2 May 2006
Spokesman's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.


Briefing by Spokesman


Good afternoon.


**Secretary-General’s Counter-Terrorism Report


The Secretary-General just now submitted to the Member States his report entitled Uniting against terrorism: Recommendations for a global counter-terrorism strategy.  He said the report’s recommendations stem from the fundamental conviction that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes, is unacceptable and can never be justified”.


The recommendations are to address terrorism by dissuading people from resorting to terrorism or supporting it; denying terrorists the means to carry out attacks; deterring States from supporting terrorism; developing State capacity to defeat terrorism; and defending human rights.


The Secretary-General said it is essential that Member States conclude, as soon as possible, a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.  However, lack of progress in building consensus on a convention cannot be a reason for delay in agreeing on a strategy.


And his speech was made available to you upstairs.


**Security Council


The Security Council this morning held its first consultations under the Congolese Presidency, agreeing on a programme of work for the month of May.


Ambassador Basile Ikouebe of the Republic of Congo, the Council’s new President, will brief you on the Council’s work in the coming month in this room, just after the briefing.


** Sudan - Jan Pronk


Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Sudan, said today in a statement that he is concerned that, despite an improved atmosphere and continuing negotiations in the talks in Abuja, the level of fighting and violence on the ground in Darfur has been increasing further.  This includes clashes between different SLA [Sudan Liberation Army] factions in North Darfur and attacks by the Government and militias in southern parts of South Darfur.  Some of these attacks are in areas held by the SLA, contrary to earlier agreements.


The area around Gereida in South Darfur, Mr. Pronk says, is under particular threat at the moment, and he is very concerned that the tensions could escalate into a full-scale attack on Gereida itself, where close to 100,000 internally displaced persons have taken refuge.


He calls on the Government of Sudan, as well as the rebel groups, to exercise maximum restraint at this crucial stage.


** Sudan - Louise Arbour


Meanwhile, also on a Sudan-related note, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, who is in Sudan, spent a second day in Darfur today.  Yesterday, she was in South Darfur, where she travelled to Nyala and met with local non-governmental organizations, community leaders and local authorities.


Today, the High Commissioner was visiting West Darfur.  While in El-Geneina, Ms. Arbour met with United Nations relief officials on how persistent insecurity was hampering humanitarian aid delivery.  And the lack of access was having a dramatic effect there, her office reported.


This evening, she will return to Khartoum, where she is expected to meet with senior Sudanese Government officials and representatives of the diplomatic community.  And Thursday, Ms. Arbour will travel to Juba in southern Sudan.


** Chad


Meanwhile, UNHCR says it deeply regrets the deaths of four Chadian civilians and the wounding of five others yesterday, in an attack near the village of Dolola, in south-eastern Chad, just a few kilometres away from the UNHCR camp.


The camp is one of a dozen UNHCR camps in eastern Chad and is currently home to some 17,700 Sudanese refugees from Darfur.  Several hundred internally displaced Chadians have also settled near the camp in recent weeks, having fled earlier Janjaweed attacks for the relative safety they hope to find in the camp, a UNHCR spokesman said.


**Horn of Africa


And, just to flag for you a couple of other things, the UN’s Humanitarian Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mr. Bondevik, today wrapped up his visit to Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.


While in the region, he saw first-hand how drought was threatening the lives of more than 8 million people.


In early April, the UN launched a regional appeal for the Horn of Africa for some $443 million.  To date, only $95 million has been committed.


** Iran


And, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report on Iran, which was given to the Security Council and the Agency’s Board of Governors on Friday, is now officially out as a document today, and available for all of you.

**World Press Freedom Day


In a message to mark World Press Freedom Day, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, said that Iraq has become a very risky environment for journalists, with more than 70 of them killed in Iraq since March 2003.


Qazi urged all concerned to show the Iraqi media corps respect and appreciation for their courage and the sacrifices they have made.  He appealed to the new Iraqi Government to reaffirm its commitment to protect the right of journalists to go about their daily work free from intimidation and threats.


And we have that press release available upstairs.


