03/11/2005
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.  Our guest today will be Adolf Ogi, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, who will discuss the achievements of the International Year of Sport and Physical Education 2005.


**Security Council


The Security Council has scheduled consultations at 3 p.m. today on Eritrea and Ethiopia.  The Secretary-General will be attending those consultations and is preparing to brief Council members.  He will also be available to talk to reporters at the Security Council stakeout microphone.


**Secretary-General’s Statement -– Eritrea-Ethiopia


“The Secretary-General is extremely concerned about reports received from the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) concerning movements of military personnel on both sides of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ), as well as irregular activities inside the Zone.  Reported troop movements involve small and large military and paramilitary formations, and movement of armour, as well as aerial defence assets.


“The Secretary-General strongly urges the parties to exercise maximum restraint and to put an immediate halt to any actions that may be misinterpreted by the other side or jeopardize the security arrangements which they agreed to in the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities of 18 June 2000.


“The Secretary-General further urges the Security Council and individual Member States to take decisive steps to defuse the escalating tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and stands ready to assist in this regard.”


**Eritrea-Ethiopia


The Japanese mission, meanwhile, has asked us to announce Ambassador Kenzo Oshima's visit to Ethiopia and Eritrea next week.  According to the terms of reference available upstairs,  the Security Council has authorized Ambassador  Oshima, Chairman of the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations of the Security Council, to visit the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea.


The dates are:  Sunday, 6 November through Wednesday, 9 November.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Eritrea and Ethiopia, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, and Force Commander Major-General Rajender Singh spoke to reporters in Asmara earlier today.  We expect a transcript or summary shortly.


**Secretary-General on Bird Flu


The Secretary-General this morning addressed the Time Global Health Summit, a three-day event in New York, to discuss key health issues, and he warned that the international community must act now to deal with the potential threat of avian influenza.  If bird flu can result in human-to-human transmission, he said, we would have only a matter of weeks to lock down the spread before it spins out of control.


He pointed to seven priorities to handle bird flu, saying that merely stockpiling antiviral medicines does not constitute a strategy.


And we have the full text of his speech available upstairs.


**ECOSOC Bird Flu


Also on bird flu, the UN Senior System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, David Nabarro, is outlining a worldwide strategy to confront bird flu.  In a special meeting on bird flu going on right now in the ECOSOC chamber, Mr. Nabarro is detailing separate strategies to control the disease in birds, prevent or delay its spread to humans, and prepare for any possible pandemic in humans.


And he will brief you here at 1:15.p.m.


**Security Council -- Wednesday


Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, briefed the Council in consultations yesterday afternoon about progress in meeting that resolution’s key goals.


Now, Mr. Roed-Larsen told reporters after the consultations ended, the United Nations will try to help resolve outstanding issues between Syria and Lebanon, including the disbanding of militias and the demarcation of a border between the two countries.


The United Nations has encouraged the Government of Lebanon to enter into a dialogue with Hezbollah, which it has informally done, and “we are encouraging this dialogue to continue”, he said.


Further, Roed-Larsen added, “We are encouraging the Government of Lebanon to set up a mechanism with the different Palestinian groups, in order to resolve the issue of disbanding them and disarming them”.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) says that the UN peacekeepers have helped free four election officials who’d been taken hostage in the country’s eastern province of North Kivu almost two weeks ago.  The peacekeepers were supporting national DRC soldiers in operations against the Mayi-Mayi militia in the Vurondo area, near the town of Butembo, which is
200 kilometres north of the capital of Goma.


In the course of clearing out two major militia camps, the soldiers engaged militias in firefights in which 32 Mayi-Mayi were killed.  The remaining militia members fled, and the four electoral officials were found during mopping-up operations. The four were unharmed and the DRC’s national army will maintain a presence in the cleared areas.


While on the topic of the DRC, the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) has released a list of individuals and entities subject to the measures imposed by paragraphs 13 and 15 of resolution 1596 (2005).


**South Asia Quake


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and NATO have agreed to extend and expand their two-week-old airlift of emergency relief supplies to quake-stricken Pakistan, in a major effort to get life-saving tents, blankets and stoves to survivors before winter strikes.


In total, the UNHCR is delivering more than half a million blankets to Pakistan, and over 20,000 tents.  Meanwhile, five of the agency’s emergency teams are on the ground, working with partners to get all relief items transported and distributed to the neediest survivors. So far, more than 8,500 tents have been distributed.


For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) has deployed an MI-26, the world’s largest helicopter, to Pakistan for quake relief work. The MI-26 can carry 20 tons, or 10 times as much as the MI-8, the standard UN helicopter used during emergency operations.  WFP currently has 17 transport helicopters deployed, and expects to have 22 helicopters fully operational by 10 November.


** Somalia


The World Food Programme (WFP) also warned today that a recent spate of ship hijackings off the coast of Somalia is restricting the delivery of urgently needed food aid to that country.


