|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
**Guest at Noon Briefing
My guest today will be Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi, who is here to brief you in advance of the elections in Haiti, which take place tomorrow.
And before we go to Mr. Annabi, we will hear from Pragati on the General Assembly.
**Secretary-General in Dubai
The Secretary-General is in Dubai today, where he just received the Global Leadership Award of the Zayed International Prize for the Environment. He said he was honoured to receive the prize named after someone with a well-known commitment to the environment.
The Secretary-General said as he received the award that action on climate change is particularly urgent, and he called on all countries to take seriously discussions on action against climate change. Equally important, he said, is a change in mindset, at a time when the world remains perilously wedded to oil and other fossil fuels.
The Secretary-General also expressed alarm at the attacks that have been taking place following the recent publication of caricatures seen to be insulting to Islam. The Secretary-General said he shares the anguish over those cartoons, but added that “it cannot justify violence, least of all attacks on innocent people”. He appealed once more [to] Muslims to accept the apology that has been offered. And we have copies of the full text of his address upstairs.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General met with the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
Also while in Dubai, the Secretary-General, at a short press encounter, was asked about his response to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s vote on Iran, which he said, “is not the end of the road”.
He noted that the IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei would be working on a report that should be submitted to the Agency’s Board of Governors by the end of the month. The Secretary-General said he hoped that, during that time, Iran would take steps that would bring the parties back to the negotiating table. And we have upstairs the full text of that press encounter.
And on Saturday, the Board of Governors of the IAEA voted, as you know, to request that Mr. ElBaradei report to the Security Council about the steps that the Board has required Iran to take. The Board’s resolution also requests Iran to extend full and prompt cooperation with the Agency, and says it deems it necessary for Iran to re-establish a full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. The Board voted to adopt the resolution with 27 in favour and 3 against with 5 abstentions.
Turning to Haiti, the Secretary-General today issued a message to the Haitian people on the eve of their presidential elections. He said the vote was an opportunity for Haiti to move away from violence and uncertainty and towards a future of peace and stability.
He called upon all Haitian citizens to participate and exercise peacefully their right to vote. He said that the United Nations Mission will do all it can to support the Haitian authorities in ensuring that the vote is held in freedom and safety. He said he was confident the elections would prove a significant step towards building a more stable Haiti. And he called upon all parties to respect the outcome of the vote. We have the full text of that statement available upstairs.
** Côte d’Ivoire
The Security Council this morning unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the Secretary-General to redeploy an infantry company and a police unit from the UN Mission in Liberia to the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire. [It was later clarified that the resolution authorized one infantry company to be redeployed.]
The Secretary-General had asked for the redeployment earlier this month, in view of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. He said the troops would be used to protect UN personnel in the country and to help them carry out the tasks assigned to them by the Security Council.
Over the weekend we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General reiterated his deep concern over the recent violent demonstrations and attacks in Côte d’Ivoire.
And following the adoption of the resolution on Côte d’Ivoire, as you know, members of the Security Council met with a number of members of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
And turning to Sudan, in the latest monthly report on Darfur, reflecting developments through the first half of January, the Secretary-General noted that another year has ended without a major breakthrough in efforts to resolve the crisis in the region and urged the parties to reach a negotiated settlement without any further delay.
In the meantime, he said, everything possible should be done to support and strengthen the existing African Union operation and provide it with the necessary funding. In this regard, the Secretary-General says he and African Union Commission Chairperson Alpha Konaré have agreed to convene a pledging conference for the African Union force in Darfur in the second half of this month.
The Secretary-General also drew attention to the violence along the Chad-Sudan border, which has considerably exacerbated the instability in Darfur. And he calls upon the two Governments to take immediate and resolute steps to defuse those tensions.
** Sudan -– Jan Pronk
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, is now back in Khartoum from Abuja, Nigeria, where he met with the negotiating parties to the Darfur peace talks, as well as with African Union’s own mediator, Salim Ahmed Salim.
He told them there was the need to rethink the strategy so far implemented in Darfur, by strengthening and speeding up the negotiations, imposing sanctions if need be, on those hindering the peace process, and by establishing a more robust peace force that will be “big, strong, of long duration and with a broad mandate”.
**Female Genital Mutilation
And lastly, today is the fourth annual International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. Marking the day, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, Ann Veneman, congratulated women and men who have worked for years to end this practice worldwide.
She said, however, there is still a long way to go, with some 3 million girls in 28 countries subject to such mutilation every year. Veneman said UNICEF and its partners are working on several areas, including using a non-coercive and non-judgemental approach and raising awareness in the community about the harmfulness of the practice. And we have the full text of that press release upstairs.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Could you please give us a response -- the official response -– of the Secretary-General on the attack, it was a meditated attack, on Western assets and also on a church in Beirut yesterday.
