27 June 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 for Secretary-General


Good afternoon.


Our guest today, my guest today, will be Mr. Bondevik, the Secretary-General’s Special Humanitarian Envoy for the Horn of Africa.  He will be joining us shortly to brief on the humanitarian situation in the region.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo says that two Nepalese peacekeepers, who were taken captive along with five others almost a month ago in the Ituri district, have been released.  The Mission is calling on the group which held them -- and believed to be the militia group known as the Front Nationaliste et Integrationniste, or by its French acronym FNI -- to release the remaining five.


We do expect an official statement shortly.


**Security Council


The Security Council today is holding consultations to discuss the work of the United Nations Mission in Burundi.  They received a briefing from Nureldin Satti, the Secretary-General’s Acting Special Representative for Burundi.  Mr. Satti will also speak to you in this room at about 1.  Consultations followed a meeting among the Council members and the countries contributing troops to the Burundi Mission.


Then, at 3:30 this afternoon, the Security Council will hear from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean Marie Guéhenno about the recent visit of the United Nations-African Union joint assessment team to Darfur.  The Secretary-General will also be attending those consultations, and he has told us that he may say a few words to you on the way in to the meeting at around 3:30.  Mr. Guéhenno, meanwhile, has agreed to come to the stakeout to speak after consultations.


** Somalia


From Somalia, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall, had a telephone conversation today with Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the Chairman of the Union of Islamic Courts based in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.  Mr. Fall briefed Sheikh Ahmed on the United Nations role in promoting peace and security in Somalia and on the United Nations effort to encourage dialogue between the Transitional Federal Government and the Union of Islamic Courts.


Yesterday in Nairobi, Mr. Fall held separate meetings with the Somali Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Parliament, and discussed the latest developments in that country.


**Timor-Leste


From Timor-Leste, the United Nations reports that the number of people registered as internally displaced persons as the result of violence there has risen past 150,000 according to figures gathered by the United Nations, non-governmental groups and the government.  The United Nations Office in Timor-Leste says the latest figures show more than 79,000 internally displaced persons in the outlying districts and more than 72,000 in makeshift tent camps in the capital -- up nearly 10,000 over the figures from the beginning of last week.  Elsewhere on the humanitarian front, the World Food Programme has now completed the second round of rations distributions for some 53,000 people in Dili. 


We do have more information available upstairs.


**Secretary-General’s Trip


The Secretary-General will be departing this week to the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Germany.  In Banjul, he will attend the African Union Summit.  On the margins of the Summit, he will hold a series of bilateral meetings with visiting African leaders.  He is also expected to host a mini-summit on Côte d’Ivoire, which will bring together President Laurent Gbagbo as well as a number of other African Heads of State and Government.


In Freetown, he will visit the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, as well as the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He will meet with the President of Sierra Leone and other senior officials. He will also visit the United Nations Missions in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, before proceeding to Ghana for a private visit.


Then, while on official visit to Germany, the Secretary-General will meet officials and ministers of the German Government, including Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Horst Kohler.  In Bonn he will visit United Nations offices in that city.  While in Germany, he also hopes to attend the final of the World Cup.


And just to alert you, we do expect further stops on this trip.  We will keep you informed as they become official.


**Statements by the Secretary-General


Just for the record.  As you know, yesterday afternoon we issued two statements, which were made available upstairs.


One, expressing the Secretary-General’s shock and sadness at the gruesome murder of four Russian diplomats, yesterday in Baghdad; and the other one, his call for the safe and immediate release of a captured Israeli soldier following an attack by Palestinian militants on Sunday.


** Sri Lanka


Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, has expressed her deep concern about the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka.  In that regard, she has appointed Ambassador Alan Rock of Canada as her Special Adviser.  Mr. Rock will undertake a field mission to Sri Lanka to get a firsthand look at the situation on the ground.


We do have a press release upstairs on that.


**Information Security


A meeting on information security is taking place today and tomorrow in Conference Room 2, with the support of the United Nations Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technology and Development.  The meeting is bringing together a blend of key decision makers, policy makers, technology experts and administrative officials from the United Nations diplomatic and administrative communities and from the private sector.


Hopefully we have more information on that upstairs.


** Montenegro


One last note, we will soon be 192.  There will be a meeting of the General Assembly plenary tomorrow morning at 10:30, on the admission of Montenegro as the 192nd Member State.  Following that, the flag of the Republic of Montenegro will be raised in a ceremony to be held outside the Delegates’ Entrance.  The Secretary-General and representatives of the new Member State are expected to be present for that ceremony.


