|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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Secretary-General at Rome Conference on Lebanon
The Secretary-General this morning told the participants at the International Conference on Lebanon, taking place in Rome, that we need a cessation of hostilities because we face a grave humanitarian crisis. He called on Hizbollah to stop its deliberate targeting of Israeli population centres and called on Israel to end its bombardments, blockades and ground operations.
The Secretary-General added that a key stipulation for such a halt in fighting would be that the parties must not take advantage of such a pause to conduct offensive operations, redeploy or resupply. An international force has a vital role to play in this scenario. He also emphasized the need for a political framework, so that a cessation of hostilities can be transformed into a longer-term process of enduring peace, and for nations to commit to a strong economic package for Lebanon. We have that statement available upstairs.
Following the conclusion of the meeting, the Secretary-General and other participants spoke to the press, and he noted that the participants at the conference endorsed the need for urgent action to stop the hostilities, so that we can move into the longer-term mode,and be able to deploy troops.
The Secretary-General has asked the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to convene, in New York next week, a meeting of potential troop contributors for such a force, while we await the Security Council’s decision on this matter.
**Security Council Briefed on Attack on UNIFIL Outpost
And, earlier today, here, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jane Holl Lute, briefed the Security Council in its closed consultations about the killing of at least three unarmed UN military observers, and possibly a fourth, in a direct hit on their position in southern Lebanon yesterday.
Jane Holl Lute said that the four observers were in a long-established and clearly-marked post near the town of Khiam, which came under recurrent incidents of close firing from Israel yesterday afternoon. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon reports that, in total, 21 strikes were made within 300 meters of the patrol base.
Holl Lute, in her briefing to the Council, welcomed Israel’s call for an investigation, which she said the United Nations believes should be done jointly with the United Nations. She also noted that, in certain circumstances, UNIFIL may need to prepare for a consolidation of its presence to minimize further risk to its personnel. And you have copies of her briefing to the Council upstairs now.
Security Council members in that session also received a draft presidential statement about this incident, which I understand will be discussed later today.
** Middle East – Humanitarian Update
And turning to the humanitarian situation on the ground, a UN convoy of 10 trucks today carried food, medicines, and sanitation and hygiene supplies, to the port city of Tyre in southern Lebanon. The convoy has arrived in Tyre and begun to distribute aid, following a five and a half hour trip from Beirut.
This is the first UN convoy to the south, in what is hoped to become a regular dispatching of humanitarian supplies along safe humanitarian corridors inside Lebanon to the people most affected by the ongoing hostilities.
The convoy includes 90 metric tons of wheat flour procured locally, as well as other essential items. And there are more details in a press release available upstairs.
Meanwhile, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, is in Israel today as part of his mission to the Middle East. And he visited the city of Haifa, where he witnessed firsthand the effects of shelling by Hizbollah. He also met the Mayor of Haifa, as well as Israel’s Defence Minister and Foreign Minister, and thanked them for Israel’s support for humanitarian corridors. And, I understand he is headed back to New York, and we’ve asked him to brief you upon his return.
**Security Council - Côte d’Ivoire, Afghanistan
Following its briefing on Lebanon, meanwhile the Council here went into consultations on Côte d’Ivoire, to consider the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN mission in that country, and other matters.
Briefing the Council were the Secretary-General’s Principal Deputy Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire, Abou Moussa, and the High Representative for the Elections in Côte d’Ivoire, Gérard Stoudmann.
Then, at 3 in the afternoon, the Council has scheduled a closed meeting on Afghanistan. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, Tom Koenigs, will brief. And Mr. Koenigs will be at the stakeout area after he briefs the Security Council this afternoon, and he’ll give a brief statement and take some of your questions then. We’ll let you know closer to the time when he’s available.
Turning to Somalia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, François Fall, yesterday completed a mission to that country, in the course of which he obtained from the Transitional Federal Government and the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts, that they will reconsider resuming the dialogue begun in Khartoum in June.
