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


Joining us today will be Paulo Pinheiro, the expert leading the UN Study on Violence Against Children, and Abigail McIntyre, a youth leader from Grenada.


** Iraq


Over the weekend, we issued a statement on the Iraqi referendum, in which the Secretary-General paid tribute to the courage of the Iraqi people and said the referendum was an important opportunity for the Iraqis to express their political views.


He also congratulated the Independent Iraqi Electoral Commission, as well as thousands of poll workers and monitors, for having organized the vote in such challenging circumstances.


Speaking to you this morning outside the Security Council stakeout, the Secretary-General said that the UN would continue to be active in trying to get Iraqis to work together, to make the process inclusive, and to push for reconciliation.  The Secretary-General added that the UN will help them with the elections in December, if the Iraqis wanted that. 


**Secretary-General -- Lebanon


He also spoke to you about the upcoming report of Detlev Mehlis, the UN investigator into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.


On the issue of a possible extension, the Secretary-General said he would make his decision only after having seen Mehlis’s report and he expects to receive the report before the weekend, possibly on Friday. 


The Secretary-General also stressed that he is determined to make the report as technical as possible and not allow for the politicization of the report and the process.


**Ethiopia-Eritrea


Turning to an update on the situation regarding the situation on the ground in Eritrea and our UN Mission, as a result of the continuing ban on UN helicopter flights by the Eritrean Government, the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea has assessed its operational effectiveness and is now determined that the continuing occupation of small isolated posts has become untenable.


The Mission has thus decided to vacate 18 of the 40 posts it has maintained, as well as one team site of military observers.  Troops from these posts will be used to augment other stations in the Temporary Security Zone, in order to make their strength operationally viable.  These posts are being evacuated immediately, according to the UN Mission.  The Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea have been informed of the UN Mission’s decision and we have a press release upstairs with more information.


**Secretary-General/ Ethiopia - Eritrea


Also speaking on this subject this morning, the Secretary-General warned that “we will have to make some very hard and critical decisions as to the usefulness of staying there if we cannot operate”, referring to the continuing helicopter ban in Eritrea.


He said the United Nations still has not received any explanation from the Eritrean Government and conceded, “Our relationship with the Eritrean Government has not been an easy one”.  And his comments are part of the transcript that we made available to you upstairs.


** Lebanon


Also in Lebanon, Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, arrived today in Paris for meetings with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora of Lebanon, as well as meeting with the President of the Palestinian Authority and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Mahmoud Abbas.


On behalf of the Secretary-General, Roed-Larsen is expected to hold discussions separately with Siniora and Abbas on issues related to the implementation of Resolution 1559, particularly the question of the Palestinian militias currently in Lebanon.  These talks are to take place ahead of a summit between the two leaders, which is scheduled for tomorrow in Paris, and that meeting was initiated by the United Nations.


Roed-Larsen will then travel on Tuesday to London to confer with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and other British officials.  He will then return to New York on Tuesday evening in order to report to the Secretary-General on the progress of the implementation of resolution 1559.


**Security Council


Earlier today, the Secretary-General told the Security Council that we are increasingly drawing on the resources of regional and global multilateral mechanisms to provide collective responses to today’s challenges.  The task now, he said, is to make sure that our mechanisms for cooperation work as well as possible.


He noted the dramatic growth in partnership between regional organizations and the United Nations to support countries emerging from conflict, and we have copies of his remarks upstairs.


The Secretary-General was speaking as one of the participants at today’s Security Council public meeting on UN cooperation with regional organizations.  That meeting is being chaired by the Foreign Minister of Romania.


**Western Sahara-Migrants


The UN Mission in Western Sahara conducted ground and air patrols over the weekend, looking for stranded migrants.  More than a hundred were found.  According to the Mission, the migrants were suffering from exhaustion and a lack of water and food.


Although the Mission has neither the mandate nor the resources to intervene, it has been providing food, water, blankets and emergency medical aid to the migrants, as well as transportation to shelters run by the UN refugee agency and other organizations.


**Secretary-General at Columbia University


As we speak, the Secretary-General is at Columbia University, where he is delivering the keynote speech at a conference on reforming the United Nations.  He is to say, if he hasn’t already said so, that agreements reached at last month’s World Summit did establish a starting point for reform.  The challenge now is to implement what was decided, and to fill the gaps that have been left.


At the same time, he is to say that there is no denying that on some issues, including the question of weapons of mass destruction and the lack of agreement on Security Council reform, the Summit was a disappointment and a missed opportunity.  And we have copies of his speech available upstairs.


**Tsunami


Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, has ended his mission to tsunami-hit areas of Indonesia, having gotten a first-hand look at the situation on the ground.


Noting that too few tsunami survivors were currently in permanent housing, he said it was unacceptable for organizations to carry out their own small projects without coordinating with anybody else.  He also highlighted the development of a UN plan, which aims to get people into permanent houses before the next rainy season.  And we have more information upstairs on his visit.


**Poverty Eradication Day


Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and the Secretary-General has issued a message saying that poverty can be reduced only if we reach out to the poorest of the world, including those often excluded from the development process.


Only through partnership with them, and by taking steps to tackle inequality, can we eradicate poverty in all its dimensions, he adds.  And the text of that message is upstairs.


**FAO


The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today celebrated its sixtieth anniversary with a promise to adapt to the challenges of the twenty-first century and we have a message from the FAO’s Director-General, Jacques Diouf, upstairs.


