31/10/2005
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


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


**Security Council


Following consultations this morning, the Security Council -- in a formal meeting that is still under way -- unanimously approved a resolution responding to the report issued by the International Independent Investigation Commission concerning the 14 February bombing in Lebanon, which killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, among others.  The Secretary-General was in attendance for today’s Council vote.


The resolution asks all States to prevent entry or transit through their territories to all individuals designated by the Commission or the Government of Lebanon to have been involved in the bombing, as well as imposes a freeze on all funds and financial assets held by such individuals.  It also asks Syria to detain Syrian officials or individuals that the Commission considers as suspects.


Today’s meeting is being presided over by the Foreign Minister of Romania, Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, and 10 other Foreign Ministers are also participating, as well as four Permanent Representatives.


**Security Council - India


The Security Council, after the current meeting on Lebanon, also plans to hold a meeting to adopt a Presidential Statement concerning the weekend terrorist bombings in the Indian capital, New Delhi.  Council members had discussed that statement in this morning’s consultations.


** Statement Attributable to Spokesman on Zimbabwe


“Secretary-General Kofi Annan remains deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe.  The United Nations continues to receive reports that tens of thousands of people are still homeless and in need of assistance, months after the eviction campaign began in May 2005.


“He is particularly dismayed to learn that the Government of Zimbabwe’s Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Cabinet Committee has rejected offers of UN assistance.  In an official communication, the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development stated that there is no longer a compelling need to provide temporary shelter as there is no humanitarian crisis.  The Minister, in the same communication, also claims that Government interventions have addressed the most urgent shelter needs.


“The above statements directly contradict the report by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Human Settlements Issues in Zimbabwe, Anna Tibaijuka, as well as most recent reports from the United Nations and the humanitarian community.  A large number of vulnerable groups, including the recent evictees, as well as other vulnerable populations, remain in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, including shelter.  Furthermore, there is no clear evidence that subsequent Government efforts have significantly benefited these groups.


“The Secretary-General notes the Government’s decision to decline assistance comes despite extensive consultations on relief efforts that ensued in the past months between the United Nations and the Government.  Meanwhile, the impending rainy season threatens to worsen the living conditions of the affected population.


“The Secretary-General is disturbed by the continued suffering and makes a strong appeal to the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that those who are out in the open, without shelter and without means of sustaining their livelihoods, are provided with humanitarian assistance in collaboration with the United Nations and the humanitarian community in order to avert a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.”


**Statement Attributable to Spokesman on Bolivia


“The Secretary-General is following closely political developments in Bolivia and expresses concern about the critical juncture the country is going through.


“The Secretary-General urges all political and social sectors to reach a solution to the political impasse regarding the necessary steps to hold elections in December 2005.


“The United Nations is ready to assist Bolivia in finding solutions to the challenges it is facing.”


**Statements Attributable to Spokesman on India , Côte d’Ivoire


And I have upstairs two statements we issued over the weekend.  One is on the Secretary-General’s reaction to Saturday’s bomb blasts in New Delhi, which he condemned, and he urged that those responsible be brought to justice as soon as possible.


The second deals with the Secretary-General’s call on all the Ivorian parties and their followers to refrain from any actions that might create tensions, and to remain committed to the ongoing process aimed at restoring lasting peace and stability to their country.


**South Asia Quake


Turning now to the earthquake in South Asia, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the prospect of a second humanitarian disaster continues to loom as thousands of injured people remain stranded in isolated mountainous areas, without food, shelter or sanitation.  It is especially concerned about people living above elevations of 5,000 feet.


Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) may be forced to ground its relief helicopters as it lacks the funds to fly them.  The helicopters are the only means to reach hundreds of thousands of survivors cut off by landslides in the rugged mountains of northeast Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.


** Sudan


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan, Jan Pronk, condemns the killing today of two de-miners in an ambush allegedly perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in southern Sudan.


Jan Pronk expresses his outrage at this cowardly attack that jeopardizes the efforts in clearing vital roads to ensure the safety of returnees and pave the way for economic reconstruction of southern Sudan.


He urges a speedy investigation to establish the exact circumstances of the attack and identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.


Meanwhile, the UN Mission in the Sudan reports the situation in Darfur remains tense as banditry and looting continue in many parts.


