20/10/2005
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.


Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General


** Lebanon


Probably about 45 minutes ago, the Secretary-General received from Detlev Mehlis, his report into the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, as well as of a number of other people, on 14 February of this year.  The report will be transmitted to the Security Council at some point, we understand probably Friday morning, but we will let you know if that changes.  Mr. Mehlis himself will then present the report to the Security Council on October 25th and that is Tuesday.


**South Asia Quake


Turning to the earthquake in Pakistan, the Secretary-General urged yesterday an immediate and exceptional escalation of the global relief effort to support the work of the Government of Pakistan in dealing with the damage caused by the October 8th earthquake.


An estimated 3 million men, women and children are homeless, many with no blankets or tents, which means a second, massive wave of death will happen if we do not step up the effort.  Among other things that are needed, the United Nations urgently needs some 450,000 winterized tents, as well as temporary shelter.  The Secretary-General said that on 26 October, next Wednesday, he will attend the emergency donors’ conference in Geneva convened by the United Nations.  He said he expected results, and that the response will be no less than a measure of our humanity.  We have a transcript of his press briefing upstairs.


At that meeting in Geneva, the Secretary-General will be joined by the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, as well as representatives of the Pakistani Government, donor countries and other international organizations such as NATO, the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the World Bank to name just a few.


Jan Egeland is today in Geneva, where he said at a press briefing that the South Asia earthquake was an emergency like no other, and that the UN had never faced this kind of logistical nightmare before.  He had thought the tsunami was bad, but the present situation in South Asia was worse, he said.


Although he was grateful to countries that had contributed helicopters, tents and money, Egeland said that the world was still not responding as it should be, and now was not the time for donor fatigue.  And we have a summary of that press briefing available upstairs.


**Secretary-General - Middle East


I have a statement attributable to the Spokesman on the Middle East:


“The Secretary-General was surprised by the statement issued yesterday by Mr. Amre Moussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, criticizing the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Alvaro de Soto, for his briefing to the Security Council on 23 September of this year.  There was nothing in that briefing that could be construed as supporting the construction by Israel of the barrier on occupied Palestinian land.


“The position taken by Mr. de Soto was entirely consistent with decisions taken in the General Assembly and the Security Council on this issue.  The Secretary-General has full confidence in his Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and expects all interested parties to work with him in our common search for a solution in the Middle East.”


And that statement is upstairs.


**Security Council


And also on the Middle East, the head of the Political Affairs Department, Ibrahim Gambari, told the Security Council today that we have witnessed both hopes and perils in the month since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.  Disengagement, he said, has yet to revive the peace process, although it offers a basis and an opportunity to do exactly that, through completion of the agenda as laid out by the Quartet.


Speaking to the Council’s open meeting on the Middle East, Mr. Gambari reviewed recent developments, including the significant deterioration of the security situation during the last week of September and the first week of October.  The upsurge of violence, he noted, has dulled the sense of optimism.  Mr. Gambari said that the parties must work constructively over the coming months to clear up the outstanding access and movement issues relating to disengagement acting in parallel to implement obligations set out by the Road Map.  He added that Israel needs to halt all settlement activities, while the Palestinian Authority must persist with comprehensive reform and strengthening of its security services.  The Security Council is still holding consultations now on the same issue.  Also in its closed consultations, we’re told France intends to submit a revised draft resolution on Cote d’Ivoire.


** Darfur


The Secretary-General’s regular report on Darfur is out, in which he says that the resurgence of violence in Darfur is a source of serious concern and may threaten the success of peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.


He reports on the Sudanese Government’s continued unwillingness or inability to restrain the armed tribal militia.  He notes the growing divide within the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the need for greater international assistance to the African Union forces now deployed in Darfur.


The recent brutal wave of violence makes real and lasting improvements to the humanitarian situation impossible, he says.  He also notes the increasing evidence of gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law.


** Somalia


Also out on the racks is a report from the Secretary-General to the Security Council on Somalia that says that some progress has been made in the peace process, particularly with the formation and return of the transitional federal institutions back to the country.  But, he says, much remains to be done in overcoming the current political impasse.


The Secretary-General is deeply concerned that the political tension between leaders has given rise to military preparations.  He also flags persistent reports of increased violations of the arms embargo.  The threat of violence must be averted, and he appeals to the Somali leaders to enter into a comprehensive ceasefire agreement.


** Western Sahara


And the other report that’s out on the racks is the Secretary-General’s report on the Western Sahara, in which he regrets that the positions of the parties remained far apart, and that a lack of progress was complicated by an overall tense political climate in the region.


The Secretary-General says that the High Commissioner for Human Rights would also look into allegations of violations of human rights in the area.  And he asks the Council to extend the mandate of the UN Mission there for a further six months, until the end of April of next year.


** C ôte d’Ivoire


The Chairman of the Security Council Sanctions Committee on Côte d’Ivoire, Ambassador Vassilakis of Greece, is in Abidjan today, in meetings with signatories of the 2003 peace agreement and with monitors of that accord.


