|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. First of all, I would like to welcome our guests from Georgia, who are here participating in the US State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Programme.
And my guest today at noon will be Juan Méndez, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. On the twelfth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, Mr. Méndez will talk about the need for international organizations to translate the commitment to prevent and punish genocide, into action.
** Iraq Statement
I have a statement on the situation in Iraq.
“The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest possible terms the bombing of the Buratha mosque in the Al Adhamiya area of Baghdad today. This attack and yesterday's bombing near the holy Shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf clearly demonstrate that there are forces in Iraq determined to inflame sectarian violence and to exploit the current difficulties in forming the new government. This underscores the urgent need for political leaders to resolve their differences in the best interests of the nation.”
**Secretary-General in Spain
The Secretary-General, as you know, is in Spain, continuing his meetings with the Chief Executives Board of the United Nations. And this morning’s meeting took place in Madrid at the headquarters of the UN’s World Tourism Organization.
The Security Council met in closed consultations this morning. The first item on the ambassadors’ agenda was the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. A draft resolution on the extension of a judge was circulated. Under the second item, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a draft resolution was introduced on the temporary redeployment of peacekeepers from Burundi to the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- that is, as you know, in response to a request from the Secretary-General, which came earlier this week. Then, under other matters, another draft resolution was circulated on the extension of the mandate of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, which expires on April 15.
And also, a revised program of work for April is now out, with the Sierra Leone item involving Charles Taylor postponed until Monday, the 10th. And consultations on Cote d’Ivoire are now scheduled for the 17th of April.
Turning to Nepal, the Spokesman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said its office in Kathmandu was reporting that the demonstrations were in relatively small numbers, and arrests usually occurred as soon as demonstrations had begun. And they noted that most demonstrations had been peaceful. The Spokesman said the Office’s team would continue to monitor the demonstrations and the response of the police and security forces to those demonstrations.
**Horn of Africa
The United Nations today launched a worldwide appeal to help more than 8 million drought–stricken people in the Horn of Africa. The appeal seeks almost half a billon dollars for areas of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia where rains have repeatedly failed, and where rainfall is expected to be below average again this year.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says children in the area are already suffering from malnutrition, and cattle have been dying. The appeal was launched in Nairobi, by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, as well as in Geneva, by Kjell Magne Bondevik, Special Humanitarian Envoy for the Horn of Africa. And, at 1 p.m. in this room, Kevin Kennedy from OCHA will be here to answer any questions you may have on the appeal.
**World Health Day
Today is also World Health Day, and the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Lee Jong-Wook, is in Lusaka, Zambia, to launch the World Health Report 2006. This year’s theme is human resources for health. According to the report, which we have upstairs, 57 countries, most of them in Africa and Asia, face critical shortages of health workers, and at least 4 million more health workers are needed to fill the gap.
In his message to mark the day, the Secretary-General says that health workers are essential to their countries’ security, by being the first to identify new diseases or new threats to public health. He says it is clear that, to protect and improve the health of people worldwide, and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we need to rapidly bolster the global health workforce. And we have his full message upstairs, as well as a media advisory from WHO on the event they will be hosting here on Monday.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) today reports that it has begun an airdrop of aid to violence-wracked areas of Katanga province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). WFP resorted to the airdrops -- the first ever into the DRC -- because heavy rains have closed roads to the area where it says malnutrition rates are rising. In a previous re-supply run for internally displaced persons in Katanga, WFP trucks took more than a month to arrive at that destination, the agency said. We have a press release on that upstairs.
**South Asia Quake
And tomorrow marks the six-month anniversary of the devastating earthquake that hit South Asia. We have upstairs embargoed press release from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on the shift from the relief phase to the reconstruction phase.
And just flagging to you press conferences, we’ll have Kevin Kennedy from OCHA here at 1 p.m., to discuss the appeal for the Horn of Africa.
