08/02/2006
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.


**Secretary-General on Haitian Elections


I will start out with a statement on the Haitian elections that is being issued in the Secretary-General’s name:


“On 7 February, the people of Haiti turned out in large numbers to vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections.  I would like to congratulate all Haitians who participated in the vote for their commitment to exercising their democratic right to choose their future leaders.


“I am pleased that, compared to previous elections, yesterday was remarkably free from violence and I applaud the Haitian people for their commitment to restore democracy.  I also appeal for all to respect the official results to be announced by the Provisional Electoral Council.


“As the new authorities assume their responsibilities, it will be essential that all political and social actors come together in a spirit of national reconciliation and dialogue in order to build strong democratic institutions and an inclusive governance system.


“This is a significant step forward for Haiti.  The international community will continue to support the people of Haiti as they seek to achieve stability, normalcy and development.”


And that statement is available upstairs also in French.


** Haiti


Meanwhile, from the ground in Haiti the United Nations Mission there (the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)) says that tabulation of the election results will take at least three days, and, in the meantime, it is calling for calm and for all Haitians to remain patient.


**Security Council


Turning to the Security Council:  Council Members this morning held closed consultations on Ethiopia/Eritrea.  Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, provided an update on the situation on the ground, including the impact of the continuing restrictions on the UN operation in Ethiopia and Eritrea.


The meeting began with a daily briefing by the Secretariat.  And Hédi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, gave an update on the elections in Haiti.


The Council’s Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee yesterday named three persons to be subject to sanctions for their actions in that country.  The Committee acted under a resolution that calls for sanctions against persons who constitute a threat to the peace and national reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire.


The Council calls upon all States to freeze any funds that these individuals may have abroad and it asks States to cooperate in a travel ban against them.


** Iraq


From Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, condemned the continuing targeting of Iraqi political figures, following the assassination of the Mayor of Fallujah, and kidnappings and other attacks directed against senior officials.


He denounced all political violence and called on the Iraqi security authorities to investigate fully these criminal activities.  Mr. Qazi also called on all Iraqis to resolve their differences through dialogue.  And we have that statement available upstairs.


**UN, OIC, EU Joint Statement on Caricatures


As you will recall, in a joint statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, as well as the Secretary-General of the Organization for the Islamic Conference (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, and the European Union’s High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, said they are deeply alarmed at the repercussions of the publication of insulting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed and at the violent acts that have occurred in reaction to them.


They said, in their statement, that they fully uphold the right of free speech.  But they understand the deep hurt and widespread indignation felt in the Muslim world.  They added that they also believe the recent violent acts surpass the limits of peaceful protest.  They call on the authorities of all countries to protect all diplomatic premises and foreign citizens against unlawful attacks.  That statement was made available yesterday.


**Kosovo


Turning to Kosovo, Søren Jessen-Petersen, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, today welcomed the nomination of Fatmir Sejdiu as candidate for the presidency of Kosovo, to replace Ibrahim Rugova, who died of lung cancer last month.


Mr. Jessen-Petersen said, “In spite of the sadness we all feel, it is important that the political process goes on in order to carry forward the vision of President Rugova.”  He also pledged that Kosovo’s institutions can continue to rely on the UN Mission (UNMIK) there for support during the crucial months ahead.


**Avian Flu Outbreak in Nigeria


The outbreak of the deadly Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus (H5N1) in Nigeria confirms the fears expressed for quite some time that African countries are facing a risk of becoming infected by the virus, according to a statement issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today.


FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health (known as the OIE) will send veterinary experts to Nigeria to assess the situation and examine how the virus has been introduced.  Meanwhile, the FAO urged veterinary services in Nigeria to eliminate the outbreaks through immediate humane culling and to strictly control the movement of people and animals from and to bird flu infected spots.  We have a press release available upstairs with more information.


