09/01/2006
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


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of the noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.


** Haiti


The Secretary-General was shocked and saddened to learn of the death on Saturday of Lt. Gen. Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar, the Force Commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  A full investigation is under way.


The Haiti Mission, in a statement over the weekend, said that General Bacellar’s unexpected death “leaves us all bereft” and said that he had done his utmost to uphold the right of the Haitian people to freely and fairly elect a President and Government of its own choosing.  His death, the Mission said, will not weaken the resolve of the United Nations Mission and the international community to ensure that the will of the Haitian people prevails and that Haiti joins the democratic community of nations.


We have that press release and the Secretary-General’s statement upstairs.


The Deputy Force Commander has assumed command of all of the Haiti Mission’s force elements.


**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General


I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Myanmar:


“The Secretary-General has accepted with regret the resignation of Razali Ismail, his Special Envoy for Myanmar since April 2000.  The Secretary-General expresses his warm appreciation and gratitude for Mr. Razali’s more than five years of service as his Special Envoy, during which he helped the Secretary-General’s good offices aimed at facilitating national reconciliation and democratization in Myanmar.  Mr. Razali’s resignation was effective on 4 January, upon the expiration of his contract.”


**Security Council


For the Security Council, the Security Council is holding consultations today on the latest report of the Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea, which we had mentioned to you last week.  Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Security Council on that report and also on his visit to the region last month.  Mr. Guéhenno is expected to come here, to room 226, now that the consultations are wrapping up shortly.  He is expected to be here at about 12:20 p.m. to brief you on Ethiopia and Eritrea.


Also, out as a Security Council document today is a note by the President listing the chairs and vice-chairs of the sanctions committees of the Council, and other subsidiary bodies of the Council for the year ending 31 December 2006.


** Sudan


On Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, is on his way to New York following a three-day visit to Abuja, Nigeria.  There, Pronk discussed with the parties, the mediators and the international observers the progress of the negotiations on Darfur and the way forward.  He urged the parties to speed up the pace of negotiations to ensure that the seventh round of talks is the final one.


Pronk is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Friday.  Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in Sudan reports that the security situation in West Darfur remains highly volatile, following last week’s ambush on an African Union convoy.  Banditry, meanwhile, continues in South Darfur.


** Central African Republic


Out on the racks today is the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Central African Republic.  In it, he says that the security situation in that country has remained precarious, especially in the western and north-eastern regions.  And although the overall human rights situation is slowly improving since the return to constitutional legality, human rights are still often flagrantly violated.


On a more positive note, the United Nations country team has established a system for distributing safe water to those hit by last August’s floods.  Also, the United Nations has done much to revitalize press institutions and supply them with technical equipment.  That, like I said, is on the racks.


** Sierra Leone


For Sierra Leone, a battalion of some 250 Mongolian peacekeepers has taken over the protection of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.  The unit, which was previously stationed in Liberia, relieves a Nigerian battalion of Blue Helmets, which will return home.


The Court’s security was previously under the command of the United Nations peacekeeping Mission in Sierra Leone, which was disbanded last month.


** Pakistan


Turning now to Pakistan, the United Nations is restarting helicopter operations in the quake-hit Leepa Valley, following last week's insecurity there.  This Saturday, however, Pakistan's quake zone is expecting heavy snow, which will again inhibit air and land operations and increase the risk of avalanches and landslides.


In related news, the World Food Programme today welcomed a $10 million contribution from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, to help operate a relief helicopter fleet.  And we have a press release on that upstairs.


**Millennium Project


Jeffrey Sachs, the Secretary -General’s Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals, is currently in Kenya, at the start of an African tour, which will also take him to Malawi, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal.  Speaking to reporters today, he said that, whereas 2005 had been "the year of promises", world leaders should make 2006 “the year of real action”.  He said that billions more could enjoy the fruits of the global economy, and tens of millions of lives could be saved if commitments and pledges by donors were fulfilled.  Sachs went on to say that practical solutions existed and insisted that the cost of alleviating extreme poverty was affordable.


We have more on that in my Office.


**General Assembly


In terms of General Assembly activity, President Jan Eliasson is back at Headquarters today and is preparing for the resumption of the Summit follow-up process on Wednesday.  Informal consultations on the Human Rights Council will be held that day, both in the morning and in the afternoon.  The consultations will continue on Friday afternoon, 13 January.  Consultations on development and the reform of the Economic and Social Council are also scheduled for the mornings of Friday and next Monday, 16 January.  Correspondents are invited to refer to the President’s letter of 22 December to all Permanent Representatives, which summarizes what has been achieved so far and spells out in considerable detail what lies ahead in the reform process in the immediate and medium term.


The letter is available at the General Assembly website on the United Nations homepage and copies are also available upstairs.


Tomorrow marks the sixtieth anniversary, meanwhile, of the very first meeting of the General Assembly, which was held at Westminster Central Hall in London.  There will not be any special event that day, because tomorrow is Eid Al-Adha, and therefore a United Nations holiday.  However, President Eliasson is issuing a statement this afternoon in observance of the anniversary, and we have that statement available upstairs.


