26/09/2005
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.


Good afternoon.


**Secretary-General/IAEA Speech


Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Nobuyasu Abe today read a message on the Secretary-General’s behalf at the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.


In the message, the Secretary-General said that this month’s World Summit was “a failure” when it came to dealing with disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.  He encouraged all countries to support the initiative of a group of States led by Norway to chart a way forward on those issues.


The Secretary-General also welcomed the outcome of the six-party talks on the Korean peninsula, and voiced his continued hope that there can be an outcome satisfactory to all parties concerning Iran’s nuclear programme.  We have copies of that message upstairs.


The IAEA Conference also endorsed, by acclamation a third four-year term for Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei.  ElBaradei, in a statement to the Conference, outlined priorities for the coming years.


**Secretary-General/Statements on Middle East


Over the weekend, we issued a statement saying that the Secretary-General was alarmed by the escalation of violence between Israel and armed Palestinian factions in recent days, which risks stymieing efforts to seize the momentum generated by Israel’s withdrawal of settlements from Gaza and the northern West Bank.


He said that all parties should be careful to avoid proactive actions at this critical time, and must at all times take the greatest care to avoid civilian casualties and observe international humanitarian law.


Also, in a statement issued on Sunday, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the attempted assassination of May Chidiac, a prominent and respected Lebanese journalist.  He called on the Lebanese Government to bring to justice the perpetrators and instigators of this and other attacks and to ensure an end to impunity.  He called on all parties in Lebanon to preserve national unity during these critical days.


** Togo


The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva has issued a report detailing the findings of a fact-finding mission sent to Togo in June of this year.  The 45-page report, in French only, can be obtained from the human rights office website.


High Commissioner Louise Arbour dispatched the mission to Togo to look into allegations of violations of human rights during the crisis set off by the death of President Eyadema in February.  The team was in Togo from 13 to 24 June and had also visited Benin and Ghana to interview people who had fled the violence in Togo.


** Sudan


The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Juan Mendez, spoke to reporters in Khartoum today at the end of his visit to Sudan.  Mendez noted that there’s a strong sense in Darfur that impunity continues to prevail.


He also said he perceived a significant disconnect between the account of the Government about actions it has taken to address the problems of Darfur, as well as their evaluation of the conditions there, and the accounts of Darfuris with whom he met during the course of his visit.


He said he intends to report to the Secretary-General with recommendations to protect civilians and prevent human rights abuses, as well as to promote the safe return of internally displaced persons and refugees.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


Margareta Wahlström, the UN’s Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, arrived today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where she will be leading an inter-agency mission.


That mission will examine both the humanitarian and developmental challenges confronting the country before the UN country team issues its 2006 humanitarian action plan.


And also on the DRC, the Secretary-General appointed Mr. Haile Menkerios, a citizen of Eritrea, as his Deputy Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And his biography is available upstairs


**Tsunami


A regional trust fund to support tsunami early warning arrangements in the Indian Ocean and South-east Asia was launched today in Bangkok with a $10 million contribution from the Government of Thailand.


The fund, which will be managed by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, will contribute to the broader UN tsunami response by supporting a network of national and regional early warning centres.


**FAO/Bird Flu


The global strategy for the control of bird flu remains largely under-funded, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.  The agency said that only $20 million had been pledged towards the target of $100 million that was set when international agencies agreed upon the global plan last May.  Vaccination and stockpiling of drugs are also behind schedule, the agency said.


**UNODC


Today from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., in Conference Room 5, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime will be holding a panel discussion entitled, “Implications for global drug prevention and treatment: assessments, training and capacity-building”.  We have more information on that available upstairs.


** Zimbabwe


In this room tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., a senior UN official will give an off-the-record briefing on Zimbabwe and Jan Egeland, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, will brief you on the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, also in this room but later on in the week.


**Questions and Answers


Question: On Zimbabwe, could you comment on a report in the State run newspaper The Herald today, which said that Mugabe’s Government publicly acknowledged for the first time that a planned visit by the Secretary-General wouldn’t take place and that the Secretary-General had been “forced to abort the visit” because of politicization by Britain and the United States?


Spokesman: I think there’s been a lot of reporting from media in Zimbabwe which hasn’t always been on target.  As we’ve said before, the Secretary-General may very well go to Zimbabwe, but obviously any such visit would have to be carefully planned in terms of its agenda and its aims.  And the planning for such a visit is being done in conjunction with our Department of Political Affairs and Zimbabwean officials.


Question: Ever since the IAEA referred the case to the Security Council, Iran has now hardened its position and it’s indicating that it might bar the IAEA inspectors from coming there, and then it may continue enriching its programme.  Is the Secretary-General in any way concerned about this situation?


Spokesman: The Secretary-General has taken note of the developments over the weekend in terms of the IAEA resolution and he continues to monitor the situation closely.


Question: I wanted to ask you again about Western Sahara.  There’s been press reports that they’ve transferred the prisoners.  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on that, and is he planning to send a Special Rapporteur to investigate the situation? I know you said there was some sort of letter exchange going on.


Spokesman: I don’t have any further update from what we last told you but I’ll check after the briefing.


Question: Just a follow up on Zimbabwe, is there any time frame for a possible visit?


Spokesman: No, we don’t want to set any conditions, or time frame conditions.  The point is that the visit be properly planned in both terms of its agenda and the aims of the visit.


Thank you.  Pragati.


Spokesperson for General Assembly President


The Assembly’s general debate concluded on Friday evening, and thanks to those of you who stayed late to report on it.  President Jan Eliasson said in his closing statement:  “The extent to which we -- all of us in this Assembly -- can muster a spirit of urgency and common purpose in the coming days and weeks will ultimately determine whether the World Summit goes down in history as a missed opportunity for the UN, or -- as I hope -- as the start of the most substantial reform programme in the history of the Organization.”


We gave some provisional figures on Friday evening, but today we have received final figures that a total of 185 speakers took the floor during the general debate, including 44 Heads of State or Government.


There are no formal meetings of the plenary until Thursday, when it will take up the report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization.


The President is holding intensive bilaterals and consultations to prepare his plan for implementation of the Summit outcome.


Any questions?


Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record