**Failed Rains Place Millions of Kenyans at Risk, Warns WFP


The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Kenya say that 3.5 million Kenyans are running out of food because of the complete failure of the short rains there -- nearly tripling the number of Kenyans in need of emergency food assistance.  According to an assessment by the Kenyan authorities, WFP and other UN and non-governmental agencies, some 395,000 metric tons of food aid will be required.


**Responses to Questions from Yesterday’s Briefing


And now a couple of answers to questions from the noon briefing yesterday.  Concerning reports that the UN Pension Fund is being privatized, we spoke to both the Pension Fund and Christopher Burnham, Under-Secretary-General for Management, and I would like to put on record that there is no truth to the rumour of any privatization or other changes to the pension system.  The Pension Fund has not been approached with any such proposal, according to the head of the Fund.


And you had asked my about Deloitte, as well.  For the original study of internal controls for the procurement office, Deloitte was awarded a contract based on a lowest cost proposal.  The rates quoted by Deloitte were based on existing Long-Term Arrangements (LTA) already agreed between Deloitte and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for management consulting services.


As the study identified significant internal control weaknesses, it became apparent that a full forensic review of historical transactions would be essential to identify abnormal transactions.  As the contractor already has a full knowledge of the systems and procedures in place, it can perform the task most efficiently.  The same, very competitive rates used in the existing contract apply to the extension of scope to a full forensic review.


Accordingly, it was decided to continue with the contractor under the existing arrangements, which is fully consistent with provisions of procurement rules.


**Press Conferences


This afternoon, Ms. Nancy Barry, President, Women’s World Banking, Mr. Roberto Bissio, Executive Director, Third World Institute and Professor Sanjay Reddy of Columbia University will be here in this room to brief you on poverty eradication projects.


Immediately following the noon briefing tomorrow, Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, in his capacity as Chairman of the “Group of 77”, will hold a press conference in this room on Secretariat and management reforms.


Questions and Answers


Question:  Is Serge Brammertz in New York?


Spokesman:  Mr. Brammertz is scheduled to be in New York at some point this week, basically for administrative consultations with officials here.  Now that he has had a chance to be in Beirut for a couple of weeks, now is a good time for him to come back and for us to discuss with him what his resources were, what he needed and what his assessment was.  His focus right now will be on the administrative issues.


Question:  Can you update us on the international tribunal?


Spokesman:  It will be a tribunal that would have an international character.  The UN Legal Counsel, Nicolas Michel, as you know, went to Beirut.  He will likely have further consultations with the Lebanese authorities, either here or in Beirut, and when he is ready he will report to the Secretary-General, who will then report to the Security Council.


Question:  Is there a time frame?


Spokesman:  Well, it should be within ... well, let me not put a time frame on it, but it will not be too long.


Question:  Mr. Annan is meeting with President Bush on Monday.  Do you know if they will discuss the Middle East and Lebanon?


Spokesman:  I think it would be pretty safe to say that that would be one of the issues on their agenda, which will be fairly broad.


Question:  I just want to point out that in the last few weeks the publication of the caricatures in various newspapers has sparked outrage in the Islamic world.  In general, I know that the Secretary-General has issued several statements and so forth.  But there is also the Iran situation, the situation in the Middle East, and the ongoing situation in Lebanon.  It is like a confrontation between the Islamic and Western societies.  Does the Secretary-General intend to take all this and bring it to the notice of the United Nations General Assembly in order to perhaps establish some sort of dialogue between the West and the so-called Islamic world?


Spokesman:  I think one may not want to broadly generalize and put all these issues together.  But, as for dialogue, this is something the Secretary-General has been speaking about in the context of these caricatures, which underscore the need for a dialogue among civilizations and amongst the Muslim world and the West.  This is something he is very cognizant of.


Question:  Any update on Jerome Ackerman’s Dileep Nair investigation?


Spokesman:  Mr. Ackerman is continuing his work.  He had requested electronic and hardcopy information from the Secretariat on the files that he needs.  We are putting together the information he has asked for and we do hope, as he does, that this can be completed as soon as possible.


