|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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
** Nigeria and Cameroon
The Secretary-General has been meeting with the leaders of Nigeria and Cameroon over the weekend and today, as part of his efforts, since 2002, to assist in the implementation of the International Court of Justice’s ruling on the Cameroon-Nigeria border dispute.
The Secretary-General met with the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, on Sunday evening, and the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, this morning. We expect that, following a joint meeting with the two Presidents and the Secretary-General today at the Greentree Estate in Manhasset, New York, an agreement will be finalized.
A press conference is scheduled to take place there, and we’ll provide a transcript of that event later in the day, once it has taken place.
**Security Council Delegation - Democratic Republic of the Congo
A delegation of the UN Security Council, led by Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France, is in Kinshasa today. This morning, the delegation met with President Joseph Kabila, and later held separate meetings with the four Vice-Presidents. Afterward, they met with the joint commission on security, which includes both Congolese police and Army representatives, as well as military and police advisors for the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That commission is chaired by Vice-President Azarias Ruberwa.
The delegation yesterday met with officials from the Independent Electoral Commission, the High Authority on Media, parliamentarians and local women’s groups, as well as members of the international humanitarian community.
The delegation received an update on the preparations for the 30 July elections and on other issues of concern to the Security Council, including fair access to the media and voting facilities. The delegation took note of the reported rise of acrimonious language in the campaign for the elections.
The delegation is holding a press conference right now, at this moment, and Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière, who is heading the delegation, will be a guest of Radio Okapi, MONUC’s broadcasting component, which can be heard online at www.radiookapi.net.
On Lebanon, the Secretary-General on Saturday received from Commissioner Serge Brammertz the fourth report of the International Independent Investigation Commission investigating the murder last year of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others. The Secretary-General then transmitted the report to the members of the Security Council.
In his letter to the Council transmitting the report, the Secretary-General said that the report highlights the considerable progress made in consolidating the Commission’s investigative capacity and organizational structure; in developing its investigative activities; and in adapting its internal procedures to the standards and requirements of a future judicial process, possibly a tribunal of an international character.
The Security Council intends to hear from Commissioner Brammertz in an open meeting, followed by consultations, on Wednesday.
On Timor-Leste, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, Sukehiro Hasegawa, today held a series of meetings with top Timorese leaders to determine how the UN can best respond to the current crisis.
Hasegawa met with the Timorese President and Prime Minister, as well as the Speaker of the National Parliament, to seek their views on the requirements for a follow-on UN mission in Timor-Leste.
Also today, Hasegawa welcomed the decision by the Timorese Government to invite the UN to investigate the shooting incidents of April and May, which took many lives. We have a press release with more information available upstairs, and, of course, tomorrow, the Security Council is expected to discuss Timor-Leste. And tomorrow, it also intends to hold its monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General.
**IAEA Report on Iran
On Iran, the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is meeting in Vienna today, and has, among other items, before it a progress report regarding the implementation of safeguards in Iran.
In a statement to the Board, the Agency’s Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, says that the report makes it clear that the Agency has not made much progress in resolving outstanding verification issues. He continues to urge Iran to provide the cooperation needed to resolve these issues. He added that he remains convinced that the way forward lies through dialogue and mutual accommodation among all concerned parties. And we have copies of his statement upstairs.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo, Søren Jessen-Petersen, today announced that he will be leaving his post at the end of June, because of family reasons.
In the statement he gave today, he said he is aware that he will be departing at an important moment in the history of Kosovo. At the same time, however, he is confident that the political process leading towards a status decision is on track. And we have more on that from the UN Mission in Kosovo upstairs.
**International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
Also in the Balkans, Dragan Zelenovic was brought into the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on Saturday, after nearly 10 years spent on the run. The former Bosnian-Serb policeman is indicted for a range of war crimes, including torture and rape, in and around the Bosnian town of Foca in 1992. A date for his initial appearance before the Tribunal will be announced shortly. And more details are available in a press release upstairs.