That is it for me.  Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Two questions.  I just want to know -- after this, there’ll be 192 members of the United Nations, I’m assuming? 


Spokesman: I’m assuming too, yes.


Question:  Okay, I just also wanted to know as to whether you have any idea how talks are progressing on the United Nations budget?


Spokesman:  I think I would refer you back to what the Secretary-General said on Friday to you, which is that he does expect the budget cap to be lifted.


Question:  Do you think in the next few days -- is that a possibility?


Spokesman:  I think you’d have to, you know… Maybe our friend Pragati, who is here, will have more on the exact details on the what and when of the Fifth Committee.


Question:  Two questions, Steph.  First, on Montenegro, do we know who is coming from the Government there to be here for that ceremony?


Spokesman:  That’s a valid question, which I should be able to answer, but I can’t.  But we will, right after the briefing, try to get you an answer.


[The Spokesman later said that the President and Foreign Minister of Montenegro would be present at the ceremony, along with the new Special Envoy to the United Nations of Montenegro, who was formerly the Permanent Representative of Serbia and Montenegro to the United Nations.]


Question:  Also, following up on Masood’s question, how concerned is the Secretary-General about the fate of the rest of the reform package, even if the spending cap is lifted?


Spokesman:  We very much hope that the Member States will continue to work in a spirit of compromise, and move forward on a number of their reform proposals put to them.


Question:  What, specifically?


Spokesman:  Well, they’ve got management reform proposals, governance, as well as audit and oversight.


Question:  Mr. Tony Blair [inaudible] asked the Secretary-General to chair a follow-up committee on the commitments of developed countries to Africa.  Has the Secretary-General accepted this appointment?  And then, would this be for the time when he’s still in office or will he still be holding this responsibility even after he leaves, after December?


Spokesman:  This will be a task that the Secretary-General will continue after he leaves office, and serve in his personal capacity.


Question:  Is there any readout from him?  Is there a statement from the Secretary-General about his appointment?


Spokesman:  No.  But obviously he looks forward to the work, to working with the commission.  But to add -- this should not be seen as a mechanism displacing existing United Nations mechanisms on the issue of debt relief and commitment to aid.


Question:  Any update about Mr. Gambari’s visit to Cyprus next week?


Spokesman:  Not at this point, but we do expect something before the end of the day.


Question:  I don’t know if you were asked this yesterday, but did the United Nations have any reaction to the Warren Buffet announcement that he would put $37 billion into the Gates Foundation, and does the United Nations have any plans to get their hands on that money?


Spokesman:  It’s obviously a very -- a tremendously -- generous gift.  A very welcome gift, especially given the fact that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been the partner of a number of United Nations agencies, especially in the medical field, notably the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and a number of United Nations agencies having to do with vaccines and AIDS.  So it’s a very welcome and generous gift.


Question:  Do you get a sense that this, sort of, enormous private sector fund basically dwarfs what’s going on here?  And is there any kind of plan, in terms of talking about United Nations reform and all the rest of it, to, basically, better bring that kind of money into what the United Nations is trying to do?


Spokesman:  It’s in line with a lot of the ideas the Secretary-General has been talking about over the years, which is increased partnership with non-governmental organizations and private foundations.  I think there’s no… it’s not an issue of competition.  It’s an issue of getting the resources needed to do the task at hand, notably, in this particular case -- the Gates Foundation -- in the medical field.


Question:  Steph, one other question.  The Secretary-General is meeting the Iranian Foreign Minister later this afternoon.  Who requested the meeting, and could you tell us what the agenda might be?


Spokesman:  This is really the continuation of the discussions they had in Geneva last week.  While they met, the Secretary-General was told by the Foreign Minister that he would be in New York on prescheduled business, he had other engagements.  The Secretary-General, they sort of mutually agreed that they would meet again.  As always, the Secretary-General’s efforts on Iran have been to encourage them to consider the offer put to them made by the permanent Members of the Security Council and Germany.  He believes the Iranians are considering this offer seriously, as he is urging them to do so.


Question:  Will there be a readout following the meeting between them?


Spokesman:  Yes, there will be a readout.  We’ve also made inquiries with the Iranian mission to see if the Foreign Minister would like to speak at the stakeout.  They’ve told us they will let us know by around one o’clock, so we will let you know.


