|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. I have two statements, the first one on Pakistan.
**Statement on Pakistan
“The Secretary-General strongly condemns the vicious suicide attack carried out yesterday at a Muslim prayer service in Karachi, Pakistan. There can be no justification of any kind for such violence against civilians.
“The Secretary-General sends his deepest sympathy to the Government and people of Pakistan and to the families of the dozens of people reported killed and injured in this brutal attack.”
And that statement is upstairs.
**Statement on Sri Lanka
On Sri Lanka:
“The Secretary-General is very concerned about the escalating violence and loss of life in Sri Lanka, including mine attacks on soldiers and police and targeted killings of political activists. He notes that crucial talks between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE, are scheduled to take place from 19 to 21 April in Geneva under Norwegian facilitation.
“The Secretary-General believes that it is of utmost importance to find ways to implement the Ceasefire Agreement, start rebuilding trust and lay the foundations for a lasting peace.
“The Secretary-General appeals to both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to meet in Geneva as planned.”
** Sri Lanka -– Humanitarian
Also on Sri Lanka, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka also condemned the latest spate of violence, which I’ve just mentioned.
He adds that such acts potentially threaten humanitarian operations in the most vulnerable areas affected by the tsunami and the conflict.
**Secretary-General in Netherlands
The Secretary-General, as you know, is in the Netherlands. He continued his trip today with a speech at the ceremony marking the sixtieth anniversary in The Hague of the International Court of Justice. The Secretary-General said the Court is thriving, with UN Member States turning to it more than ever, to decide cases from land and maritime border disputes to matters of genocide and use of force.
And we have that speech available for you upstairs.
The Secretary-General later had a working luncheon with the Dutch Prime Minister, and received Holland’s highest civilian award.
And we have remarks the Secretary-General delivered at that ceremony available to you as well.
While in The Hague, the Secretary-General also met with the senior officials and staff of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, as well as the International Criminal Court and received updates on the work of both those institutions.
And we do expect to have the Secretary-General back in the office on Monday.
**Secretary-General on Iran
Meanwhile, also in The Hague in between a couple of these meetings, the Secretary-General was asked by reporters to comment on the current situation regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.
He said he hoped that the IAEA Chief, Mohamed ElBaradei’s visit to Tehran -- during that visit he said he hoped Mr. ElBaradei would be able to convince the Iranian partners to come back to the table.
The Secretary-General added he very much hoped that the Iranians would work with the international community to find a negotiated solution.
He noted that if the Iranians intend to pursue their nuclear programme for peaceful purposes, as they have said, they should be able to give the international community that assurance and work with everybody to find a solution out of this current problem.
He also appealed to all to cool down on the rhetoric and not to escalate.
And his remarks also –- the verbatim of those remarks –- are upstairs.
Turning now to Sudan, the World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a donation of $8.7 million from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development earmarked for WFP’s giant road works project in southern Sudan.
WFP is rebuilding more than 3,000 kilometres of roads in the war-ravaged region.
The road project will dramatically reduce the cost of delivering goods and will facilitate the reopening of market linkages, which is crucial to rebuilding the country, provide a safe passage for hundreds of thousands of returning refugees and leave a lasting legacy to the people of Sudan long after WFP’s work is done.
And we do have a press release upstairs.
Meanwhile, the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, former US President William Clinton, today addressed members of InterAction, a coalition of 160 US-based international development and humanitarian NGOs at the group’s annual forum in Washington.
President Clinton announced the launch of a six-month intensive review of some of the key policy and operational challenges in the NGO community, which have been brought into starker focus by the tsunami experience.
And we have a press release available upstairs.
And from Ecuador, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today drew attention to Ecuador, which is still seeking international support for relief and recovery efforts, following last February’s flooding and landslides.
So far, UNICEF has provided oral re-hydration salts, and the World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization are also working with the Government to provide clean drinking water in shelters and to support health centres.
Regarding food, however, OCHA warns that the amount in the pipeline will be insufficient to meet the needs of hard-hit families over the next three months.
And we do have a press release on that as well upstairs.
**Organization of Islamic Conference
In a message delivered today, the Secretary-General said the Organization of the Islamic Conference has a key role to play in addressing challenges in many areas.
In the message that was delivered at the OIC meeting in Istanbul -- read by Mohammed Sahnoun, one of the Secretary-General’s special advisers -- the Secretary-General highlighted several areas of concern. They included the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, a growing sectarian threat in Iraq, and insufficient social and economic progress in Afghanistan.
He said he was looking forward to working with the Islamic group in addressing these and other challenges.
And we do have a full statement of that upstairs.
** Iraq -- OIOS
Also, I just wanted to mention -- there had been some questions raised in the last couple of briefings about the OIOS investigations into Mr. Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq.
