19 April 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.


**Security Council


This morning the Security Council met to hear briefings by Uganda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs [Sam Kutesa] and its Minister of Defence [Amama Mbabazi].  It is now hearing briefings by the same officials in a closed meeting.


**Secretary-General Briefing to Security Council


Yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General briefed the Security Council in closed consultations on the deteriorating relations between Chad and Sudan.


He noted a 13 April letter from Chad about the repulsion of an attack against the country’s capital and the capture of rebel fighters that the Government of Chad claims included Sudanese members.  The Secretary-General said he has intensified consultations with regional and other leaders in the quest for a peaceful and negotiated outcome.


The Secretary-General added that it would be helpful if the international community spoke with one voice in opposing violence and promoting dialogue in the settlement of disputes within and between States.  For their part, Council members indicated that they would like to receive further information from the Secretary-General on the recent incidents in Chad.


**Security Council on Tuesday


Also yesterday afternoon, Salim Ahmed Salim, the African Union Special Envoy and Chief Mediator for the inter-Sudanese talks in Abuja, briefed the Security Council in an open meeting that was then followed by a closed meeting.  He said that the mediators and the parties were working “full steam” to meet a 30 April deadline for a peace agreement.


** Iraq


Turning to Iraq, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, today continued his visit to Najaf, meeting there with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani this morning.  Qazi focused on the need for political leaders in Iraq to form a Government of national unity as soon as possible, in order to address the problems of instability, insecurity, inadequate public services and unemployment.


He stressed the responsibility of all political, religious and community leaders to work together in creating an environment in which sectarian tensions could be reduced and a genuine political settlement reached.  Qazi welcomed Ayatollah Sistani’s advice and support on these important issues.


**Refugee Report


And today in London, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, launched his agency’s latest report, The State of the World’s Refugees: Human Displacement in the New Millennium.


The report says that the return of millions of people to recovering nations such as Afghanistan, Angola and Sierra Leone has contributed to a sharp decline in the number of refugees and asylum seekers over the past five years.  Indeed, the number of refugees -– 9.2 million –- is now at its lowest level in 25 years.


At the same time, however, the report states that the sustainability of some of those returns remains a concern.  And that is linked to the plight of tens of millions of internally displaced people, widespread confusion over migrants and refugees, tightening asylum policies and growing intolerance.  The report is available on UNHCR’s website, and we do have a press release available to you upstairs.


**Budget


And the budget office tells us that today it received a cheque from Austria, this week rather, received a cheque from Austria, bringing to 77 the number of fully paid up Member States.  And Austria paid up about 14 and a half million dollars.  Thank you.


**Bird Flu in Sudan


And, at the request of Sudan’s Health Ministry, the World Health Organization has sent a team of experts to Khartoum to help investigate a suspected case of bird flu.  And we have a press release on that as well.


**IMF – World Bank


And lastly, our colleagues at the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and World Bank have asked us to remind you that their spring meetings are coming up this weekend in Washington.  In preparation for those meetings they have made available their annual World Economic Outlook and their Global Monitoring report.


According to the Global Monitoring report, there are encouraging signs of progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.  And the World Economic Outlook is available to you now.  The other report is embargoed until 5 p.m. tomorrow.  Press releases on those reports are available upstairs, as is an invitation to a press briefing that will take place in New York.


That is it for me.  Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Did the Secretary-General speak with any of the regional leaders that… in Chad… with Chad and Sudan after he briefed the Security Council, like this morning or…?


Spokesman:  No, I don’t have anymore on phone calls that took place from the Secretary-General.  But contacts are being made with regional… with countries in the region, at various levels throughout the UN system.


Question:  Speaking of Qazi, were you able to make any inquiries with OIOS whether somebody could come down and tell us the same thing you’ve told us?


Spokesman:  We’ve got a message in to them, so I’ll let you know.


Question:  In the case of this conflict between Chad and Sudan, the Secretary-General, as you just said, addressed the Security Council.  He seemed to express some sort of frustration when he says it would be helpful if the international community spoke with one voice.  What does he exactly mean?  Why is he expressing the frustration… is [inaudible]?