That is it for me.  Any questions?


**Question and Answers


Question:  Thanks to Ashraf Qazi for reminding us that Iraq is a risky place for journalists.  Why was he the one who was charged with giving a statement and is there any update on his OIOS investigation?


Spokesman:  No, there is no update that I’m aware of on the OIOS investigation.


There is also the Secretary-General’s message on World Press Freedom Day, which we had planned to flag for you tomorrow, which is also available.


And Mr. Qazi felt he needed to speak on today, because, as he said, so many of your colleagues have died in Iraq.


Question:  I had asked this question earlier about Mr. Jan Pronk blocking the OIOS investigation team from doing its work.  Where does that stand?


Spokesman:  I’m not aware of him blocking any efforts by OIOS.  And, as I think I’ve said to you before, we would expect every UN official –- senior or not senior -– to cooperate with OIOS investigations.


Question:  Can you shed some light on this weekend’s retreat meeting, which was held for the legacy of the Secretary-General, in which most of the top UN officials participated, including Mark Malloch Brown?  Every Under-Secretary-General was there.  And is there… a New York Times correspondent has been commissioned to write the legacy.  Is that right?  And I also want to know how much money was spent on this.


Spokesman:  The retreat was a private affair that brought a number of the Secretary-General’s current and former colleagues to discuss the last 10 years and to look ahead on some of the lessons learned.  It was a private… it was funded by the Greentree Foundation, where it was held.


As for commissioning a book, I know there are a number of biographies that are at work on the UN, on the Secretary-General, but they are being done by authors, and no one is being paid… the UN is not paying for any of these books to be written.


Question:  [inaudible] New York Times correspondent to the UN that was also at the meeting?


Spokesman:  A number of journalists and a number of people attended the retreat, but it was not, as I said, it was privately, it was paid for by the Greentree Foundation.


Question:  Just a quick question on that.  I didn’t realize that some journalists were invited to that retreat.  Now, just a quick question on the Ackerman report –- when are we going to see that?  I understand it’s ready, so is it going to be released?


Spokesman:  The report is near completion, I’m told, and no decision yet has been made as how it will be handled once it is done.


Question:  I’m sorry, just one other question on a different subject.  Does the UN have… the Iranians today announced that, if they were attacked by the US, they would attack Israel.  Does the UN have any position on that kind of threat?


Spokesman:  I think the UN would call on everyone to lower the rhetoric and focus on the diplomatic discussions that are at hand in this building.


Question:  Would the UN have any specific comment on Iran saying, if the US attacks us, we’ll attack Israel?


Spokesman:  I think my answer stands, that we would urge everyone to lower the rhetoric and focus on the diplomatic discussions.


Question:  If you could just clarify the rules governing gifts to the UN Secretary-General.  When Boutrous-Ghali was here, there was an incident, in which, when he left, his wife wanted to take with her one of the gifts that he had been given while he was touring around the world as UN Secretary-General, and the UN said no, those gifts don’t belong to the Secretary-General, they belong to the Organization.  I’m wondering what rule that is based on, and whether that rule ought also apply to prize money given to the UN Secretary-General for things he’s done in pursuit of his official functions?


Spokesman:  We’ll see if there are standing rules on that.  Yes, Nick?


Question:  On the Ackerman report, we asked yesterday about the sort of structure by which he was paid.


Spokesman:  He is paid… Mr. Ackerman is paid on a daily rate for days that he actually spent working on the report.  And, I said, once the report is finalized, I hope to give you a breakdown of the days that he did actually spend working on the report.


Question:  Did the Secretary-General respond to the letter that came from Iran on 27 April?


Spokesman:  No, the letter was sent to the Secretary-General for the purpose of being circulated to members of the Security Council and Member States, and that is being done.


Question:  Was there any comment on that letter?


Question:  There was no response?


Spokesman:  The letter… most of these letters, the way they are drafted, they are sent to the Secretary-General for distribution, and that’s what he did.


Question:  Did it explicitly say that’s what it was for?


