17/01/2006
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


The 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.


** Côte d’Ivoire


I do expect a statement shortly on Côte d’Ivoire, but in the meantime, our Mission reports that the situation on the ground -- that demonstrations are continuing today in front of United Nations offices in Abidjan, and in the western coastal town of San Pedro and the central Ivorian city of Daloa.


The United Nations Mission said firebombs had been thrown into the United Nations Police Offices in San Pedro, which had been badly damaged, and roadblocks throughout Abidjan have prevented some United Nations personnel from getting to work.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Pierre Schori, met today with President Laurent Gbagbo, and expressed his concern with the security situation and the protection of United Nations personnel.


And as I’ve said, we do expect a statement from the Secretary-General shortly.


** Haiti


Meanwhile, in another peacekeeping mission, in Haiti, the Mission there says that two Jordanian peacekeepers were killed and another one was wounded in Port-au-Prince this morning.  The trio was manning a check point in the Cité Soleil neighbourhood when they came under fire.


One of the peacekeepers was reportedly killed on the spot.  The other two were taken to hospital, where one of them died of his wounds shortly after.  And the third peacekeeper’s condition is said to be serious.


** Iraq


From Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari today.  They discussed, among other things, the 15 December elections, the preliminary results of which will be announced by the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) later this week.


Qazi also exchanged views with President Talabani regarding the meeting of the Iraqi National Accord Conference, to be held in Baghdad next month.  They both agreed on the importance of national reconciliation in the country.  In his meeting with Prime Minister al-Jaafari, Qazi discussed the impact of the elections on the composition of the next government and the potential for participation by different political groups.  And we have more details in a number of press releases available upstairs.


**Security Council


This afternoon, at 3:00, the Security Council will hold an open meeting on Afghanistan.  It will receive a briefing on that country from the departing head of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, Jean Arnault.  The Council’s open meeting will be followed by a closed meeting, also on Afghanistan.


** Pakistan


And from Pakistan, the United Nations Special Envoy for the South Asia Earthquake, former United States President George Herbert Walker Bush, today ended his two-day visit to the country.


After spending time with quake survivors at a camp in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, Mr. Bush said he admired their spirit and noted their desire to rebuild their lives.  He also sat in on a class being held in one of the camp’s schools, which was provided by UNICEF’s school-in-a-box programme.


Bush’s planned helicopter trip to one of the worst-hit areas in Pakistan-administered Kashmir had to be cancelled this morning because of bad weather.  And we do have a press release available upstairs with more information.


** Sudan


From Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Jan Pronk, is in Brussels today where he is briefing NATO officials on the situation in Sudan, including the situation in Darfur.


Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in Sudan reports that a joint mission, including the United Nations, was in eastern Sudan today, where skirmishes were reported last week.  And today, the situation was reported to be calm.


**Statement on Côte d’Ivoire


I do have that statement on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.


The Secretary-General expresses his deep concern at the continuing disturbances in Côte d’Ivoire, in particular in Abidjan, Daloa, San Pedro and Guiglo, as well as other areas of the country.  He condemns the orchestrated violence directed against the United Nations, the population, as well as the inaction of some of the national authorities in responding to the situation.


The Secretary-General demands an immediate end to these attacks, which contravene Ivorian law and seriously endanger the peace process as set out by the African Union and the United Nations Security Council.


The Secretary-General reminds all Ivorian leaders of their individual responsibility to end acts of violence carried out by their supporters and for keeping the peace process on track.  He calls on all Ivorian parties to fully cooperate with the Prime Minister, the Head of the United Nations Mission and the international community in working to implement the road map to bring an end to the crisis.


That statement is available upstairs.


** Liberia


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that Liberia’s new President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has urged tens of thousands of Liberian refugees to consider returning home now to join in the rebuilding of their country.  The President had pledged that her Government would work with UNHCR and other partners to reintegrate them into their communities.


This message would be part of a UNHCR mass information campaign for some of the 190,000 Liberian refugees that are scattered across West Africa. 


