19/01/2006
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 today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.


** Côte d’Ivoire


Starting with Côte d’Ivoire, the Secretary-General remains very concerned about the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, and he remains closely informed and briefed on the situation. He spoke earlier today to President Laurent Gbagbo who assured him that he would do his utmost to ensure the return of calm to the capital and other areas of the country. Meanwhile, the United Nations Operation on the ground in Côte d’Ivoire reports that the situation remains tense. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Pierre Schori, is, at this hour, meeting with leaders of United Nations humanitarian agencies to look into the impact of the situation of their work and security in the country. He is also examining ways to attempt to implement the communiqué established last night in which the Chairman of the African Union, President Obasanjo of Nigeria, and Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny called for an end to the demonstrations and urged all Ivorians to return to work. As you know, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, is currently briefing the Security Council on Côte d’Ivoire. It was a previously scheduled meeting in which he was to discuss the Secretary General’s latest report on that mission. And the Secretary-General is also attending those closed consultations.


Meanwhile, on the humanitarian front, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Côte d’Ivoire issued a statement today vigorously condemning and expressing grave concern over the series of attacks on the offices of several humanitarian agencies and organizations working in the country. Regretting the loss of life and injuries sustained by civilians in yesterday’s incidents, he also calls for an immediate end to the incitements for protestors to target humanitarian personnel. We have the full statement available upstairs in English and French.


Also, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), says that international staff from OCHA and other United Nations agencies were evacuated yesterday from the towns of Guiglo and Duekoue. The regular humanitarian activities of national staff have also been curtailed due to the protests we’ve been seeing over the last four days. This is coming at a time when the United Nations is feeding and providing other humanitarian assistance to nearly one million people throughout the country.


** Nepal


And I now have two statements, the first one on the situation in Nepal.


“The Secretary-General is dismayed by the latest developments in Nepal where, on the eve of a major demonstration planned for tomorrow in Kathmandu, the Government has arrested a large number of political party leaders and other critics.


“The Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, Ian Martin, has raised the matter with the Government. OHCHR-Nepal officers have visited 97 of the more than 120 persons reported to be in detention.


“The Secretary-General had repeatedly called for urgent dialogue in order to avoid confrontation, and for a bilateral ceasefire between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist. This appeal was not heeded, and the four-month unilateral ceasefire declared by the Maoists came to an end.


“The Secretary-General once again appeals to all sides for calm, the suspension of fighting and the urgent initiation of an inclusive national dialogue.”


And that statement is available upstairs as usual.


** Israel


I also have one on the bombing which took place in Israel a short while ago.


“The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the news of today’s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, in which a number of innocent civilians were wounded. No cause can justify deliberate acts designed to kill or maim civilians. The Secretary-General sends his deepest condolences to those who have been injured, and to the Government and people of Israel.


“He calls upon Palestinians and Israelis to do their utmost to maintain calm at this difficult moment. Those who ordered and carried out this attack must not be allowed to undermine democratic processes, or to derail efforts to promote peace between the parties.”


And that statement is available upstairs as well.


**Ethiopia-Eritrea


Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea says that, because the helicopter ban is still on in Eritrea, de-mining activities continue to be suspended in Eritrea. Restrictions on United Nations peacekeepers in the Temporary Security Zone continue and their monitoring capability remains diminished by about 60 per cent, according to the mission on the ground. And the situation in the Zone is described as `tense,' according to our folks who are there.


** Haiti


The Secretary-General has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Lt. Gen. José Elito Siqueira Carvalho from Brazil as the new Force Commander for the United Nations Mission in Haiti. Since 2004, General Siqueira has served as Commander of the 6th Military Region in Brazil, where he has been in charge of coordinating and preparing all military units in the area. And we have more information on that appointment upstairs.


**Challenges in Peace Operations


A short while ago, the Secretary-General accepted -- on behalf of the United Nations -- the Concluding Report of Phase II of the Challenges Project, a major study in peace operations. The report, entitled Meeting the Challenges of Peace Operations: Cooperation and Coordination, is the result of an eight-year study compiled by 14 countries and partner organizations.


