19/8/2005
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 Farhan Haq, Information Officer, Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  First we have a statement on Burundi.


**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General


“The Secretary-General congratulates the Burundian people on the election today of the first post-transitional President in Burundi, Mr. Pierre Nkurunziza.  He would like to wish the President-elect every success as he faces the challenging tasks ahead, including continuing on the path of major reforms, consolidation of peace, national reconciliation, reconstruction and development.


“The Secretary-General would like to express his sincere appreciation to the Transitional Government of Burundi, which, under the wise leadership of both Presidents Pierre Buyoya and Domitien Ndayizeye, has succeeded over the last four years under difficult conditions in stirring the country from violent conflict to this momentous day in the history of Burundi. 


“The Secretary-General would also like to express his appreciation to regional leaders and the international community, who have continued to play a major role in support of peace in Burundi.”


We have that statement available upstairs in English, as well as in French.


**August 19 Commemoration


Today, as you know, is the second anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, and the Secretary-General, in a message, says that no one has been held to account for this crime, in yet another appalling example of the impunity that so often follows assaults on United Nations personnel.


The Secretary-General offered his renewed condolences to the bereaved families and loved ones of the 22 people who died in that attack, and paid tribute to all United Nations staff for “carrying on … with our global mission of peace”.


And we have that statement upstairs.


The Secretary-General also paid tribute as he accepted the Millennium Excellence Award in Accra, Ghana, today.  He said, “We should all be thankful that so many people are prepared to take great risks for the cause of peace.”


And we have his comments at that award ceremony upstairs, as well.


At 10:15 in the Visitors’ Lobby, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette was among the participants at a ceremony in honour of those who lost their lives in Baghdad, and a minute of silence was also marked in their honour here at Headquarters.


Ashraf Qazi, head of the United Nations Mission, also was at a ceremony in Baghdad paying tribute to the fallen staff, and he pledged to work with the people and Government of Iraq to deliver on the United Nations’ mandate.


We have a press release from the United Nations Mission with more on that, as well as another one, which condemned the car bombs that killed 43 people in Baghdad on Wednesday.


** Niger Trip


Now, there is a trip to announce, next week.  Next Tuesday, the Secretary-General and Nane Annan will travel to Niger for a two-day visit, aimed at expressing solidarity with the Government and the people of Niger, as they deal with the humanitarian aftermath of accelerating desertification, prolonged drought, and repeated locust infestations.


The Secretary-General wants to help focus international attention on the special developmental challenges faced by the countries of the Sahel region, such as Niger, and the efforts that have been made to tackle these issues.  As Niger’s President Mamadou Tandja is also the current Chairman of ECOWAS, the Secretary-General will consult with him on a wide range of peace, security, and development issues confronting the West Africa subregion.  The Secretary-General will also visit a number of humanitarian field projects, along with the President.  In Niamey, he will meet with the United Nations Country Team, local and international development officials, and Niger civil society groups.


**Security Council


The Security Council this morning held a formal meeting on Guinea-Bissau following consultations.  At the meeting, the Council adopted a presidential statement, acknowledging with satisfaction Guinea-Bissau’s successful presidential elections.  The Council also urged all parties to refrain from any actions that could jeopardize efforts towards peace and stability in that country.  The Council is now holding consultations on Côte d’Ivoire, with a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hedi Annabi.


** Middle East


We put out a statement yesterday afternoon, in which the Secretary-General commended the courageous decision of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to carry through with the painful process of disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank.  The Secretary-General hopes that both Palestinians and Israelis will exercise restraint in this challenging period.  He believes that a successful disengagement should be the first step towards a resumption of the peace process, in accordance with the Road Map.  And we have the full text of that statement upstairs.


**Procurement


On procurement, the United Nations Controller, Warren Sach, reports that the firm of Deloitte Consulting LLP has been selected to review the United Nations’ procurement practices.  The firm is to carry out a full financial and internal control review of the United Nations’ current procurement system.  That review begins on Monday, 22 August, and is expected to be completed by the end of September.


**Kamel Morjane


On Kamel Morjane, who until recently has been the Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, the Secretary-General sends his best wishes to Kamel Morjane, sworn in today as the Defence Minister of Tunisia.  The Secretary-General warmly thanks Mr. Morjane for his long and distinguished service to the United Nations, including as his Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and as Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees.


**UNHCR


Speaking of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR also reports that its High Commissioner, António Guterres, will go to Sudan, Chad and Kenya starting next week, to visit refugees and check up on humanitarian work.  The agency’s centres in those countries assist more than 5 million people who have been displaced by the 21-year-long civil war in Sudan.


The agency also reports today that, over the past week, some 4,000 refugees from the Central African Republic have crossed the border into south Chad, fleeing two days of attacks by unidentified armed groups in their home country. 


We have more details upstairs in separate press releases from UNHCR.


** Central African Republic


While on the subject of the Central African Republic, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) -- together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) -- is assessing the situation in the southern part of that country, following torrential rains and flooding.  Meanwhile, the United Nations Country Team will be distributing medicine, water purification tablets, jerry cans, therapeutic biscuits, and petrol lamps to those in need.


We have more information on that in a press release.


** Nepal


On Nepal, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, today said that it has issued two reports on investigations into human rights violations in Nepal.  One report details attacks on public buses, in which civilians were killed.  The agency blames the Communist Party for the attacks and faults the Government for failing to take proper precautions.  In the second report, the agency says it has been unable to identify the perpetrators in the murders of six people.


**WHO Report


The World Health Organization (WHO) will launch its first report on health and the Millennium Development Goals next Monday in Geneva.  As well as assessing progress to date on the health goals, the report looks at why improvements in the health sector are happening so slowly and proposes steps to change the situation.


We have embargoed copies of that report in the Spokesman’s Office.


** Tonga Pays its Dues


On dues, yesterday Tonga, with a payment of $17,795, became the 103rd Member State to pay its full regular budget dues.   Thank you, Tonga.


And we also have the “Week Ahead” for next week available upstairs. 


Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Is it wise for the Secretary-General to accept an award in the middle of all the scandals he is getting through?  Maybe he should have said no.


Mr. Haq:  The reason the Secretary-General is accepting an award is that he was given an award by Ghana for excellence, that is given out to several individuals every five years, and they deemed that Kofi Annan has a solid track record of achievements that warranted getting one of the Millennium Awards that Ghana confers.  And frankly, we agree with their evaluation that the Secretary-General deserves recognition for his achievements.


Question:  Who is “we”?


Mr. Haq:  “We” is the Spokesman’s Office.  And of course, in terms of the problems that the United Nations has been facing, which you have brought up, of course, we are trying to deal with those.  As you notice, just now, we mentioned the hiring of a firm to review our procurement practices and, as you know, we have been working with the Independent Inquiry Committee to deal with the issues surrounding “oil-for-food”.  This is part of an ongoing process that Kofi Annan has undertaken ever since he became Secretary-General -- to see what is weak in the United Nations system and to try and strengthen it and to try and reform it.  Of course, we hope that next month, we will have a chance to reform the United Nations more widely.


Anything else?  If not, have a great weekend.


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For information media • not an official record