the chief executive of the United States. That isn't true.

The fact is that he does not have the same kind of powers. He is a -- he can persuade people or not, but it's going to come down in the end to -- on Darfur -- the member states. In Iraq, the U.S. and his election unit which is...

O'REILLY: I just don't think he's a strong leader, and that's my primary objection. I've seen him in positions of responsibility where disasters befall, and this oil-for-food thing is going to get bad. You know it's going to get bad. Get him out of there. Get somebody stronger in, and the world's a better place. I'll give you the last word.

HOLBROOKE: I just truly disagree. I think trying to push the secretary general out when nobody has found anything that he personally did wrong vis-a-vis oil for food, while Volcker is investigating it, in the middle of the tsunami [disaster relief effort] where the U.N. is at the center of it, on the eve of the elections in Iraq, which are of vital interest to us, leaves only confusion and a void, and I also...

O'REILLY: All right. Well, then give him until August.

HOLBROOKE: ... quite honestly...

O'REILLY: Boot him out then.

HOLBROOKE: And, quite honestly, Bill, knowing Kofi Annan well, I think you're being unfair to him.

O'REILLY: OK. And we'll be happy to talk to him any time.

Mr. Ambassador, always good to see you. Thanks for coming in.

HOLBROOKE: Great to see you, Bill.

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