Speaking at the report’s launch, here at Headquarters, the Secretary-General said the report comes at an opportune time given the tremendous growth in the organization’s peace operations. He said the report will help guide the United Nations efforts in this area, and he noted how its recommendations for more cooperative and coordinated action by Member States complement the United Nations own internal initiatives to strengthen system coherence. And we have copies of the Secretary-General’s speech available upstairs.


**Timor-Leste


The Secretary-General, in a report on the work of the United Nations in Timor-Leste, says that over the past six months, Timor-Leste and its partners have made further progress towards establishing effective democratic governance in that country. Notwithstanding some border incidents, the situation in Timor-Leste remains generally calm and stable, and relations with neighbouring countries continue to improve, he added. The report notes the major challenge the country faces in dealing with the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007. The Secretary-General says he would welcome the Security Council’s suggestions on how to best the country can face those challenges.


Tomorrow, at 11:15 in this room, the President of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmão, will be here to talk to you. The Security Council will also hold a public meeting on Timor-Leste on Monday.


**Press Conferences


This afternoon, at 3:30 p.m., the Ambassador of Côte d’Ivoire will be here to talk to you about what is going on in his country.


And tomorrow at 10 a.m., Driss Benzekri, the President of the Advisory Council of Human Rights in Morocco and the Former Chairman of the Moroccan Equity and Reconciliation Commission, will brief you on human rights issues. 


And at 11:15 p.m., as I mentioned, we’ll have Xanana Gusmao.


And that is actually it for me. Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question: Just a couple of things. First of all, when is Mr. Xanana coming to speak to us about Côte d’Ivoire?


Spokesman: He will be at the stakeout as soon as the briefing is over.


Question: Is there any plan to reschedule some kind of briefing by the Special Representative to Western Sahara, which was cancelled yesterday under mysterious circumstances?


Spokesman: Mr. van Walsum, I know, spoke to the press outside of the stakeout. I will see if there is anything else scheduled.


Question: And just a policy question, is the Secretary-General, does he share the concern of some members of the Security Council that militia in Lebanon continue to be supplied from Syria with arms and weaponry and is the Secretary-General having any talks with the Syrian Government or any parties with respect to that issue?


Spokesman: Some of those answers were made to you by, I think, Mr. Roed-Larsen in his last report on 1559 and those are discussions that he continues to have.


Question: In terms of the President of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmão, is it true that he will give the long report about the human rights abuses by the Indonesian army in the colonized era?


Spokesman: Yes, we do expect that report to be handed over tomorrow.


Question: In regard of the policemen, former members of the United Nations International Police Task Force (UNIPTF) in Bosnia, who are on strike in Sarajevo in front of the High Representative’s Office, what can the United Nations concretely do to solve the problem of de-certification?  Apparently, and according to the Venice Commission, the body affiliated with the Strasbourg Parliament, the certification process was questionable and did not satisfy the standards of human rights?


Spokesman: The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Bosnia is now closed in its present form. Mr. Guéhenno met last year with Bosnian leaders on the issue of certification. They agreed on the need for intensifying communication with the Security Council Member States as well as the European Union on the continuing reform of police structures in Bosnia-Herzegovina in standards now defined by the European Union. On this issue, it would require the Security Council to get involved again.


Question: Are there any direct negotiations between the Bosnian Government and the United Nations?


Spokesman: Not that I am aware of.


Question: When can we expect any kind of position on this issue?


Spokesman: As I’ve said, this is really a matter of coordinating between the European Union, which now sets the standards, and if we were to get involved that would obviously require some action by the Security Council.


Question: Going back to Côte d’Ivoire, United States Ambassador Bolton said this morning that rather than sending in more troops, as the Secretary-General has recommended, it would be better to develop a strategy to address the underlying political problems and do something along those lines rather than just put in more troops, perhaps along the lines of the United States initiatives in Ethiopia and Eritrea. How does the Secretary-General feel about this? What is the balance that can be struck there? And what, if anything, is he doing in these conversations like the one day to further a political resolution?


