|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.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General
**Security Council on Darfur
The Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, gave the Security Council an update on the Court’s investigation into the situation in Darfur, Sudan. And the Secretary-General, as you know, attended that briefing. Mr. Ocampo says that his office has developed a comprehensive picture of the crimes allegedly committed in Darfur since 1 July, 2002. From this overall picture, he says they have identified particularly grave events, involving high numbers of killings, mass rapes and other forms of extremely serious gender violence for full investigation.
In the coming second phase, he said, the investigation will focus on a selected number of criminal incidents and those persons bearing the greatest responsibility for those incidents. Upon completion of the first investigative phase, his office will identify persons to be prosecuted. The list of 51 names prepared by the International Commission of Inquiry into Darfur, he said, remains sealed and is in no way binding on the Prosecutor. Mr. Ocampo noted that witness protection is an issue of paramount concern to the ICC. His remarks, as well as the second report to the Security Council on the Darfur investigation, are available upstairs, and Mr. Ocampo, we’re told, will go to the stakeout to speak to you following his appearance in the Council.
**Secretary-General on Darfur
Speaking to reporters after attending the briefing, the Secretary-General noted that the Prosecutor had stressed the point that those who committed crimes in the Sudan must be brought to account. He also said it was a hopeful sign that the Prosecutor has come this far in his work, and added that Mr. Ocampo would expect the Security Council to stay closely engaged and give him the support he needs. He would also need the support of the African Union.
In response to questions, the Secretary-General drew attention to the ongoing “very serious problems in Darfur”, and the need for the Government and rebels to honour the cease-fire agreement they signed. He stressed the vital importance for them to press ahead in Abuja and to get a political agreement on Darfur, which could ensure longer-term stability. And we are just finalizing a transcript of the Secretary-General’s remarks, which will be made available to you upstairs.
Meanwhile, from the region, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Sudan, Jan Pronk, reports that he believes that it is still possible to have a framework agreement by the end of the current year in the talks ongoing right now in Abuja.
**Security Council on Lebanon
Detlev Mehlis, the Chair of the International Independent Investigation Commission, will brief the Security Council on the Commission’s latest report this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. That will be an open briefing followed by closed consultations, also concerning the Lebanon investigation. And the Secretary-General will be attending that open meeting. Then, once those consultations are over, Mr. Mehlis will come here in 226 to take your questions and your German colleagues will be provided German/English interpretation.
The Security Council also held consultations on Lebanon yesterday afternoon, after which it adopted a Presidential Statement condemning yesterday’s bombing in Beirut that assassinated journalist and Member of Parliament, Gebran Tueni and three other people. The Council welcomed Lebanon’s determination to bring to justice to those responsible, and expressed its readiness “to consider positively any request for assistance in this regard.”
**Secretary-General on Lebanon
As he left the meeting this morning, the Secretary-General was asked by you about a letter from the Lebanese Government requesting an expansion of the investigation now headed by Detlev Mehlis. He said he had spoken to the Lebanese Prime Minister, Mr. Fouad Siniora, about that issue yesterday, but had not yet received the letter. When he does, the Secretary-General said he will forward it to the Security Council, which will have to decide whether it wants to take on six other assassinations besides the one of the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
In a message delivered to the ongoing World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong, the Secretary-General told participants that it is their duty to forge the political will needed to help the poor throughout the world who are yearning to lift themselves out of poverty. The message was delivered by the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Supachai Panitchpakdi. In the message, the Secretary-General said the goal of the Doha Rounds on trade agreements was “real gains in real people’s lives.” He noted that developed countries had yet to set a date for ending subsidies, and farmers in poor countries continue to be subjected to protectionism. He said rich nations will have to reject not just protectionism, but populism as well, since subsidies are popular in their home countries. The Secretary-General urged the delegates to do what it takes to deliver on the promises of the Doha Round.
Turning now to the situation in Kosovo, an attempted prison breakout by 14 inmates was foiled yesterday afternoon in the western part of the province. Within the prison, staff managed to reassert control after initially being overpowered. Simultaneously however, outside the prison, a Romanian Special Police Unit, working under the UN Mission’s authority, came under fire from unknown persons. The UN police officers did manage to return fire. There were no casualties, but two vehicles were hit by gunfire. Police are currently investigating both incidents, inside and outside the prison walls.
Jean Arnault, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, today opened a conference on transitional justice in Afghanistan, organized jointly by the UN Mission and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. Mehr Khan Williams, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressed the conference and said that Afghanistan cannot afford not to address the issue of accountability. The past must be confronted if it is not to come back to haunt us, she said. And we have copies of her statement, and that of Mr. Arnault upstairs.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Pakistan has just released a new set of findings based on the conditions of more than 3,000 households living above 5,000 feet in quake-hit areas. The data shows that only five per cent of those families are living in adequate winterized tents. Furthermore, the tents house an average of 7.4 people, with each family possessing on average only 2 blankets and 2 quilts. According to OCHA, the urgent needs include 2.4 million blankets, 170,000 plastic sheets and 200,000 tarps. But the UN flash appeal remains only at around 40 per cent funded.