In Baidoa, Fall held a meeting with the Somali President and other officials, and emphasized the need to maintain unity among the Transitional Federal Institutions. In Mogadishu, Fall met with leaders of the Executive Council of the Islamic Courts. He also drove through Mogadishu to assess the state of the Somali capital. Concluding his mission, Fall announced that a UN team would soon visit Mogadishu to start humanitarian assistance for those in need.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
And, on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN Mission there has issued its latest report on the human rights situation in that country, in which it notes an increase in the number of human rights abuses since the start of the electoral campaign. The Congolese army, the Mission says, is responsible for more than half of the reported 369 cases of abuse. The Mission also notes, with alarm, that not a single presidential candidate to date has addressed human rights issues on the campaign trail.
Meanwhile, the UN Development Programme today issued a press release, in which it says that the delivery to the polling stations of the 30 million ballots and other supplies required for Sunday’s elections will be completed by Friday.
And a reminder that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations is inviting interested members of the press to a background briefing at 2:30 on the UN’s role in the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And that will take place in the 37th floor conference room.
And we have from Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Jan Pronk, who said in a press briefing earlier today, that, while there’s been little fighting in South Darfur between those who did and didn’t sign the Darfur Peace Agreement, there’s been an increase in tribal militia fighting there. Pronk said these clashes have gotten more violent than in the past, due to the increasing availability of weapons.
Pronk will travel to Juba, in Southern Sudan, this coming Sunday to attend the commemoration of the death of the former Vice-President, John Garang. There is a transcript of Pronk’s press briefing upstairs.
To flag for you tomorrow, joining us at noon, we will have Gérard Stoudmann, the UN High Representative for Elections in Cote d’Ivoire.
And that’s what I have for you today.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I’m no lawyer, but I watch lawyers on TV, and I noticed that, before accusing anybody of apparently committing a crime, they always look for motivation, for motive, for committing the crime that they alleged those people made. Now, when Kofi Annan said yesterday that the Israeli attack was apparently deliberate, he didn’t site such motivation, and I don’t see any real indictment by Jane Lute here. Could you explain to me what possible motivation Israel would have to attack a UN position?
Deputy Spokesman: First of all, I don’t think it’s the Secretary-General’s position to talk about Israel’s motivation. I would like to refer to Jane Holl Lute’s statement, which was made public, which factually states the sequence of events that occurred…
Question: [talkover] Can you explain to me… [talkover]?
Deputy Spokesman: I cannot speak on behalf of Israel’s motivation. The Secretary-General made that statement and, again, he was asked about it this morning, or this afternoon, in Rome, following the International Conference. And, I would like to draw your attention to it. And, we should have that transcript of his remarks shortly, but, in it, he does say that he had the chance to speak to the Prime Minister of Israel. He said that, let me just read: “He definitely believes it’s a mistake. He has undertaken to investigate, and I have suggested we do a joint investigation. And, he has expressed his deep sorrow at what happened, and we accept that.” [The Secretary-General] goes on to say that he awaits the investigation, the end of the investigation. He looks forward to the results of the investigation, and he is grateful to the Prime Minister for what he has said, and we accept his words.
And, I will again refer you to the remarks that he has made.
Question: So, did he jump the gun yesterday?
Deputy Spokesman: No, he did not.
Question: Marie, you mention Jane Holl Lute’s briefing. And, just on a factual level, there’s some discrepancies I’d like to clear up. First of all, in your statement, in the Secretary-General’s statement last night, talked about a coordinated aerial and artillery attack. You just, the version you gave us talks about 21 strikes within 300 meters and 12 artillery rounds within 100 meters of the base. When you read that out just now, you changed it to 21 aerial bombs in 300 meters, and 12 artillery rounds. Can you clarify what we’re talking about here? Are we talking about any bombs dropped from airplanes and, if we are, how many of these ones that are in this briefing refer to that?
Deputy Spokesman: If I said that… what Ms. Lute said in her briefing was that there were 21 strikes. You are correct and, if I said anything else, I stand to be corrected. However, the strikes, from what I understand, do include both artillery and aerial bombs. So, I just don’t have a distinction in the number.
Question: Just to understand this, 21 strikes within 300 meters and 12 within 100 meters, does that mean that the 12 are included in the 21, or is that there were 21, which were between 100 meters and 300 meters, and 12 within 100 meters?
Deputy Spokesman: I can clarify that for you after the briefing, but it would seem to me that the 12 rounds were part of the 21 strikes.
[A later background briefing and information sheet clarified that this was the case.]
