17 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.


**Guest at Noon


Our guest today will be Stephen Lewis, who as you know is the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and he’ll be joining us to brief you on his latest trips to Lesotho and Swaziland.


**Disarmament


I have an appointment to announce.  The Secretary-General is today appointing Mr. Nobuaki Tanaka of Japan as the new Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, effective 6 April 2006.


Mr. Tanaka has most recently been serving as Ambassador of Japan to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.  In his career in the Foreign Ministry of Japan, particularly during his tenure as Deputy Director General in the Policy and North American Bureau, he dealt with key security issues, including the Korean Peninsula, leading the inter-six party talks and the banning of anti-personnel landmines.


Mr. Tanaka is a seasoned diplomat with a variety of experience not only with dealing with bilateral, political and economic issues, but also working within the United Nations system in the past.


And we have a biography available of him upstairs for those of you who are interested.


**Secretary-General in Madagascar


The Secretary-General is continuing his visit to Madagascar.  Today in the capital, he addressed and was made a member of the National Academy of Arts, Sciences and Letters.


In his remarks to the Academy, the Secretary-General noted the progress he had seen in Madagascar, in terms of economic and social development.  And he said he was particularly impressed by advances in literacy, efforts to prepare for natural disasters, and the Government’s commitment to sustainable development.


He also said that the UN would continue to be a close partner to Madagascar in addressing such areas as governance, education, HIV/AIDS and disaster prevention.  And we have his remarks available upstairs.


**Security Council


As you know, in the Security Council earlier this morning in an open meeting, Liberia’s newly elected President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, addressed the Council, and Council members also spoke of the situation in Liberia.


And, at 3:30 this afternoon, the Security Council will hold closed consultations on the letters the Secretary-General sent to the Security Council President, dated 6 February and 8 March –- both of which deal with the implementation of the safeguards agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency.  And those closed consultations begin at 3:30.


** C ôte d’Ivoire


Turning to the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, the International Working Group for Côte D’Ivoire held its fifth ministerial-level meeting in  Abidjan today, aimed at bringing about reconciliation in that country and elections in the fall.  The UN, as you know, is the co-chair of the group.


Also in Côte d’Ivoire, the Mission there has published its semi-annual report on human rights, covering the second half of last year.  The report labelled the situation “worrisome” because of what the Mission called political deterioration, especially at the end of last year.  And that report is available upstairs.


**Kosovo


In Vienna today, delegations from Pristina and Belgrade are holding the second round of direct talks on decentralization, under the auspices of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the future status process of Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari.


Chaired by Mr. Ahtisaari’s deputy, Albert Rohan, the talks are focusing on local finance, inter-municipal cooperation and cross-boundary cooperation.


**ICTY


An autopsy by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has shown that Slobodan Milosevic died of a heart attack.  That finding was supported by teams of Russian and Serbian pathologists.


The Tribunal has also released the provisional results of an examination by the Dutch authorities, which show that there were no indications of poisoning found.  And we do have more information on that upstairs.


**International Criminal Court


Also from The Hague, the International Criminal Court says that the Congolese authorities have transferred over to them Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a Congolese national and alleged founder and leader of the group known as Union des Patriotes Congolais.


Lubanga is alleged to have committed war crimes, and he’s the first person to be arrested and transferred to the International Criminal Court since the entry into force of the Rome Statute in 2002.


And we have a press release from the ICC available to you upstairs.


**UNHCR


The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, today reports that the numbers of asylum applications in industrialized countries fell sharply in 2005 for the fourth year in a row.


In the last five years, the number of asylum seekers arriving in all industrialized countries has fallen by half, according to the agency.


The High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, said the figures show that talk in the industrialized countries of a growing asylum problem does not reflect reality.


He said industrialized countries should be asking themselves whether by imposing ever tighter restrictions on asylum seekers they are not closing their doors to men, women and children fleeing persecution.


And we have much more from UNHCR available in my Office.


**Central Emergency Response Fund


According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Poland yesterday announced a pledge of $250,000 for the new Central Emergency Response Fund, known as CERF, which was launched last week by the Secretary-General, and which Mr. Jan Egeland also briefed you on last week.