**ICC


And, just for the record, we did issue a statement from the Secretary-General on Friday on the arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court against five leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army, and that statement you got late Friday.


**Press Conferences


At 1:00 p.m., Kevin Kennedy, the Director for Coordination and Response in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, will provide you with an update on the UN’s humanitarian responses following the South Asian earthquake.


And tomorrow, our guest will be Inga-Britt Ahlenius, the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).  She will be joining us to brief you on the annual OIOS report to the General Assembly.


And, at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, the Canadian Mission will be sponsoring a press conference by the non-governmental organization called Act for Stolen Children.


That is it for me.  Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I have lots of questions so you have to bear with me today.  The Secretary-General said this morning that Mehlis’ report would be a technical report.  Do you think he used the right word because I think we passed technical a long time ago with the Fitzgerald report?  So, I don’t know, people are expecting more than that.


Spokesman:  I’m sure the Secretary-General used the right word.  He was answering a question about the politicization of the report.  What he was saying was that he did not want this report to be politicized but he wanted it to be a technical, investigative report.


Question:  People are expecting more, are expecting some answers.


Spokesman:  I think first of all we need to wait for the report to come out to judge the report.  What the Secretary-General was saying was that he did not want this report to be politicized.  He wanted this to be the report of Mr. Mehlis, who is a professional investigator and that’s how you should see the use of the term, “technical”.


Question:  Also, yesterday, the arrest of Mr. Assediq in Paris, it’s known that most of Mehlis’ report is based on the story of this guy.  Isn’t it embarrassing for the investigation that this guy was arrested?  Does it question the credibility of that investigation so far or the course of the investigation?


Spokesman:  I think we should all wait to see the report before judging Mr. Mehlis’ work.


I’ll come back to you.  I’ll spread the wealth.


Question:  Do you have anything about the humanitarian activities in Kashmir?  Because last night on Fox they said they are not doing too much.


Spokesman:  You can ask that question to Mr. Kevin Kennedy who’ll be here at 1 o’clock.


Question:  China has successfully conducted its second manned space flight.  Does the Secretary-General have any comments on that?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General extends his warm congratulation to the People’s Republic of China on the safe and successful completion of its second mission into space.  The flight demonstrates yet again that the exploration of space knows no national borders and that every peaceful mission accomplished is another step forward for all of humankind.


Question:  I wanted to ask, first of all, Van Walsum, he’s the Special Envoy for Western Sahara, was he involved in that mission to search and pick up those people?  And also, where is he today?  Has he returned?


Spokesman:  On your first question, no.  He has more of a political role and he’s been meeting with the parties, as well as the neighbours in Mauritania and Algeria.  He is currently in Mauritania and he’s on his way out of the country.  We do have some more information available on his activities upstairs.  The work on helping the migrants was the work of the UN peacekeeping mission on the ground, which has some assets and this was done as a humanitarian gesture.


Question:  Has Mehlis asked to examine the body of the Syrian Interior Minister who committed suicide?  Has  he asked to examine his body and do an autopsy?


Spokesman:  As I’ve said repeatedly, from here, Mr. Mehlis is doing his work on his own.  He’s an independent investigator and he’ll report.  Once his report comes out, you’ll be able to ask these questions, but he does not brief us on a daily basis on his activities.


Question:  About Roed-Larsen’s meeting today with Siniora, they are discussing the Palestinian factions.  The issue of Hezbollah has not been brought up for a while.  Do you think they’re giving this issue to internal discussions right now and when is Larsen expected to deliver his report to the Secretary-General?


Spokesman:  Mr. Roed-Larsen’s report should be expected at some point this week.  We may have a better idea of when to expect the report either later today or tomorrow.  The resolution calls on the disarming of all militias.  Today’s meetings were just more focused on the Palestinian issue.


Thank you.


Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President


General Assembly President Jan Eliasson, issued a message today for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, in which he stated that “the United Nations must never lose sight of those who rely on us most: the poorest and most vulnerable in the world”.  He called for the commitments made this year to be implemented and the momentum that has been generated to be maintained and built upon -- including at the trade talks in Hong Kong.  The President also met this morning with a delegation from the NGO ATD Fourth World Movement, including a number of people from Guatemala, Haiti, France, the Philippines and the United States who are living in poverty.  And I think you just had a press briefing by some of them.


This morning in plenary, the General Assembly is holding elections for 18 seats on the Economic and Social Council.  Expected to be elected are:  from the African States, Angola, Benin, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar and Mauritania; from Asian States, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka; from Eastern European States, the Czech Republic; and from Western European and other States, Austria, France, Germany, Spain and Turkey.  And, we’re still waiting for the results of the vote for the four seats from Latin America and the Caribbean, where the five candidates are Cuba, Guyana, Haiti, Paraguay and Uruguay. [ Cuba, Guyana, Haiti and Paraguay were elected for the Latin American and Caribbean seats].   And, we have that document upstairs showing all the candidates.


Informal consultations of the plenary on the Peacebuilding Commission will be held this afternoon, when Member States will have a dialogue by video-link with the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General for Burundi, Haiti and Liberia, as well as the President of the University of Kabul and other experts, about their experiences with peacebuilding.  


Tomorrow morning is the next meeting of the informal consultations of the plenary on the Human Rights Council, at which Member States will discuss the possible mandate and functions of the Council.


Most of the main committees are continuing their work today.


Any questions?  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record