3 July 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


Following is a near verbatim transcript of toady’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.


**Secretary-General’s Travel


When we announced the Secretary-General’s current trip last week, we mentioned that we expected further stops to be announced.  We now have two other stops to announce.  Following his official visit to Germany, the Secretary-General is now scheduled to travel to Italy for an official visit, and then on to the G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Further stops are still a possibility.


**Secretary-General in Sierra Leone


The Secretary-General is in Sierra Leone today, where he met with President [Ahmed Tejer] Kabbah, and assured him that, while the UN peacekeeping Mission has closed down, the United Nations remains dedicated to working in Sierra Leone.  Among other things, he said the United Nations stands ready to assist Sierra Leone in elections.  The Secretary-General then went to see the Special Court.


He should be holding a press conference right now in Freetown, and we hope to provide a transcript later this afternoon.


This evening, he is leaving for Liberia.  After that, he will head on to Côte d’Ivoire, where he expects, on Wednesday, to continue the discussions with concerned leaders about that country’s road map.


**Secretary-General at African Summit


Over the weekend, the Secretary-General attended the African Union Summit in Banjul, in the Gambia, and said in a speech to the Summit that he celebrates the fact that most African States have democratically elected Governments.  But, he added that, “to keep building on the progress we have achieved so far, we have to do far better in building a comprehensive strategy for the future -- one which gives equal weight and attention to the three pillars of development, security and human rights”.  That speech is available online and upstairs.


At a press encounter he held yesterday, after wrapping up his work at the Summit, he noted that he had held long and substantive discussions with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, while in Banjul.  He said that he and Bashir agreed on the immediate need to strengthen the African Union Mission in Darfur and to consolidate the Darfur Peace Agreement.  The Secretary-General added that they also agreed that the dialogue had to continue on the issue of the deployment of a UN force in Darfur.


Asked about the next steps following the Darfur Peace Agreement, the Secretary-General said that, among other things, the rebels who have not signed the agreement should be pressed to come on board, while those who have signed should begin effective implementation immediately.  Those points are also made in the Secretary-General’s monthly report on Darfur, which is out as a Security Council document today.


On Zimbabwe, the Secretary-General told the reporters in Banjul that he had met with President [Robert] Mugabe, who had told him that the former President of Tanzania, former President [Benjamin] Mkapa, has been appointed as a mediator.  They both agreed that Mkapa should be given the time and space to do his work.


And he also told reporters that, on Saturday, he did meet with the Iranian President, and he had underscored the importance that “every effort should be made to avoid any standstill in the diplomatic process”.


A full transcript of that press encounter was made available to you over the weekend and is available upstairs.


** Sudan


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Sudan, Jan Pronk, today welcomed the decision taken by the African Union Summit to extend the mandate of its troops in Darfur, to the end of 2006.  While welcoming the recent announcement by the Sudanese Government to present a plan for the disarmament of the Janjaweed militia in Darfur, Pronk warned that continued militia attacks on internally displaced persons in Darfur were hampering implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.


Meanwhile, the UN Mission reports that the UN’s Radio was inaugurated over the weekend in southern Sudan, in the presence of Salva Kiir, First Vice-President of the Government and President of the Government of South Sudan, and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Pronk.


The event, which was held in Juba on 30 June, marked the opening of the first United Nations radio broadcasting station in South Sudan.  Pronk called on the Government to follow the example of the southern Government, and allow the radio station to broadcast in northern Sudan, as well.  He said the UN radio station belonged to all Sudanese and was, therefore, a tool for dialogue among members of the society as a whole.


**Deputy Secretary-General in Geneva


The Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, today is in Geneva, where he addressed the annual meeting of the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). That meeting started today, and will run until 28 July.


In his remarks, which we have upstairs, he said that, although ECOSOC has always been the UN’s principal body for coordinating and advancing development policy, its track record has been decidedly mixed. Nonetheless, the Millennium Development Goals can serve as a good antidote, since they present an opportunity for ECOSOC to rally around a concrete set of clear, universally acclaimed and achievable targets.  As I mentioned, we have his statement upstairs.


While there, the Deputy Secretary-General also launched this year’s progress report on the Millennium Development Goals.  The report says that, with 86 per cent of the developing world’s children going to school in 2003/2004, the world looks like it is on track for achieving universal enrolment by 2015.  There is a press release on that upstairs.


