22 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 by Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.


Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General


**WHO Director-General


As you have probably heard by now, Dr. Lee Jong-wook, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), died this morning following a short illness.  The Secretary-General issued a statement from Beijing, where he currently is, expressing his shock and deep sadness at the news.  He noted that Dr. Lee had been at the forefront of the global fight to prevent an avian flu pandemic and was a champion in the battle against a host of other public health threats as well, from AIDS to tuberculosis.  The Secretary-General added that Dr. Lee, who had given more than 20 years of dedicated service to WHO, had been a valuable leader and a cherished colleague.  And we have the full statement available upstairs.


Meanwhile, Dr. Anders Nordström of Sweden, who was recently WHO’s Assistant Director-General for General Management, will now serve as the agency’s Acting Director-General.


**Secretary-General in China


And as I mentioned, the Secretary-General is in Beijing, where he is continuing his visit.  He began the day with a meeting with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao at the Great Hall of the People.  They discussed UN-China cooperation and UN reform, as well as Millennium Development Goals, China’s contribution in Africa and the Global Compact.  The Secretary-General then met with the UN country team and spoke to UN staff at the UN offices in Beijing.  In the afternoon, he met with State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan and discussed topics including Iran and East Asia relations, and their discussion continued over a dinner hosted by the State Councillor.


Over the weekend, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan visited the Yellow Mountains of China, where he met officials of the region.


**Security Council


Meanwhile, the Security Council this morning just finished its consultations on Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as other matters.  On Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Council is discussing the future of the UN Mission, and, as you know, that mandate expires on 31 May.  And Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno briefed Council Members.


** Sudan


From Sudan, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reports that the Khartoum Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced over the weekend that the Government welcomes the upcoming visit of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi.  The talks are expected to focus on the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement and the transition from African Union troops to UN peacekeeping forces in Darfur.


Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, just completed a three-day visit to Darfur, and during that visit, he agreed to hold regular meetings between the UN Mission and local government leaders in West Darfur as part of his ongoing efforts to explain the Darfur Peace Agreement.  He also spent the trip in intensive meetings, discussions and field visits, focusing on explaining terms of the new agreement to various groups and NGOs.  He also urged tribal and community leaders to lend it their support and to demand endorsement by holdout rebel groups.  Pronk also met twice with commanders and troops of the African Union’s forces in two different locations in Darfur.  And we do have more details of his activities upstairs.


** Myanmar


And Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari, as you know, completed his visit to Myanmar on Saturday.  On his third and final day in Myanmar, Gambari met with the country’s Head of State, Senior General Than Shwe, at a location outside the capital, Yangon.  Following his return to Yangon, Mr. Gambari met with Aung San Suu Kyi.  That meeting lasted close to an hour and took place at a Government guest house.


During his visit to Myanmar, Gambari met with key political stakeholders and held wide-ranging discussions on the country’s National Convention and democratization process.  He urged all his interlocutors to engage in an inclusive political process for the benefit of the country and its people.  Gambari also held intensive discussions on the humanitarian challenges that Myanmar faces, and in particular, on the need to establish an environment for humanitarian actors to have full access.  He placed particular emphasis on the continuing conflict in Kayin State and the need to protect civilians.


** Iraq


Also from Saturday, we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General welcomed the formation of the new Iraqi Government.  The Secretary-General said he hoped that the process of forming a broad-based and inclusive Government will be completed as soon as possible so that it will be able to quickly address the crucial issues of national reconciliation, security, the rule of law and respect for human rights, as well as reconstruction and development.  The Secretary-General also paid tribute to the courage and determination that the Iraqi people have shown despite the ongoing violence.  He urges them to seize the opportunity offered by the successful establishment of a broad-based and inclusive Government, and to come together to support their new Government and build the foundations of a united, peaceful and prosperous Iraq.


** Sri Lanka


And from Sri Lanka, the UN’s Acting Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in that country, Amin Awad, has issued a statement condemning the recent attacks on humanitarian workers in the country’s north and east.  Awad calls on the Government of Sri Lanka and all parties to the conflict to ensure the protection and safety of all humanitarian workers in the country.  He adds that all parties must urgently halt the current escalation of violence that is harming innocent civilians.  And we have a full statement upstairs.


**Correspondent Death


And lastly, unfortunately, we’ll close this briefing on another sad note.  Tony Goodman, the veteran Reuters reporter, died at his home in New York over the weekend.  He was 74 years old.  A 40-year veteran of the Reuters news agency, Tony spent 20 of those years covering the United Nations until he retired in 2000.  He also covered the Watergate scandal and the siege of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979.


Tony, as you will remember, was quiet, self-effacing, gentlemanly and considerate to the nth degree.  During his time at the UN, he was considered, by journalists and diplomats alike, an expert on Cyprus, rarely missing a twist on that never-ending saga.  Tony was a journalist’s journalist and also a Spokesman’s journalist since he always protected his sources.  He will be sorely missed by all of us here and, as you know, he is survived by his wife, Zamira.  And we do have details upstairs on the funeral arrangements, if you’re interested.


And I will now take your questions


**Questions and Answers


Correspondent:  On behalf of UNCA, I’d like to convey my condolences to Reuters and Evelyn.  I was very touched by him.  He was a wonderful human being, absolutely incredible.


