|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.
As you all know by now, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, sent to the President of the Security Council a report concerning the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement in Iran. And that report has now been circulated to all members of the Security Council. And it has also gone to all 35 Member States of the IAEA’s Board of Governors in Vienna.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, has appealed toady to rebels to stop attacks on humanitarian workers in Darfur.
According to the UN Mission in Sudan, over the past few weeks, aid workers operating for non-governmental organisations and UN agencies have come under continuous attacks and harassment by armed groups in North Darfur. Several reports indicate that many of these attacks have been waged by rebel Sudanese Liberation Army ( SLA) factions, the Mission says. Armed robbery and hijackings have endangered humanitarian workers assisting over 450,000 vulnerable people living in the area.
Pronk says that, unless these attacks and harassment stop immediately, the UN and its partners will be obligated to suspend all relief assistance to this particular area, until effective safety for humanitarian personnel and assets is guaranteed. And we have a press release from Khartoum available upstairs.
**World Food Programme
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) said today that, because of the shortage of funds, it will have to cut by half food rations for millions of vulnerable people in Sudan.
WFP had to keep part of its limited stocks to help the people through the rainy season, which was also called the hunger season, which lasts from July until September when the harvest is ready.
It says it has been a very difficult decision to take, as the people in Sudan, especially in Darfur, have already suffered so much.
WFP says that, despite repeated appeals to donor countries, it has received only $238 million in response to its appeal for $746 million to help 6 million people in Sudan.
The Security Council today adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Mission in Western Sahara for a further six months, until the end of October.
It has also passed a resolution emphasizing the importance of preventing armed conflict and expressing appreciation at the Secretary-General’s report late last year on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
These were the last formal meetings scheduled under the Security Council Presidency of China. The Republic of Congo will assume the Council’s rotating Presidency on Monday, 1 May.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
And, from the Congo, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is following up on unconfirmed reports of clashes between the Congolese national army and suspected elements of the armed group known as the Ugandan People’s Defence Force, or UPDF, in the area south of Aba in the Ituri District.
As a precautionary measure, the Mission says it’s reinforced its military presence in Aba, with the deployment of one platoon of peacekeepers and two armoured vehicles.
The Mission says it will continue to investigate the report of clashes.
And, on a related note, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says it has begun preparations for the registration next week of thousands of internally displaced persons in the DRC’s Katanga province. And we have more available upstairs.
** Sri Lanka
Also from UNHCR, their office in Sri Lanka says that, as of noon today, the overall situation there seems to have stabilised.
The agency says, however, it has remained seriously concerned over the displacement of many thousands of people.
The UNHCR says other agencies have sent assessment specialists to the affected areas, but reports that its teams are still experiencing difficulties in reaching some villages and displaced populations.
The agency is calling on all parties to allow immediate access to affected populations, as soon as possible.
** Côte d’Ivoire
And, in Côte d’Ivoire, UNHCR says it has re-established a presence in western Côte d’Ivoire, following January’s violent destruction of its premises. UNHCR says it has a new operational base in Duékué, 20 minutes north of Guiglo, which was the scene of the most severe violence last January.
And the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, former US President Bill Clinton, will be at UNICEF House as of 2 p.m. today, which is UNICEF House across the street here. He will be chairing a meeting of the Global Consortium on Tsunami Recovery, which will gather representatives of countries that were hit by the 2004 tsunami, as well as delegates from donor countries, non-governmental organizations, international financial institutions and UN agencies.
President Clinton is expected to laud the progress in construction and to welcome the rebound in tourist arrivals. On the other hand, he will also draw attention to the 40,000 people who are still living in tents in Aceh, as well as to the $100 million funding gap in the Maldives. And we have a press release available on that upstairs.
And also, in other tsunami-related news, President Clinton’s deputy, Eric Schwartz, will be in Bangkok next week for the launch of a new initiative on accountability to tsunami survivors. And he’ll also make stops in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
And today the Secretary-General has appointed 12 members to the Advisory Group for the Central Emergency Response Fund, known as CERF, an upgrade of the previous Emergency Revolving Fund.
