5 June 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. 


** Iraq


The UN Mission in Iraq, in a statement issued over the weekend, expressed its deep concern at the continuing acts of violence committed against innocent civilians in Iraq.  It condemned these outrageous crimes and demanded that the perpetrators be swiftly brought to justice.


The Secretary-General deplored one of the most recent attacks –- the murder on Saturday of a Russian diplomat, and the kidnapping of four others, in a statement.  And, he called for the cessation of all such acts of violence.


He also called on the Iraqi Government and the Multinational Force to take all necessary measures to counter the present wave of violence.


And, we have that statement upstairs, as well as one from the Security Council issued over the weekend condemning the attack on the Russian diplomats.


**UN Mission in Iraq/UNAMI


For its part, the UN Mission in Iraq stressed that major urban centres, such as Basra and other towns, have been the scene of frequent killings, kidnappings, torture, and extortion.


The Mission says it is encouraging that the new Government has stated its intention to give the highest priority to maintenance of public security and law and order, while strengthening the rule of law and protection of human rights for all Iraqis.


And we have those statements available upstairs.


**Timor-Leste


Turning now to Timor-Leste, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Timor-Leste, Ian Martin, is wrapping up his meetings with various Timorese leaders today, and he should be reporting back to the Secretary-General and the Security Council later this week.


Meanwhile, the Special Representative in Timor-Leste, Mr. Hasegawa, today flew to the mountain headquarters of an armed group that has demanded the removal of the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste.


Hasegawa joined Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta, who has also been given the Defence Ministry portfolio, in the visit to the town of Gleno, in the country’s west, to meet with leaders claiming to speak for the people of 10 western districts in their demands for the dismissal of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.


Mr. Hasegawa reported telling the meeting that, if a process of transition is attempted with violence, then many more people will suffer and leaders may not escape responsibility.  The meeting was part of a series that the Special Representative has undertaken to bring a peaceful end to the disturbances in Timor-Leste.


On the humanitarian front, UN agencies report that food has now been safely supplied to camps in districts to the west and east of the capital, Dili, as the combined assistance to more than 100,000 displaced persons reaches further from the capital.


**Security Council Mission to Sudan


From the Security Council, you know the delegation of the Security Council is in Sudan.  They are arriving in Khartoum today.


There is no official programme for them today, but tomorrow the Council members are scheduled to meet with the Sudanese leadership, including President Omar al-Bashir, as well as the UN Mission in Sudan.  A press conference is planned for 5 p.m. Tuesday in Khartoum.


**Assessment Mission to Sudan


And also on Sudan, the Secretary-General has designated Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno to lead a multidisciplinary UN team on a joint UN/African Union assessment mission to Sudan.


This joint mission of the UN and the African Union will start with detailed and wide-ranging consultations in Khartoum.  It will then proceed to Darfur to assess the additional needs of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which must be immediately strengthened, since it will have the initial responsibility of facilitating the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.


The Mission will also undertake an assessment of all the requirements for a possible transition from the African Union to the United Nations.  The team will return to Khartoum for one more round of consultations with the authorities, before leaving to report to the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.


The visit of the joint team, which will be composed of senior UN and AU officials, will be an important step in the ongoing cooperation between the Government of Sudan and the international community, and in their collective efforts to bring peace, stability and prosperity to Sudan.


** Afghanistan


From Afghanistan, speaking to reporters in Kabul today, Tom Koenigs, the head of the UN Mission in that country, said that the violence that took place last week can only be described as a tragedy.


He stressed that it is important to learn from the lessons from last week’s disturbances, and that the UN Mission would raise the matter of the Afghan police’s failure to contain the disturbances with the Government.


Koenigs emphasized that, if Afghanistan is to move forward, mob violence must be replaced by the rule of law.  He added that the United Nations remains committed to working towards a prosperous, stable and peaceful Afghanistan.


And, we have more in the briefing notes from Kabul, which are available upstairs.


**High-Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS


On Friday night, at the conclusion of the High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General said he was particularly heartened that, in the political declaration, Governments committed themselves to actions to promote gender equality, the empowerment of women, the protection of girls, respect for the full rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, and strengthened protection for all vulnerable groups.


He also welcomed the full engagement of the private sector and civil society, including people living with HIV/AIDS.


The Secretary-General hopes that, with this Declaration, world leaders will have finally placed on the record the personal commitment and leadership needed to win the fight against HIV/AIDS -- the greatest challenge of our generation.


And that statement is upstairs and was issued on Friday night, as I said.