Question:  When is Mr. Brahimi arriving in Khartoum?


Spokesman:  We expect Mr. Brahimi and Mr. Annabi to start having their meetings in Khartoum on Wednesday; probably have meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.


Question:  Will he brief the Security Council when he comes back?


Spokesman:  We’ll see the arrangements, if they both come back or only Mr. Annabi comes back.


Question:  Do we have a date for Mr. Brammertz’s report?


Spokesman:  No, the report will be handed over in mid-June as requested by the Security Council and we’ll just have to wait for the report to be handed in to get details of what’s in it.


Question:  Any reaction on the information regarding the underground blast, and also the evidence showing that the same party is responsible for the murder, the crisis, in 2002?  Any update?


Spokesman:  No, we’ll just have to wait for his report to come out.


Question:  Is Mr. Brammertz still in Beirut or still at Headquarters?


Spokesman:  We’re not commenting on his activities unless we get some official word from him as to where he is.  So, he is continuing his work below the radar but he is continuing.


Question:  Over the weekend, Mr. Gambari met with Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s leader.  Is there an update?  Has he said anything?


Spokesman:  We expect Mr. Gambari back tomorrow afternoon and as soon as we can get you more on his visit we will.  The only thing he’s said is that she’s doing fine and she conveyed that message to him but we’re all obviously eager to hear more from him.


Question:  Will he be briefing us?


Spokesman:  He’ll first be briefing the Secretary-General and then we will try to get him down here as quickly as possible.


Question:  Over the weekend, Montenegro voted to become independent from Serbia.  Does the Secretary-General have a comment on that?  What’s the process for them to get a seat in the United Nations?


Spokesman:  From our end, we have no official comment.  We’re waiting for the official results to come out.  We did note the peaceful nature of the referendum that took place.  Membership is decided by the General Assembly.


Question:  Has the United Nations received permission from Sudan to send an assessment team into Darfur to prepare for a UN mission?


Spokesman:  No, this dialogue will continue and will obviously intensify with Mr. Brahimi’s and Mr. Annabi’s presence in Khartoum towards the end of the week.


Question:  The week the Security Council gave is up tomorrow.


Spokesman:  I think we’re all fully aware of the time frame but obviously those discussions will continue.


Question:  Has the Secretary-General been in touch with anybody over the weekend or have there been any phone calls?


Spokesman:  I think, for us, the next step is Mr. Brahimi and Mr. Annabi’s visit to Khartoum and we look forward to those discussions.


Question:  Over the weekend, it was reported how far apart the United States and Europe are on the question of Iran.  Has the Secretary-General given any input into this at all?


Spokesman:  Into those particular discussions, no.


Question:  Over the weekend, it was reported Somalia is allowing peacekeepers... that the Somali Parliament voted to allow in Sudanese and Ugandan peacekeepers.  I didn’t see anything from the UN.


Spokesman:  I didn’t see anything either but we can check.


Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President


**General Assembly President


General Assembly President Jan Eliasson, speaking from Stockholm, said that he was very sad and shocked to hear of the sudden death of the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Lee Jong-wook, who has been playing a leading role on so many public health issues, from preventing an avian flu epidemic to fighting AIDS and tuberculosis.  President Eliasson will be sending an official letter of condolence to the acting Director-General of WHO, Dr. Anders Nordström.


President Eliasson left on Friday for a week in Sweden, where he will be taking care of his duties as Foreign Minister.  He returns to Headquarters on 30 May, in time for the General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS.  And we are working on setting up a background briefing for you on the High-Level Meeting on AIDS, as you requested.  We hope to announce that soon.


**General Assembly Review Conference on Fisheries


Also today in the Assembly, a one-week review conference opened, which will aim to determine whether additional measures are needed to preserve high-seas fisheries.  This morning, Ambassador David A. Balton -- that’s Balton and not Bolton -- the United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and Fisheries, was elected Chair of the review conference.  With about three quarters of the world’s ocean fisheries fished to their limits or beyond, the review conference, which brings together representatives of Governments, regional fisheries organizations, the fishing industry and environmental organizations, will see what can be done to fully implement the 1995 Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.  And a press kit is available from DPI at the documents counter.


**Assembly Fifth Committee


Today, the Fifth Committee begins the second part of its resumed session, where it is considering the financing of a number of peacekeeping missions.  The Committee is scheduled to take up management reform again on 14 June.  An additional report requested from the Secretary-General, focusing on information technology and financial management, is currently under consideration in the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.  And that will be issued as an official document sometime this week.  It is that report which will be the basis of the Fifth Committee’s discussions, scheduled to start on 14 June.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  What about reducing the mandates?  Anybody working on that?


Spokesperson:  Yes, they concluded one series of meetings and they’re scheduled to resume again on 30 May.  The co-chairs, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan and Ambassador Allan Rock of Canada, are putting together a compilation of the various proposals made by Member States.  Then they’re scheduling four meetings to review that compilation.  I heard that process is going very positively and constructively.


Question:  Does Mr. Eliasson have any response to the vote in Montenegro to become independent from Serbia, and what the process would be in the Assembly?


Spokesperson:  No, I have not talked with him about that but I’ll check on it for you.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record