18/8/2005
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.


**SG - Western Sahara


I’ll start off with a statement on the situation in Western Sahara:


“The Secretary-General welcomes the decision by the Frente POLISARIO to release all remaining 404 Moroccan prisoners of war, who are being repatriated today to the Kingdom of Morocco by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). He expresses his appreciation to all parties involved, in particular the ICRC and United States Senator Richard Lugar.


“The Secretary-General considers the release a positive step, and expresses his hope that it will serve to foster better relations between the parties and contribute to overcoming the present political impasse.


“The Secretary-General reiterates his call on the Kingdom of Morocco, and on the Frente POLISARIO to continue cooperating with the ICRC to account for those who are still missing.”


** Sudan


In his monthly report on Darfur, the Secretary-General notes an upsurge in clashes between armed movements and the Government.  He says a descent into lawlessness by the armed movements, and unprecedented violence against humanitarian workers demand urgent action. 


He calls for the African Union mission in Sudan to be brought to full strength, and reports that he’s asked for increased funding for the African Union efforts on the ground.


He says, when the Abuja peace talks reconvene next week, the parties must seize the opportunity to honour the memory of former Vice-President John Garang by negotiating an end to the conflict and giving the people of Darfur a full voice in the future of a just, prosperous and united Sudan.


**Reform Envoy - Myanmar


Ali Alatas, the Secretary-General’s Envoy for UN Reform, today met in Yangon with Myanmar’s Foreign Minister, U Nyan Win.  They discussed UN reform proposals laid out in the President of the General Assembly’s draft outcome document.


During his trip to Myanmar, Mr. Alatas is also to meet with Senior General Than Shwe, as well as with members of the National Convention Convening Commission and other Government-related social groups.


**SG - Ghanaian Award


Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will be accepting an award in Accra, Ghana.


The 2005 Award for Global Excellence is being bestowed on a citizen of Ghana who has distinguished himself in the international arena, especially in championing the cause of world peace, and the eradication of poverty and diseases worldwide. 


And, we have more information on that award upstairs. 


** Bulgaria Floods


From the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), they’re telling us they’re continuing to provide emergency assistance to Bulgaria, following heavy flooding there.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) have handed out blankets, kitchen utensils, and other necessary items.


And, we have more information on that upstairs. 


** Oman Pays Full Dues


Yesterday, Oman became the 102nd Member State to pay its regular dues in full, with a payment of over $1 million, and we thank them.


**UN - Baghdad Bombings Commemoration


And lastly, tomorrow is the second anniversary of the bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad, in which 22 people lost their lives and hundreds more were injured.  Here in New York, staff will be invited to observe a minute of silence at 10:30 a.m.  Other UN offices around the world will also observe a minute of silence at other times throughout the day. 


And, we’ll have the Secretary-General’s message on that day available upstairs.  That is it for me.  Any questions? Yes, Mark?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Can you give a briefing on what Ali Alatas is going to be doing in Burma?  And, can I also issue a serious complaint -- that for several weeks, I was asking what he was going to be doing.  Jared Kotler from the Political Affairs Department said there’s no news on Myanmar, it’s not moving, and suddenly, we discover he’s going there.  So why has the UN been lying about what’s been going on about that?  Why has it been unhelpful about giving information about what’s going on there?  And, if you could address that now and say what his plans are, and what he’s going to be doing there?


Spokesman:  Sure.  His focus is discussing the issues of UN reform and the draft outcome document with Myanmar authorities.  And, I’ve noted your complaint on the other issue. 


Question:  Could you talk a little bit more, I mean, is he going with a sort of proposal, some ideas, have they agreed to meet with him?  Could we have a little bit more detail?


Spokesman:  They’ve obviously agreed to meet him because he’s meeting with a number of senior government officials.  And, it is part of his work and the work of the other envoys who are fanned out to different capitals throughout the world to discuss the ongoing reform process.


Question:  So, he’s talking about UN reform with Burma?  He’s not actually talking about the Burmese political situation at all?


Spokesman:  Yes.  That’s the information I have, yes.  I have nothing further.


Question:  … nothing to do with any UN ideas for engagement with Burma, with furtherance to democracy, plans for economic development -- nothing to do with that, only about UN reform?


Spokesman:  The focus of his trip is UN reform and his role as a reform envoy.


Question:  What does Burma have to add about UN reform, being a military dictatorship, people are starving?  Why is the UN going to Burma for advice on UN reform?


Spokesman:  It’s not going for advice.  The Secretary-General’s envoys are trying to engage as many Member States as possible, and Myanmar is one of 191 Member States and they’ll have a vote in the General Assembly in the reform process.


Question:  And, is the Envoy for Western Sahara thinking about changing his plans going there, given the release of these prisoners?


Spokesman:  I have to check on that.  I have no information on it, but I’ll check for you.


Question:  Do you have any comment -- talking about the draft outcome document -- do you have any comment on this quote from one of my colleagues that the US is setting up plans to scrap the whole document?


Spokesman:  No, no further comment than what we said here.  I know the Member States are coming back on the 22 for more discussions, but nothing else to add.


Question:  Could you give us an outline of the charges against Ms. Perelli, and also, has she replied?


Spokesman:  She was given a charge letter by the Office of Human Resources Management on August 4 relating to management and harassment issues in the Electoral Affairs Division, and she has two weeks to respond.  That will bring us to the close of business today.  As of a few minutes ago, we checked with the Office of Human Resources, and she had not yet responded.


Question:  Do you have an outline of those charges?


Spokesman:  The charges relate to management and harassment issues, but they are management issues, they’re not financial.  It’s only staff management issues.


Question:  Just to…, really, are you saying that the UN is not in any way talking through Ali Alatas to Burma about anything to do with its domestic situation?


Spokesman:  What I have to say is that the focus of his trip is on UN reform and his role as a Reform Envoy, and I have nothing else to add. 


Question:  Two questions.  On the Baghdad bombing, will there be any other commemoration or events at the Secretariat, aside from a minute of silence.


Spokesman:  No.


Question:  And, on Ms. Perelli, this is an issue that’s come up a lot.  I mean charges are made, but then the specifics of the charges are never really put forward.  I mean it seems to be in the interest of her, in terms of her defence, and just in terms of fair treatment.  I mean, there’s a lot of allegations going around about sexual claims and sexual harassment and things like that.  Is there any way to get more details on the charges against her?


Spokesman:  At this point, the process is between her and the Human Resources office.  A charge letter was sent out laying out the charges.  It is, she then has, there’s due process, which needs to be followed.  She will respond and then a decision will be made as to how the case moves forward.


Question:  What happens if she doesn’t respond?


Spokesman:  Then, if she doesn’t respond, then the Office of Human Resources will obviously take some sort of action, disciplinary action, at their proposals.  But, there’s no indication that she would not respond.


Question:  Iraq is becoming a virtual killing field, as it is, and, yesterday, the Secretary-General issued a statement of concern, and so on and so forth.  But, at any point in time, does he intend to bring this back to the attention of the Security Council, that mere statements on violence over there are not enough, that some action should be taken, either by the coalition forces or the Iraqi Government?  The citizens over there are totally insecure.  There is no safety.


Spokesman:  No, but we strongly feel that, I mean, the role that we’re playing is in support of their political process, the constitutional process, the elections that will be held.  And, we strongly feel that that is one way to help bring greater security to the country.


Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record