** Iraq


We have upstairs a statement from the United Nations Mission in Iraq. Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, yesterday met with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.  Qazi discussed with the Prime Minister the results of the referendum, UN support to the electoral process and the latest political developments.  They also discussed the recent visit of the Secretary-General of the Arab League to Baghdad, and the December elections.


On Saturday, Qazi had traveled to Kirkuk and met with many of the communities there.  During those talks, he had emphasized the importance of an inclusive participatory process among all communities in the region.


And we have a press release available upstairs.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


From the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, peacekeepers with that Mission are supporting soldiers from the national army of the country in an operation today, aimed at clearing Virunga National Park in the country's north-east of all armed groups and making it a weapon-free zone.


Militias there have been a cause of concern, having led to increased insecurity in the area and having also been taking part in illegal poaching and smuggling in the National Park.


Five camps belonging to militias were cleared today as part of the operation's first stage.  The results so far have been that approximately 15 combatants were captured or surrendered.


The operation is still in progress, and we expect a press release with more details later today.


** Central African Republic


The Secretary-General’s report on the Central African Republic is out as a document today.


In the report, the Secretary-General notes that the country is gradually returning to a path to peace, economic recovery, reconstruction and sustainable development.


These efforts, he says, require a comprehensive approach and joint action by all of the country’s development partners.  He encourages closer cooperation between the UN system and other multilateral and bilateral partners.


**Avian Flu


The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) today announced they will host an international conference in Geneva next week to set a global strategy to combat bird flu.


The meeting will bring together experts from Member States and NGOs to set policy on controlling the disease in birds, and preparing for any potential pandemic in humans.


The agencies also ask us to tell you the meeting is open to the media.  Registration details are in a press release upstairs.


We told you last week that David Nabarro, the United Nations Coordinator for the Fight Against Bird Flu, would be joining us at noon tomorrow.  His briefing has now been rescheduled for Thursday, following the Economic and Social Council’s Meeting on the Avian Flu.


**Art Exhibit


“Uniting Painting”, an exhibit by painter Ranan Lurie, will open tomorrow at 6:00 pm in the Visitors Lobby.


You can find out more in a note to correspondents on the racks.


**Press Conferences


At 12:30, the Foreign Minister of France, Philippe Douste-Blazy, will hold a press conference in this very room. [It was later cancelled.]


At 3 p.m., Manfred Nowak Special Rapportuer on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Asma Jehangir, Special Rapportuer on freedom of religion or belief; and Leila Zerrougui, Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, will brief on the response received from the US authorities on access to detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay.


And tomorrow at 1 p.m., the wife of United Nations Messenger of Peace Muhammad Ali, and Mike Fox, Chairman and CEO of the Ali Centre, will brief on the opening of the Muhammad Ali International Centre for education and communication in Louisville, Kentucky, on 21 November, and Shashi Tharoor will moderate that.


And at 2 p.m., the Japanese Mission will be sponsoring a press conference on the musical “Our Forest is Alive – Part III: Our Earth Charter”.


And that’s it for me, any questions?


**Question and Answer


Question:  Prince Charles is expected to visit tomorrow, do you have any details, like what time he is coming?


Spokesman:  Yes, we have all that upstairs.  I can give it to you up there.


Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President


This morning, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson opened the plenary meeting with a statement on the terrorist attacks in New Delhi on Saturday, offering the Assembly’s deepest sympathy to the people and Government of India, and the Permanent Representative of India made a statement in reply.


The Assembly President also made remarks welcoming the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Laureate, Mohamed Elbaradei.  He stated that the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the IAEA and Dr. ElBaradei “strengthens us in our belief that multilateralism is necessary in dealing with global threats and challenges”.  Dr. ElBaradei then introduced the report of the IAEA, on which a draft resolution has been tabled.


The plenary meeting will continue this afternoon, when the item on Holocaust remembrance will be taken up.  The Assembly President is expected to make a statement on the item, which we will circulate.  A draft resolution has been tabled, resolving that the United Nations designate 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.


The Assembly President also spoke this morning at the annual parliamentary hearings held by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which, this year, are focusing on the follow-up to the 2005 World Summit.


Tomorrow, informal consultations of the plenary on the Human Rights Council will be held in both morning and afternoon, to discuss rules and procedures, working methods and transitional arrangements for the new Council.


Any questions?  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record