30 August 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.


**Guest at Noon


Joining us here shortly will be Jan Egeland, who you all know is the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and he will be here to brief us on the humanitarian situation in south Lebanon and will also preview his upcoming trip to Africa.


**Secretary-General Today


The Secretary-General started his day with a working breakfast with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, during which discussions focused on the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701.  The transcript of the Secretary-General’s press remarks at an encounter afterwards has been made available upstairs.


While in Jerusalem, he also met with Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres before holding a meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.  And press encounters after his meeting with the Foreign Minister are being worked on and should be available to you shortly.


His discussions with the Foreign Minister focused on the Israeli-Lebanese relations, as well as the situation in the Palestinian territories and Iran.  And a transcript of that encounter, as I said, will be made available to you shortly.


The Secretary-General then travelled on to Ramallah, where he had a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority.  Those talks focused on the financial situation of the Palestinian Authority, as well as how to unblock the financial crisis to ease the social turmoil in the territories.  And a press encounter was also held afterwards and that transcript should be ready for you shortly.


The Secretary-General is now in Amman.  He will meet with Jordanian officials tomorrow, including the King.  From there on, he will travel to Damascus.


** Lebanon


The UN Interim Force for Lebanon (UNIFIL) reports that the Israel Defense Forces have now withdrawn from the general area of Bastra, as well as from areas along the Blue Line in the south-eastern part of Lebanon.  The UN Force says it will establish checkpoints and intensify its patrolling of these newly vacated areas to confirm the Israeli withdrawal before handing them over to the Lebanese Armed Forces.


Also on Lebanon, three World Food Programme (WFP) trucks left Beirut today carrying canned meat, vegetables and wheat flour.  Five UNICEF trucks were also dispatched from Beirut, carrying bottled drinking water to those who need it.  Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency has been sending convoys to villages around Nabatiyeh and Tyre, with blankets, mattresses, and cooking kits for those who need them.


**Democracy Fund


I have a statement from the Secretary-General on the Democracy Fund:


“The UN Democracy Fund today has announced its first beneficiaries, awarding grants totalling $36 million to 125 projects selected from around the world.  The grants were chosen from over 1,300 proposals and range from projects aimed at promoting civic education to voter registration, democratic dialogue and access to information.  Over 60 per cent of recommended recipients are civil society organizations.


“The Secretary-General warmly welcomes the announcement and believes that the initial response from applicants is powerful evidence of the strong demand for support from the UN in this very important agenda.  He calls on all Member States to support the Democracy Fund and use it as an innovative and flexible mechanism for advancing the UN democracy agenda.”


We have upstairs an information sheet on the Democracy Fund and a backgrounder with more information on the recipients.


**Security Council


The Security Council today held closed consultations on Sudan during which they discussed a draft resolution on Darfur, and I think a number of ambassadors just briefed you on that at the stakeout.  The Council President also said that the resolution was expected to be voted on tomorrow.


Also regarding the Security Council, I was asked yesterday about the IAEA report that is due tomorrow.  According to the IAEA, there will be a report tomorrow, which will be transmitted by the Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, to the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna and, in parallel, the President of the Security Council.  It is the same format as the last report submitted in writing on Iran.  At this time, I am told, no presentation on the report has been scheduled; this is just a transmittal of a written report.


**Deputy Secretary-General


The Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, is in Oslo today, where he’ll be attending a meeting of the UN High-Level Panel on System-Wide Coherence.  Tomorrow, he’ll be in Stockholm, where he’ll address the International Donor Conference on Lebanon.


He’s expected to say that, while the Lebanese people and Government will surely rebuild again, they mustn’t be left to do so alone and that, if the international community fails in supporting Lebanon now, it will fail not just the Lebanese people, but also their national aspiration for a stable, strong and democratic Government that reaches, and supports, all of its people throughout the country.


We will have copies of his speech made available to you tomorrow.  And I should add also that Jan Egeland, as he, I’m sure, will tell you, also will be at the conference in Stockholm later this week.


**Timor-Leste


UN Police and international security forces in Timor-Leste have mounted a search for an estimated 57 prisoners who escaped the Becora Prison, just east of the capital Dili.  The group includes Major Alfredo Reinado, the leader of an armed group that demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister during the recent unrest there.


UN Police are also asking for the population to contact them or the international security forces should they have any information about the escaped prisoners.


The exact details of how they managed to escape aren’t yet known, but we do have some detail in a press release available upstairs.


