01/12/2005
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 Spokesman for Secretary-General


Good afternoon.


**World AIDS Day


Today is World AIDS Day, and the Secretary-General has issued a message, saying that, although our response so far has succeeded in some of the particulars, it has yet to match the epidemic in scale.


He adds that reaching the Millennium Development Goal of halting and reversing the spread of AIDS by 2015 requires us to do “far, far more” -- especially since meeting that Goal is a prerequisite for reaching most of the others.


We have the full text of his message upstairs, as well as statements from Peter Piot, head of UNAIDS, and Stephen Lewis, the Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.


Also, UNTV’s World Chronicle will, today, feature an interview with Jim Kim, Director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS Department.  You can watch that on the in-house channels 3 or 31 at 3:30 this afternoon.


** Zimbabwe


Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, will be visiting Zimbabwe from 3 to 7 December, as agreed between the Secretary-General and President Robert Mugabe during their meeting on the sidelines of the World Summit back in September.


Mr. Egeland plans to meet with President Mugabe and other Government officials.  Of course, he will meet with the United Nations Country Team and their NGO partners, as well as representatives of civil society in Zimbabwe.


He plans to undertake a number of field visits while in the country.


Following that visit, Mr. Egeland will also go to South Africa to meet with Government officials in Pretoria to discuss closer collaboration in humanitarian assistance, including the proposed global Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).


Meanwhile, the World Food Programme today welcomed the conclusion of an agreement with the Government of Zimbabwe on the delivery and distribution of food aid to millions of people in the country.


There is a press release available upstairs with more details.


**Security Council


Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of the United Kingdom today assumed the rotating Presidency of the Security Council, and is holding bilateral discussions with other Council members on the programme of work for December.  The Council is expected to discuss its programme of work in consultations tomorrow, after which we expect Ambassador Jones Parry to speak to you in this room.


Yesterday afternoon, the Council wrapped up its work for November with two Presidential Statements -- one on the successful opening of the Rafah Crossing in Gaza; and in the second, the Council expressed its deep concern over the persistent disagreement among the parties in Côte d’Ivoire with the appointment of a Prime Minister, and reaffirmed its readiness, in close consultation with the African Union mediation, to impose individual measures provided for in resolutions 1572 and 1633.


**Ethiopia- Eritrea


Turning to Ethiopia-Eritrea, the Force Commander of the United Nations mission there, at a press briefing to reporters from both countries, confirmed that troop movements had been noticed on both sides of the border, and noted that restrictions on United Nations patrols continue, with many being prevented from going off main roads to carrying out their monitoring functions.


Major-General Rajender Singh also said he was in the process of negotiating with the leadership of Ethiopian Armed Forces a withdrawal of their troops to the December 16, 2004 levels, as called for by Security Council resolution 164, and he was hopeful for a positive response from them.


He also intends to meet with the Eritrean Defence Forces leadership on compliance with the recent Security Council resolution.


** Iraq


Turning to Iraq, Mr. Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, today met with Iraqi Vice President Ghazi El-Yawar, and discussed with him the elections scheduled for 15 December.  Both agreed that a robust presence of international observers to monitor the elections would help to enhance the credibility of the process.


They also explored areas of cooperation to ensure the success of the reconciliation conference planned for late February or early March of next year.


We have a press release with more information on that upstairs.


**France-Africa Summit


On behalf of the Secretary-General, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari will attend the twenty-third Summit of Heads of State and Government of Africa and France, to be held in Bamako, Mali, on 3 and
4 December.  Mr. Gambari will deliver the Secretary-General’s message to the Conference.


The meeting will focus on Africa's youth -- harnessing its vitality, its creativity and its aspirations.  The theme is especially pertinent, as people under 25 years of age constitute the majority of Africa’s population and face enormous obstacles ranging from war, inadequate educational and job opportunities to the threats associated with the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases.


** Cyprus


Out on the racks is the Secretary-General’s latest report on Cyprus.  Sorry, it’s out on the Security Council’s website, rather.  In it, he said the situation on the island has remained stable, with calm prevailing along the ceasefire line.


At the same time, however, progress towards a political solution has been negligible at best.  He, therefore, recommends that the Security Council extend the mandate of the United Nations mission there for a further period of six months, until 15 June 2006.


He also says the time is not ripe for appointing a full-time person dedicated to his good offices.  He says that, while calls have come from all concerned for the resumption of negotiations, the conditions need to be clarified.


**International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia


The two former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, Mr. Fatmir Limaj and Mr. Isak Musliu, were today released from the Detention Unit of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.


This follows the Tribunal’s judgment yesterday, which found both men not guilty of all charges against them.  The Tribunal found a third member of the Kosovo Liberation Army, Mr. Haradin Bala, guilty and sentenced him to 13 years in prison.


We put out a press release yesterday afternoon summarizing those verdicts.


** Honduras


Turning to Honduras, the United Nations Country Team has dispatched five inter-agency teams to conduct damage assessments in the wake of Tropical Storm Gamma.