**Java Quake


Turning now to the aftermath of the `quake in Indonesia, as part of humanitarian efforts to assist victims of the recent earthquake on the island of Java, the first of 36 policewomen and social workers, supported by UNICEF, have arrived to monitor child rights and trafficking issues, as well as to provide psychosocial support to children.


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also has an update on the efforts to aid the survivors of the `quake.  And, that is available upstairs.


**UNEP


Today is World Environment Day.  And, the UN Environment Programme has a new report out, titled “Global Deserts Outlook”.


In it, UNEP experts warn that the world’s deserts, which cover almost a quarter of the earth’s land surface and are home to more than 500 million people, are facing dramatic changes, as a result of global warming, high water demands, mass tourism and salt contamination of irrigated soils.


UNEP makes a set of recommendations in its report, including immediate action to protect biodiversity and a new environment-friendly approach to agriculture and tourism in those areas.


**Secretary-General ’s Lecture Series


A couple of events to highlight for you:  the next lecture in the Secretary-General’s Lecture Series will take place in the Trusteeship Council Chamber from 1:30 to 2:45 today, and it will be on the topic of “Identity in the 21st Century”.  And, you are all invited to attend.


Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah of Princeton University will speak on the topic, and the lecture will be followed by a question-and-answer period.  The Secretary-General will introduce the two speakers and make brief remarks.  Those remarks are available upstairs, and, of course, you are all invited to attend.  [The Secretary-General did not use his prepared remarks.]


**Secretary-General Report/Briefing on Migration


Tomorrow at 11 a.m., in room 226, senior UN officials will hold a background briefing on the Secretary-General’s report on migration.  That report and briefing will be embargoed until 4 p.m., when the Secretary-General will launch the report to the General Assembly.


Then on Thursday, Peter Sutherland, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Migration, will be the guest at the noon briefing.  That day, the General Assembly will also hold a panel discussion on migration and development.


**New Associate Spokesman


And, finally, on an in-house matter, while you were all relaxing over the weekend, we had some personnel changes in the Spokesman’s Office.


Bob Sullivan, who has been in the Spokesman’s Office temporarily while we recruited a new Associate Spokesman, has been shipped out to Timor-Leste, where he will be -– it’s a promotion -– where he is to become the UN Mission’s Spokesman.


And Yves Sorokobi, who is sitting right here, has now joined the Office as the new Associate Spokesman.  A native of Côte d’Ivoire, Yves most recently served in The Hague as the Spokesman for the ICC prosecutor. And, he is also an experienced journalist, having worked with the Pan African News Agency and Radio France International.  And he’s also worked in New York for the Committee to Protect Journalists.  And, he will now protect us -- from you.


Anyway, I hope you will all make him feel welcome, and drop by and say hello.  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  The Secretary-General spoke with the Iranian President on Saturday.  I didn’t see any readout.  Was there a readout of his conversation with the Iranian President?


Spokesman:  That’s correct.  The Secretary-General called the Iranian President on Friday afternoon, in fact, and the basic message from the Secretary-General was to encourage the Iranian President to consider fully and to give full consideration to the package of proposals, which Mr. Solana will bring to Iran later this week.


Question:  Is there any written readout?


Spokesman:  This is it.


Question:  Okay, on Iraq, I just wanted to ask you –- the situation in Iraq has gone out of control again –- killings of people by the American forces or the Iraqis killing Iraqis and kidnapping Iraqis, has gone out of control.  Has the United Nations any take on this at this point in time, or have they issued any statements?


Spokesman:  Well, I think maybe you missed the first part of the briefing when that was addressed on the ongoing violence and the extreme concern of the Secretary-General at the violence that we’re currently seeing.


I think, as you mentioned, what you mentioned regarding reports of killings by multinational forces of Iraqi civilians -- those allegations the Secretary-General considers very serious, which he expects should be thoroughly investigated.  He believes that all security forces in Iraq should strictly respect human rights and international humanitarian law, and he does look forward to the results of the investigation promised by the Multinational Force into the events in Haditha.  Yes?


Question:  The Secretary-General is meeting with Haya Rashed Al Khalifa from Bahrain today.  Does this have anything to do with the future General Assembly presidency?


Spokesman:  Well, obviously, one would have to wait until –- I think it is an open secret as to who will become the next General Assembly President, but I think we would have to wait until that president is actually elected.


Question:  Speaking of the successor to Mr. Annan -- has Kofi Annan said anything about, I remember when he gave the year-end UN briefing, he talked about how you need to have someone with thick skin and a sense of humour and what-not – but is he going to be weighing in in the selection process in a more direct way?


