13 March 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.


**Statement on Ethiopia-Eritrea


I’ll start off with a statement on Ethiopia-Eritrea.


“The Secretary-General welcomes the outcome of the meeting of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission that was convened in London on 10 March.  He was pleased to hear that the parties participated in the meeting constructively, and encouraged by their agreement to arrangements for the demarcation of the boundary, which the Commission delimited in April 2002, to be resumed.


“The Secretary-General hopes that this positive development will allow the Commission’s decision to be implemented without further delay.  He urges the parties to cooperate fully with the Commission and with the UN Mission in Ethiopia-Eritrea (UNMEE) for this purpose, and also to carry out their full obligations to facilitate the work of UNMEE under UN Security Council resolutions 1320 (2000), 1398 (2002) and 1430 (2002).


“The United Nations stands ready to provide the necessary support to facilitate the demarcation process.  The Secretary-General firmly believes that full and prompt demarcation of the border is a central element in the overall peace process and can be a key to its early and successful conclusion, with the establishment of normal peaceful relations between the two countries.”


And that statement is available upstairs.


**Security Council


Continuing on the same topic.  Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Ethiopia and Eritrea, briefed the Security Council today on the Secretary-General’s latest report on those two countries and on recent developments.  You’ll recall that Legwaila also attended the London meeting of the Boundary Commission which I just mentioned.


A resolution was also introduced concerning the technical extension of the mandate of the UN Mission in Ethiopia-Eritrea.


After that, the Council discussed Sudan in its consultations, with Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi briefing them on the latest developments, including the African Union meeting.


Annabi also will brief Council members about elections in Haiti.


**Secretary-General in South Africa


The Secretary-General arrived in South Africa this morning, where he is to meet with President Thabo Mbeki and address the South African Parliament tomorrow in Cape Town.  Today he’s meeting with the heads of UN agencies working in South Africa to brief him on the situation in the country.


**International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia


Carla Del Ponte, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), told reporters yesterday that she deeply regrets the death on Saturday of Slobodan Milosevic.  “It deprives the victims of the justice they need and deserve”, she said.


She added that, although “it is a great pity for justice that the trial will not be completed and no verdict will be rendered”, other senior leaders have been indicted for the crimes for which Slobodan Milosevic was also accused.


And we have a press release with her statements, as well as those of the Tribunal President [Fausto Pocar] available upstairs.


** Iraq


Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, today expressed his outrage at yesterday’s criminal bombings in four crowded markets situated in Sadr City in Baghdad.  Qazi strongly condemned these barbarous acts, which killed more than 64 innocent civilians, and caused the injury of at least 300 more.


Qazi called upon the Iraqi political and religious leaders to rise to the challenge posed by the perpetrators of these killings, in order to ensure that their plans to fan the flames of sectarian strife are thwarted.  He also called on Iraq’s leaders to redouble their efforts to form a broad-based Government as soon as possible.  And we have that statement available upstairs.


Qazi, as you know, will brief the Security Council on Wednesday.  And he has agreed to speak to the press at the stakeout on Wednesday around midday.  And he will also come in to be our guest for a longer press conference on Thursday.


** Lebanon


The present fragile and complex situation in the Middle East was the key subject of talks in Moscow today between Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of resolution 1559, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.


The talks focused in particular on the importance of the Lebanese national dialogue, which Mr. Larsen reiterated was a central means for implementing the resolution.  “This is a momentous event in Lebanese history:  the first ever such dialogue without foreign interference or facilitation”, Larsen said.  “It is guided by the Taif Agreement and the principles of 1559 and offers an historic opportunity”.


Roed-Larsen also thanked his Russian interlocutors warmly for their facilitation of a private, closed meeting with the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Al-Muallem.


Over the weekend, Mr. Roed-Larsen also had a chance to discuss the situation of Lebanon with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


Turning to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the head of the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, today ended a visit to the town of Kalemie, on the western shores of Lake Tanganyika.


His activities there included meeting with the local offices of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, as well as a press encounter during which he reiterated the firm resolve of the United Nations to see free, fair and credible elections in the country.


**Human Rights


From Geneva, the Human Rights Commission opened its annual session this morning, but then decided by consensus to suspend its work for one week.


The Commission’s Chairman, Ambassador Manuel Rodriguez Cuadros of Peru, pointed to the ongoing negotiations on the Human Rights Council as a reason for the suspension, noting that the present situation was “extraordinary”.  At the same time, however, he said that the Commission still had a mandate, which it was determined to fulfil.  And we have more on the events in Geneva this morning.