**United Nations Development Programme


The Secretary-General today appointed Ad Melkert of the Netherlands to serve as Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), at the rank of Under-Secretary-General.  Mr. Melkert, who succeeds Zéphirin Diabre of Burkina Faso, will begin work on 1 March 2006.  We have a press release on this appointment available upstairs.


**Bird Flu


And the World Health Organization (WHO) today welcomed the donation by pharmaceutical company Roche of 2 million bird flu treatment courses, for use in the developing countries that would be most likely affected by avian influenza in humans, but are unable to afford the drugs themselves.  The medicines will be stored at different regional locations, from where they can then be shipped as quickly as possible to the countries in greatest need.


This donation is separate from the 3 million treatment courses that Roche provided last August, which are stored centrally at WHO and are part of a "rapid response stockpile" to be used at actual outbreak sites.


**Press Conferences


And a couple of press conferences to flag for you. Tomorrow, at 11:15 a.m. in this room, Jose Antonio Ocampo, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, together with Mary Chamie, Chief of the Demographic and Social Statistics Branch, will launch the report, “The World’s Women 2005:  Progress in Statistics”.


And at 4:15 p.m., President Janez Drnovsek of Slovenia will be in the room to talk about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.


And that is it for me.  Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On these procurement employees that have been forced to leave, when is this inquiry going to be completed?  Is there a time line on that?  And when will you be able to reveal the names of the people that have been –


Spokesman:  OIOS is currently completing -- in the process of completing and finishing -- the audit.  We will have to find out from them for a time frame of when exactly that will be happening.


Question:  The United Nations Commission investigation in Vienna interrogated secretly Mr. Ghazali of the Syrian Intelligence Service.  Was Mr. Brammertz with the team?  Did he interrogate him personally?


Spokesman:  We will not be commenting on any operational details of what the Commission’s team may or may not be doing.  But Mr. Brammertz does not take, does not operationally take in the investigation, not for another few days, until he will go to Beirut, at which point there will be a physical handover with Mr. Mehlis, at which point Mr. Brammertz will start to lead that investigation.


Question:  Is he expected to come to New York?


Spokesman:  Who?


Correspondent:  Serge Brammertz --


Spokesman:  He was here.  He was here, yes.


Question:  On Haiti, any information on the new military commander administering in Haiti?


Spokesman:  No, we are not yet ready to announce the new military chief of that mission.


Question:  Who does the new Assistant Administrator of the UNDP succeed, or is it a new --


Spokesman:  As I said, it is Mr. Zephirin Diabré of Burkina Faso.


Correspondent:  Sorry, I missed that.


Spokesman:  That’s ok.


Question:  Just to [inaudible] Haiti, as well, is there any forecast you can tell us, is going to be announced today, or tomorrow --


Spokesman:  I don’t believe it will happen today, but I do hope it will be as soon as possible.


Question:  Do you have any more information on about the two Jordanian soldiers killed in Haiti?


Spokesman:  No, we just got this information just a few minutes prior to the briefing, but we can go upstairs and see what more we can get on this tragic incident.


Question:  A couple of questions.  Just following up on Masood’s question about OIOS, do we know anything about the nature of these peacekeepers who have been suspended?  Are they high-ranking officials, the countries, anything you can share?  I know you have difficulty with providing names.


Spokesman:  No, first of all, these are not peacekeepers.  They are not peacekeepers.  They are four people who work in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  They are civilian employees of the United Nations.  They are not peacekeepers.  These people, along with the four people in the Department of Management, have been put on special leave to help with the finishing up of this audit.


Question:  If there are certain companies that came up in audits, critical audits, one on Thunderbird, for instance, what is the United Nations position on one Thunderbird, let’s say, or any other companies that are caught in what looks like behaviour that is [inaudible] --


Spokesman:  The United Nations, Mr. Burnham, has been clear on that, the United Nations will not do business with companies that have been caught in fraudulent activities in their dealings with the United Nations.  As to what particular company may or may not be suspended, we can get you some answers right after the briefing.