For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed nearly 200,000 family rations, and is planning to provide an additional 1,750 tons of food in the next three months.


**Goodwill Ambassadors for United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime


In order to liven up our briefings, tomorrow we will be joined by Bianca Jagger and the actress Julie Ormond.  They will be, yes, exactly, they will be our guests, and the guests, more importantly, of Mr. Antonio Maria de Costa, the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  Both Ms. Bianca Jagger and Ms. Julia Ormond serve as Goodwill Ambassadors for UNODC.


**Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism


And I have a statement just given to me on the Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism:  The Secretary-General was disappointed to learn that it has not been possible to reach agreement in the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly on a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.


He intends to consult the Chairman of the Committee, and other representatives of Member States, to see if there are ways for him to assist their efforts to reach agreement on, and conclude the convention, during the sixtieth session of the General Assembly, as agreed by Heads of State and Government during the September 2005 World Summit and stated in the Outcome Document of that Summit.


Meanwhile, he urges all Member States that have not yet done so to become parties to, and to implement, the existing 13 conventions on different types of terrorism, and hopes that the General Assembly will expedite its work on adopting and implementing a strategy to promote comprehensive, coordinated and consistent responses to counter terrorism, developed from the elements that he identified in his Madrid speech last March.  He stands ready to amplify and further refine those elements if so requested by the Assembly.  And in the meantime, he is confident that the Security Council is ready to take any further measures that are necessary to deal with the threat of international terrorism, which continues to cause death and suffering to innocent people in many different parts of the world.


That statement is available upstairs.


** Myanmar


I wanted to answer a question raised by Mr. Bone yesterday, who unfortunately is not here, but I will read it for the record.  He asked about the reported travels of [Special Adviser to the Secretary-General] Joseph Verner Reed to Myanmar.


I spoke a short while ago to Ambassador Reed, who assured me that his last trip to Myanmar was more than two and a half years ago.


The trip was not related to the United Nations, and he told me he did not travel on his United Nations laissez-passer.  For those of you who are curious, the trip was on behalf of the Bronx Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History.


On that note, I will take your questions.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Just a question on the Volcker document; a couple of questions, actually.  First, has there been any progress in settling the fate of the documents?


Spokesman:  The discussions are continuing.


Question:  And also on that:  do the discussions include negotiations over how these documents would be kept?  I mean, if you have a national prosecutor from, you know, Thailand, come in, and they want a couple of documents, they have a million pages and documents to go through.  How are they going to know how to find the documents that they need?


Spokesman:  I will go out on a stretch here and assume that the documents will all be properly indexed.  The aim of the discussions is to ensure exactly what you’re asking -- that national authorities who wish to continue investigations into oil-for-food have the access that they need to the documents.


Question:  So, they wouldn’t be, like, just put in the translators’ booths somewhere, or something like that?


Spokesman:  With you?


Question:  Maybe, yeah?


Spokesman:  (no response)


Question:  In view of the budget crisis, is the Secretary-General holding any discussions with Member States on ways to overcome the defences?  And in that reference also, what kind of talks can he have with Member States to bring about an agreement on this terrorism convention?


Spokesman:  On the issue of the budget, in fact, this morning the Secretary-General had a working breakfast hosted by the Mission of the Republic of Korea, and it included, I was told, 27 Permanent Representatives -- an informal group that meets regularly on issues of reform.  The Secretary-General obviously brought up the issue of reform, the pace of reform and, of course, the budget issue.  On the budget issue, he made his views clear, again, that the Organization needs a full budget starting January 1 with, obviously, the understanding that Member States will need to come back and review the budget, review the budget estimates, once the reform packages and the mandate reviews are completed.


On the issue of terrorism, I think, as I’ve just said, he intends, his first step is to consult with the Chairman of the Sixth Committee and appropriate Member States on how he can help them reach an agreement on the issue.


Question:  Mr. Mehlis is quitting after 15 December.  It has been announced officially in Lebanon.  Do you have any comments on that?


Spokesman:  I don’t think it has been announced officially.  The fact that Mr. Mehlis wanted to leave after six months is not news.  He had stated that to us from the beginning:  that he would be available for six months.  Obviously, should the length of the Commission be extended -- and we’re not there yet, I’ll remind you -- we would be very interested in having Mr. Mehlis remain associated with the work of the Independent Commission should it continue.  And so, on that, the Secretary-General and Mr. Mehlis are in contact on that very matter.


Yes, sir?


Question:  I’m not a “sir”, I’m a servant.  By the way, do you have a statement by the Secretary-General about Cyprus upstairs?

Spokesman:  Yes, the report is available upstairs.


Question:  Stéphane, I just wanted to ask if the Secretary-General has any comments on the latest violence in Egyptian elections.  I know that -- I don’t believe that -- the United Nations was involved in the monitoring; that, I think there are other NGOs.  But is the United Nations looking to help, sort of, rectify the situation?  There’s lots of calls of fraud and polling problems.


