02/02/2006
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.


**Security Council


As you know, the Security Council just held consultations today on its programme of work for the month of February. 


Also on the agenda was “Modernizing Security Council Operations”.  Security Council President, Ambassador John Bolton of the United States, just spoke to you extensively at the stakeout microphone.


** Lebanon


From Lebanon, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today found the dead body of a Lebanese national in the area alongside the Israel-Lebanon Blue Line, after being requested yesterday by the Lebanese authorities to search for a missing person.


The United Nations peacekeepers found the body this morning and turned it over to the Lebanese gendarmerie.  The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon is currently conducting an investigation along the Blue Line, and it is in contact with all parties to prevent any further escalation, or violation of the Line.


Geir Pedersen, the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Lebanon, today met with the Prime Minister of that country, Fuad Saniora, and afterwards, in brief comments to reporters, called for calm and restraint along the Blue Line.


** Côte d’Ivoire


From Côte d’Ivoire yesterday, shortly after the briefing, the Secretary-General issued a statement, expressing his concern about reported threats to United Nations personnel in Côte d’Ivoire, and the possibility of major violence being unleashed in that country.  He reminded the civilian authorities, including the President and the military authorities, of their personal responsibility in preventing violence.


** Iran


From Vienna, as you know, the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met today to discuss Iran.  That meeting has now adjourned for today.  Members of the Board have before them a draft resolution on Iran, which they intend to take up further tomorrow.


**World Food Programme


And the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Jim Morris, today said that Southern Africa may be on the cusp of better harvests, but the underlying causes of the region’s four-year crisis still remain, and those causes must be addressed. 


Morris, who was on a five-day visit to the region, said that, while recent good rainfalls could mean better agricultural production, much would depend upon the amount of seeds and fertilizer that were distributed during the planting season, as well as weather patterns over the coming months.


As you may know, WFP assists over 9 million people in six Southern African countries through the annual hunger season, which lasts until April.  The agency said its funding shortage is $63 million for operations through June.  It needs cash donations now to procure food locally.


**Press Conference


And at 1:15 p.m. tomorrow, Ambassador Don MacKay, the Chair of the committee on the drafting of the first-ever convention on disability rights, and Mr. Lex Grandia, the Secretary-General of the World Federation of the Deafblind, will be in this room to brief you on the outcome of the three-week seventh session of the Committee, which concludes tomorrow.


And that is it for me.  Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I asked the American Ambassador whether he was meeting with the Secretary-General, and he said that, on the request of the Secretary-General, that he was meeting him.  Can you tell us what this is about?


Spokesman:  This is the routine and traditional meeting that the Secretary-General holds with the incoming President of the Security Council.  It usually takes place a few days before the start of the month.  But, as the Secretary-General was travelling, it is taking place today. 


Question:  And the agenda is?


Spokesman:  The agenda is the overview of the work of the Council.  But he is meeting him in his capacity as President of the Security Council.


Question:  Can you tell us about the meeting with Iran? Who called that?


Spokesman:  This was a meeting that the Secretary-General and the Permanent Representative of Iran had agreed on a while ago.  And this was the first mutually agreeable date for that meeting. 


Question:  Why was that meeting not announced until it was over essentially?


Spokesman:  It was scheduled at the last minute, following a phone call between the Ambassador and the Secretary-General.  But it is something they had agreed upon a while ago, to meet when he got back.


Question:  And what was discussed at the meeting?


Spokesman:  I have really no readout of the meeting at this point.


Question:  Was the situation in Iran discussed at the meeting?


Spokesman:  I think you could assume that, yes.


Question:  Can we get a readout?


Spokesman:  We will see what we can get for you.


Question:  Yesterday the Secretary-General made a rather strong statement warning the authorities in Côte d’Ivoire about possible violence to United Nations staff and United Nations property.  On the United Nations side, have any preventive measures taken place to ward off this possibility? 


Spokesman:  Obviously, we’re taking whatever precautionary measures we can take regarding the safety of our staff.  That is something, especially in that environment, that is being looked at constantly.


Question:  Have there been any higher-level contacts with the Secretary-General and Iranian Government officials?


Spokesman:  No.


Thank you very much.  Pragati.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon.


Informal consultations of the plenary on the Human Rights Council are taking place this morning, where a new negotiating text is being presented by the Co-Chairs, Ambassador Arias of Panama and Ambassador Kumalo of South Africa.


In introducing the text, which was sent to all Member States yesterday afternoon, Ambassador Arias said they had worked to present as clean a text as possible, and had dedicated a great deal of effort to balance the various positions.


Consultations of the plenary are scheduled for Monday next week, to conduct further negotiations.  And we have organized a background briefing this afternoon at 2:30 p.m., here in Room 226, with a senior official from the President’s Office, to give you an orientation to the new text and the consultations in progress.


Today at 12:15 p.m., President Jan Eliasson is participating in a discussion on the international civil servant, organized by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, as part of their series “Commemorating the Centenary of Dag Hammarskjöld”.


And yesterday, the President gave the keynote address at the Wharton Economic Summit, which was commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Wharton School.  Speaking to an audience of 300 alumni, including many CEOs and business leaders, the President spoke on the importance of multilateralism at the United Nations, and the role of business in the United Nations work.


Also this week, the President sent out a letter to all Member States on the Peacebuilding Commission, summarizing the process under way for the selection of members of the Organizational Committee.  He explained that the Security Council had held its elections and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) would soon do the same.  And the final lists of the top troop-contributors and financial contributors are coming from the Secretariat.


And following an agreement on those four categories, the General Assembly will need to hold elections on seven seats, to ensure regional balance, with the goal of having the Commission operational before the spring.  And that letter is available, upstairs and online.


Any questions?


Question: When they come to meet us at 2:30 p.m., will they give us the text also, when they’re doing the briefings?


Spokesperson: It’s an informal text and we can’t officially circulate it.  But I understand it is circulating.


Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record