Question:  I’m just looking at a 20 June press briefing you gave last year where you said...


Spokesman:  I’m fully aware of what I said...


Question:  ...this would be a 30-day investigation...


Spokesman:  Obviously, this has taken a lot longer, I think, than anyone expected -- whether it’s the Secretariat or Mr. Ackerman -- but both are trying to work as quickly as possible.


Question:  Has the Secretary-General contacted him?


Spokesman:  We’ve been in touch with Mr. Ackerman over the last few days.


Question:  Over the last few days?


Spokesman:  Recently.


Question:  For what...?


Spokesman:  Just to try to get this process moving along as quickly as possible.


Question:  First, I would like to put on the record that since Mr. Brammertz is here, we would love to have him as our guest in...


Spokesman:  Room 226.  That’s where you are.


Question:  Secondly, yesterday in his statement, Mr. Annan said that targeted killings amount to execution without trial.  Does Annan believe that war between people who are armed should be conducted in the courtrooms?  And how come no similar criticism lobbed at the United States when it has employed similar tactics?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General’s statement yesterday clearly said that he understood Israel’s right to defend itself, and reiterated his longstanding view on extrajudicial killings, wherever they occur.


Question:  And the second part of my question?


Spokesman:  On Mr. Brammertz? We’ll put it to him.


Question:  No, on the United States...


Spokesman:  No, that’s all I have to say on that.


Question:  Has there been any kind of OIC démarcheto the Secretary-General?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General met with the OIC troika just shortly before this briefing and we’ll try to get you a read-out.  But the Secretary-General has been in touch with the OIC on the issue of the caricatures over the last number of days.


Question:  Are you in danger of eroding all the principles of freedom of the press in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ... because this discussion is bound to come here in one form or another...?


Spokesman:  Well, I think the Secretary-General would not want to see an erosion of freedom of expression which is in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Question:  On the decision of the acting Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, do you have any comment on that?


Spokesman:  No specific comment, but I would refer you to the statements often made by the Quartet.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon.


Consultations of the plenary on the Human Rights Council were held yesterday afternoon and concluded the process of hearing Member States’ reactions to the negotiation text that had been presented by the co-chairs last week.  Assembly President Eliasson of Sweden now intends to hold intensive bilateral consultations through most of next week, at which point he will decide on the precise scenario for the final steps.


Informal consultations on Secretariat and management reform were held yesterday morning to continue discussion on rules and regulations.  The Group of 77 made a detailed presentation of its position, which it has made available on its website.  And, as Steph said, Ambassador Kumalo of South Africa, the Chair of the “G-77”, is going to brief the press on that tomorrow.


Consultations of the plenary on development, follow-up and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) reform are continuing today and tomorrow.


Questions and Answers


Question:  Does the fact that President Eliasson has stepped in on the Human Rights Council mean that things are still at loggerheads?  Will he have to decide now whether to drop it or call for a vote?  What’s the purpose of his involvement at this point?  Everybody’s been consulting all along.


Spokesperson:  I think it was always anticipated that the President would step in.


Once all positions were known and they’ve made the first attempt at compromise positions and then more positions are known.  It’s a gradual process of narrowing down.  But he’s intending to go for it.  And he’s giving it very high priority.


Question: But what does it mean that he’s stepped in? Does he want it done this month?


Spokesperson:  He doesn’t want to put an artificial deadline on it, but he is very aware of the pressure to get a decision in order to have a smooth transition before the Commission on Human Rights meets in March.  So, it’s pretty much the same time line as we had before.


Question:  Is he going to call for a vote, or is he going to drop it if he doesn’t get consensus?


Spokesperson:  He’s still hoping for consensus.


Question:  Is there any time line?


Spokesperson:  He is going to hold consultations through most of next week.  So, it could be end of next week, early the following week.  Sometime in the next two weeks, we think.


Question:  Is it going to take as long as the Nair investigation?


Spokesperson:  He’s aiming for quick action, because of the upcoming Commission meeting.


Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record