Spokesman: The Secretary-General is very much alarmed about the violence we have seen and, I think, condemns these attacks on the embassies and other places and the churches, as you mentioned. I think this underscores the need for leaders, both religious and political, to call for calm in this situation. We have seen the Danish newspaper apologize for the harm they have caused. And I think, as the Secretary-General has said, it is time for people to accept that apology.
Question: And the crowd was composed by Palestinian and Syrian crowd, and Bedouin. Do you have any comments on that?
Spokesman: I think –- first, we have no first-hand information as to who was in the crowd. The point is that the violence needs to stop and people need to accept the apology, and need to start a dialogue on how to prevent such issues from happening again.
Question: The Secretary-General, in his 1 February letter to Ambassador Bolton, said he wanted a battalion and a police unit for Haiti -- I’m sorry, not Haiti, Côte d’Ivoire, to reinforce the Mission there. This morning, the Council voted on one company of about 200 -– mechanized company. How concerned is the Secretary-General that this is inadequate to protect United Nations troops there with what he perceives as a growing threat for further violence?
Spokesman: We had hoped we would have been able to get more, but I’m sure we’ll be in touch with Council members to see how we can progress on the situation.
Question: Do your people on the ground in Lebanon have any evidence that there is a relation between what happened over the weekend and 1559 -– I mean, certain interference trying to foment Syrian -– no?
Spokesman: No information one way or the other.
Question: I was going to ask pretty much the same question as Benny. Do you think that what happened in Damascus previously is complicating efforts to get Syrian cooperation on the Hariri investigation, is there any link there? Is the Government using this as a distraction, perhaps? The Syrian Government.
Spokesman: From where we stand, it’s clear that the violence against innocent targets is unacceptable. We have seen, following the publication of these cartoons, people who had nothing to do with the publication who were targeted just because of their nationality or their religion. That is not acceptable and that is alarming and that needs to stop.
As to whether these demonstrations have anything to do with the greater situation in Syria, I don’t think it’s something we’d want to speculate on at this point.
Question: Just to follow up on the question about the Ivory Coast, how concerned is the Secretary-General that, given his call for an expansion of force and now not in the numbers that he required in the transfer from Liberia, but when sanctions come into effect tomorrow morning [inaudible], how concerned is he that there are enough troops on the ground to prevent what we’ve seen in the last couple days?
Spokesman: Somebody has a cell phone on, if you could please turn it off. Thank you.
The situation on the ground is very concerning –- is of great concern to the Secretary-General, especially the calls we’ve heard from some parties of violence against the UN. And we will do with what we have in order to protect the UN installations, and obviously whatever civilian populations are in that area as well.
Question: But it’s not enough...?
Spokesman: We will have to do with what we have, but obviously the Secretary-General had wanted more.
Question: What kinds of deployment and/or protective measures have been taken in anticipation of problems tomorrow when the sanctions take effect?
Spokesman: From here, I can’t answer such detailed operational questions.
Question: One more, before we leave this topic. Just a technical question. If there is evidence, if evidence emerges that Syria was involved in that, would that be a violation of 1559 according to the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: Benny, you can speculate, I cannot.
Question: No, but...
Spokesman: Benny, I’m not -- would of, could of -- I’m not going to go down that road with you at this point.
Thank you. Yes, sir?
Question: Are you aware that American Airlines stopped its flights to Haiti, starting today?
Spokesman: I was not –- I have not seen that.
Question: Maybe Mr. Annabi knows about that?
Spokesman: We’ll go to Pragati, and then Mr. Annabi.
At its plenary meeting this morning, the General Assembly paid tribute to the memory of the late Emir of Kuwait. Assembly President Jan Eliasson stated that the late Emir will be remembered for his wisdom and dedicated service to his country and recognized the tranquil transition of power in Kuwait. Speakers from eight countries also made statements [on behalf of the regional groups and the host country].
Also at this morning’s plenary, the President issued the traditional appeal to all Member States to demonstrate their commitment to the Olympic Truce and to take appropriate measures to ensure a peaceful global environment for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. The text of that appeal is available upstairs.
Consultations of the plenary on the Human Rights Council are continuing all day today, and are expected to carry over to tomorrow. Member States are expected to give their reactions to the new negotiation text issued by the co-chairs last week.
And consultations of the plenary on development follow-up and ECOSOC reform are scheduled to continue on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
* *** *For information media • not an official record