23 May 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.


**Secretary-General in Asia


Good afternoon.  The Secretary-General has arrived in Viet Nam just a short while ago and is continuing a trip throughout Asia.  Before leaving China, he spoke about his visits to the Republic of Korea and Japan, as well as China, and encouraged all three countries to work together in areas of common interest in remarks he delivered at Peking University.  He said he was encouraged by the desire of leaders in the three countries to have better relations.  Noting that working together on common challenges can help accelerate the process, the Secretary-General said that, during his trip, he suggested that the three countries pool their efforts together on issues of common interest.


And as I said, shortly after delivering those remarks, he and Mrs. Annan visited Beijing’s Olympic National Stadium, which is currently under construction, and he received a briefing on the preparations under way for the 2008 Olympic Games.  And we did put out the text of his remarks at the University earlier today.


**Security Council


Meanwhile, here the Security Council held consultations this morning on Côte d’Ivoire and other matters.  Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno briefed the Council on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.  And those consultations are now over.


** Sudan


And from Khartoum, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi have now arrived in Khartoum and they’ve held a series of preliminary meetings today with Sudanese officials.  They met the Deputy Foreign Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly, as well as some other members of the Parliament, as well as the Head of the African Union’s representation in Khartoum.  Brahimi and Annabi will be meeting other senior Government officials on Wednesday and Thursday.


** Sudan Human Rights


Also on Sudan, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in cooperation with the UN Mission in Sudan, today issued a report on Sudan’s human rights situation.  The report says that Sudanese authorities are failing to uphold many of the commitments made last year under the accord that ended the country’s civil war.


Covering the period between December 2005 and April of this year, the report draws special attention to, among other issues, the ill-treatment, detention and harassment of people who voice their concerns about human rights throughout Sudan; the failure to reform laws guarding State officials from criminal prosecution; and the interference with human rights workers.  Regarding Darfur, the report says that the conflict there has reached a new level of violence, both in intensity and frequency.  And the report is available for you upstairs.


** Iraq


Also on human rights, the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) says that in the months of March and April, human rights have been severely undermined by growing insecurity, high levels of violence and a breakdown in law and order resulting from the action of militias and criminal gangs.  The report notes that women, children and professionals, including academics and judges, have been increasingly targeted by the ongoing violence.  And that report is also available upstairs.


**Mano River Contact Group


The Secretary-General also today called for continuing international assistance for Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea in a message to the meeting in Vienna of the International Contact Group on the Mano River Basin.  In his message, which was read by Alan Doss, the head of the UN Mission in Liberia, the Secretary-General took note of progress made in all four countries.  And we do have the full text of that statement available upstairs.


**Central Emergency Response Fund


Closer to home, the Advisory Group on the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund today held its inaugural session downstairs in one of the conference rooms.  Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland briefed the Group on how the Fund has been used since its launch last March.  He drew special attention to the allocations that have been made or were being considered for emergencies throughout Africa, as well as in Suriname and Haiti.  The Group’s 12 members were welcomed by Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown.  And as you’ll recall, the Advisory Group’s role is to provide periodic policy guidance and expert advice on the Fund’s use and impact to the Secretary-General.  And we do have a press release available upstairs on that.


** Myanmar


Meanwhile, UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, today reports that some 2,000 refugees have crossed the border from Myanmar to Thailand in the last three months.  The refugees say that they are fleeing renewed conflict and human rights abuses in Kayin State in Myanmar.  UNHCR is working with the Thai Government and non-governmental organizations to ensure that new arrivals are provided with adequate shelter and protection.  There are currently about 140,000 Myanmar refugees living in nine border camps in Thailand and some of them have been there for over 20 years.


**Fisheries


And as you know, there’s a worldwide fisheries meeting going on in Conference Room 1 here all week.  On the sidelines of that meeting, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today will help in the official launch of a new monitoring system aimed at better management of fisheries for the billions of consumers worldwide.  And you’re all invited to the launch, which gets under way at 1 o’clock in Conference Room 1.  And we do have a press release upstairs.


**Briefings


Tomorrow, there will be a background briefing in this room at 2 p.m. on the General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on AIDS, which you’d asked for.  So, the background briefing’s at 2 tomorrow, here.  The High-Level Meeting is from 31 May to 2 June here at Headquarters.


You’d also asked for Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari to come brief you.  That will be done tomorrow here at noon as my guest.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to the fact that Sudan has defied the Security Council’s one-week deadline to admit the UN assessment team to Darfur?