Question: Okay, so do you know how many of the total 21 strikes came from airplanes, because we were told yesterday about laser-guided missiles and things. There’s nothing about this, so was that correct information yesterday?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t think the Secretary-General’s statement… it stands for what it is. I just will try to find out a little more detail on the specifics of the 21 strikes for you.
[A later information sheet said that at least 11 aerial bombs and 13 artillery shells had been fired n those strikes.]
Question: Two questions. Firstly, the Secretary-General, in his remarks this morning, said, among other things… forgive me, I copied this off CNN…
Correspondent: Don’t rely on that (laughter).
Question: …It is important that we work with the countries of the region to find a solution, and that that should also include Iran and Syria. Now, I assume that means the Secretary-General accepts that these countries were instrumental in inspiring and abetting the episode, which began the current hostilities? And, in relation to this episode at Khiam, I think it was yesterday, has anyone yet on the ground… I know there will be a thorough investigation… but, has anyone, yet, on the ground, examined some of the fragmentary exploded ordinance, pieces of bombs, in other words, to verify that it was, in fact, of Israeli origin, or that it might be a manufacturer that would imply a totally different origin?
Deputy Spokesman: I am not aware of any such investigation taking place yet. As I just mentioned to you, the Secretary-General does look forward to the results of the full investigation. And, as for the efforts on the ground, just to give you a flavour for what’s going on there, as I mentioned, they had been able to identify, or dig up, the three of the four unarmed military observers, who were stationed at the site. They are still trying to extract body parts of the fourth from the rubble. So, that’s the state of where the UNIFIL operation is right now.
Question: What about the Secretary-General’s remarks, his acceptance of the role of Syria and Iran?
Deputy Spokesman: I refer you to the remarks that the Secretary-General made, even before he went to Rome, earlier this week. And, his remarks, I believe you’re referring to a Larry King interview he might have done, he did last Friday and, in it, what he does is talk about the need to bring in those two countries as part of the long-term solution. And, I don’t think he goes farther than that.
Question: Marie, does the SG stand by his statement last night that the attack was apparently deliberate?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, he does.
Question: What’s the criteria to establish whether it was deliberate, or apparently deliberate, attack on the post.
Deputy Spokesman: I have nothing beyond what he said, what Jane Holl Lute has spelled out in the Security Council and what the Secretary-General said this afternoon to the press. I have nothing further than that.
Question: I don’t understand. I mean, he says… you say on the one hand that he stands behind his assertion that it was apparently deliberate. On the other hand, that he does accept Olmert’s explanation. Olmert’s explanation includes very emphatically denial that this was deliberate. I see a little bit of a contradiction there.
Deputy Spokesman: I refer again to his remarks. He is saying that he had a chance to speak to the Prime Minister, and that he definitely believes it is a mistake, and he’s saying that he… [talkover].
Question: Mistake and deliberate are contradictory.
Deputy Spokesman: And that he has undertaken to investigate, and I have suggested we do a joint investigation, and he has expressed his deep sorrow at what happened, and we accept that. And, then now he looks forward to the investigation. He… [talkover].
Question: [talkover] He can’t say that he both stands behind his assertion that it was deliberate and that he accepts that it was a mistake.
Deputy Spokesman: The statement said “apparently”, and he does bring that to…
Question: Deliberate and mistake are still contradictory, no matter how apparent these are. Anyway, these are all pre-investigation determinations.
Deputy Spokesman: No, he is looking forward to the investigation.
Question: No, he’s not. He’s not looking forward; he’s made a determination, a clear determination… [talkover].
Deputy Spokesman: No, he said he has accepted his conversation that he had with Mr. Olmert, and he looks forward to the results of the investigation.
Question: But, Olmert is the one who believes in your words, the Prime Minister is the one who believes it was a mistake. You’re not implying that the SG approves Olmert’s assessment of the mistake?
Deputy Spokesman: Of course not. He’s waiting for the results of the investigation.
Correspondent: Olmert said that it’s a mistake.
Question: Is the Secretary-General accepting Olmert’s regrets at loss of life only?
Deputy Spokesman: I cannot interpret what the Secretary-General’s words… [talkover].
Question: Please read it again… Can you explain it Marie? Please read it again, and try and explain it and try and explain it to yourself.
Question: …from the Security Council, said: “We appreciate your acknowledgement of the Government of Israel of the tragic consequences of its military activity yesterday…”, so is that the only part of Olmert’s statement the Secretary-General or that peacekeeping is referring to? The rest had not been referred to?