** Sri Lanka


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) tells us that it is concerned by the serious humanitarian consequences that have arisen as a result of the spiralling conflict in the northern and eastern parts of the country.


In response to the growing crisis, a collection of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations working in Sri Lanka today launched a Common Humanitarian Action Plan, which requires $37.5 million for urgent relief from September to December 2006.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo tells us that some 5,000 Congolese militiamen have been disarmed and demobilized since the beginning of June in the course of UN-sponsored national disarmament initiatives.


**Bird Flu


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published today a handbook, primarily for small-scale poultry farmers in Latin America and the Caribbean, to help prevent a possible outbreak of the bird flu in the region.


And we have a press release on that if you are interested.


And Nick, no doubt, you want to ask about that, so I’ll give you the floor.


Questions and Answers


Question:  Just a question on the Iran thing.  Given that no one in the Security Council really seems to know when this deadline expires, when will the IAEA report be delivered:  midnight Vienna time, midnight New York time, midnight Tehran time?


Spokesman:  It is a good question.  We do not have any time indication yet from the IAEA, but we will pursue that with them.


Question:  So, are they going to deliver it tomorrow at some point, but presumably after 31 August somewhere in the world?


Spokesman:  Whenever it is 31 August somewhere in the world, it is after 31 August somewhere else in the world.


[The Spokesman later added that the transmission of the IAEA report was expected late morning/early afternoon, New York time, Thursday.]


Question:  I just wondered if you could explain what Don King is doing in the building.  Has the UN invited him to promote the possible match-up between Presidents Bush and Ahmadinejad?


Spokesman:  As much as I’d like to give you a witty answer, I’ll take a pass on answering the question.


Question:  What is he doing here?


Spokesman:  I have no clue.  You should ask him.  I don’t know.  I did not meet with him.


Question:  Yesterday, you said that the Secretary-General was going to meet with the families of the Israelis who have been kidnapped.  But what about the six Palestinians who were killed today by the Israeli forces?  And what about the Palestinian legislators who were kidnapped by the Israeli Armed Forces, about which a complaint has been made by the Observer of Palestine?  Do you have a reaction to that?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General, if you look at his remarks after he met with President Abbas, called for the release of the parliamentarians and the other officials recently arrested by the Israelis, and also asked that there should be some progress on the longstanding request for progress on the Palestinian prisoner issue, the larger issue as a whole.


As you pointed out, the violence is continuing in the Palestinian Territory, and one of the aims of the Secretary-General’s visit is to bring about a renewed effort in the peace process.


Question:  Is there no UN reaction at all to the killing of six Palestinians yesterday?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General has always deplored the killings.  I have not seen the details of these specific ones.  But his call in the recent days has been for progress on the Palestinian-Israeli track, and those are issues that he has brought up with his interlocutors on both sides.


Question:  You said that the Secretary-General met President Mahmoud Abbas.  Did he also meet with the Prime Minister, and if not, why not?


Spokesman:  No, our interlocutor was the President and that was who he met with.


Question:  Any other elected official he met with?


Spokesman:  No, his meeting was with the President.


Question:  The famous Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz passed away today.  He was a Nobel peace prize winner.  The world is praising him, including President Mubarak.  Is the Secretary-General planning to issue a statement on the occasion?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General of the UN is saddened by the passing of this very eminent writer.  It is a great loss for the Arab world and the world of literature as a whole for a man who has brought so much of and done so much for Arab culture.


Question:  The disarmament figures MONUC released also seem to indicate that some individuals that were going to be part of disarmament were now recruiting fighters again, including Peter Karim, the one who held UN peacekeepers hostage.  Does this now mean that he no longer has a colonel’s spot in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Army?  And can MONUC comment on that?


Spokesman:  I will get an answer from MONUC on that.


[The Spokesman later added the following:  MONUC says that the Congolese Government’s offer to Peter Karim to join the Congolese Armed Forces stands.  The process has been delayed for reasons unknown to MONUC, which was not involved in crafting the offer and is not involved in ensuring its realization.


Question:  On the housing subsidy.  Yesterday you referred to an administrative rule.  There is also a staff rule, 1.2 J. that says, “No staff member shall receive any gift from any Government”.  So, I don’t understand your answer yesterday that you are checking the data to see who gets them.  Could you at tomorrow’s briefing publicly say if those subsidies are illegal under the rules or not?


Spokesman:  They need to be declared and then they are deducted from the allowances received.  But I will take a look at the staff rules in details and try to square that circle.


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