24/01/2006
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.


** Cambodia


I’ll start with a statement on Cambodia:


“The Secretary-General was pleased to learn that the Government of Cambodia has dropped all charges against the four human rights activists who were being held in jail there for defamation, including Kem Sokha, President of the Cambodia Centre for Human Rights, and his deputy, Pa Nguon Tean.


“The Secretary-General hopes that in the future these and other human rights activists in Cambodia will be allowed to carry out their essential work without interference.”


That statement is available upstairs.


**Secretary-General in Switzerland


The Secretary-General is in Switzerland today, where he will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos later this week.


Today, he visited the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), where he met with the Committee’s President, Jacques Rogge, and discussed collaboration between the two organizations. He also visited the Olympic Museum.


Speaking to the staff of the IOC in Lausanne, the Secretary-General noted that Governments take the potential of sports seriously. As one sign of that, he said, the General Assembly has supported the revival of the ancient concept of the Olympic Truce and has urged all countries to observe the truce during the Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.


The Secretary-General then visited the headquarters of the International Football Federation (FIFA), in Zurich, where he and FIFA President Joseph Blatter reiterated their support for the role of sports, and football in particular, to peace and development.


**Security Council


The Security Council today was briefed by High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. In his statement, which we have upstairs, Mr. Guterres flagged two urgent challenges faced by his agency, namely the Sudan and the Great Lakes region. Regarding the Sudan-Chad issue, he called it “probably the largest and most complex humanitarian problem on the globe”. Since Mr. Guterres will join us shortly after the briefing, I’ll let him give you the details of his statement.


When the open briefing ends, the Council will hold consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) -- with Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hedi Annabi, briefing -- as well as other matters. The Council is then expected to move into the formal chamber to adopt a presidential statement on the killing of the Guatemalan peacekeepers in DRC, and to extend the mandate of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) until 15 December 2006.


** Côte d’Ivoire


From Côte d’Ivoire, the UN humanitarian agencies working in that country today reported shock at the amount of destruction of their facilities in the western town of Guiglo during four days of disturbances there last week.


The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said its offices were destroyed. The World Food Programme (WFP) said looters stripped its warehouses of more than 600 metric tonnes of food, as well as damaging its offices, leaving it unable to continue its work. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said a preliminary estimate shows about $1.8 million in losses.


A UNHCR spokesman said the UN was shocked at the level of violence and saddened that its staff and other UN humanitarian workers were targeted.


The UN agencies feed close to 1 million people in Côte d’Ivoire. Most UN activity outside the area of Guiglo has continued largely without interruption, agencies said.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) says that the operation in the Garamba Park has now been called off. The remaining Guatemalan peacekeepers have been pulled out and are now in the city of Kisangani.


Meanwhile, in the eastern province of North Kivu, a UN humanitarian mission says the situation in the town of Lubero and other areas is calm, following massive displacement caused by nearby presence of armed insurgents.


The UN Mission says that local authorities estimate that 50,000 internally displaced people are currently sheltered in churches and schools there, and the humanitarian community is preparing for large-scale assistance.


** Sudan


The UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) says that the overall security situation in Darfur remains unchanged, and most security incidents that have occurred since last week are the result of banditry. Militias, however, are still active and there are claims that armed tribesmen attacked villages last week.


Meanwhile, as for the situation in West Darfur, the Mission says there are reports that the rebel group Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), attacked Government forces yesterday in the town of Golo, 45 kilometres north-east of the town of Zalingei. And unconfirmed reports indicate that there are casualties, but no further information is immediately available on their number, nor on the circumstances of the attack.


The UN Mission, in cooperation with the African Union (AU), is in the process of relocating around 60 staff members of three non-governmental organizations operating in the area.


** Iraq


From Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, met today with Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak Ruba’i to discuss the evolving political and security situation. 


They focused on the need for a fresh impetus in strengthening national unity, through the formation of a Government, the constitutional review commission and the national accord process. They also discussed progress on detainee issues and widening the process of political engagement in support of improved security. 


The National Security Adviser welcomed the role of the United Nations in reaching out across the Iraqi political spectrum to build greater consensus. We have more details in a press release upstairs.


**Security Council Yesterday


Going back to yesterday, after brief consultations yesterday afternoon, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement noting that significant progress has been made towards implementing resolution 1559, including the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.