Deputy Spokesman: I only stand by what he has said. I’m not going to interpret it further.
Question: I don’t want to disrupt the flow, but what about the fate of UNIFIL, can you, for broadcast purposes especially, tell us what the conclusions are regarding its status there?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, that status of UNIFIL, as you know, is currently being discussed in the Security Council. The Secretary-General, in his report, has recommended a one-month extension, while the Security Council and the rest of the world decide on the future of that mission. Specifically, on the ground, you heard, or in the statement, Jane Holl Lute does refer to that fact that, under the current circumstances, they may need to prepare for a consolidation of the unarmed observers’ presence on the ground, to minimize further risk to its personnel.
Question: Were any of them armed? Wasn’t there an unarmed observer unit as part of a larger Chapter VI mandate? Were those people armed at all?
Deputy Spokesman: The UNIFIL composition consists of about close to 2,000 UN peacekeepers, and these are UN peacekeeping soldiers, and about 50 unarmed personnel. Unarmed military observers, excuse me.
Question: Why doesn’t Jane Holl Lute go to the camera to take questions on this important issue, as the peacekeeping director, after a briefing to the Council?
Deputy Spokesman: We have to ask her, but she wanted her statement made available to you.
Question: Can I second that request, because this briefing is so inadequate. It is not even clear whether there were any aircraft involved in this attack? And, we need to get these things clear. I have one other question about…
Question: The background briefing should be cancelled on Congo, and there should be an on-camera person here.
Deputy Spokesman: I will pass on that request.
Question: I have another question about the communication. Obviously, the communication channels didn’t work. There was a Security Council briefing recently, in which members of the Council expressed concern that the communication between UNIFIL and the IDF was by fax machine. And we also see from this briefing that the action taken by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping and the Deputy Secretary-General, yesterday, was to call the Israeli mission, which may not seem like the most direct form of reaching the IDF. Was there actually direct voice communication between UNFIL and the IDF, or was this all being done by fax?
Deputy Spokesman: The Secretary-General, himself, has said he’d gotten personal assurances from the Prime Minister… [talkover].
Question: …I’m talking about yesterday.
Deputy Spokesman: Pellegrini, the UN Force Commander on the ground, has been in repeated contacts with Israeli officers, and the contacts here are Jane Holl Lute, and the Deputy Secretary-General and herself had made several calls to the mission. That’s all I have from the briefing.
Question: What form did the communication between Pellegrini and the Israelis take place? Was it by phone or…?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t know that.
[The press was later informed that Pellegrini had made repeated phone calls to Israel Defense Force officials.]
Question: Marie, we really to need more detail than we’re getting in this briefing, so, if we could get availability with Jane Holl Lute or somebody else competent in peacekeeping, it would be very helpful.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes.
Question: Marie, regarding this whole issue of context of this UN post -- how large, in other words, how large was this post? Were there just the four people, were there many more, was it sort of ensconced in the middle of Hizbollah-controlled area, or what were they doing, and really, has the issue of withdrawal of UNIFIL really been considered, given that they did not prevent the Hizbollah attack and really are in the crossfire?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, the withdrawal of UNIFIL is something that the Security Council would have to take up. The operational… strategic operational decisions on where to move the personnel can be taken by the Secretary-General, which is why Jane Holl Lute has suggested they may be consolidating some positions to minimize risk. In terms of that particular patrol base, I am told that it is one of four active bases that had been known… had been in existence for about 30 years. And, at that time, yes, there were four unarmed military observers posted there. All together, there are about 50 unarmed military observers in four active patrol bases.
Question: Are they isolated, or are there other bases of other buildings around them? What’s the kind of… [talkover].
Deputy Spokesman: The Blue Line, I understand, is about 70 miles long. So, the 2,000 troops and the four patrol bases and the troops, the troops are located in about 40 different areas, and the patrol bases are four. I don’t have a map of this area, but it’s… [talkover].
Question: …I mean, is that within 300 meters or outside…?
Correspondent: James, there are other questions.
Question: I can ask questions, I hope?
Correspondent: It was a good question.