Spokesman: He is obviously trying to diffuse and address the political issues which have to do with the parties implementing the agreements they have repeatedly signed. The Secretary-General has been in touch with President Obasanjo who went to Abidjan yesterday. He expects to speak to the Nigerian leader shortly to get briefed on what actually happened on the ground and the political developments. As to the recommendations made by the Secretary-General in his latest report, those are being actively debated, as we speak, in the Council. So I would urge you to wait for the outcome of that debate and you can talk to Mr. Guéhenno who can give you a good readout of those debates.


Question: How does the Secretary-General see this thing being resolved? Just through further talks? What is the solution in his mind?


Spokesman: The solution is partly for the Ivorian leaders to uphold the agreements they have signed and to abide by the Security Council resolutions. As the Secretary-General has repeatedly said and often said on Côte d’Ivoire   it is time for the leaders to act like leaders and take the best interest of their people at heart.


Question: A follow-up question, Edith Lederer has an article today talking about the procurement division and that some of these people have been suspended. There is a lot in here that mentions that there is an investigation being conducted by the European Commission’s anti-fraud unit. I just wonder what does this sort of tell us about faith that Mr. Hermann Bruener, or the Secretary-General or others within the United Nations have in the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) itself because usually the OIOS is conducting its own investigation?


Spokesman: The correct read of the situation is that these people have not been suspended. They have been put on special leave. Second, the person who is heading the OIOS procurement investigation, which Mr. Cristopher Burnham has spoken about a number of times here, is a gentleman named Mr. Roberts, who has been seconded by the European Commission. He is an expert, but it is done in the name of OIOS with OIOS staffers. It is not being conducted by the European Commission.


Question: So where does that put Barbara Dixon for instance in terms of (inaudible)?


Spokesman: OIOS is in charge of the current investigation, with Inga-Britt Ahlenius as its head. Mr. Roberts just happens to be conducting that specific investigation.


Question: Doctors without Borders has released a video on Haiti. Some civilians have been claiming that some United Nations forces have been killing some civilians over there so I want to hear your thoughts on that.


Spokesman: I have not seen that video or heard that report, but I could give you comment afterwards once we do take a look.


Question: I wondered if you have any reaction to the formal letter of protest sent by the Syrian Government today to the United Nations regarding the statements made by Mr. Walid Jumblatt in an interview in which he expresses confidence that Syrian authorities were behind the killing of Mr. Tueni?  


Spokesman:  As far as, I’ve checked a short while ago, we may have not received the letter. So I have not yet seen it so we can’t comment on it at this point.


Question: I have a quick question on security. I notice that there are sort of those new slide card things that are going to be put around the building. Do you know when that is going to happen and if there are going to be any other security measures?


Spokesman: These things will probably come on line toward the end of March but they will require the replacement of the current I.D. cards that we all hold.


Question: Seeing the serious nature of the discussions with Iran over nuclear issues and International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) meeting in early February, is the Secretary-General planning on attending those meetings or he is leaving that up to Mr. ElBaradei?


Spokesman: No, he is not. That is currently in the hands of Mr. ElBaradei.


Question: As the debate about the next Secretary-General heats up, is there any move or anything within the Secretariat to issue a job description for a new Secretary-General? What is it that this system needs and wants or is it again going to be done as in papal conclave without the smoke?   


Spokesman: Maybe we can just get a whole bunch of cardinals’ hats. The description of the job is somewhat contained in the Charter and I think the Secretary-General himself was asked to give a job description of what was needed for a new candidate in his last press conference. I would refer you to those comments. But, again, the decision as to who the next Secretary-General is firmly in the hands of the 191 Member States.


Question: One last question, on the appointment of Ad Melkert to the position of Under-Secretary-General in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), did the United Nations look fully into the case of his mismanagement of hundreds of millions of euros worth of European social fund money and also his widespread unpopularity in the Netherlands for the way he handled events before he left the country? And has the United Nations received complaints from Dutch citizens wondering why on earth the United Nations gave him a home despite all the scandals surrounding him in the Netherlands?   


Spokesman: I have not been made aware of any complaints received by Dutch citizens or otherwise.


Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record