**Press Conference on Wednesday


On Wednesday, we have a press conference scheduled at 12:45 p.m. with David Nabarro, the United Nations System Avian Influenza Coordinator, who will be here to provide us with an update on the avian flu, especially on the latest cases in Turkey.


**United Nations Holiday


And lastly, I just wanted to remind you that tomorrow is Eid Al-Adha, the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice, which is an official United Nations holiday.  As is the usual practice, we will have a duty officer available, should you need assistance.  And the regular noon briefing will resume on Wednesday.


That’s it from me.  Like I said, we expect Jean-Marie Guéhenno to be here in this room in about 10 minutes or so from now.


Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Will Mr. Guéhenno be answering questions on Haiti?


Answer:  You are welcome to ask him.  Obviously, the purpose of this particular briefing is for him to talk to you about Ethiopia and Eritrea, because he just finished speaking to the Security Council about the developments there.  So that’s what he is going to talk about first and foremost.  But you can ask him what you want.


Question:  Well, then I’ll ask you:  was there an altercation over the use of force between [Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission, Juan Gabriel] Valdes, and the Brazilian general the day before?


Answer:  We are not going to engage in any speculation about what might have happened and what might have occurred prior to General Bacellar’s death at this stage.  Our Department of Safety and Security is on the ground there trying to investigate this matter, and we’ll try to have a full investigation of what has happened.


Question:  And secondly, this news broke out of Haiti yesterday in drips and drops.  I don’t know whether it was just bad telephones, but neither you nor anyone outside of our people on the ground in Haiti could get one word.  This has got to stop, because it is a vital peacekeeping mission -- and it’s not three days later when Guéhenno gets his act together that we get any story out of here.  It’s over, you know.


Answer:  No, we recognize the problems.  Our colleagues in Haiti have sometimes told us about the bad communications apparatus, and we certainly sympathize with them about that, but we will certainly try to provide information as quickly as possible.  I do know that Special Representative Valdes did speak to the press, and we’ll try to get his briefing notes as quickly as we possibly can.


Question:  You spoke to him today? – no, yesterday?


Answer:  No, yesterday, he spoke.


Question:  Yesterday, one needed just bare minimum details or a reaction that was a little better than the thing that you put out.  I mean, it is just impossible to communicate in Haiti, or for your office to communicate with Haiti.  I don’t know if peacekeeping is doing it and peacekeeping is not talking to you ...  But when it first happens you want a few more details. 


Answer:  No, we are trying to get communications from our colleagues there and we will try to improve that, but ...


Question:  Or are they just not talking to you?


Answer:  No, no.  David Wimhurst, for example, has been in touch with our office earlier this morning, so we’ve got some information from him and we’ll try to get more as the day progresses.


Question:  Farhan, I’d like to make another complaint, having just been outside trying to listen to Ambassador Bolton at the stakeout.  It was impossible to hear him.  There was no sound, there was no audio engineer there.


Answer:  The regular boom mike wasn’t there?


Question:  There was no audio engineer there.


Answer:  OK, we’ll certainly take that up immediately after this briefing.  I am quite sorry.


Question:  About Haiti:  are you aware that today there is a big strike in Haiti? 


Answer:  The Mission on the ground has been dealing with all the recent developments, including those reports of strike activity.  We’ll try to see whether there are any details that they are providing about their response to that.


Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any comments on the reports that Syrian President is not going to cooperate with the investigation [into the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister]?


Answer:  Well, at this stage, we are not going to comment, because at this stage, the International Independent Investigation Commission is dealing with the question of how its request will be responded to.  We did get information from them late last week that they did receive a response from Syria.  They haven’t provided any further details about the contents of that response, and I would suggest that you be in touch with the Commission and its spokeswoman, Ms. [Nasra] Hassan, for any further details on that response.  As for cooperation, of course, all I can do is reiterate our point that all the countries and parties who have been asked to cooperate with that Commission should in fact do so.


Anything else?  If not, you can wait or come back into this room in a few minutes, and Mr. Guéhenno will be here to take your questions.


Question:  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about [UN Envoy] Yash Ghai’s assessment that Cambodia is turning into a totalitarian State?


Answer:  In terms of that, I think you should look at the statement that came out just a few days ago from [High Commissioner for Human Rights] Louise Arbour, which stated her concern, particularly about the recent arrests of several human rights activists.  It is a fairly detailed response, and we put it out, I believe, last Thursday.  I can share that with you afterwards.


Question:  Can you give any more details on the suspected suicide of the Force Commander in Haiti?


Answer:  An investigation is still ongoing in terms of the cause of death.  So we are not saying at this stage what the cause of death is until that investigation is complete, but our Department of Safety and Security is handling that investigation.


OK.  So come back in a few minutes, and Mr. Guéhenno should be here to talk to you.


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For information media • not an official record