That’s it for me. Before we turn to Mr. Méndez, any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Is the Secretary-General going to be doing anything as part of his call to rapidly bolster the world health force on World Health Day? I mean, is this another one of his days that sort of dilutes the strength of the message coming out of the UN? Is he going to in any way contribute to…
Spokesman: I don’t agree with you that it dilutes it. I think that the World Health Day with the release of the World Health report helps focus the world’s attention on the situation worldwide.
Question: But is he going to do anything to exercise his good offices, maybe, in Iraq -- is there any way that he can get involved personally to try to bridge these sectarian divisions and help…?
Spokesman: This has been at the forefront of the efforts of Mr. Qazi, who has been talking -- and his staff -- talking to various parties. Obviously, we are not directly involved in negotiations for the prime ministership or the Government, but the efforts to bring different sectarian groups together have been at the forefront of the efforts there.
Question: Ambassador Wang mentioned that the Secretary-General is trying to raise money for the Special Court in Sierra Leone. How much is he trying to raise, from whom, and any success?
Spokesman: I’ll try to get you an update on that.
[The Spokesman later added that the Secretary-General had, indeed, written to Member States, renewing an urgent appeal to make voluntary contributions to the Court, in order to secure the $14.4 million needed this year. The Spokesman also noted that this appeal did not include the costs for the trial of Charles Taylor, as it was written prior to his capture.]
Question: On ICTY, actually, I have two questions. According to official statistics, the ICTY has spent more that $1.5 billion since 2000. What is the common universal thinking at the UN administration, including the Secretary-General -- is this money enough, too much or too little for the work that has been done? And is the Secretary-General, indeed, satisfied with the work of the Chief Prosecutor?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General has full confidence in the work of the Prosecutor. What is important when discussing the court is to remind people that there are still a number of people at large, who belong in The Hague, to answer for the crimes which they are accused of, notably Mr. Mladic, Mr. Karadic. And one would hope that Member States that have any influence would help to deliver them to the court. As to whether or not the money has been worth it, I think one would need to let the court finish its work, before issuing a judgement.
Question: Just if you can explain, regarding the decision today of the Security Council -- how can you actually explain that the Secretary-General was somehow forced to request the Security Council to extend the mandate of the judge on the Krajisnic case, because the Prosecutors or the ICTY did not deliver on the promise in January 2005 that they will finish the Krajisnic case by April 2006?
Spokesman: You know, the court operates under the authority of the Security Council, so that is why they are getting involved in the judges.
Question: But do you have an opinion on that?
Spokesman: I don’t have any information on that specific case.
Question: ICTY promised that they would finish the case by April 2006 in January 2005 and they didn’t. What’s your opinion on that?
Spokesman: I think that you need to refer these questions to the ICTY. I don’t have any more to answer in terms of that question.
Question: I will ask you this question on the Secretary-General’s opinion in the next days.
Spokesman: Mr. Abbadi.
Question: There were indications that an important meeting on Darfur would take place in the next few days, with participation of Obasanjo, the OAU head, the Vice-President of the Sudan and the rebels, and that some very important results might come out of that meeting. Do you have any information on that?
Spokesman: No, I do not. We have, if I am not mistaken, Taye Zerihoua, who is the Deputy Special Representative, there, but I don’t have an update on the meeting itself.
[The Spokesman later added that the African Union chief mediator for the Darfur peace process, Salim Ahmed Salim, was scheduled to brief the Security Council next Thursday.]
Question: Just an update on the investigation in the Baghdad Mission – can you give some more information on that, please?
Spokesman: No, I have nothing to add to what I previously said when this question came up, which is to say that, first of all, the Secretary-General has complete confidence in the work that Mr. Qazi is doing under very difficult circumstances, and that, as a matter of course when any allegations of wrongdoing arise, they are looked into.
Question: Did you release a bio on Mr. Qazi?
Spokesman: I think, if you go back to the date when we announced Mr. Qazi, we made that biography public and it’s available on the website, if you care to look.
Thank you very much. Mr. Méndez, please.
* *** *For information media • not an official record