10/10/2005
Spokesman's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES 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 the Spokesman for the Secretary General


Good afternoon, I’d like to welcome our visiting journalists from Mexico over there in the back.  Our guest today will be Mr. Ed Tsui, Director of the New York Office of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and he’ll be joining us, of course, to brief you on the humanitarian assistance to countries affected by recent natural disasters in South Asia and Central America, as well.


**Statement on Earthquake in South Asia


Earlier today, we released a statement from the Secretary-General on the earthquake in South Asia.


“The Secretary-General is greatly encouraged to see the rapid and large response by the international community to the devastating earthquake that has struck the people of Pakistan, as well as in Afghanistan and India.


“The emergency teams dispatched by the United Nations have been working since 8 October around the clock in support of national authorities to ensure a rapid assessment of the needs and an effective coordination of international assistance.  To this end, OCHA coordination centres have been established in Islamabad, and in Muzaffarabad close to the epicentre of the quake.


“The Secretary-General encourages all international actors to work together to achieve full coordination of all international efforts in support of the national rescue efforts.


“The agencies of the United Nations system -- UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR, WHO, UNFPA -- have immediately activated their in-country capacities and dispatched relief supplies and sectoral experts.”


**Secretary-General -- Press Conference


The Secretary-General, speaking at a press conference in Geneva today, said he has directed the United Nations humanitarian community to do everything possible to assist the Government of Pakistan in response to the relief effort.


He also discussed the situation concerning migrants in the Mediterranean region, on which we issued a statement late Friday, and said that the UN refugee agency currently has three teams, in Ceuta, Melilla and the Canary Islands.  UNHCR is in touch with the Moroccan Government, and the Secretary-General hopes UNHCR will be able to send a team very shortly and they will want to determine the status of these people and get them the assistance they need.


We’ll have the transcript of the press conference upstairs available for you shortly.


**Statement on Sudan


I also have a statement on Sudan.


“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the upsurge in violence in Darfur. In particular, he strongly condemns the killing of three peacekeepers and two contractors affiliated with the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), as well as the abduction of other AMIS personnel over the weekend.  The apparent targeting of the AU Mission is completely unacceptable.  The Secretary-General expresses his condolences to the families of the bereaved, the African Union and the respective Governments.


“The Secretary-General reminds the parties that AMIS is an impartial force deployed to assist the people of the region and the parties to the conflict.  He calls on the Government of Sudan and the rebel movements to assist in bringing those responsible to account without delay.  The Secretary-General reminds the Government that it has the ultimate responsibility for the protection of peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.


“The Secretary-General calls on the Government and the rebel movements to take immediate steps to stabilize the situation in Darfur, and at the same time engage seriously in the talks in Abuja with a view to reaching an early political settlement.”


**Secretary-General in Geneva


I’ll just mention a couple of things the Secretary-General did in Geneva.


He addressed a symposium of Swiss bankers and other leading members of the Geneva financial community on microfinance and small business finance, aimed at contributing to the UN Year of Microcredit 2005.


“Microfinance is gaining acceptance”, he said, saying that where businesses are given a chance to develop, countries are more likely to flourish.  The Secretary-General added, “Where people have a stake, a start, a piece of ownership, they are more likely to prosper.”  And we have copies of his statement upstairs.


He also went to the UNAIDS office in Geneva and met with a group of HIV-positive staff, whom he applauded for their courage at helping to bring down the barriers of discrimination.


And on Saturday evening, the Secretary-General attended the United against Malaria concert taking place in Geneva, saying that it was “not an event.  It’s a movement”.  He urges those participating to stick to their effort to ensure that we can have a more equitable world.  And we have his statement delivered at the concert upstairs, as well. (See also Press Release SG/SM/10151.)


**Statement on Liberia


Turning to Liberia, I have statement on the elections.


“The Secretary-General is pleased that the Liberian presidential and parliamentary elections are to take place as scheduled tomorrow, 11 October.  The issues emanating from the Supreme Court rulings have been resolved through consultations conducted by the ECOWAS Mediator, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Head of State of Nigeria.  The Secretary-General would like to thank the candidates who have agreed to withdraw their claims for their demonstration of flexibility.  He also thanks General Abubakar, who, together with the UN, worked tirelessly towards ensuring that the elections would take place in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the electoral timetable. 


“UNMIL is providing technical and logistical support to the elections, as well as security, along with Liberia's security agencies.  The Secretary-General calls on all Liberians to participate in large numbers and in a peaceful manner in this historic election.” 


And that statement is available upstairs.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) has sent units to two small villages in south Kivu where some 15 persons were slaughtered overnight by men with machetes.


Witnesses identified the killers as Rwandan Hutus, the Mission said.  MONUC medical teams are assisting the wounded, and armed units are securing the area.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, William Swing, will visit the area tomorrow.


** Iraq


Turning to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, was in Kirkuk over the weekend, where he met with delegations from the city’s Turkmen and Arab communities, as well as the head of the Kirkuk Normalization Committee.


Qazi discussed how to ensure the integrity of the 15 October constitutional referendum, as well as the forthcoming elections in December.  And we have a full statement on his visit upstairs.


