27/09/2005
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


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


** Northern Ireland


Good afternoon.  I’ll start off with a statement on the situation in Northern Ireland. 


“The Secretary-General welcomes the news that a major obstacle to the search for a lasting and sustainable political settlement in Northern Ireland has been removed, with the announcement by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) has completed the decommissioning of its weapons.


“This development is a critical step in the IRA’s fulfilment of the commitment it gave on 28 July to pursue its goals henceforth through exclusively peaceful and democratic means.


“The Secretary-General calls on all parties to seize this unique opportunity to consolidate the Good Friday Agreements.”


** Afghanistan


Turning to Afghanistan, Jean Arnault, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, expressed his great concern at the killing this afternoon of a candidate in the Wolesi Jirga election.  That candidate was named Ashraf Ramazan.


The UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemns this murder and calls upon the Afghan authorities to carry out a thorough investigation and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice.


** Iraq


From Iraq, the latest from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that the security situation in much of Iraq has shown no improvement and has actually deteriorated in many places compared to the same period a year ago.


Despite the January 2005 elections, UNHCR says authorities are not yet able to protect citizens from violent attacks, including those specifically targeting civilians in southern and central Iraq.


As a result, UNHCR encourages Governments to postpone the introduction of measures which are intended to promote or induce voluntary returns for persons originating from those areas in Iraq.


** Cameroon


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have dispatched a team of technical experts to north-western Cameroon, following reports that a natural dam on a lake there could potentially collapse. 


According to OCHA, if the dam collapses, tens of thousands of Cameroonians and Nigerians will be hit by flooding and toxic carbon dioxide gases stored in the deeper layers of the lake.  A similar gas release in 1986 killed more than 1,700 people.


**Budget


In terms of the honour rolls, a cheque from Saudi Arabia arrived on our books today, bringing to 124 the number of fully paid Member States.  Saudi Arabia paid more than $12 million.


**Influenza


One more announcement from the head of the World Health Organization.  Dr. Lee Jong-wook says there will be another influenza pandemic, and no Government can afford to be caught off guard.


Speaking today to health ministers from throughout the Americas at the Pan American Health Organization’s forty-sixth meeting in Washington, D.C., he called on them to support the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza launched recently by the UN General Assembly.  We have a full press release available upstairs. 


**DPI


A new UN system calendar of major media events is now available on the UN web page.  It provides brief descriptions of launches of major UN reports, conferences and meetings, and special events at UN Headquarters and in locations around the world.  Contact information for media is also included for each entry in that calendar.


** Press Conferences


Our guest tomorrow at noon will be Eric Schwartz, the Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery.


Also, at 11:15 a.m. tomorrow, Georg Kell, the Executive Head of the Global Compact, and Kai Hammerich, the Director-General of “Investment in Sweden” and President of the World Assembly of Investment Promotion Agencies, will hold an embargoed press conference here on the World Investment Report 2005.


Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I sort of half heard the thing that you read out on the UNHCR press release, but just to check, so basically it says that the UNHCR believes the situation in Iraq now is worse than it was a year ago?  Is that something that the Secretariat agrees with as well?


Spokesman:  It mentions the areas in central and southern Iraq.  As far as the Secretariat is concerned, I think the issue of violence and security has been something that we have flagged and has been of concern to us for quite some time.


Question:  Would you assess the situation now, the security situation, as worse than it was one year ago?


Spokesman:  The UNHCR’s assessment is focused on how it relates to people and the voluntary return of people to central and southern Iraq.  I’m not really quite able at this point to make that same assessment with the information that I have. 


Question:  At the end of July, when you said that the Secretary-General had accepted in principle the invitation by Mugabe to go to Zimbabwe, I believe you had some conditions to that, one of them being evictions must stop and aid distribution had to be worked out.  Are those conditions still in place?


Spokesman:  I think since then this issue of the trip has come up a number of times.  And what we have said, and I think as you’ve just heard, is that any trip by the Secretary-General to Zimbabwe would have to be properly planned in terms of its agenda and goals that would be achieved.  As far as that is concerned, Mr. Gambari is working with the Zimbabwean authorities on that.


Question:  So that’s a simplified message you’re giving them?  So the conditions that were more specifically stated, you’re not mentioning them any more?


Spokesman:  That’s all I have to say about the trip. 


Question:  Any reaction from the Secretary-General regarding the killing of five Iraqi teachers?


Spokesman:  Obviously it underscores the issue of the security situation, which we just mentioned, and we would condemn any such acts, particularly those targeting teachers. 


Question:  There have been a number of letters being circulated around the Security Council on Western Sahara.  First of all, I want to get an update on the humanitarian letters that you mentioned last week.  Also, the Secretary-General made a statement when the Frente Polisario released 404 Moroccan prisoners, and I was wondering if he was going to be making any statements about the conditions of the Saharawis in the Moroccan prisons.


Spokesman:  As we’ve said, the situation of those people is of concern to us.  A number of letters have been sent by the UN to the authorities regarding this situation.  That’s all I have to say on that. 


Question:  Do we have a confirmation on when Jan Egeland is going to brief us? 


Spokesman:  I think we’re trying to finalize that for Thursday, if I’m not mistaken.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record