Spokesman:  As I said, we’re well aware of the deadline.  We’re working closely with the Government of Sudan to get clearance for that assessment mission.  That’s the aim of Mr. Brahimi and Mr. Annabi’s work in Khartoum.  Also, I should add that earlier today the Secretary-General did speak to President Bashir by phone.  The Secretary-General told him he hoped to see the UN assessment mission dispatched as soon as possible and sought the cooperation and support of the Sudanese Government to that end.  President Bashir told the Secretary-General that after his discussions, Mr. Bashir’s discussions, with Mr. Brahimi, he would discuss this matter with the Government and it would be decided upon by the Government shortly.  And the Secretary-General also reiterated to President Bashir the importance of the peace agreement and the need for all parties to respect that agreement.


Question:  Is Mr. Brahimi’s a one-off mission or is he back as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative?


Spokesman:  It is a one-off mission, though Mr. Brahimi, when he left full-time service at the UN, did tell the Secretary-General he would be able to trouble-shoot and that’s exactly what he’s doing.


Question:  Thanks for the information about the fisheries, but it is also the second week of a meeting of indigenous people.  Why does the press conference not cover anything on that material?


Spokesman:  We’ll talk to the organizers and see if we can get somebody up here to brief you.


Question:  A follow-up on the Sudan question.  Was the UN report on the human rights situation brought up in the conversation between President Bashir and the Secretary-General?


Spokesman:  Not specifically because I think the report was not yet out.  It came out after the Secretary-General spoke to him.  The focus of the phone call was respect of the peace agreement and also the Secretary-General’s call for the assessment mission to be able to do its work as quickly as possible.


Question:  Another question.  You mentioned that the human rights situation in Iraq deteriorated in March and April, and you also said it was because of armed militias and groups.  Does that also include military contractors?  Because Amnesty International today came out with a report saying that the US has been using, as everybody knows, military contractors in Iraq, which has been a source of the breakdown of human rights.


Spokesman:  Let’s look at the report a little more closely and we’ll get you an answer.


[The Spokesman later added that military contractors were not included.]


Question:  Many groups in Washington have been calling on President Bush and Israel to stop their financial siege on Palestine.  Where does the United Nations weigh in on that call?


Spokesman:  The United Nations position is that expressed by the Quartet, which expressed its concern at the humanitarian situation, and we’re looking forward to hearing back from the European Community on the mechanism they are working on to try to alleviate the humanitarian situation.


Question:  It’s open ended, the time to establish this mechanism?


Spokesman:  No, they said they’d do it as quickly as possible and we do look forward to hearing from them very soon.


Question:  Any word on when the financial controller will bring forward a budget?


Spokesman:  The budget discussions are on-going within Member States but, beyond that, I have no information.


Question:  Is there any further information on the investigation into anti-Semitic incidents at the UN, the drawing of swastikas and stuff like that?


Spokesman:  I reported that a panel was appointed at the end of February to look into these anti-Semitic incidents related to the Department of Security and Safety.  By 1 March, all staff were informed that the investigation was ongoing and they were asked to cooperate with the panel.  They are currently doing their work; the investigation is ongoing; and they are in the process of interviewing staff within that Department.


Question:  As more and more incidents come out.


Spokesman:  The point of the panel is to look at these occurrences of incidents.  They’re interviewing staff and they’re doing their work but I think we have to wait for the conclusion of the report to see exactly what comes out.


Question:  Speaking of fast-moving investigations, can you tell me what’s going on in the Ackerman investigation?


Spokesman:  As I said, when I do have something to announce I will, but I hope that will come earlier rather than later.


Question:  Following up on the budget, it’s now June.  As one scenario:  if the UN doesn’t come up with a budget or it’s not approved, the UN may possibly shut down in July, right?


Spokesman:  We very much hope the Member States will come together in a spirit of unity and compromise and deal with this budget in a positive manner.


Question:  Follow-up to yesterday’s question.  The President of Serbia has now recognized the results of the Montenegro referendum as final, as has Russia and others.  Does the UN now have a statement?


Spokesman:  No, we’re still waiting for the official results, which have not yet been promulgated.  So, at this point, I have nothing to say besides what I said yesterday.


Question:  All right, here’s a softball on the matter.  What is your personal reaction to the fact that Serbia and Montenegro will play together in the World Cup?


Spokesman:  I appreciate the softball but I’ll kick it right back to you.


Question:  Okay, I’ll just say one thing.  Yesterday’s question on Somalia supposedly inviting peacekeepers in, that’s a big thing.  We’re trying to find out what the UN is doing.


Spokesman:  We’re trying to get guidance from our colleagues in the Department of Political Affairs.  We had expected it by now.  It obviously has not been received.  You and I will go back to my office and see if we can get you an answer.


[The Spokesman later added that the United Nations knew of the development to which the journalist was referring, and that further clarification was being sought.]


Question:  Thanks.


Spokesman:  Thank you very much.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record