Those restrictions are threatening more than half a million Somalis in the drought-stricken and war-torn south.  The WFP is also concerned about the lack of access for UN relief flights to several airstrips in the south.


**Tsunami


Tilly Smith, a young English survivor of last year’s tsunami, is in New York and is meeting today with the UN’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, former United States President Bill Clinton; his deputy Eric Schwartz; and  Sálvano Briceño, the head of the UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.


Tilly attracted attention during the disaster when, as an 11-year-old schoolgirl on holiday in Thailand, she recognized the signs of the receding sea and warned her parents of the impending tsunami, which led to hotel guests being rapidly cleared from the beach.  President Clinton has said that Tilly’s story shows the importance of teaching young people about natural hazards.


And we have a press release with more information on that upstairs.


**Other Announcements


Just to advise you, as you know tomorrow, United Nations Headquarters is closed due to the Eid holiday.  Our office, the Spokesman’s Office, will be manned as it is on weekends, which is usually from about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.


And we have the week ahead upstairs for you.


Also today, World Chronicle Program 986, hosted by Mary Alice Williams will be shown at 3:30 p.m., and the guest is Noeleen Heyzer to discuss her report, “Women, Work and Poverty”.


And at 2 p.m., right here in this room, Ronald Noble, the Secretary-General of Interpol, will be here to discuss the coordination between the United Nations and Interpol on counter-terrorism.


And on Monday, Jan Egeland will be our guest to discuss the relief efforts in Pakistan, and that is pegged to the one month anniversary of the earthquake.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  The Mercedes in the Volcker report that was purchased in the name of the Secretary-General, with a tax discount, and to which he contributed $15,000.  What’s happened to it now?  Does he still own it?  Did he sell it?  Presumably if it’s in his name, he would have to consent to sell it if somebody bought it from him?


Spokesman:  James, I have absolutely nothing to add to what we’ve said extensively on the report, and what’s in it.


Question:  Does the Secretary-General still own it, and if he doesn’t still own it, could you ask what happened to it?


Spokesman:  James, you’re allowed to ask whatever question you have.  I would just point out that in the Volcker report that was released in September, you could read that the Secretary-General opened his entire financial portfolio to the investigators.  It was shown that the amount of money, he had given to charity.  It showed all his holdings.  Mr. Volcker examined all the financial aspects of the Secretary-General’s holdings.  If there’d been any issues, I am sure it would have been reported.  I have nothing further to add.


Question:  One of the things that that revealed was that he paid $15,000 for a Mercedes in his own name, that was bought with a tax discount in Switzerland, and then imported with another deflated tax discount in Ghana.  I’m asking what happened to the car?


Spokesman:  I have nothing further to add.


Question:  I raised the question of the ugly neo-classical flowerpots marring this superb modernist building with the Chairman of both arts committees.  Shashi’s explanation to me was that the arts committee didn’t deal with things outside the building, but obviously they do, because here we have an interview with him about this Ranan Lurie exhibit.  I have two questions about it.  One is whether Mr. Lurie’s work would not seem out of place in a school library or a corporate lobby.  And secondly is whether in the piece it seems that Shashi is complaining there is no money for art historians or curators to work for the United Nations.  Given your, the Secretary-General’s, profitable use of the dollar a year mechanism, why does the United Nations not get some people on the dollar a year to advise it on what kind of art to put in the building?


Spokesman: Sounds like a good suggestion.  On the Secretary-General’s comment, reaction to the art critic, I think he will refrain from commenting on an art critic’s viewpoint of a specific exhibit.


Briefing by Spokesman for General Assembly President


Today the Assembly is meeting in plenary to consider several items, including sport for peace and development.  Mr. Ogi (Special Adviser to the Secretary-General) is here to brief you on that subject.


This morning Assembly President Jan Eliasson spoke at the ECOSOC special event on avian flu.  He remarked that “avian flu, and the danger of a human pandemic arising from it, graphically illustrates why the world needs a well-funded and well-organized multilateral system”, as well as the extent to which we have all become interdependent in a globalized world.


This afternoon, informal consultations of the plenary will be held on the Peacebuilding Commission, to continue yesterday’s productive talks.  Also this afternoon, the Assembly President is expected to send to all Member States a letter outlining progress achieved thus far in follow-up to the 2005 World Summit, as well as the next steps he proposes to take, focusing on management reform and development.  We will circulate that letter to you as soon as Member States have received it.  Informal consultations of the plenary will be held on Monday afternoon to hear reactions from Member States to the President’s proposal.


Also on Monday, the Assembly will meet in plenary in the morning to elect five members of the International Court of Justice.  We will circulate the list of eight candidates who have been nominated by national groups.


And a reminder:  next week the Assembly will resume starting its meetings at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.


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For information media • not an official record