|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.
**Guests at Noon
Our guests, a bit later on, will be Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and Goodwill Ambassadors Bianca Jagger and Julia Ormond. They will talk to you about human trafficking, since today is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. They will also tell you more about a panel discussion that will be going on this afternoon, from 3:00 to 5:00, in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.
And to mark the Day, the Secretary-General has issued a message, saying that people who perpetrate, condone or facilitate slavery, must be held accountable by national and, if necessary, international means.
We have the full text of that message upstairs.
As you know, last night we announced that the Secretary-General postponed the trip he was going to make to China, the Republic of Korea, Japan and
Viet Nam. He took that decision during the day yesterday because of pressing matters, in particular the discussions on reform, the budget, and other urgent political issues.
**United Nations Staff Day
Today, as you know, is Staff Day. The Secretary-General started the morning by paying tribute to UN staff who have lost their lives in the cause of peace at a wreath-laying ceremony. He said he had been struck by the courage, dedication and determination of UN staff as he travels around the world.
We have his remarks available upstairs.
A short while ago, he addressed UN staff in the ECOSOC Chamber and he told them that this had been a roller-coaster year for the United Nations.
Asked by one staff member about the budget, he said the United Nations lives on the contributions made by its Member States. If such a budget is not passed, he said, there would be a financial crunch. “The business of the UN is not reform,” he said, but rather it is about carrying out the mandates it has been given. “That business must continue,” he asserted, adding that was why he was remaining here in New York.
As we speak, the Secretary-General is now meeting with a group of Member States representing the regional groups, as well as key negotiating groups, such as the G-77 and the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as with the five permanent members of the Security Council.
He will tell them of his concern regarding the follow-up to the reform summit and appeal to them, as key players within the membership, to work in a spirit of compromise to move the process forward more than two and half months after the end of the World Summit, notably on the Peacebuilding Commission, the Human Rights Council and, of course, on the budget discussion.
The Secretary-General has agreed to speak to you after that meeting is concluded, as he goes in to the monthly Security Council luncheon in the Delegate’s Dining Room.
I have a statement on the situation in Nepal:
The Secretary-General welcomes the news that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has decided to extend by one month the unilateral ceasefire that it had declared in September. It will be recalled that the Secretary-General had recently called for an extension and urged His Majesty’s Government of Nepal to reciprocate the ceasefire.
That statement is available upstairs.
The Security Council today held its first consultations for the month of December, under the Presidency of the UK Permanent Representative, Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, and agreed on a programme of work for the month. I think Ambassador Jones Parry just briefed you on that a short while ago, here in this room.
This afternoon, Council members, as I mentioned, will hold their monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General.
Just a couple of reports from the field:
Jan Pronk, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan, gave a press conference today in Geneva, where he was launching the 2006 humanitarian and reconstruction appeal for the Sudan to the international donor community.
Asked about reaching a peaceful agreement in Darfur by the end of the year, Pronk said it would not be possible to have a detailed peace agreement like that for the North and the South by the end of the year. But he added, however, that a framework agreement which ensured a sustainable ceasefire and outlined the future Government structures, and wealth-sharing and security agreement was possible.
Also on Darfur, he said the African Union force was very good, but too small. He noted the Security Council should follow up its own commitments of last year to guarantee more security, also with international presence.
** Côte d’Ivoire
Juan Mendez, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, is visiting Côte d’Ivoire today. Mendez said his mission was to “assess the situation and make recommendations to the Secretary-General, and through him to the Security Council, if necessary, to prevent human rights violations based on ethnic, racial or religious background.”
He flew to the west of the country today to visit towns that were the scenes of brutal massacres last June.
He ends his visit on Saturday.
Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, today emphasized that Iraq’s political process should be inclusive, credible and with every segment of Iraqi society fully empowered to participate in the 15 December elections.
Qazi has consistently advocated the visible presence of international observers, and he called upon electoral and government bodies to maintain vigilant accountability to ensure the integrity of the vote, and refrain from imposing measures that will discourage voters. He encouraged voters and local observers to report voting irregularities promptly, in writing, and through the established mechanisms for such complaints.
He urged all Iraqis to vote, especially since this election will bring about their first permanent Council of Representatives, which will in turn determine the Government.
A press release with more information is available upstairs.
Turning now to the aftermath of the earthquake, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), new priorities have been established for December. They include continued assistance for up to
380,000 people who will choose to remain in their homes in remote locations; sufficient and appropriate camp accommodations for some 250,000 people who will move to lower elevations; and support for particularly vulnerable populations and also for the continued monitoring of the changing situation on the ground.