Spokesman:  Not at all.  This is purely a Member State-driven issue.  He is not involving himself in the selection of his successor.


Question:  And he doesn’t have any recommendations, perhaps, that he would be floating by the Security Council and ...


Spokesman:  That is purely up to the Member States to decide who the next Secretary-General will be.


Question:  Regarding the mission to the Sudan, does the word “officials” include ambassadors?  If so, which ambassadors went on the mission?  And the second question, the press conferences, two of them, if we could watch them on Channel 78?


Spokesman:  There are a number of distinctive things going on in Khartoum.  One is the mission, led by Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry ( United Kingdom) of the Security Council.  We can give you the full list upstairs.  They will be having the press conference.  It will be in Khartoum.  We’ll see if we can get an audio hook-up.  We’ve tried before, without great success, but we will try again.


The other mission, which is separate from that, is the mission of Jean-Marie Guéhenno, who will lead the AU-UN assessment team.  But, at this point, there is no press conference scheduled for them in Sudan.


Question:  A couple of things:  on the assessment mission –- can we get a rough calendar on when they’re going to arrive in Khartoum, when they’re going to Darfur, when they’re going back to Khartoum?


Spokesman:  Yes, but not right this second from this podium.  But, after, we can try and get you something.


Question:  If I might, another couple of matters:  on Basra in Iraq, there was a report over the weekend that much of the staff of the UN office in Basra had submitted their resignations.  Do you have any detail on how many people are in that Basra office now?


Spokesman:  My understanding is that there has not been a resignation by local staff.  Obviously, with the security situation what it is, often our staff are forced to work from home, but I’m not aware of any mass resignation from local staff.  And, I’ll try to get you a number of how many people we’re talking about.


Question:  And also, a clarification, that there was indeed something that happened to trigger that report that all these people had resigned?


Spokesman:  We’ll see if we can get you something more on that.


Question:  One final thing:  Mogadishu, we have a report out of Mogadishu this morning that the Islamic warlords are essentially claiming to have won the battle of Mogadishu, defeating this anti-terror coalition that many say is the ...


Spokesman:  In fact, I’ve been promised an official statement on that, so one should be coming.


Question:  Can we get any information the UN might have on what is going on there from the people on the spot, if there are any?


Spokesman:  As I said, we’re waiting for a statement, which should have been here, but is not.


Question:  On the peacekeepers in the Congo, there was a report that they were freed over the weekend.  And, there was another report that Nepal said they didn’t know if they’d been freed.  Do you have a ...


Spokesman:  Unfortunately, they are still being detained, and discussions are continuing to secure their release.


Question:  So that was inaccurate?


Spokesman:  That’s correct.


Question:  Steph, last week, I had asked you about this court in Zanzibar asking the Secretary-General to appear before the court on the issue of reunification of Zanzibar and Tanganyika, and that the UN representative had accepted the summons on behalf of the Secretary-General.  Do you have any update on that?


Spokesman:  I’ll check again.  I thought somebody had gotten back to you.  I apologize.


Question:  Steph, there are growing calls for UN peacekeeping to return to Timor-Leste.  Is there any thinking going on?


Spokesman:  Obviously, when Mr. Martin comes here -- after he briefs the Secretary-General, he will brief the Security Council.  And, one of the many discussions that we need to have with the Security Council is the way ahead for the UN, what sort of presence and posture the UN will have in the coming weeks and months in Timor.


Question:  Will we get a more specific readout on what Mr. Ahmadinejad told Kofi Annan?


Spokesman:  I think we’ll let the Iranian President speak for himself.


Question:  One more -- there’s a letter written by the head of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission to the Secretary-General, and, among other things, he asks the Secretary-General to help him get expedited treatment of staff hired to reopen the Commission’s field offices in Addis Ababa and Asmara, and this is dated a while ago, 21 May, but I think this just came out today.


I’m wondering if they had any luck in staffing these offices since he says that, even though the Secretary-General has said they would be able to use expedited procedures, they’re having a very hard time getting staff there, and it may be irrelevant because he also says they also need the protection of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), and if there’s cutbacks in UNMEE, they might not be able to go anywhere.  But, I’m trying to find out the status.


Spokesman:  I’ll check on that.  [The Spokesman later said an answer is being drafted by the UN to the Border Commission.]


Question:  I’m not sure if this is your department, but do you know when Javier Solana is supposed to deliver the [inaudible]?


Spokesman:  I think at some point this week, but only based on what I’ve seen in the press.  Thank you very much.


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