We have been informed that the OIOS report will be finished during the course of next week and transmitted to the Secretary-General.
However, the work is sufficiently close to completion that OIOS has been able to assure us that Mr. Qazi will be cleared of any wrongdoing. The Secretary-General has, as you know, expressed his full confidence in Mr. Qazi throughout this difficult process and he reiterates that today. And fuller comments would not be appropriate until the full report is received.
That is it for me. I’ll take some of your questions now.
**Questions and Answers
Question: On the Qazi report, will that be made public once it’s transmitted to the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: We will check with OIOS what their procedure on this specific report is.
Question: Since you bring it up, can you tell us anything about the nature of the charges?
Spokesman: They were natures of wrongdoing in the Mission, but I think we’ll have to wait for a bit more to get the report.
Question: Financial, legal?
Spokesman: We’ll get you a bit more when we see the report.
Question: I don’t understand this. So he’s cleared of what?
Spokesman: Allegations of wrongdoing, which I think you and others raised in a number of press articles.
Question: Does this imply that anybody else is going to be found guilty or accused of wrongdoing?
Spokesman: No, these were allegations of wrongdoing regarding his management of the Mission. And I said, we’ve been told by OIOS that the report is sufficiently close to completion, but they’ve been able to inform us that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
Question: This is very quick -- you know, I mean, you’re saying it’s close to completion, it’s not completed yet.
Spokesman: Right, we said we’ve been told that next week it will be finished.
Question: You’re saying that, I don’t even know what the word “wrongdoing” exactly means, I mean that’s the way –-
Spokesman: Doing something wrong, doing something that’s not according to the rules. That would be -–
Question: I mean, when you say “something it could be anything from murder to signing twice on the dotted line. I don’t know, it could be --
Spokesman: Well, I think we’ll have to wait for the full report. But I can assure you it does not involve any criminal manslaughter or anything of that nature.
Question: He never [inaudible] –-
Spokesman: Well, one refers to wrongdoing would be activities that are in violation of internal UN administrative rules.
Question: Just wondering following the OIOS report on Pristina airport, and the apparent claims by the Special Representative that that’s got nothing to do with him, I mean, is the UN planning on making any follow-up on that as well?
Spokesman: No, very much so. We’ve been aware for some time of the disagreements between OIOS and UNMIK on this issue. I think I would also refer you to Mr. Jessen-Petersen’s press release of a couple days ago, in which he states clearly his intention to combat corruption and lays out what he has done at the head of the Mission. Obviously, there are disagreements between OIOS and the Mission. DPKO and senior management at the UN will be working to resolve these issues. We don’t want them to be left out unresolved, and the audit will be followed through and worked on.
Question: Has the Secretary-General been able to make any contact with Sudanese President El Bashir since his effort, I’m not sure, probably a week ago, to place a phone call and get some contact on what happened with Mr. Egeland?
Spokesman: There’s been no phone call. The Secretary-General has written to the President assuring him of the intentions of the UN to work very closely with the Sudanese Government as we work on the eventual transfer to a UN operation in Darfur. He’s also asked him, in the letter he’s also informed him that Mr. Annabi, number two official in DPKO who’s currently in Addis Ababa will be coming to Khartoum for a heavy schedule, not only with our Mission, but with the AU and Sudanese officials. And so far, we have every indication that Mr. Annabi will be going to Khartoum as planned and over the next few days. And we don’t expect any problems concerning the visit.
Question: Just to follow-up, what kind of indications have you received that Mr. Annabi will be welcome in Khartoum?
Spokesman: Well, there have been meetings at the level of the Mission in Khartoum, meetings here with the Permanent Mission of Sudan, and everyone has assured us that Mr. Annabi will be welcome.
Question: And Mr. Egeland, in terms of his possible --
Spokesman: I think that is still –- there’s no answer, I don’t have any guidance from Mr. Egeland’s office as to the eventual rescheduling of the visit.
[The Spokesman later informed the correspondent that Mr. Egeland’s office had received information indicating that the Government of the Sudan would welcome Mr. Egeland. Mr. Egeland was considering that information.]
Question: So, thus given the letter, does that mean the Secretary-General really no longer feels it imperative to speak on the phone with President El Bashir?
Spokesman: I think the issue of the phone call, at this point, is rather secondary. We’ve had contacts at various levels with the Sudanese Government and all the indications we have is that Mr. Annabi’s visit will go ahead as planned and will be fruitful.
Question: On that, who is Mr. Annabi to meet with in Khartoum?
Spokesman: My understanding is that he will meet with Government officials and obviously with our own UN Mission in Khartoum, and with the AU officials as well.
Question: On another issue, we were told that the Secretary-General was making some calls, trying to find a country that would take Charles Taylor after a trial. Could you give us an update on that?