It noted with regret that other provisions of resolution 1559, particularly the disbanding and disarming of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias and the extension of Government control over all Lebanese territory, have yet to be implemented.


Following the Council meeting, the Council President, Ambassador Mahiga of Tanzania, said in a statement to the press that Council members were saddened by the passing of Kosovo’s President, Ibrahim Rugova.


I think that’s it from me. Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question: I was just wondering about the likelihood of Sudan assuming the Chairmanship of the African Union (AU). Could this possibly compromise the AU’s operations in Darfur? Might it make the UN’s contingency planning more urgent?  


Spokesman: The contingency planning will go on ahead as planned, as the Secretary-General told you. My understanding, and I hope I’m not wrong, is that the Republic of the Congo will now assume the chairmanship of the African Union for the coming year, so that question doesn’t arise for the next 12 months.


Question: Following the new Turkish proposal on the Cyprus issue, does the Secretary-General intend to invite the two parties for a new round of discussions?


Spokesman: As you know, the Secretary-General did meet the Turkish Permanent Representative last week, who gave him a proposal regarding the situation in Cyprus. At the Secretary-General’s request, our Department of Political Affairs is currently studying the plan carefully, and of course that’s in light of the Secretary-General’s ongoing efforts to resolve this issue. So, at this point, we are just studying the Turkish proposal.


Question: Kojo Annan’s lawyers today said that the car, the famous car, was indeed imported under the name of “Kofi Annan”, and was not intended for his use, if it was facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Accra. Shouldn’t the head of the UNDP office, Abdoulie Janneh, be disciplined for mischaracterizing the ultimate use of the car, rather than promoted? 


Spokesman: Well, I think the Volcker report was fairly clear on the fact that Mr. Janneh was not aware of the false claim made by Kojo Annan. That is clearly stated in the report. I think we said here in November that Kojo Annan was about to contact the Ghanaian authorities to make restitution for the import duty that he did not have to pay.


Question: So you’re saying that Kojo Annan told Mr. Janneh that it was intended for the use of his father?


Spokesman: If you read, I think, pages 229 through 232 of the Volcker report, it explains that whole issue. And I have nothing further to add.


Question: But now, Kojo Annan’s lawyers are offering to compensate the Ghanaian Government based on the discovery that the car was not going to be used by the Secretary-General. My question then, is that a UN official presented the car as if it was for the Secretary-General’s use. Isn’t that cause for disciplinary action?


Spokesman: The Volcker Committee clearly says that it does not conclude that Mr. Janneh was aware of the falsity of Kojo Annan’s claim.


Question: The Volcker report stops at 24 November on this issue because it was focused on the Iraq programme. But there are two possibilities: either when Mr. Janneh signed off on the documents for the car he retained copies and filed them in the UN system and some paper trail exists; or he came away with no records whatsoever after he put the UNDP seal on the documents, although that would seem unlikely. Could you tell us whether you have any knowledge at all of which way it went? Are the documents still at the UNDP office in Ghana? Are they here?


Spokesman: I am not aware of what has happened to the paper trail. What I do know is that Mr. Janneh was not aware of the falsity of Kojo Annan’s claim, and that was clearly stated in the Volcker report. And now Kojo Annan is making an effort to make restitution to the Ghanaian Government regarding the money that it is owed.


Question: I’m just asking about the status of the actual documents. What has happened to them?


Spokesman: Mr. Volcker had access to all the paperwork and I’m sure those documents are in his…


Question: And on that, the Volcker Commission has stated that it is so far in negotiations with the UN over the disposition of the documents, which implies that there is a UN position on what should be done with them. Could you tell us what the UN would like done with the UN documents?


Spokesman: The negotiations are ongoing in trying to find an outcome which allows for the greatest amount of access to the documents, so that investigations that will go on after the mandate of the Volcker team ends in March will be able to go on, while respecting the rights that certain Governments have over their papers. We are trying to find a solution that is transparent and accessible to all, but those negotiations are ongoing, and I don’t want to prejudge their outcome.


Question: Since at one time the car was at least claimed to be owned by the Secretary-General, could you help us try to find out what happened to it. Was it sold? Was it sold with the Secretary-General’s name listed as the owner? Was it still owned by...


Spokesman: I have nothing to add to the story of the car.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record