In the eight weeks since the quake hit, 410,000 tents and 3.1 million blankets have now been distributed; 300,000 children have been vaccinated; almost 90 per cent of water needs are now being covered in planned camps; and more than 2,000 “School in a Box” kits from UNICEF are also being handed out.
Much, however, remains to be done to consolidate and sustain these gains, especially as winter closes in and the UN’s appeal remains only 40 per cent covered.
We have more information from OCHA available upstairs.
OCHA is also flagging the situation in the Comoros Islands, where a volcano has been erupting for the last two weeks, causing up to 250,000 people to flee their homes.
UNICEF reports that it has so far provided 280,000 litres of drinking water, and will probably have to continue to do so, given that 250,000 people are without water supplies.
More information is also available on that.
Available on the racks today is the latest quarterly report from UNMOVIC, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission dealing with Iraq. The Commission says that its imagery analysts have continued to review the status of sites subject to inspections and monitoring in Iraq, and have noted that the number of sites cleaned to varying degrees has risen by two, from the previously reported total of 118.
The Commission also says that work continues on some parts of the compendium of Iraq’s proscribed weapons and programmes. An annex to today’s report describes the procurement methods that had been used by Iraq for those weapons.
That is it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: On the [Detlev] Mehlis commission, there is an official statement in Lebanon that an extension is agreed for six months. Can you confirm?
Spokesman: The extension of the commission would have to be done, obviously, by a request from the Government of Lebanon to the Security Council, and the Council would have to take up that request. As opposed to the previous extension, if there is to be an extension of the mandate of the commission, it would have to be by a decision of the Security Council. So you should ask the Council members where they stand on that.
Question: Mr. Mehlis will be briefing the Council on 13 December. Will he be able to speak to the press after that?
Spokesman: I sure hope he will, and we will work with him on that so that he can brief you as well.
Question: Can you clarify the exact status of Mr. Mehlis? Is it official that he will be leaving, if things continue on 15 December?
Spokesman: Mr. Mehlis has told us from the beginning that he could only stay on for six months. At this point, it has become clear that his obligations in Germany for his day job will force him to return to Germany at the end of that time. He has told us that he will obviously stay on for a short amount of time to make sure that there is a smooth transition. That is, if the mandate of the commission is extended, which has not yet happened. We are making provisions in case that extension comes through, and are looking at possible successors, should the mandate be extended.
Question: There have been some allegations that perhaps his personal safety had been threatened. Is there anything you can…
Spokesman: I have nothing on the security issue.
Question: What about the Nepal Government’s reluctance to reciprocate the Maoists’ truce, despite repeated requests by the UN?
Spokesman: I really have nothing to add to the statement that I have read on Nepal.
Question: What Government officials did a UN official meet in Kathmandu last month?
Spokesman: I don’t have an update with me, but I’ll be happy to get one for you afterwards.
[It was later announced that the official met with all key players, and conveyed the message that the cease-fire should be extended and that the Government should reciprocate. He also conveyed a message to the Government to act with restraint and allow people to exercise their right to peaceful protest.]
Question: Was the UN budget crisis the only reason the Secretary-General gave for the postponement of his trip?
Spokesman: The main reasons are the budget and the issues of reform that have not been moving along. That is what I flagged to you today, and which is what he will be flagging to the representatives of Member States with whom he is meeting right now.
Question: Will the Secretary-General give a briefing on Myanmar, or will that be done by someone else?
Spokesman: We are in the process of getting the request for the briefing by the Council and we will determine who gives the briefing. Obviously the Secretary-General’s schedule has now to be revised. As soon as we know who will be briefing, we will let you know.
Question: Was it the Secretary-General’s choice to postpone his trip, or was it because the United States asked him to?
Spokesman: It was the Secretary-General’s choice. The decision was made during the day yesterday. I heard Ambassador Bolton’s comments. I think probably now there are 186 Permanent Representatives who would agree that the Secretary-General should stay here, and I am sure that there are a lot of people who would like to take credit for his decision, but the decision was the Secretary-General’s, and his alone.
Question: Are you saying that Mr. Bolton misled us?
Spokesman: I can’t speak for Mr. Bolton. I can speak for the Secretary-General.
Question: Do you have any update on the plans for a UN team to visit China and probably Russia to assess the consequences of the chemical spill?
Spokesman: No, I do not, but I’m happy to get one for you right afterwards.
Thank you very much, and we’ll get our guests here in just a second.
* *** *For information media • not an official record