23/09/2005
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


AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT


Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.


Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General


Good afternoon.  We will be joined today by Mr. Nobuyasu Abe, the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Tibor Toth, the Executive Director of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization’s Preparatory Commission, as well as Ambassador Deborah Stokes, the President of the Conference on Facilitating the Entry-Into-Force of the CTBT.  And they will brief you on the outcome of their conference, which just ended.


**Secretary General in Washington


The Secretary-General, as you may know, is today in Washington, where he just addressed the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C., this morning, as they held a forum on the theme, “Africa Matters”.  He agreed on the importance of Africa, saying, “At the time when African States are addressing their problems with new energy and determination, we must work with them, and invest in them, to build the better future that can be theirs.”


He reiterated his sympathy for all those who have suffered from Hurricane Katrina, and noted the humanitarian efforts the United Nations has made in support of the victims.  Among them, he said, are the provision of two planeloads of education and recreation kits by UNICEF; the work by the World Health Organization to assist in tracking support to displaced people; as well as the help in coordinating international assistance.


In short, he said, the United Nations is doing whatever it can to help, and wishes the American people strength and courage as they continue the recovery and reconstruction effort.


The Secretary-General also briefed the Caucus on the “remarkable commitments” agreed to at the World Summit, although he added, “Leaders did not deliver everything I had hoped for.”  And we have copies of his speech upstairs.


The Secretary-General is just about to meet with US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice at the State Department.  He is expected back in New York later today.


** Middle East – Security Council


The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Alvaro de Soto, told the Security Council this morning that Israel’s Government, facing vociferous opposition, has proved with its withdrawal from Gaza that it can carry out democratic decisions in the general interest.   Israel’s armed forces also showed exemplary consideration to those affected by its evacuations, Mr. de Soto added.


He noted that, although the disengagement was a unilateral Israeli decision, all relevant sectors of the Palestinian Authority worked diligently and constructively to coordinate with their Israeli counterparts and other actors.  The habit of coordination developed among Palestinians and Israelis in the last few months is a valuable asset on which to continue building in the coming period, de Soto added.


He said that the Palestinians who live in Gaza will wonder what has changed if it is not followed by their ability to link up with those living in the West Bank and in the outside world.  At the same time, Palestinians must understand, accept and address Israel’s need to be assured of the safety and security of its citizens.  We have copies of his statement upstairs.


The Council is now holding consultations on the Middle East, and we expect it to then go into a formal meeting to adopt a presidential statement.  Mr. de Soto has agreed to talk to reporters at the stake-out, and that should happen very briefly because we’re told they are currently close to the last speaker in consultations.


**Security Council


Earlier, before hearing from Mr. de Soto the Council unanimously adopted a resolution extending the UN Mission in Sudan by six months, until 24 March 2006, with the intention to renew it for further periods.


Yesterday afternoon, they adopted a presidential statement on Burundi, in which they welcomed the decision taken during the Summit on Burundi earlier this month to establish a forum of Burundi’s partners.  It encouraged the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Carolyn McAskie, to conclude discussions with all concerned parties to establish a forum as soon as possible.


** Iraq


The UN Mission in Iraq says that, so far, the United Nations and its partners have delivered food and other items to more than 16,000 people in and around the city of Tal Afar, as well as to 1,350 displaced families in that same area.


That is part of the effort that the UN Country Team in Iraq has made, working closely with the Iraqi leadership, to respond to the humanitarian crisis in conflict-affected areas.  At the same time, the United Nations has worked with the Government to advocate for humanitarian access, so that it can assess needs in the area and provide medical access to those injured.


** Iraq Compensation Commission


Also on Iraq, just to note the Governing Council of the UN Compensation Commission will hold its fifty-seventh session, from 27 to 29 September.  We have a press release available upstairs on that.


** Sierra Leone


The Secretary-General’s latest report on Sierra Leone is out on the racks today, and in it, he says the phased withdrawal of the UN Mission there is on track and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.  He also reports that the establishment of a UN integrated office for Sierra Leone is also proceeding on schedule.  The new office will be aimed at issues regarding development.  And that report is on the racks.


**Budget


And lastly, a cheque from Belize arrived today.  That brings the number of fully paid-up Member States to 123.  And for those of you who are curious, Belize gave us a cheque for $17,795.


Immediately following the briefing by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will be here to speak to you about the humanitarian situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.


And lastly, an in-house note, we’ve been told by building maintenance that further to the electrical problem we had earlier this week, there may be a need for a temporary shutdown of electricity sometime over the weekend, from probably Saturday to Sunday.  We will let you know the exact time, in case any of you were planning to spend the night from Saturday to Sunday here, you won’t be surprised.


And also, we have available upstairs these stickers you can put on the back of your ID cards, which list the emergency numbers and websites that may be of use to you if there’s a problem with the building.  It’s the same ones we’ve been giving the staff and we want to keep you informed as well.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Probably I missed it, is there any particular reason for the Secretary-General to rush to the State Department to meet with Ms. Rice?


Spokesman: He’s not rushing to Washington.  He had a long-standing invitation from the Congressional Black Caucus, so that was why he’s down in Washington, and when he saw the Secretary of State in New York earlier this week, they suggested that they continue their meetings, and since he’s in Washington, he’s taking the opportunity to meet with her.


Question:  Sorry, just one more.  There was an order given by Mr. [Christopher] Burnham on the hiring of interns, which basically says that interns are ineligible to be hired for six months after working over here, but it suggests that American citizens are eligible and other people are not.  I have the order in front of me if you can interpret for me and let me know what it means.


Spokesman:  I will read it and then I will try to interpret it for you.


[The Spokesman later informed the journalist that when the document referred to “international recruitment status”, it was referring to staff members who had been recruited through the mandated competitive recruitment process, including competitive examinations and vacancy announcements.  It had nothing to do with whether or not the staff members were United States citizens.  In effect, the text stated that interns of any nationality were now eligible to be hired before the six-month grace period ended, but that if they were, they would not be considered regularized staff with full international entitlements.]


Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President


The Assembly’s general debate wraps up today, with statements in the morning and afternoon.  The President will make a concluding statement, which we will circulate as soon as it is available.  He will summarize briefly the views that have been expressed by delegations on the implementation of the World Summit outcome -- that momentum on development must be maintained and strengthened, and rapid progress made on the Peacebuilding Commission, Human Rights Council, terrorism, the responsibility to protect, and reform of the United Nations.  He will also advise delegations of his intention to set out a work plan for Summit follow-up late next week.


The schedule of plenary meetings through December has been issued as a document today.  To give you a heads-up on some upcoming events:  on 6 October there will be two meetings evaluating progress on the World Programme of Action for Youth at the 10-year mark.  Also, on 10 October, there will be the election of five non-permanent members of the Security Council.


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For information media • not an official record