Question: A couple of days ago, in a press release by UNIFIL, there was a very proud statement by UNIFIL that a Chinese engineering unit has repaired a road, in order to make it passable for the locals. Now, assuming that that road was made impassable by military activity for military purpose, my question to you is: when does UNIFIL actually become part of the warfare by undoing something that was done on purpose and, in effect, could you provide us the mandate under which UNIFIL was active there? Was UNIFIL mandated to repair a road that was damaged under warfare?
Deputy Spokesman: I have a fact sheet for you that traces back the establishment of UNIFIL back to [resolution] 425; I don’t have the entire resolution, but I could get that for you after the briefing.
Question: What is Jane Lute talking about when she talks about a consolidation? I mean, you say there are these four patrol bases, are you talking about withdrawing everyone out of these bases in these four areas, and just limiting them to headquarters, would they do patrols, would staff be evacuated? I mean, consolidation is a sort of tantalizing term. A couple of days ago -- obviously, the situation has changed -- but, UNIFIL was quite adamant that it was manning all of its posts despite the crossfire.
Deputy Spokesman: In that sentence, she is only referring to the observer group. In other words, it’s only the 50 unarmed observers that she’s referring to, not the peacekeepers.
Question: So, those observers would be withdrawn from the four patrol bases where they were doing their observation, and return to headquarters?
Deputy Spokesman: That much detail, I don’t think they’ve decided. She’s just simply warning that, to minimize further risk, they might be consolidating and moving them. I don’t know to where at this point. But, we can give you an update on that, when and if that happens.
Question: So, there are no plans being drawn up in the Secretariat, or no discussion of any kind has been drawn up by the Secretariat to pull out the Force in Lebanon?
Deputy Spokesman: Not that I’m aware of, no. As I said, the mandate of the peacekeeping operation has been laid out by the Security Council, and they’re about to examine the mandate, which actually expires on the 31st.
Question: Any plans for an evacuation would continue to be done within the Secretariat, right?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, evacuation plans for all UN personnel are constantly being done for security reasons, so that we would not get into. What Jane Holl Lute was referring to here was simply the consolidation of the unarmed military observers.
Question: On the actual base, do you know, or maybe we can get this from the briefing later on, do you know whether such bases fly the UN flag, or have UN in big letters painted on their rooftops, or… [talkover].
Deputy Spokesman: I have been told it is clearly marked. I can find out for you how it was.
Question: Was the UN flag flying at the time… [talkover].
Deputy Spokesman: Clearly marked is what I’ve been told by the mission.
Question: Marie, the Secretary-General would like to have some States in the region involved in the political discussion for a political framework. In addition to Syria and Iran, does he have in mind States like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, or some other States?
Deputy Spokesman: In terms of his good offices and his diplomacy, you know that he has been reaching out very far and wide in the region, and daily talking to leaders in the region -- those involved directly in the hostilities and those countries that have influence on the countries that are involved. So, I think that is self-evident by the daily calls, and those who were gathered today in Rome for the meeting.
Question: I apologize coming in late if this question was asked already, but, what exactly were these UN peacekeepers doing at the time? What was their function over the course of the week? Were they involved in some sort of activity?
Deputy Spokesman: They’re not peacekeepers, in the sense that they’re not armed soldiers. They are unarmed military observers. They were from, as you’ve seen now, from four different nationalities, posted in one of the four active patrol bases. In terms of specific activities of the military observers, I’ll have to find that out exactly, but they are the eyes and ears for monitoring any violations that might be taking place in the area of their patrol.
Question: I think the basic question we want to know from this briefing is on what basis is the Secretary-General saying this was an apparently deliberate attack?
Deputy Spokesman: What the Secretary-General based his remarks on yesterday was that the kind of strikes that were directed at this UNIFIL patrol base, that basically all afternoon, this base was coming under very close attack, despite repeated attempts and calls and communications from the United Nations to the Israeli side, pointing out how close these attacks were going, that these, nonetheless, occurred. And, my understanding is, the kind of attack that did take place -- somebody had to have targeted the target, in order for it to be hit. That’s what he meant by deliberate. I don’t think he is accusing anybody. Certainly, he’s not pointing blame directly to any person, but the “deliberate” had to do with the kind of strike, and the kind of target that that was directed at.
Question: Just to follow up. Four artillery shells hit the base. So, you’re saying that those four artillery shells couldn’t have hit the base, unless they targeted the base?
