4/8/2005
Spokesman's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  I’ll start off with an update from Sudan.


** Sudan


The United Nations Mission in Sudan says that Khartoum and the south are reported to be calm today.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, will be travelling to Juba in the south tomorrow to attend the funeral of First Vice-President John Garang, who is scheduled to be buried in that city on Saturday.


The United Nations mission is providing the organizers of the funeral with logistical assistance, including the transport of Mr. Garang’s body.  The United Nations Mission has also offered its assistance in the expected investigation into the helicopter crash, in which Mr. Garang and a number of others were killed.


Meanwhile, harassment of aid delivery vehicles in Darfur continues, according to the United Nations Mission.  In one such incident, a World Food Programme truck was stopped by armed men and the contents of the truck, including significant quantities of wheat and sugar, were looted.


** Iraq


From Iraq, with only two weeks to go before the deadline for drafting Iraq’s Constitution, public participation is happening in the country with an intensity rarely seen in the constitutional process.  That’s according to a preliminary report on public participation in Iraq’s constitutional process that was issued today by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Qazi.


The report estimates that at least 220,000 Iraqis have enthusiastically taken part in approximately 5,500 constitutional meetings throughout the country.  It is also anticipated that another 50,000 Iraqis will be involved in further meetings before the August 15 deadline.  Women’s groups, the report notes, have also been particularly active.


Qazi, in comments made today, applauded the effort of local civil society organizations and the Constitutional Drafting Committee to make this process more transparent.  Both the press release and the report are available upstairs.


**Security Council


As you know, the Security Council this morning, following brief consultations, unanimously adopted a resolution that condemns the terrorist attacks that have taken place in Iraq.  The Council particularly took note of the shameless and horrific attacks in recent weeks that have resulted in more than 100 deaths and noted with great concern the increase in attacks on foreign diplomats in Iraq.


** Zimbabwe


From Zimbabwe, a five-month initial humanitarian appeal for that country, targeting some 300,000 people most affected by the evictions, is expected to be launched early next week.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the priority sector in Zimbabwe is shelter, followed by food and sanitation.  That appeal will be revised and extended as necessary, after the initial period expires in December 2005.


** Burundi


From Burundi, the United Nations Mission in that country paints a gloomy picture of the human rights situation.  Ismael Diallo, the Chief of the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Mission in Burundi, told a press conference today that violations occur on a daily basis, but that no arrests are ever made.  Most crimes, he says, are committed by members of the National Defence Forces, as well as members of the National Liberation Front (FNL), the rebel movement, which has so far refused to join the Transitional Government.  Rape is first on the list of all human rights violations observed in Burundi, according to the report, and that report is available upstairs.


**UNHCR – Togo


From Togo, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that a lack of funds is threatening its efforts to care for Togolese refugees.  The agency says it is caring for some 40,000 refugees in Ghana and Benin, but its calls for assistance have gone unheeded, and its resources are now overstretched.


** Afghanistan


From Kabul, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that an Afghan child today has a 1 in 7 chance of dying before the end of her first year.  And, even if he or she survives to be one year old, she has a 1 in 5 chance of dying before her fifth birthday, largely because of common childhood diseases that can be prevented through immunization or improved hygiene.


That’s some of the information provided today by UNICEF’s regional director for South Asia in a press briefing in Kabul, and we have more information on that upstairs.


** Haiti


Our colleagues in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti report that its troops have freed another kidnapped victim.  The freed person, a Dominican national, was liberated after a confrontation with armed kidnappers in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, and there were no injuries reported by the Mission.  This is the fifth such rescue mission by United Nations peacekeepers in the last six weeks in Haiti.  We have a press release available upstairs.


**Water Treaty


A treaty to prevent water-related diseases in Europe has entered into force today, following ratification by 16 European countries.  The Protocol aims to improve health across Europe by improving the quality of water supply and sanitation services and ensuring safe recreational water environments.  The treaty’s overseers are the World Health Organization and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.


**Stamps


And lastly, for you stamp collectors, today is the first day of issue of the United Nations Postal Administration’s “World Heritage-Egypt” commemorative stamp.  For the convenience of collectors, temporary sales counters have been set up around the building.  There is more information on the stamps in my office.


**Press Conference


And lastly, at 1 o’clock, Samir Sumaida’ie, Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations, will brief you in 226, following the Council’s adoption of the resolution, which I just mentioned.


That’s it from me.  Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Following the Secretary-General’s statement on Mauritania, I was just wondering:  is there anything concrete planned?  Is the Secretary-General pushing any initiative to deal with the crisis there?


Spokesman:  We are obviously in contact with our staff on the ground, waiting for the situation to clear up.  The Secretary-General condemns the coup, as he does all efforts to change governments through extra-constitutional means, and we do hope that the people in power will return to a democratic process as soon as possible.


Question:  On the Iraqi Constitution, I know there are United Nations advisers helping with that.  When it’s done, would the United Nations be embracing and endorsing it?


Spokesman:  It’s not for us to embrace or accept it -- it’s for the Iraqi people to do that, and we are working very closely with them to get them to that point.


Question:  Any comments about the way it’s going?


Spokesman:  Oh, it’s very much in the drafting stage.  We are pleased that there is a large public participation in the process, and we do very much hope that the draft constitution will comply with international human rights standards.


Question:  Does Secretary-General have any comment on the “non-agreement” in Addis Ababa today?


Spokesman:  As we’ve said before, the negotiations on the reforms, and particularly the Security Council reform, are being led by Member States.  The Secretary-General continues to very much hope there will be an agreement on this issue and other reform proposals by the September Summit.


Question:  Basically, there is an agreement not to have an agreement. That is what happened in Addis Ababa at this point in time.  Do you think you are probably not reacting to the latest news from Addis Ababa?


Spokesman:  No.  I am not reacting to every development in this negotiation process.  The clock is still ticking, the negotiation process is going on.  Let’s wait and see what bears fruit.


Question:  The Spokesman’s Office has said that we would be briefed by Christopher Burnham.  When do you think he can come?


Spokesman:  I think Mr. Burnham will probably come down -- we expect early September -- to brief you, and especially on the Capital Master Plan, when the new head of the CMP takes office.


Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record