** Cambodia


Today in Phnom Penh, the Extraordinary Chambers for Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge trials were formally inaugurated, and the international and Cambodian judges and prosecutors were sworn in.  Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel attended the inauguration and, in a statement, he said that “a historic landmark has been reached today, on this road to justice and sustainable peace”.  We have his speech upstairs, as well as those of other officials attending the ceremony.


** Iraq


Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, condemned in the strongest possible terms the bombing in Baghdad of the neighbourhood of Sadr City over the weekend.  He described the bombing as “a particularly abhorrent and despicable crime apparently aimed at sabotaging the prospects of national reconciliation”.  There is a press release of his statement upstairs.


Also on Iraq, there is a report out today:  the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on the return of Kuwaiti property by Iraq and, in it, the Secretary-General welcomes the return by Iraq to Kuwait of Kuwaiti property found in Tunisia.


** Central African Republic


There is also the report of the Secretary-General on the Central African Republic, and the activities of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in that country.  In it, he notes that the security situation remains precarious and worrisome, along with the overall situation in the border region it shares with Chad and Sudan.  On the humanitarian front, he notes the essential role of UN agencies in delivering basic assistance to a population in great need.


** Cyprus


The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus is now complete, following the official welcoming of a third and final member at a ceremony today in the UN Protected Area in Nicosia.


Attending the event -- which was overseen by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus, Michael Møller -- were the Greek Cypriot leader, Tassos Papadopoulos, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat.  In his remarks, Møller said he hoped that the new official’s arrival would help accelerate the closing of a painful chapter in the history of Cyprus.  We have a press release on that upstairs.


Meanwhile, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari has arrived in the region to assess the political situation, stopping first in Ankara, Turkey, before moving on to Athens, Greece, and then to Cyprus.

**Security Council


Finally, today there are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council.  The Security Council President for the month of July, which is France, will be briefing you on the Council’s programme of work in this room approximately at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 July.  As you know, tomorrow is a Headquarters’ holiday.  The UN will be closed, but we will be on duty.


That is what I have for you.  Questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  A UN security team is in Somalia, meeting with the Islamic Courts Union.  Do you have any readout on how that meeting had gone so far, or what is next, or what they’ve found?


Deputy Spokesman:  As you know, the security mission is a security assessment mission, and we generally do not comment on that.  But, I can confirm to you that a mission did go in today.  I understand that the one-day assessment did take place.  That is really all I can tell you for now.


Question:  Have they since left?


Deputy Spokesman:  My understanding is that they have departed, yes.


Question:  With reference to the singling out of Israel in the Human Rights Council, is the Secretary-General unduly worried that the OIC is trying to cause problems to the new structure, and has he gotten any words of criticism for their actions?  It seemed that Israel was the only national entity that criticized the resolution.


Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary-General has not been asked specifically about the Human Rights Council during the weekend.  As I said, he is having a press conference shortly.  I have not seen any direct words from him.  So, the only thing I can point out to you now is his remarks at the opening of this Council’s session, in which he encourages the new Council to work vigorously.  Given the tools that they have been given, it is going to be up to the new Council and its members to make it work.  As to the specific question on this issue, I think the Secretary-General would want the Council to take up issues that are crises or situations that need to be taken up in a timely manner, and that he would want the Council to pay the same kind of attention to all serious issues around the world.


Question:  Did Mr. Gambari already meet with officials in Ankara and, if so, do we have any feedback on that?


Deputy Spokesman:  The only thing I have right now is his arrival.  If there is any more, I will let you know.  Mark…


[The Deputy Spokesman later added that, in the context of his mission to Cyprus and the region, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, today met with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül in Ankara.  The meeting was an opportunity for a frank and constructive exchange of views on where things stand, and how those concerned wish to move forward.]


Question:  Is there any readout on the meeting with the Islamic Courts in Somalia?


Deputy Spokesman:  I just answered that.  The only thing I was able to say was that a security assessment mission did go in.  But, because it is a security assessment, we can’t go into details.  But it has completed its work for today.  And yes, they did have a meeting in Mogadishu.


Question:  To follow up.  On the basis of that meeting, will there be any plans for either political contacts or now getting in, you know, humanitarian aid or that sort of stuff?