Deputy Spokesman: I cannot go beyond what I’ve just told you. This is my understanding, you asked me why he used that word, and I’m giving you the explanation for that. I understand your request for further details. I will see if we can get it for you, but this is what Jane Holl Lute gave to the Security Council, and there were no further elaborations there, either.
Question: …what you’ve said that there were hits close by all the time, before. If it had been deliberately targeted with these precision weapons, it would have been hit many times during the previous 21 strikes. So, it cannot have been deliberately targeted, except…
Question: Were the [Israeli] Defence Forces also targeting nearby other targets?
Deputy Spokesman: You’d have to ask the Defence Forces that.
Question: Were any of the four guys that died in communication with anybody else during the 21-strike process prior to the final hit?
Deputy Spokesperson: My understanding is that they were in the bunker, but I can see if there were any last minute communications.
[It was later clarified that they had been in their bunker.]
Question: There are lots of cases during wars in which airplanes or artillery hit your own forces, even after shooting around those forces. Would you say that is an indication that it’s deliberate targeting of your own forces?
Deputy Spokesman: Benny, I’ve said as much as I can say on this subject.
Correspondent: I mean, friendly fire is something that happens quite often in war, I can tell you that.
Question: Marie, there’s a questionable phrase here: “there was no Hizbollah firing.” Was there Hizbollah presence that might explain why the Israeli’s were targeting the area?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t know the answer to that question.
[Reporters were later told at a background briefing that there was no Hizbollah presence about 5 kilometres away.]
Question: Can we try and get… these are important questions, and the Secretary-General has made an allegation and we’re not getting… we need some more detail to back up the Secretary-General’s analysis, and we’re not getting that here. It would be nice to have somebody who knows the answer to these things.
Deputy Spokesman: You have asked if there could be a DPKO follow-up briefing. I will follow up on that. What you’ve got right now is the exact same briefing that the Security Council got and a bit more.
Question: There are a few little facts that occurred to me. Number one, does UNIFIL, or perhaps someone in this building, have photos, if for no other reason to show us a before-and-after sequence, or give us some impression as to how this post was identified. Second, I have here an official map that I got from Mr. Egeland’s office yesterday. This is the official peacekeeping map and I’m not sure where this incident took place. The map shows UNIFIL headquarters, but is this somewhere near there? There’s nowhere inside the little blue band that’s UNIFIL territory named Khiam…
Deputy Spokesman: I think, if we go upstairs, I can show you on the map.
[Reporters also received a photo of the Khiyam posts prior to the attack.]
Question: Ok. Also, as regards the question of what the total compliment of this post, is it possible that there were any survivors of this attack, uninjured or otherwise, who may have useful information?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I’m told that the building is now rubble and that they’re looking for the fourth military observer who was inside…
Question: I’m not talking about the fourth. I’m talking about the possibly fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth who may not have been killed. Do we know for a fact that this post was only manned by only four people to begin with?
Deputy Spokesman: It is my understanding is that there were the four.
Question: Marie, on the question about why these people were still there… I mean, this has been going on for two weeks now. Normally, in peacekeeping operations, if there are such active hostilities around, particularly four unarmed observers, they would have been consolidated days ago. Why were they not consolidated to a safer position based on…
Deputy Spokesman: Because, we were given guarantees that they would not be attacked.
Question: Since the Secretary-General said in his speech to the Council that UNIFIL forces could not continue to function under the current circumstances, and since the mandate was actually first applied to a situation that was true in 1978, does the Secretary-General believe that the Security Council failed in its duty when it renewed the mission’s mandate automatically every six months, without ever thinking about new circumstances, such as the one that is happening now?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, the Secretary-General is not one to put blame on anybody. I think, if you could refer to his speech from earlier today, which again takes further his position on how to come out with a solution to the current crisis. And he has taken the lead -- as I mentioned at the beginning of the briefing -– to find out the availability of possible troop contributors for a possible follow-on force to go into this area, as part of a package of measures that he is proposing.