Spokesman:  If you read the letter, it does say that, specifically the last paragraph.


Question:  On the use of the Zayed Prize money, can you explain the delay in setting up a foundation?  Surely, if the Secretary-General wants to help these young girls in Africa get an education, he would want to do it as soon as possible.  Why is there a delay towards the end of his term …?


Spokesman:  No one has ever said that the foundation would…


Correspondent:  You said it here, I think.  We could look it up.


Spokesman:  The foundation is in the process of being set up.  And, as soon as it is set up, I will make the announcement.


Question:  On the retreat that Masood mentioned, is there any policy in terms of taking free services or things like that from foundations?  You said that this was paid for by them.  I mean, does that fall under the gifts category?  How does those sort of offers of free service work?


Spokesman:  It was an offer made to host and to pay for the little cost, for the retreat, and it was accepted.  I will take a look at what the exact rules are.


Question:  Did that include catering and booze and food and stuff like that?


Spokesman:  It included, it paid for the day and a half retreat.


Question:  I asked yesterday, again, this question about the financial disclosure forms, whether they’ve all now been completed, particularly whether the Secretary-General has completed one and, if he has completed one, how he dealt with the question of the Zayed Prize money?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General will, as we had said, fill out the form.  I don’t have an update whether or not that has been done.  We do expect to have full compliance on all USG’s and ASG’s having completed the form, but we’ll check if that actually has happened.


Question:  When do you expect that, because, originally, we were told that these forms will be filled out by the end of March, and then you told me that they were going to be filled out by the end of April?  We’re now in May.  Do you have a time for when that is?


Spokesman:  I will try to give you an update as soon as I can.


Question:  Was Dileep Nair… did he visit Chris Burns today?


Spokesman:  I have no idea.


Question:  You previously kept us informed of events in the eastern Congo –-UN MONUC actions.  I think there is now a report of -- a week after MONUC incursion on rebels -- 15 dead.  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s [inaudible], but is there some way to know, what the UN force there are going to do in light of this, and how they view it, as related to… as impacting the elections?


Spokesman:  We’ll check with the Mission when we’re done with the briefing.  Thank you very much.


Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President


Good afternoon.


As Steph mentioned, the Assembly met in plenary to hear the Secretary-General introduce his report on Uniting against terrorism.  Assembly President Jan Eliasson included this issue and the report in his keynote address today to the InterAction Council of former Heads of State and Government, meeting in Amman, Jordan.  He said that he is doing all he can to encourage Member States to agree on a counter-terrorism strategy, which can deliver practical and concrete results on the ground.  And we have copies of his statement available.


Informal consultations of the plenary will begin on 11 May, for Member States to make general comments on the Secretary-General’s report on counter-terrorism, and then, for further consideration, starting 15 May.  The schedule of work was outlined in a letter to Member States from the co-chairs of those consultations, Ambassador Juan Antonio Yáñez-Barnuevo of Spain and Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon of Singapore.


In the plenary this morning, Member States are also scheduled to take action on Fifth Committee recommendations on several items, including appropriations and budgetary commitments for the Capital Master Plan and operationalization of the Peacebuilding Support Office.


The President’s Office is continuing to hold consultations on the way forward on management reform issues, following the vote in the Fifth Committee Friday, and the plenary meeting on that item has not yet been scheduled.  It is expected that the consultations on the way forward will continue through this week.


In light of the difficult situation, following the Fifth Committee vote last week, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson has decided to compress his visit to Nairobi and return to UN Headquarters in New York on Friday at midday.   He will be holding a number of important meetings, while in Nairobi, with senior officials from the UN and the Kenyan Government, to discuss UN reform, development, African issues and environmental issues being taken up by the General Assembly.  It is a tradition that the President of the Assembly visits the major United Nations Offices during their term.  President Eliasson has travelled to the UN Offices at Vienna, Geneva and The Hague for various events, and he felt it was important to also make this trip to Nairobi.  He is following closely the situation here in New York, and is being briefed by phone several times a day.


Any questions?  Thanks very much.


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For information media • not an official record