On an issue a couple of you have been asking us about, a four-person team from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is currently in north-east China to see firsthand the efforts by the authorities to deal with pollution caused by the recent chemical plant explosion in that country. Speaking about the mission, UNEP head Klaus Toepfer said, “We accepted an invitation from the Chinese authorities to lend our assistance during this difficult time and we have come with an open mind and fully committed to cooperate and offer any help deemed necessary.” And this UNEP team will be in the country for about seven days.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) tomorrow will present its annual report on the state of the world’s children. It says millions of children are victims of exclusion, abuse and neglect, and it outlines steps that must be taken to alleviate children’s suffering. That report will be launched in London but we have embargoed copies upstairs.
On a housekeeping matter, and on a pleasant one, we’d like to welcome the arrival of two babies. Your colleague Mark Turner is now the proud father of a baby boy named Dorian. Congratulations to Mark and his family, and we hope this child learns to speak and ask questions of his father very quickly. And we also extend our congratulations to our colleague Ahmad Fawzi, who is the proud father of a baby girl named Bella Sameya Dushka. So congratulations to the fathers and the mothers.
That’s it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Do you expect Carla Del Ponte of the former Yugoslav tribunal to come to the Council this week? Is that confirmed?
Spokesman: I don’t know if that’s confirmed, but we’ll check for you right after the meeting and we’ll get you an answer.
[The Spokesman later said that Ms. Del Ponte was scheduled to brief the Security Council on Thursday, 15 December.
Question: Since the Office of the High Representative has a mandate given and confirmed by the Security Council of the United Nations, do you know who will be the next High Representative in Bosnia and when the change will be made?
Spokesman: No on both questions, but I’ll be happy to check for you on those.
[The Spokesman later informed the correspondent that such questions should be directed to the European Union, since the UN had no official political role in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also clarified that the High Representative’s mandate had come from the Peace Implementation Council, which was not a UN body.]
Question: Any update on the talks the Secretary-General is having with Member States on the budget or reform?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General remains in contact with Member States on this. As we said yesterday, there are a number of decisions the membership will have to take shortly on big items on reform, notably on the Peacebuilding Commission and others, and the Secretary-General very much hopes the membership can bring these discussions to conclusion quickly.
Question: In the situation in Nigeria, the Zimbabwe-type situation where 100,000 people are homeless, has the Secretary-General taken note of the situation?
Spokesman: I have not seen anything on the situation in Nigeria but we will follow up after the briefing.
Question: Is there recent information about refugees in Syria -- how many people are involved, whether the UN’s involved in helping them, and also whether the UN is seeking assurances from the Iraqi Government and from the Kurdish authorities that religious minorities are not going to continue to be persecuted in the election?
Spokesman: On the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and what they’re doing, if there’s an update, we’ll have to put you in touch with their office here. As far as the situation in Iraq now in the run-up for the election, one of the messages the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Mr. Qazi, has been stressing both publicly and privately, is to make sure these elections are held in an atmosphere of peace, since it’s very difficult to hold elections while violence continues.
Question: When is Mr. Mehlis coming here?
Spokesman: The meeting’s scheduled to start at three, and you know about whether it starts on time. I wouldn’t expect him to be here before five o’clock but we will give you a heads up before he comes, an advance warning.
Thanks very much.
**Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
In the General Assembly, this afternoon the General Committee will meet to consider two requests to include additional items on the agenda for the sixtieth session. One, from Costa Rica, requests an item on follow-up to the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry Committee on the oil-for-food programme. In its letter, Costa Rica points out that a number of recommendations in the Volcker report fall within the framework of competence of the General Assembly.
The second request, from Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, known at the GUAM group, is for an item on protracted conflicts in the Black Sea/South Caucasus region and their implications for international peace, security and development. It is expected that a vote will be requested for both items. The General Committee’s recommendation would then be taken up by the Plenary, most likely early next year.
Informal consultations of the plenary on the Human Rights Council will be held this afternoon to hear general comments on a new text that was circulated to Member States late yesterday. Consultations on Secretariat and management reform will be held tomorrow morning, where Member States will be briefed on reform issues with a focus on the review of mandates requested in the Summit Outcome document. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Is the text on the Human Rights Council available?
Spokesperson: It’s still quite preliminary and an informal text. We’re not circulating it to the press.
Question: Do you have an update on the budget and reform negotiations?
Spokesperson: I understand the informal consultations are going on in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this week, where Member States are reading through the various draft resolutions that have been prepared by the facilitators. And it’s anticipated that the Committee will then meet in an open session late next week to take action on the draft resolutions and they would then go to the Plenary for approval at the end of next week. Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record