Question: Well, let me follow up on this. The mandate of UNIFIL was mostly to assure the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon in 1978. Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, according to Kofi Annan, completely, so, most of UNIFIL’s mandate was fulfilled at that time. Since then, there was another part of the mandate, which was to assure the deployment of Lebanese forces over all of the territory, and it did not include a part of another Security Council resolution --1559 -- which called for the disarmament of all militias, which obviously was a stumbling block to the second part of UNIFIL’s mandate. My question to you is whether the Security Council should have, at the time that it passed 1559, updated UNIFIL’s mandate to make it adequate to deal with the situation on the ground…
Deputy Spokesman: The Secretary-General, as I just mentioned, is already looking ahead. He has asked the Security Council to extend the mandate of the current mission in Lebanon, and he is beginning preparations to see what he can do to contribute to an international force, which, he has stated on a number of occasions now, would allow the Lebanese to extend their authority down to the border.
Correspondent: Or, perhaps the lesson of the failure to update the mandate of the international force called UNIFIL is that international forces are not agile enough to be adequate to what’s going on the ground.
Deputy Spokesman: Thank you.
Question: You’ve been asked about videos or stills of the outpost from before, but are there audio transcripts or recordings of the actual phone calls that were placed to the IDF, asking them to withdraw their fire?
Deputy Spokesman: I’m not aware of any audio of phone calls, but, in terms of photos of the outpost prior to the attack, we can certainly ask our Department of Public Information what they have available on that. So, please follow-up in our Office.
Question: This is just a reiteration of some earlier request for someone to come in from DPKO. Jane Lute disappeared quickly after delivering her speech to the Security Council. Maybe she can come in and address us?
Deputy Spokesman: This has been…
Correspondent: This needs to happen right away, essentially, because we’re never going to get to the bottom of our questions, until someone like her is in your chair, I suppose.
Question: I just wanted to clarify the sequence of events in Jane Hall Lute’s briefing. It begins at 13:20 and goes on until 19:17. So, over a six-hour period, there were 21 shells or, possibly, we don’t know, some sort of aerial bombing, as well. Can you give us any idea over this six hour period and these 21 shells within 300 yards, if they came in… the Secretary-General spoke about a coordinated attack… did they come in waves? Were they evenly spaced over the six hours, which I believed would be roughly… well, I have to do the arithmetic in my head… that would be one every 20 minutes? Do you know how they came?
Deputy Spokesman: I have nothing beyond what is in this briefing.
Question: Can we try and find that out?
Deputy Spokesman: Sure.
[Reporters were later provided with the times of the shelling incidents.]
Question: First of all, how long had these four guys been in Lebanon? Not just there, but in Lebanon, because they were there under that supervisory truce, 1948 thing, they’re not part of UNIFIL, I believe, right?
Deputy Spokesman: No, they are under UNIFIL command. The unarmed military observers are under UNIFIL command. They just happen to be lent out from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), but the position, as I mentioned, the base yesterday, had been in existence for over 30 years.
Question: Thirty years, yeah, but how long had it been since they had been lent by UNTSO? When did they arrive in Lebanon? We don’t even have their personal…
Deputy Spokesman: Until the next of kin have been notified, we probably won’t know too much detail on them.
Question: Going back to the very beginning, where you were saying “he accepts that it was a mistake”. Who is he? Is it Annan that accepts it was a mistake of Olmert? There’s a lot of “hes” there, and I didn’t know which “he” you were talking about.
Deputy Spokesman: I was just recounting what the Secretary-General recounted from his conversation with the Prime Minister this morning.
Question: So this “he accepts it was a mistake”, is that Annan accepts that it was a mistake?
Deputy Spokesman: No. I was quoting directly from the Secretary-General’s remarks.
Question: So, Annan said that the Prime Minister accepts that it was a mistake?
Deputy Spokesman: I will put out the transcript so it’ll be clear. Sorry about that.
Question: What steps are being taken to look at the other posts such as this and evacuating the UN personnel there?
Deputy Spokesman: You may have missed that, so let me brief you afterwards.
If there are no other questions, thank you very much.
[Following the briefing, the Deputy Spokesman announced that, in response to requests for a DPKO briefing regarding the UNIFIL incident, a background briefing for correspondents would take place today at 2 p.m. In a further announcement, she said that her Office now had available a chart with times and positions of the firings close to the UNIFIL post. In a further announcement, she informed correspondents that copies were now available in the Spokesman’s Office of the Secretary-General’s remarks made in Rome today at a joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of Italy, the United States Secretary of State and the Prime Minister of Lebanon.]
* *** *For information media • not an official record