**International Labour Organization
Lastly, on the International Labour Organization (ILO), with the World Cup now taking place in Germany, the International Labour Organization has issued a symbolical “Red Card” against child labour. This is part of a series of global events, which began last week to mark this year’s World Day against Child Labour, which is marked today.
In Geneva earlier today, Cameroonian football legend Roger Milla and other leaders in the field of sports, scouting and labour are taking part in an event highlighting the ILO’s “Red Card to Child Labour” campaign, which, through the partnership with Federation of International Football Association, has reached millions of people around the world, since its launch in 2002. And we have the ILO’s press release upstairs.
Like I said, we do expect Mr. Egeland to come here to brief you about an appeal for Timor-Leste. Are there any questions before that?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any comment on news of the three detainees in Guantanamo who hanged themselves on Saturday?
Associate Spokesman: Well, in terms of that, I’d just like to draw your attention to the fact that the UN system has made some repeated comments about Guantanamo. In particular, the Secretary-General has said that he thinks that, sooner or later, there will be a need to close Guantanamo. He said that he thinks it’s up to the Government to decide, and hopefully to do it as soon as possible. And those statements, of course, still stand, following the incidents reported over the weekend.
Question: So he’s not going to make any sort of additional call to have it closed sooner?
Associate Spokesman: He’s already made a call, as has Louise Arbour and various rapporteurs of the UN human rights system, concerning the need for the system in Guantanamo to be closed. And he did say that he wants it to be closed as soon as possible. Of course, that’s a decision for the US Government. As for further comment about the unfortunate suicides of the three detainees, we do wait to hear what Louise Arbour may have to say on this. She is, of course, studying the matter.
Question: On Friday and Saturday, Israeli bombers attacked some towns inside the occupied territories, killing 11 people and so forth. The Secretary-General has only called for an investigation. He has not taken note that this has been done time and again, over any international law. How is that investigation going to take place and when? And who is going to do it?
Associate Spokesman: Well, this is of course in the early days, in terms of that. He just made the call on Friday in his statement concerning the killings that took place on a beach in Gaza. And he did call for a full investigation at that time. As you know, the Israeli Government has expressed its intention to investigate. So, first, we’ll see what type of investigation they will have. As for the violence that’s been continuing, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Secretary-General, at the start of the weekend, did remind all concerned of their obligations under international humanitarian law to avoid placing civilians in danger, while urging the utmost restraint to avoid further escalation and bloodshed. So, he made that call in the statement on Friday, and those sentiments stand.
Question: Subsequently, there were more raids again, I guess on Sunday…
Associate Spokesman: But, of course, the basic message that he gave, reminding all concerned of their obligations under international humanitarian law to avoid placing civilians in danger, that still stands.
Question: On the programme for the week, for today, there is something written about the Special Rapporteur on Racism and Racial Discrimination, Doudou Dienne, visiting the Russian Federation from 12-17 June. Do you have any information on this?
Associate Spokesman: I believe there is some information on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. There is a press release there, and we can help you get a copy of that if you want, but it is also available on their website.
Question: Two requests for updates. One is on the peacekeepers in Ituri in the Congo. Is there any word whatsoever, it’s been two weeks?
Associate Spokesman: I have no further news. We’re still continuing with our efforts to secure their release.
Question: The other is on something that we’ve discussed before, the International Advisory Monitoring Board for Iraq. I’ve seen that they put out a summary of their most recent meeting, once again saying that, in terms of oil, the metering of oil from Iraq, that they’re concerned that it’s going slow. But they somehow congratulate the Government for signing a contract with Shell. I wonder if you know either if oil is in fact being metered currently, or if we can make another request to have Mr. [Jean-Pierre] Halbwachs come and brief us?
Associate Spokesman: I’ll put in a request to Mr. Halbwachs to see if he has any further information. I think that the last information that I provided to you was that they had received information from the Government of Iraq concerning some progress on this, but I don’t know if the metering itself, technically, has started.
Question: There’s a 2 June summary of their May meeting that uses this phrase “again expresses its frustration” at how slow it’s going, so it just struck me that…
Associate Spokesman: Exactly. This has been a process that has been ongoing for many months, and the IAMB is now on record expressing its frustration about that.