Question:  Will that be tentatively around two o’clock or so, something like that?


Spokesman:  No, no.  He would speak after his meeting with the Secretary-General, which is at 4:45 p.m.


Question:  Following up on my question yesterday.  Did you get an answer on whether or not the United Nations had transported this Darfur military leader?


Spokesman:  That is something the Mission in Sudan is looking into, and I think if you call them, they may be able to provide you with an answer by the end of the day.


Question:  How much “looking into” is needed?


Spokesman:  Well, I’m just saying -- if you call them by the end of the day, they’re looking into it, and they’ll be able to provide you with an answer.


Question:  Is there any update on the post cards being sent to the Ambassador of Sri Lanka by the National Rifle Association?  Yesterday it was about 100,000 cards received by the Ambassador.


Spokesman:  I will, uh, go upstairs and count the cards after the briefing and give you an update.


Question:  No, don’t count the cards.  Just ask them to count it for you.


Spokesman: Okay.  You’re too kind, Masood.


On that note, I’ll invite Mr. Bondevik… oh, maybe we’ll have Pragati Pascale from the General Assembly President brief, and then we’ll come to you.


Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President


This is going to be a busy week at the General Assembly, as the President is aiming for Member States to wrap up work in a number of areas with maximum tangible results.


This morning, the Fifth Committee held an open meeting where the latest report of the Secretary-General on management reform issues -- on the Independent Audit Advisory Committee -- was to be presented by the Controller.  One additional report, on procurement matters, is expected later this week.


This afternoon, the Fifth Committee will begin intensive informal consultations on management reform issues, facilitated by Mr. Morteza Mirmohamed, the delegate from Iran.  Yesterday, the Chairman circulated a letter from Australia, Japan and the United States, at their request, attaching a text in the form of a draft resolution.  This is an informal contribution to the negotiation process and has not been officially tabled as a draft resolution.


Tomorrow morning, as Steph mentioned, the Assembly will meet in plenary to take action in admitting Montenegro as the 192nd Member State.


Tomorrow afternoon, the Fifth Committee is scheduled to meet to take action on the draft decision, submitted by the Chairman, authorizing expenditure of the remaining funds appropriated in the biennial budget.  As the President informed Member States by letter last Friday, he has been assisting by holding consultations with the objective of lifting the spending cap by consensus.  The President stated that it is his sincere intention to bring this matter to a conclusion by tomorrow, and action by the plenary would then be expected on Friday afternoon.


Also, tomorrow afternoon, the President and the two co-Chairs who have been assisting him in the consultations on development issues, the Ambassadors of Belgium and Mali, will present a revised text to Member States.  The intention would be for action on that draft resolution to also take place at the plenary on Friday afternoon.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Did I hear you right, that Iran is facilitating United Nations management talks?


Spokesperson:  The Fifth Committee delegate from Iran is considered an expert on management reform issues and is an expert negotiator, and is trusted by all in the process and has been selected by the Committee for that role.


Question:  Just a couple of other things.  What arrangements will there be for the Montenegro acceptance?  Can you tell us a little about what happens, how that works?  Are there any, you know... Is there any ceremony, or any… What happens?


Spokesperson:  Well, in the Assembly itself, the President will make a statement. There will be an adoption of a draft decision or resolution. There will be a few statements, tomorrow morning at 10:30, and then, immediately after that, there will be a ceremony outside the Delegates’ Entrance.


Question:  Will there be a flag-raising ceremony?


Spokesperson:  A flag-raising ceremony, yes.


Question:  Have you got a flag pole ready for it out there?


Spokesperson:  I presume they’re making those arrangements.


Question:  One final one, if I may.  On the resolutions regarding management reform, no resolution has been tabled?


Spokesperson:  Not officially.  There have been contributions.


Question:  What are the plans like?  Is there an idea that there will be a resolution adopted, or not?


Spokesperson:  Yes, it’s just part of the process.  It’s in process.


Question:  Can I have a bit more clarity on that?  Would that be okay, to get more clarity on what we’re talking about?


Spokesperson:  Well, they’re just starting the intensive consultations today.  So, it’s expected to take a little time.


Question:  So, the resolution on management reform would not happen until after the spending cap was lifted anyway?


Spokesperson:  There may be some agreements informally, or certain paragraphs of it will be agreed upon informally.  I don’t think the whole text would be agreed upon before that, before tomorrow.


Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record