This Group will provide a periodic policy guidance and expert advice to the Secretary-General on the use and impact of the Fund. And they’re scheduled to meet here for the first time in late May of this year in New York. And we have the list of all of those upstairs.
**The Week Ahead
And today being, thankfully, Friday, we have the “Week Ahead” for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yesterday, the Iranian Ambassador said that the Security Council does not have any purview over this Iranian enrichment programme issue, because it’s not a matter of international peace and security. In the United Nations, does this [inaudible] conform with the stipulation that it is violating the international peace and security?
Spokesman: The Security Council has just received the report. They are fully seized of the matter. And, I think from this podium we’ll refrain from making any comments while the Council is debating and studying the report.
Question: Can the Secretary-General give some sort of finding, whether in fact, because Iran says it does not follow (inaudible)?
Spokesman: I understand the question, but at this point we’ll refrain from making any comments.
Question: In the Security Council today, a number of Council members, after the vote on Western Sahara, talked about a human rights commission that was going to go to Western Sahara, I believe to investigate the abuses that the Secretary-General put in his report. Do you know how that team is going to be made up? Who is going to go, when they’re going to go, if they’re going to go to the prisons, as well as to the refugee camps, or is it something very specific?
Spokesman: The short answer is, I don’t know. We can talk to our human rights colleagues right after this and we’ll get you an answer.
Question: Last year, I think there was some attempt made by a number of countries to make some of the voluntary protocols governing the Non-Proliferation Treaty binding. And, at that time, Ambassador Bolton opposed. Does the Secretary-General have a view about the Non-Proliferation Treaty and making voluntary protocols binding? And, if he does, does he also believe the Non-Proliferation Treaty could be strengthened by other countries in the Middle East becoming members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, such as Israel?
Spokesman: On the question of non-proliferation as a whole, it is something that, if you look back in September, that the Secretary-General felt that the Member States failed to address in the Outcome Document. And it’s an issue which the Secretary-General cares very much about and feels that the Member States should have addressed in the Outcome Document.
Yes, in the back?
Question: With reference to this Iran report again, particularly in view of the fact that it ends with the words “the Director General will continue to report as appropriate”, is the Security Council going to consider this over the weekend or into next week, or are they going to have something come down today?
Spokesman: You’d have to address that question to the Council presidency.
Question: I’m asking about the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the comments that the United States has been making in the media, the threats and the proposed “divine strake” that’s going to be tested on 2 June, in terms of expanding our nuclear weapons capability and us attacking Iran with nuclear weapons. Has the Security Council taken this up? I believe it’s a violation of the ICJ (International Court of Justice), among other things.
Spokesman: I can’t speak for what the Security Council will or won’t take up. But, on the proliferation issue as a whole, I would just refer back to my answer.
Question: Is there a statement by the Secretary-General about the press accounts that were leaked by the White House about using nuclear weapons?
Question: Just with regards to the management reform, the Secretary-General came out with a proposal yesterday, it was basically “do the work”. It looks like a train crash will happen today, this afternoon. I was just wondering if there’s anything that you wanted to say at this stage. Why was it that the initiative failed? Is he upset about that, etcetera?
Spokesman: You know discussions are resuming at 3 p.m. We don’t want to prejudge what will happen at 3. As always, the SG has made himself available to the Member States to help find consensus. With the letter, he made a best effort to move the process forward, by proposing that two of the proposals could be set aside -- two that the G-77 had found particularly objectionable. But, let’s see what happens at 3 o’clock.
Question: Just to follow it up, there was some, probably deliberate, misconstruing of what the Secretary-General’s letter meant. Just to clarify, when the Secretary-General suggested setting aside these, did he intend, as Ambassador Kumalo tried to interpret it, that these things be dropped forever in perpetuity in any forum, or was he suggesting that a bracket be put around them for discussion later?
Spokesman: He meant set aside. I don’t want to go into any more details.
Question: What does set aside mean?
Spokesman: Set aside means set aside. I’m not going to go into any further details, especially as the Committee will resume its discussions this afternoon.
Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record