On a related note, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Mission in Iraq recently met in Cyprus with Iraqi officials and civil society groups, to discuss the establishment of a national human rights commission in Iraq.  And we have a press release on that upstairs.


**Commission on Status of Women


At its fiftieth session, the Commission on the Status of Women adopted five resolutions on Friday relating to women and girls in Afghanistan, Palestinian women, HIV/AIDS, hostage-taking of women and children and on the advisability of a rapporteur on laws that discriminate against women.


Adoption of the two agreed conclusions and the Commission’s programme of work for 2007-2009 were held over until the session resumes at a date to be announced later.  And we do have more information on that for those of you who are interested.


**Press Conference


Tomorrow at 11:15, the German Mission will be sponsoring a press conference to launch the report entitled, “Beyond Firewood:  Fuel Alternatives and Protection Strategies for Displaced Women and Girls”.  And I assume that is taking place here in 226, and that is tomorrow at 11:15.


That is it for me.  Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Was there a statement or something that resulted from that Border Commission meeting by anybody?  Because we’ve had people in London, Asmara, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, New York and Washington looking for the result of that meeting, and no one would talk about it over the [inaudible], from Friday on.  Now I find out that there was a result.


Spokesman:  We have been advised of a result.  You know, the Commission is not a United Nations body, but I’m happy to, after the briefing, to go back upstairs and see if we can squeeze a piece a paper out of someone here.


Question:  I’m just trying to find out what the result was.


Spokesman:  Okay.


Question:  Did the Secretary-General receive any indication that James Wolfensohn would be resigning in April if there was nothing happening with Hamas?  And also, did the Quartet speak at all this weekend?


Spokesman:  I’m not aware of any Quartet phone calls over the weekend.  Mr. Wolfensohn’s mandate is one that is given to him by the Quartet as a whole, and I know those discussions are ongoing on his mandate, but I have nothing else to add.


Question:  I wonder what is the latest view of the Secretary-General in light of the death of the most senior indictee in the Hague Tribunal, Mr. Milosevic, on the future of the war crimes tribunal on the former Yugoslavia.


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General continues to firmly believe that people accused of such crimes as he was, of war crimes and genocide, should face these charges in open court.  That would especially apply to -- though not only to -- but especially apply to notably to Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, that they be handed over to the Tribunal to face those charges.


Question:  But in the light that -- previously we have heard Carla Del Ponte and other senior officials of the Court that there is some kind of deadline for the work of the Tribunal, which is 2008, and now that we don’t have Milosevic and he is gone, his verdict was not given, what about this time framework?  What is the common opinion...?


Spokesman:  The time frame and the mandate given to the Tribunal is by the Security Council and there have been discussions among Council members about a [wind-down] strategy for the Courts.  But that is really looking to the future.  What is key is for now, while the Court is still standing and running, that others accused of crimes be handed over to the Court.


Question:  Just one more if I can.  Is the Secretary-General ready to give an exclusive interview to the newspaper or media from the region on these issues and on the others?


Spokesman:  That is a question, I think, you and I best discuss outside of the briefing room.


Question:  On the record, if he’s ready to try...


Spokesman:  We can discuss that afterwards.


Question:  On the proposal for establishment of the Iraqi Human Rights Commission, any details on its structure, time frame, things like that?


Spokesman:  We have more information upstairs.  These, I think, were just preliminary talks.  I’m not sure there’s yet an agreement exactly on the framework, but that’s one of the issues that we are working closely with the Iraqis.


Question:  In reference to Mr. Milosevic’s death:  There was a report today that that there was some other drug -– un-prescribed drug was found in his blood.  Do you have any comment on that?


Spokesman:  No, I think all these questions relating to the exact –- to his death and what went on in The Hague will best answered by people in The Hague.


Question:  Also, I just wanted to find out, do you have any comment on this UN official who was found dead in an Islamabad hotel over the weekend?


Spokesman:  You know, I do have something, which is, I’m told, that an investigation is currently being carried out concerning the death of the staff member, but we’ve seen nothing to suggest that his death was a result of anything other than natural causes.


Question:  On this weekend’s violence in Iraq, Mr. Qazi, the Special Representative, speaks about sectarian violence.  But Muqtada al-Sadr, who is the head of the Imam Mehdi army, now says that there is civil war in Iraq, that he will not ask his faction to counter-attack.  Does Mr. Qazi disagree with Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr?


Spokesman:  Mr. Qazi’s message was one appealing for calm.  And I think now, more than ever, is a time for political leaders and religious leaders to come together and to try to build some consensus, notably on the issue of the Government as we move ahead in Iraq.


Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record