Question:  But how does that work, though, formally?  Are they reprimanded...?


Spokesman:  There’s a formal process which, I think, Mr. Karia explained to you a few months ago -- a few weeks ago -- on how exactly these vendors are taken off the list.  They’re notified and then taken off the list.


Question:  Is that the only disciplinary thing that happen...


Spokesman:  I think the biggest disciplinary action any buyer can take against a vendor is to stop doing business with them.


Question:  Just one other question.  Kofi Annan on Iran.  I guess it was a couple months ago he cancelled a trip to Iran.  What is his current position on dialogue with the Iranian regime over the nuclear issue?


Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General spoke to you at length last week on that.  He has nothing to add.  We’re obviously in close touch with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and he has encouraged the Iranian authorities to cooperate with the IAEA.


Question:  I don’t know if you [inaudible] on this, the early part of your briefing, but could you talk a bit about this Al-Qaida threat against the United States and Pakistan and what exactly is going on there.


Spokesman:  No, I do not have anything on that.


Correspondent:  United Nations, sorry.  Did I say United States?

Spokesman:  Yes.  No, I have nothing on that.


Question:  Another related question to the OIOS investigation.  Can you tell us the whereabouts of Andrew Toh today?


Spokesman:  No, I do not have any information.  Mr. Toh’s status is –- I don’t have information on his whereabouts.


Question:  Do you have any confirmation or reaction to news that the Ivorian Popular Front Party has withdrawn from the United Nations-backed peace negotiations?


Spokesman:  No, I do not.  I’ll check up on that for you. 


Question:  Also, has there been any further contact between the Secretary-General and any Iranian officials since his phone call with Mr. Larijani?


Spokesman:  No, there has not.


Question:  There’s a report on the news wire that United States Ambassador Bolton has written to the Secretary-General that the United States would put off the funds if the anti-Israel policies, which he perceives are going on, are not shut down.  In particular, I believed he referred to a meeting of Palestinians attended by the Secretary-General himself.  Did such a letter come to the Secretary-General?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General has received a letter from Mr. Bolton and is in the process of replying -– his Office, the Secretary-General’s Office in the process of replying –- to that letter, and as soon as a full reply is out, I can give you some more.


Question:  Follow-up on that.  Is the reply going to be by the Secretary-General or by other people?


Spokesman:  As far as I know right now, the reply is being drafted.  I don’t have any more information.


Question:  But who will sign it?


Spokesman:  If I have any information I will let you know.


Thank you.  Pragati.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon.  It is good to see you all again and I wish you a belated Happy New Year.


This morning, the General Assembly President spoke at the first meeting of the organizational session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), where Ambassador Ali Hachani of Tunisia was elected the President for 2006, and the ambassadors of Haiti, Iceland, Lithuania and Sri Lanka were elected as Vice-Presidents.


President Eliasson stated that one of the Assembly’s urgent tasks is to conclude soon negotiations on the resolutions on ECOSOC reform and development follow-up, and that it is important that ECOSOC has a clear mandate for reform before it holds its main organizational session in early February.


He added that a reformed ECOSOC will be a vital mechanism for ensuring that we meet all development commitments made in 2005 and before, including the Millennium Development Goals.  And copies of his statement are available upstairs.


On that subject, the Assembly consultations on ECOSOC reform and development met yesterday afternoon to consider the elements of two draft resolutions.


And on the Human Rights Council, the President is continuing today to hold intensive bilateral consultations.


Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Any thing happening in the General Assembly vis-à-vis Iran?  I know all the talk is about Security Council, but any plans, discussion or anything that might... ?


Spokesperson:  I haven’t heard anything


Question:  On the Human Rights Council, is there any movement except for the bilateral things going on, move it to General Assembly [inaudible]?


Spokesman:  They probably will be setting up informal consultations of the whole towards the end of this week, but that hasn’t been officially scheduled yet.


Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record