Yesterday he called on ministers of the Government of national reconciliation, leaders of human rights groups, as well as local press.  He has more meetings scheduled for tomorrow and will be back in New York on Saturday.


**UN-HABITAT - Appointment


We have an appointment to announce, as the new Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat.  Mrs. Inga Björk-Klevby of Sweden has been appointed to that position by the Secretary-General.  She’s an economist by training and currently the Ambassador of Sweden to Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Fasso, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and she has an outstanding career in diplomacy, international finance and development cooperation.


As Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat, her main task will be to revitalise and oversee the management of the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation so as to contribute effectively to the water and sanitation and slum upgrading targets of the Millennium Declaration.


** Haiti


Just to flag for you that Juan Valdes, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti, is in Brussels today for an EU-organized donors’ conference on Haiti.  You will recall that after his briefing to the Council on Tuesday, Valdes said that he had hoped the donors’ conference would create an emergency fund for Haiti.


**New Stamps


And, lastly, on a completely different note, the UN Postal Administration says they have new stamps out today with the World Food Programme, and they are issuing a set of six commemorative stamps on the theme of “Food for Life”.  And, the first day cancellations for people who are collectors are available at counters downstairs.


That’s it.  Questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  When will the Lebanese Prime Minister receive the report?  Will he receive it today?


Spokesman:  No.  The Lebanese Prime Minister will receive it when the Security Council gets the copies.


Question:  And will Mehlis go back before the Security Council gets it?


Spokesman:  No.  I expect him to stay in New York at least until Tuesday.


Question:  Media reports are saying that the Mehlis report will not name any Syrian or Lebanese officials on current accusations.  Can you confirm or deny these reports?


Spokesman:  It is with the Secretary-General.  I think you’ll have to wait until members of the Council see that report.


Question:  Do you know how many pages is the report?


Spokesman:  No.  From what I saw in the video, like this, but we’ll try to get you that number before...


Question:  Habitat, who is the lady replacing?  I thought you said the executive director.


Spokesman:  The former deputy director of Habitat.  Deputy Director.  It is not the director’s job.  If I didn’t say it, I meant it.


Question:  The Mehlis report.  Is it expected to be given to members of the Security Council tomorrow morning?  And when do the rest of us get it?


Spokesman:  It is expected to be given to all Security Council members, the last information I had was tomorrow morning.  When it’s a public document, that comes a little later.  But, the members of the Council will get it, are likely to get it tomorrow morning.


Question:  Will we get it immediately after they get it?


Spokesman:  Obviously, one would have to wait until it’s a public document.

Question:  Any chance we could hear from the SG, his comment about the report in the next day or two?


Spokesman:  We’ll see if you have a chance to talk with him before that.


Question:  We have heard that the ethics committee head will be evolved soon.  Do you know if this post is going to be situated for nomination by States or is the Secretary-General going to directly appoint the individual?


Spokesman:  It’s a good question.  I’ll try to get an answer for you.


Question:  Given that the ethics office is going to have to monitor the ethics of many USG’s, is ASG the appropriate level for someone who is going to monitor people more senior than them?


Spokesman:  I think it’s a valid level of appointment, and it is not just a level, but it is the authority that the person will be granted, which is important.


Question:  About the earthquake, you just announced about NATO.  Have they been able to secure any more helicopters, other than the ones that we already have?  And is the Secretary-General considering going to Pakistan?


Spokesman:  I’m not aware of any travel plans for him.  As far as NATO is concerned, I don’t have an update as of this morning, but one of my colleagues from OCHA is in the back of the room and you can ask her after the briefing.


Question:  Mehlis has offered to leave some members of his team in Lebanon regardless of whether his mandate is extended.  Do you know how many and if he does leave members there, what will their role actually be?


Spokesman:  No, I haven’t seen those comments that he reportedly made and as I said the Secretary-General, based on his reading of the report, will then decide on the possible extension of the mandate.


Question:  Just a recall of a question yesterday, once again, the report, as was written by Mehlis, will be the same report that the Secretary-General gives the Security Council?


Spokesman:  That’s my understanding.


Question:  There’s not going to be any editing?


Spokesman:  That’s my understanding.  The Secretary-General will obviously look over the report to help himself, to help make the decision as to whether or not the extension will be given.


Question:  If the report is the same report, why do we have a day in between?


Spokesman:  It’s a fairly important report, and I think it’s important for the Secretary-General and his staff to familiarize themselves, and especially in light of the request to extend the mandate.


Question:  When Mehlis met with the Secretary-General this morning, he obviously briefed the Secretary-General on his report.  Do you know if they talked about the possibility of forming an international tribunal?


Spokesman:  I don’t know.  The meeting was still going on when we came into this room.


Question:  Just a follow-up on Bennie’s question.  If he is going to read the report, it is an important report, if he’s not going to make any changes, why not release it to the Security Council?


Spokesman:  As I said, the timeline of the release of the report to the Council may change.  The last information I had was Friday morning, coming into this room.  If it changes, I’ll let you know.


Question:  Meaning it could be earlier?


Spokesman:  Things change.  As soon as we come out of here I will get you an update because the meeting will have taken place.


Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record