Question: Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert has been quoted in the Israeli press as saying that when Annan called him, he was interested only in Israeli response to the Qassam rockets and not to the actual Qassam rockets. And I noticed that in the statement that Annan made on Saturday that there was no mention of the Qassam rockets either. Is there only one side to this, according to Annan?
Associate Spokesman: No, not at all. In the past we have also criticized the firing of Qassam rockets, and, even in the statement on Friday, the basic point was that we encouraged both sides to exercise the utmost restraint to avoid escalation and bloodshed. And that means to avoid all further violence, whether it comes in the form of Qassam rockets or in the form of retaliatory attacks.
Question: I mean the Qassam rockets were the initiation of this. Is there… do you think that it’s ok… I mean, it’s a complaint that was raised by the Prime Minister, I’m just passing it along, thinking that there might be…
Associate Spokesman: In past statements, we have referred… as well as in speeches to the Security Council… we have referred to our concerns about Qassam rocket fire and those concerns still hold.
Question: I just wanted… I’ve asked a couple of times, could we still have a briefing on the state of UN finances, please?
Associate Spokesman: Yes. We’ll try and get something and try and see who the best official is to talk to you on that.
Question: Also, there have been calls on this. Can you update us on calls for an investigation into what happened and why in East Timor? Is there going to be a UN investigation into that?
Associate Spokesman: Well, I think the latest thing is that, if you look upstairs, we do have a press release from the UN Office in Timor-Leste, where the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Mr. Hasegawa, welcomes the decision by the Timorese Government to invite the UN to investigate the shooting incidents of April and May. So, please have a look at that.
Question: So, to follow up on that, what is going to happen? Is the UN going to accept that invitation?
Associate Spokesman: We will see about the specifics later. As you know, tomorrow, Ian Martin is going to be briefing the Security Council about the future UN presence in Timor-Leste, and we’ll have a discussion at that point. But, Mr. Hasegawa has already welcomed the invitation from the Government.
Question: But what are the issues around that? You say look at specific… like, what are the issues surrounding all of it? Does there need to be a Security Council decision? Just, can we have a little bit more about this?
Associate Spokesman: Well, the Security Council will have to decide in general what the scope of the future UN presence will be. As we told you last week, the Secretary-General’s expectation is that the UN presence on the ground ought to be increased, and we’ll see what recommendations Mr. Martin gives, and how the Council responds. And, like I said, that will start tomorrow.
Question: Two things. Is the Secretariat aware that there’s a report on the death of Sudanese refugees in Cairo in December? UNHCR has… it criticizes UNHCR, and they’ve said that they think the report is unfair, etc. I don’t know if you’re aware of this. Rather than a UN agency saying something defensively… I don’t know if you have a comment on it? I don’t know if you’re aware of it.
Associate Spokesman: I don’t, actually. I think, at this stage, the comment is coming from UNHCR, and you might want to be in touch with UNHCR about their response to this.
Question: Also, we had a stakeout briefing by US Senator Tom Coburn after a meeting with the Deputy Secretary-General. He said that the meeting had been set up long in advance to talk about repair of the building. But, on his schedule today there’s also a meeting with a Congressman from Arizona. Is that also about the building, or is that about the speech? What is that about?
Associate Spokesman: I believe that’s a meeting requested by the representative. I don’t know if Representative [Jim] Kolby intends to talk to you at the stakeout afterwards. He may choose to do so, but that’s a meeting that hasn’t taken place yet.
Question: Was this a meeting that was on his schedule prior to the speech?
Associate Spokesman: I believe so, but I can check.
Question: Can we get a readout from that meeting -- mainly from the Mark Malloch Brown side, because we’ve already heard a lot from Coburn at the stakeout.
Associate Spokesman: I’ll check. Of course, Senator Coburn has already given you his own comments about what’s transpired.
Question: So, do you agree with his characterization that is was a “frank discussion”?
Associate Spokesman: I’ll see whether we have any sort of readout.
Is that it? If so, then I’d like to welcome Jan Egeland to the podium to talk to you about Timor-Leste.
* *** *For information media • not an official record