**Security Council


The Security Council will meet at 3 p.m. today on Sudan.  The Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, is expected to brief the Council on the latest developments in that country.


**Budget


We received a check last week from Bulgaria, which brought the number of fully paid-up Member States to 126.  And the Bulgarians gave $302,000 and some change... well change is all relative.


**Press Conferences


Press conferences this afternoon.  At 4 p.m., the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic will be sponsoring a press conference by the representatives of Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Democracy in Burma.  Tomorrow, we will have Jose Antonio Campo to brief you on the United Nations World Economic and Social Survey 2005.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Two questions, the first is on Sudan.  Why aren’t you saying who killed the African peacekeepers?  The bullets didn’t fall out of the sky.  And the second is, I’m curious as to what happened on Friday?  The Secretary-General announces in Geneva that there’s a major Kosovo report, he gives the main thrust of it and then hours and hours later it comes out here, when people are on European deadlines and so forth.  A, it seems like whoever made that decision in the Secretariat is stepping on the Secretary-General’s parade that he hoped would be out by the way he spoke in Geneva.  And b, I’m not sure what message the UN wants to get out.  If you don’t know, you know Security Council members had to fax that report which was not on e-mail to a variety of correspondents who then distributed it among themselves, and that is a very dumb way to do things.  Then the statement on the Moroccan refugees in Spain comes out at 7 p.m. at night for reasons beyond me since that was 12 hours old and that’s on a Friday.  So I’m not sure about who was making decisions on Friday on when to release this.


Spokesman:  As far as the Kosovo report, the way it’s been explained to me is that it had to go not only to Security Council members, but both parties in Belgrade and Pristina, and we had to wait until that happened.  On the Friday statement, we’ve been there before.  Statements are in the pipeline and we try to get them through the pipeline as quickly as possible and we are very aware of everybody’s deadlines.  And as for Sudan, I will check for you what assistance the UN Mission will be giving to the African Union in trying -– well, I’m sure that they would like to know, as well.


Question:  In fact, I think they have announced it.  I’m just not sure what you have not put it in the statement.


Spokesman:  I’m sure if we haven’t put it in, it’s because we’re not in a position to confirm it at this point.


Question:  I have an announcement from the Greek Foreign Ministry here.  It says that they instructed the Greek Permanent Representative to return the proposal by Mr. [Matthew] Nimetz on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as unacceptable.  Any comments?


Spokesman:  We’ve seen those press reports, I know Mr. Nimetz has been in touch with both sides over the last few days.  I don’t have anything further to add to that.  We are expecting to hear from Mr. Nimetz this afternoon at which point I can give you an update.


Question:  Before he submitted the proposals, did he inform the Secretary-General or can you tell us if he spoke with anybody at the State Department?


Spokesman:  That’s a question we’ll put to him this afternoon.


Question:  Is he still a negotiator, because there are rumours the Greeks don’t want to speak to him any more?


Spokesman:  I am not aware and have not been told of any change in the status or Mr. Nimetz.


Questions:  Any update on Eritrea’s ban on flights?


Spokesman:  There’s been no change on that ban. Our helicopters are still not flying and we still have not received an explanation from the Eritrean side.


Question:  Can you keep us posted on how long you can last and how many outposts are being shut down in Eritrea?


Spokesman:  Sure.  I will get you an update on that.


Question:  Do you know if anyone from this Building is planning to go to Cyprus in the next few days?


Spokesman:  Not that I’ve been told, but we have a lot of people in this Building.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


This morning, the President of the General Assembly opened the plenary by expressing the Assembly’s solidarity with the people of Pakistan and its neighbours India and Afghanistan, who have been tragically affected by the devastating earthquake this weekend.  He said that the earthquake, and also the flooding and mudslides in Guatemala and neighbouring countries, remind us not only of the power of nature but of the need for a quick, coordinated international response at times such as these.


Also this morning, the Assembly held elections for five non-permanent members of the Security Council.   Congo, Ghana and Qatar were elected for the three seats to be filled by African and Asian States.   Slovakia was elected for the one seat to be filled by Eastern European States.   Peru was elected for the one seat to be filled by Latin American and Caribbean States, with 144 votes, versus 43 for Nicaragua.


This afternoon, the plenary will be taking up the reports of the International Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.


Regarding follow-up to the World Summit, tomorrow morning the first round of informal consultations of the plenary will be held on the Human Rights Council.  A letter by the President was circulated on Friday setting out the main elements for discussions:  the status of the Council, its mandate and functions; its size, composition and membership; and its rules of procedure and methods of work.  The letter is available online and in the Spokesman’s Office.  The President will be assisted on this issue by his co-Chairs, Ambassador Arias of Panama and Ambassador Kumalo of South Africa.


On the Peacebuilding Commission, following Friday’s informal plenary meeting, the two co-Chairs, the Ambassadors of Denmark and Tanzania, are continuing to consult and will be circulating a new letter to all Member States in preparation for the next meeting on Wednesday morning, 12 October, with a view to submitting a draft resolution as soon as possible.


All the Main Committees are continuing their work today.


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For information media • not an official record