daily press briefing by the office of the spokesman for the Secretary-General
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General
The Security Council is holding an open meeting on Children and Armed Conflict. Olara Otunnu, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, briefed on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the subject and outlined measures to take for the protection of children. He concluded his remarks by reciting the Bob Marley song, or the lyrics to a Bob Marley song, “Hear the Children Cryin’”.
“The children are waiting”, Otunnu told the participants in the Security Council meeting, “they are waiting for the redemption songs from this Council. I know you will not let them down.”
The meeting is being chaired by the Foreign Minister of Benin, Rogatien Biaou, in his capacity as the Security Council President for the month of February.
A presidential statement is expected at the end of the meeting and Mr. Otunnu will speak to the media at the stakeout position on the second floor.
Yesterday afternoon, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast delivered to the Security Council the periodic briefing on the situation in the
Middle East. He applauded Israeli and Palestinian leaders for their recent actions to revive the Middle Eastpeace process, urging both sides to seize on this “year of opportunity” for peace.
He noted that since the recent summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, both the Israeli and the Palestinian leaders have taken action to keep up the momentum. This includes, on the Palestinian side, the restructuring by President Mahmoud Abbas of the security services and the deployment of more than 1,000 security officers throughout
. On the Israeli side, Prendergast cited the release of more than 500 Palestinian prisoners and the decision to halt punitive demolitions of houses. He called on the international community to provide political and financial support to the process. Gaza
Prendergast added that even as hopes are rekindled on the Israeli/Palestinian front, people around the
Middle Eastwere angered and outraged by the cold-blooded terror attack in that took the life of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others. Lebanon
Prendergast’s full speech is available.
Afterwards, Council members met in closed consultations to continue their discussions on the
Middle Eastand then, under other matters, introduced a draft resolution on France . Côte d’Ivoire
The Secretary General’s Special Representative in
, Ashraf Qazi, met today with Interim Vice-President Ibrahim Ja’fari. Mr. Ja’fari has, as you know, been nominated for the post of Transitional Prime Minister by the United Iraqi Coalition, which won the majority of seats in the Transitional Assembly. The talks focused on political developments in Iraq ahead of the convening of the Transitional National Assembly and the role the UN will play in supporting the political process in the post-election period. Iraq
Qazi held similar talks with representatives of the Kurdish List that won over 75 seats in the elections. In talks with the group, which included Interim Vice-President Rouch Nouri Shaways, Interim Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh and Interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Qazi also stressed that the UN stands ready to support the Iraqis in the constitution-making process if asked by the Iraqi authorities, as stipulated by the Security Council.
The UN Mission in
continues to receive reports of insecurity in Sudan Darfur, including the detention of relief workers. Seven Sudanese staff members of one relief group were detained for 24 hours following food distribution Monday in west Darfur, before being released with assistance from the African Union. Meanwhile, over the weekend, two international and two Sudanese members of one non-governmental organization were detained by SLArebels, but they have since been released.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for
, Jan Pronk, ended his visit to Rumbek, in southern Sudan , yesterday and he is now in Sudan , where he is to meet with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and other senior officials. Germany
The UN Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization (WHO) have dispatched staff to areas affected by the earthquake that hit Zarand, in
’s Iran province. A WHO field team is currently visiting Zarand, while technical staff is providing support for disease surveillance teams. Kerman
Tuesday’s earthquake, which measured 6.4 on the Richter scale, has killed 430 and injured over 900. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been informed that weather conditions in the region are difficult, as there is heavy snowfall, resulting in a number of road blockades.
The Secretary-General’s latest report on Kosovo has been posted on the Security Council’s web site. It notes that, although tangible progress has been made, none of the eight standards which were laid out for Kosovo by the international community has been completely met.
Praising democratic structures and growing political maturity in Kosovo, the report also says that the security situation has remained stable since last June. At the same time, however, it notes that Kosovo Serbs still consider themselves at risk, and that members of the majority community need to better engage them.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Søren Jessen-Petersen, is presently in
, and he will brief the Security Council on the report tomorrow morning. New York
Although Timor-Leste has made progress in recent years in establishing state institutions, international assistance will be crucial for the country’s long-term security and stability beyond the expiration of the current UN Mission’s mandate this May 20, according to the Secretary-General.
In a report to the Security Council, he says the Timorese authorities will continue to require assistance for border management and control; the development of a professional police service and of critical institutions; and the observance of democratic governance and human rights.
Following analysis by transition working groups, the Secretary-General recommends, therefore, that a scaled-down UN Mission be maintained for a 12-month period, until
20 May 2006. That would include 35 military liaison officers, down from 42 at present, and 40 police officers, down from the current 157. The number of civilian advisers would also be reduced, from 58 now to 45, while the Mission would have 10 human rights officers, down from the current 14. Mission
As the Secretary-General writes, it is critical to support Timorese institution-building efforts, to protect the gains made until now. We have copies of that report upstairs.
The Secretary-General will meet with his Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters this afternoon and he will tell them that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty faces serious challenges to its credibility. The Treaty, which is marking its thirty-fifth year, will be reviewed in a conference this May. The Secretary-General says he will urge States to agree soon on an agenda for that conference. He is to tell the Advisory Board to give serious consideration to a proposal to raise the bar for inspection standards by establishing an additional protocol as the norm for verifying compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels
The Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, is in
, today, where she is scheduled to address the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. We will try to make her speech available to you, which will discuss UN reform. And we expect to have that later this afternoon. This evening, the Deputy Secretary-General will meet with the President of the European Parliament, Joseph Borrell Fontelles. Strasbourg, France
The World Health Organization today repeated its warning that bird flu constitutes a serious risk to humans. The agency is also concerned by the risk that the virus will mutate into a form that can be transmitted from person to person, thus igniting a global flu epidemic. The warning came at a regional meeting on bird flu, which opened today in
. Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam
Also present at that meeting was a representative from the Food and Agriculture Organization, who called on the international community to help Asian countries tackle the virus.
For its part, the WHO is coordinating the preparation of flu vaccines, assisting with disease-surveillance efforts and helping countries to produce pandemic-preparedness plans. We have more on that upstairs.
** Guest Tomorrow
Finally, our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Hania Zlotnik, the new Director of the Population Division, and she will be here to brief you on the “World Population Prospects – 2004 Revision”.
And in a just a minute, after your questions, I’m going to bring up Martina Clark, who is from UNICEF, a human resources officer. She briefed the Secretary-General’s Cabinet this morning on the UN’s efforts to cope with education on HIV/AIDS and it was such an effective presentation I wanted her to talk with you as well.
So I’ll take your questions and then I’ll bring up Martina.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Fred, is there any time frame on the Secretary-General’s review of the Staff Union’s presentation regarding Dileep Nair in light of the fact that he’s due to retire in April?
Spokesman: Well, I wouldn’t want to link those two things, but we received the latest list of specific charges against Mr. Nair’s Office by the Staff Council. These all involved administrative matters and we are now studying them.
The Secretary-General told the Staff Council in writing that if they would submit their complaints in writing, that the head of the Personnel Department, Rosemary McCreery, would review those complaints with a representative of the Staff Council and then it would go to the Chief of Staff, Mark Malloch Brown, to decide whether or not to reopen the investigation.
So I believe that Rosemary McCreery plans to do that review with a representative of the Staff Council this week and then we’ll see how quickly Mark Malloch Brown deals with it, but I don’t expect that we would be dragging this out.
Any other questions? If not, Martina, why don’t you come up.
Now I haven’t given her any time to prepare, so please be forgiving. But I’m sure she’ll do very well. Martina, please.
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