Deputy Spokesman:  I think both the Secretary-General and his Special Representative have expressed their hope for the mission to go in quickly.  That is why the security assessment mission went in.  Since it is just leaving now, we will have to see what they recommend in terms of what kind of access they had and what guarantees they were able to get.


Question:  Do you know if, at the African Union Summit, the Secretary-General discussed Uganda, in particular regarding the discussions with the Lord’s Resistance Army, given the indictments?


Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t have anything specific on that, but let me ask for a readout of any of his meetings that may have touched on that.  But, off the top of my head, that was not addressed in any of his public encounters.


Question:  He did mention Zimbabwe.  There is a documentary of PBS showing people being returned from South Africa to Zimbabwe very much against their will and saying they will face torture.  Although the Secretary-General said that the mediator should be given time and space, is there any guidance for the interim period, or does he consider the matter of mass evictions closed?  How much time is he going to give the process?


Deputy Spokesman:  Since this announcement was just made over the weekend, I can’t give you a specific time.  But, I think what he was saying is pretty clear, that he would want to throw his backing behind the mediator that has been named, give him enough time and space to work on the crisis on the ground.  There is nothing more the Secretary-General would want to see, than to bring an end to the humanitarian suffering of the people on the ground.  His good offices are always there.  It is just now, what he has said pretty clearly, is that, since there is a mediator named for now, he would like to back that process.  Yes Mark…


Question:  To follow up on that, did the UN have any role in the choosing of Mr. Mkapa as a mediator and, I mean, are there any contacts right now between the UN and Mr. Mkapa?


Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the Secretary-General, as you know, has said that he wants to back any effort that Mr. Mkapa is making, so I am sure that they will be having contact.  But, as you know, right now he is in Sierra Leone, and he is travelling in West Africa for a few more days.


Question:  Do you know exactly who this mediator is going to mediate with?  How are they going to measure this mediation process?


Deputy Spokesman:  We probably should address this directly to the mediator, because, as you know, he is not a UN-appointed mediator.  We will have to find out exactly what he will be doing.


Question:  But, exactly, what are the goals of this mediation process?  I mean, what is he trying to accomplish?


Deputy Spokesman:  I cannot speak for the mediator, since he is not a UN mediator, but, as far as what I said about what the Secretary-General’s goal is, he has made it pretty clear that he would like to see the suffering of the people in Zimbabwe to end.  Ultimately, he would like to see a comprehensive solution on the ground.  As you know, he did have Mr. Gambari as his point-man in talking with the Zimbabweans, and I think he intends to continue to make his good offices available.  But right now, he would like to throw his support behind someone who has been named and who has been accepted as a mediator by the Government as well.


Question:  He is mediating between the Government on one side and…?


Deputy Spokesman:  As I said, I don’t have any more details, since this was something that was just announced yesterday. Yes, Mark.


Question:  Just to clarify on that, though, I mean, the idea was, the original idea was that Mr. Annan of the UN mediate between the Zimbabwean Government, the opposition and also other countries.  At the moment, the only mediation being done by Mr. Mkapa, that we are aware of, is the Government, and the Government appointed him.  So, does the UN abandon any efforts to provide a conduit to the opposition and other parties, or is it watching to make sure that Mr. Mkapa’s so-called mediation role does actually involve mediation with these other parties?


Deputy Spokesman:  Well, obviously, the Secretary-General would not throw his weight behind a mediator if he did not feel that he can bring some positive energy to that process.  In that sense, the Secretary-General, I am sure, will continue along the path that he has been advocating.  As for the specific efforts of Mr. Mkapa, as I said, I really don’t have further details.  I’ll have to look into that and get back to you in terms of his specific mandate, if I can.


Question:  It is just, has the UN had talks with opposition figures who had put their hopes on some UN mediation role and, you know, is the UN in any way open, at this stage, to charges of abandoning these people who had put so many hopes in the UN providing this role?  Or did the UN get a sense from the opposition people that they felt that this other mediator was fulfilling what they wanted?


Deputy Spokesman:  I can’t imagine the Secretary-General throwing his weight behind an effort that he did not believe in.  That is all I can say for now.


Are there no other questions?  Have a good afternoon and have a good day off tomorrow.


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