Spokesman: I have nothing new to update you on that. Yes, Mark?
Question: Can we have an update on your sense of what’s happening in Chad? It seems to be deteriorating quite quickly, and at what point are we going to see calls for, you know, active responsibility to protect the people of Chad by the outside community?
Spokesman: I think the Secretary-General yesterday expressed his concern at the recent, fighting we’ve seen along the border, and the instability that’s brought to both Chad and to parts of the borders with the Central African Republic. Obviously, the work that we’re doing in Darfur in trying to bring stability, and also the work of the AU, is key to the ... defining ... getting more security along the border in Chad.
Question: Just to follow up on that -– then, basically you’re saying that the protection of Chadians is contingent on the Sudanese Government’s agreement to a mission in Darfur?
Spokesman: No, that’s not at all what I’m saying. That’s your interpretation. Obviously, the protection of civilians in Chad is, of course, a responsibility of the Government of Chad and we would help them in any way we can. What I’m telling you is that, obviously, the greater regional, if you look at the greater regional picture, a lot of the instability we’re seeing is due to what is going on in Darfur.
Question: My last question on this, if I may –- I thought that where Governments were unwilling or unable to protect their own populations, the responsibility for the protection of the people there, according to the UN’s own responsibility-to-protect mantra is on the international community. Is the UN saying the international community does or does not now have the responsibility to protect the people in Chad?
Spokesman: I think that what you’re seeing now in Chad is a lot of political instability. You’re also seeing violence along the border, and the Secretary-General will do whatever he can to help bring stability to the area. Yes, Benny?
Question: Speaking of the telephone call, does the Secretary-General, beyond what he said today, does he plan to have any contact with the Iranian leadership regarding yesterday’s announcement, any, you know, mediation attempt?
Spokesman: No, not at all. As I said, he’s fully backing Mr. ElBaradei’s effort, who’s in the lead in talking to the Iranians.
Question: So, he’s not throwing in his own hat in...?
Spokesman: Not at all, not at all. Yes, Bill?
Question: Does the Secretary-General call on Iran to halt the enrichment activities announced yesterday?
Spokesman: I have nothing further to add than what the Secretary-General himself said earlier.
Correspondent: That is a statement by the Security Council.
Spokesman: No. You came in late, and I will give you afterwards what the Secretary-General said in response to reporters’ questions in The Hague.
Question: My reading of what he said was he wants, he said to resume negotiations. He didn’t really directly address the issue of their enrichment activities and whether he feels that’s a violation of the Security Council, whether he calls on them to halt those activities, or what he thinks directly about them.
Spokesman: What he said is that he hoped Mr. ElBaradei would be able to convince the Iranians to come back to the table, and also what he said, he said if the Iranians do intend to pursue their nuclear programme for peaceful purposes, as they have stated, it should be able to give the international community the assurances it needs.
Question: Again [inaudible]... what I am talking about. The Security Council, in a statement, that was unanimous, said that enrichment should be stopped. That goes beyond, I mean, the Secretary-General seems to soften that line...
Spokesman: The Secretary-General is encouraging the Iranians to work with Mr. ElBaradei, who is to report to the Security Council and that’s where this issue is being dealt with now. He’s encouraging -- and Mr. ElBaradei is scheduled to report back to the Security Council is what I said.
What the Secretary-General is encouraging is for all to cool down on the rhetoric and work in diplomatic ways. Yes?
Spokesman: If only.
Question: Just on Iran again, one of the issues surrounding Iran and disagreements or questions in the Security Council whether it constitutes a threat to international peace and security. Now, under the Charter, the Secretary-General himself can inform the Council that there’s a threat to international peace and security. Does the Secretary-General consider the situation in Iran now to be a threat to international peace and security?
Spokesman: At this point, the issue of non-proliferation as it deals with Iran is being dealt with in the Security Council and the Secretary-General has nothing to add to that process.
Question: Does the Secretary-General support the production of nuclear energy for industrial purposes for Iran?
Spokesman: As I’ve said -– as he has said -– if the Iranians intend to pursue the nuclear research programme for peaceful purposes, they should be able to give the assurance to the international community that they’ve required.
Question: Does the Secretary-General fully support the 29 March Presidential Statement adopted by the Security Council?
Spokesman: It’s not for him to approve or disapprove. Right now, he’s backing the work of Mr. ElBaradei and backing all the diplomatic efforts that are under way.
Question: With all due respect, there’s a pink elephant in the room. Yesterday, Ahmadinejad said that he was successful in enriching uranium. That is contradictory to the Presidential Statement at the Security Council. That is missing from what Annan said.
Spokesman: The Secretary-General –- I will not over-interpret what the Secretary-General said. You will have the full text of what he said and infer what you want from it.
Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record