The Polish pledge brings the total number of Member States supporting the Fund to 37 and increases the total pledges and contributions to more than $254 million.


**WHO -– Tuberculosis


Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) today launched a new strategy to fight tuberculosis (TB), a disease that it calls “one of the world’s leading killers”.


The strategy addresses the current challenges facing countries in responding to TB, such as the spread of TB and HIV co-infection.


According to the WHO, TB kills 1.7 million people every year.


And we have a press release available upstairs.


**Secretary-General Message


One message to flag for you from the Secretary-General.  Over the weekend, the Second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace will meet in Seville, Spain, and the Secretary-General, in a message to that gathering, encourages that Congress to spread a message of dialogue and peaceful coexistence among Muslims and Jews.


He says the imams and rabbis can be powerful agents of change.


The Secretary-General encourages them to help bridge the chasms of ignorance, fear and misunderstanding, and to set an example of interfaith dialogue and cooperation.


The meeting draws together some 150 religious leaders from the Middle East, Europe and North America to promote dialogue and understanding between Jews and Muslims.


And we have the statement available upstairs.


** Spain


And lastly, the UN Secretariat and the Government of Spain today agreed to work more closely together in the increasingly important field of electoral assistance.


An agreement signed by Spain and for the UN by Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim A. Gambari establishes potential cooperation in many areas, including support to election observer groups, exchanges of electoral experts and technical assistance for strengthening electoral systems within Member States.


And that is it for me.  Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I just wanted to ask you about Terje Roed-Larsen’s upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia.  Could you give us some details?


Spokesman:  He is going there as part of his regional consultations in the implementation of resolution 1559 which deals with Lebanon.  And obviously, he’s preparing the report on 1559, which comes out next month.  And as part of his reporting, he believes that the regional players have something to bring to the discussion.  So he’ll be discussing the situation in Lebanon with the Saudi officials.


Speaking of Lebanon.  Sylvian.


Question:  What’s [inaudible] of the Secretary-General on the Lebanity of the Shaba Farms.  Shaba Farms are Lebanese. 


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General’s position on the Shaba Farms is unchanged, and I would refer you to the numerous Security Council resolutions on that issue.


Question:  I had asked you last week also about the transfer of powers of the Secretary-General to the Deputy Secretary-General in order to divide some of the duties between them.  Lots of major functions had been given the new Deputy Secretary-General to be.  What I’m saying is that I had asked you whether the Secretary-General is authorized to do that.  The resolution that was passed creating the post in 1997 clearly says that the Secretary-General will appoint the Deputy Secretary-General following consultations with Member States and in accordance with Article 101 of the Charter.  That’s what the resolution says.


Spokesman:  The answer I gave you last week stands.  The Secretary-General has the right to delegate authority as he sees fit.  It’s the way any manager would manage.  But obviously, the ultimate responsibility for running the Secretariat remains purely in the hands of the Secretary-General, and that responsibility does not change.


Question:  Also, can you tell me -- maybe you’ve answered this question before -- this oil-for-food was supposed to end, I believe, at the end of March.  Is that right?  Has it already handed over all the papers to the United Nations, and if not, is it going to?


Spokesman:  Not having yet reached the end of March, the Commission still is continuing, just as a repository of the archives, to help out national authorities in their ongoing investigations.  I do expect to have something to announce as to what will happen to the papers and the lifespan of the ICC in the next few days.


Question:  It’s nearing the end.  That’s the thing.


Spokesman:  Nearing is exactly that.  We still have two weeks, which is a lifetime.


Question:  How much more expense was incurred by this oil-for-food Commission?


Spokesman:  I think the last full budget -- total budget -- for the Commission’s work was $35 million, if I’m not mistaken.


Question:  That was until December?


Spokesman:  I’ll check.  I don’t have the exact figures in my head.  I don’t want to misspeak too much.


Thank you very much.  We’ll now turn to Mr. Lewis.


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For information media • not an official record