Spokesman:  We very much hope that the final phase of these elections will be peaceful, and that the electoral process is free and fair.  The Secretary-General emphasizes that the voting public needs and should have unrestricted access to the polls.  I will check for you if there was any technical United Nations involvement, whether of the Electoral Assistance Division or the UNDP, on the holding of these elections.


[The Spokesman’s Office later announced that the United Nations was not involved in the arrangement of those elections, and was not requested to do so by the Egyptian Government.]


Question:  In the appointments of the Secretary-General, I see that he’s meeting Mr. Ruperez today.  Is this in any way related to oil-for-food?


Spokesman:  The meeting was at the request of Mr. Ruperez, and that’s the only information I have at this point.  If something comes out of the meeting, I’ll advise you.


Question:  Does the Secretary-General of the United Nations have a response to the criticisms of Human Rights Watch of the, I guess, the inaction of United Nations personnel in Zimbabwe during the (inaudible)?


Spokesman:  You know, the United Nations has been working hard.  We’ve seen the report, I should add.  The United Nations has been working hard at the outset to respond to the serious situation in Zimbabwe, as was shown in this, Ms. Tibaijukas, report.  And I think her report fully exposed the scale of the problem, and alerted the international community to the tragic situation that was unfolding.


The United Nations, especially the Country Team, has been in constant dialogue with the Government of Zimbabwe on humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations, including, obviously, the victims of the operations done by the Government to clean -- excuse me, Operation Murambatsvina, and we’ve, the Secretary-General has expressed himself, expressed his concern over the situation in the country, in the past.


Question:  On Iraq.  I mean, I’ve already asked this question over and over, but, on the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of the Iraqi Government, has any mechanism yet been established to go over and investigate?  In fact, it was uncovered by the United States itself.


Spokesman:  You know, I think we have, my sense is that we have answered your question.  First off, on the call by Ms. Arbour:  she will be here at the briefing on Wednesday; you can follow up with her.  The issues of abuses by the security forces, the internal, police forces in Iraq:  this is something Mr. Qazi has raised on a number of occasions with the Iraqi leadership at different levels -- the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense -- and it is something that our Mission continues to monitor.  We have a human rights component; we continue to monitor that situation.


Question:  Going back to Zimbabwe very briefly, will Jan Egeland have an opportunity to meet members of the opposition?


Spokesman:  The only thing I have on his schedule is that he will meet with members of civil society.  But obviously we’ll have to see when we get, when he hits the ground, exactly who he gets the chance to meet.  But he intends to meet with as broad a spectrum of Zimbabwean society as possible.


Question:  When is he going?


Spokesman:  December... when did I say?


Question:  3 December, I think.


Spokesman:  Thank you.  Somebody paid attention.


Thank you.  Pragati, all yours.


Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President


Good afternoon.


In observance of World AIDS Day, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson will be giving the keynote address this evening at the United Nations event being held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.


He’s going to say in his statement that “the international response to HIV/AIDS was woefully slow.  This is one of the scars on the conscience of our generation.  We cannot turn back the clock.  But we must ensure that, when historians look at the way the world responded to HIV/AIDS, they see that 2006 was the year when the international community finally stepped up to the mark -- the year when, in the words of the World AIDS Campaign, the world began to 'keep the promise'”.  We have circulated the text of that statement.


The event will also include statements by Thomas R. Frieden, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health, and several people living with AIDS, as well as performances by Roberta Flack, Bill T. Jones and a number of other stars.  The observance, which is expected to be the largest in the United States, is sponsored by the UN Department of Public Information and UNAIDS, in collaboration with the New York City Department of Health and the African Services Committee.


The Assembly met in plenary this morning and adopted six resolutions on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East, all by recorded vote.  We have the vote information upstairs.


This afternoon, informal consultations on development and the Economic and Social Council reform will be held.  Member States will be briefed by senior officials from a number of development agencies on arrangements for monitoring progress on international development goals.  And tomorrow morning, consultations of the plenary will take place on the Human Rights Council, as intensive negotiations continue.


As Steph mentioned, the Sixth Committee this week concluded its work for the year without agreeing on the text of a comprehensive convention on terrorism.  The President said that he is not giving up on the possibility of reaching an agreement this year, but it is looking increasingly unlikely.  He and the Chair of the Sixth Committee continue to hold bilateral consultations.  However, by the resolution adopted by the Sixth Committee, the Assembly would decide that the Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism will continue to elaborate a convention and will resume its meetings from 27 February to 3 March 2006.  So it is more likely that the search for an agreement would be deferred to that period.  The President said that agreement has proven elusive because several key countries have taken hard positions on the right to self-determination and to resist foreign occupation.


Any questions on that?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Do you have a statement available upstairs?


Answer:  The statement for AIDS Day?  Yes, the statement is upstairs.


Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record