Spokesman:  I think his feeling is that, I mean, he’s looking forward to the presidential statement that we understand the Security Council is working on, on the situation.  He’s very much supporting the AU’s efforts to dispatch an envoy to the area.  He just feels that everyone should speak with one voice in that conflict.


Question:  Could you confirm that the President of Sudan actually told Hédi Annabi that there was no need for a UN assessment mission for the peacekeeping operation in Sudan, and that basically seems to be the end of the matter, as far as he’s concerned.


Spokesman:  That is correct.  Mr. Annabi was told in various meetings with Sudanese officials that they felt that this was not the time for a UN assessment mission to go into Darfur, and that they would rather wait until the Abuja process is completed.  So, we have a clear political line from the Sudanese at this point.


You know, nonetheless, our contingency planning continues.  This will not stop us.  And we definitely expect to present options to the Security Council at what an eventual force –- a UN force -– would look like in Darfur.  So, the planning continues, with or without the field visit.  It’s much more of a bump in the road then the end of the road for us, in terms of the contingency planning.


Question:  Is it fair to say that Omar El Bashir hasn’t accepted Mr. Annabi’s request for another interview?


Spokesman:  I do not… my understanding is that he did not see the President a second time, but we were trying to double check that before we came down here.


[The Spokesman’s office later confirmed that Mr. Annabi did not meet with the President a second time.]


Question:  But he’s coming back now… is he?


Spokesman:  He is coming back and he will be -- as expected.  He was scheduled to leave today.  He’s coming back, and he will present the options to the Security Council.  We’ve also asked him to speak to you.


Question:  Follow-up on that.  What ever happened to that attempt to call the President of Sudan on the Jan Egeland rejection?


Spokesman:  There’s been no further phone call between… conversations between the Secretary-General and the President, but there’s been all sorts of contacts at various levels, including the one between Mr. Annabi and the President.


Question:  And just to clarify, when you say no further phone calls, there was no phone call.


Spokesman:  No, there was no phone call.  Exactly.  Thank you for the clarification.


Question:  Does the Secretary-General agree with Mr. Salim Ahmed Salim’s assessment that there might be an agreement in the offing by 30 April?


Spokesman:  It would be very… we would definitely welcome an agreement by that date.  But, you know, Mr. Salim is the lead facilitator.  So he’s the one who has the information, and we, obviously, were very interested in his briefing yesterday.


Question:  On that same issue, does the UN have a view as to whether imposing sanctions at this stage would hinder the likelihood of an agreement being reached, or alternatively, as some argue, make it more likely that an agreement would be reached?


Spokesman:  You know, at this point, the sanctions issue is being debated in the Council, so I have nothing further to say.  But the Secretary-General did answer that question, in part, when he spoke two days ago.


Question:  Only one more, is there any progress on the UN’s efforts to find another country to host Charles Taylor after a trial in The Hague?


Spokesman:  No, my understanding is that there’s been no, there’s nothing to announce at this point.


Question:  In the meantime, is the UN capable of keeping him safe for an extended period in Sierra Leone?


Spokesman:  The Special Court has made arrangements.  I believe there’s a Swedish rapid reaction force that is there.  And they have taken all the measures they feel necessary to keep him safe where he’s locked up.


Question:  And finally on this, is the UN disappointed at the failure of the world to offer a place for Mr. Taylor, either to be imprisoned or to go into exile.  Is this basically a failure by the world to follow through on its commitments to international peace and security?


Spokesman:  I think, you know, to look on the bright side, Mr. Taylor is in jail.  He’s in the Special Court, where he was indicted.  We feel it’s safe.  Obviously discussions were going on.  I don’t think they’re concluded about finding another country to take him in for incarceration.  So, those discussions are going on.


Question:  [Inaudible] a public appeal you would make?


Spokesman:  The discussions are still going on.  It’s not the end of the road.


Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record