22 September 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 spokeswoman 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 by Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.


Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General


**Security Council


The Security Council held a closed meeting on Kosovo this morning.  During that meeting, Council members were briefed by Serbian President Boris Tadic.


The Council is now holding closed consultations also on Kosovo.  Martti Ahtisaari, the UN Special Envoy for the Kosovo status talks, is briefing Council members.  Mr. Ahtisaari has told us he will stop at the stakeout after he is done with Council members to take any questions you may have.


Also in consultations, Council members are expected to take up Sudan and other matters.  Following its consideration of Sudan, it is expected to adopt a resolution, extending the UN Mission in Sudan until 8 October 2006.


Later this afternoon, the Council is expected to hold an “Arria formula” gathering on Kosovo, with the President of Kosovo, Fatmir Sejdiu, informally briefing the Ambassadors of the Security Council.  And that will be held in Conference Room 7 at 2:30 p.m.


** Lebanon


Meanwhile from Lebanon, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reports today that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) started to withdraw from two areas along the Blue Line:  the area south of Naqoura, and the general area of Mays al Jabal.


UNIFIL’s Indian and Ghanaian battalions are to set up checkpoints and conduct patrols today in order to confirm the Israeli withdrawal and coordinate the deployment of Lebanese Armed Forces into the area tomorrow.


UNIFIL’s Force Commander, Major-General Alain Pellegrini, welcomed the continued Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon, saying, “They have vacated most of the territory in the south.  I expect the rest of the IDF troops to finalize their withdrawal by the end of the month.”  We have more details upstairs in a press release from UNIFIL.


** Darfur


The High Commissioner for Human Rights is drawing attention to the continuing military campaign in North Darfur.  According to UN human rights monitors in Sudan, the campaign against rebel movements in North Darfur that has not signed on to the peace agreement continued through the first two weeks of September, during which indiscriminate attacks on villages continue to result in civilian displacement and casualties.


Civilians in villages in North Darfur are being forced to flee due to indiscriminate aerial bombardment by Government aircraft, they report.  An estimated 400 new displaced persons arrived in a camp fleeing ongoing clashes that took place earlier in September in the locality of Tabarat.  Some of the aerial bombardment is reported to be done by means of a white plane dropping its load of bombs from the back, a recurring feature of the conflict in Darfur.


Sexual and gender-based violence also continues.  The UN human rights monitors report that in Gereida, south Darfur, women remain vulnerable to attack by members of armed militia outside of towns and camps for displaced persons.  Human rights monitors documented a number of rape cases taking place in the last month.


Monitors report that on 5 September, the court in a locality in North Darfur convicted a soldier of raping an 11-year-old girl.  He was sentenced to five years imprisonment.  The conviction shows that there can be action to stem sexual violence when there is the required will.  We have more upstairs from the United Nations human rights monitors available for you.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


In a statement issued this morning, the UN Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, William Lacy Swing, hailed the inauguration of the newly-elected Congolese National Assembly.  This is the country’s first elected legislative body in more than four decades and the first democratic institution to be installed under the new Constitution.


In his statement, Special Representative Swing congratulated the Congolese people in particular and the elected members of the National Assembly for this remarkable achievement.  Swing said the new lawmakers, who owe their positions to the electorate, must play a key role in steering the country towards stability and economic recovery.  He also reiterated the UN’s commitment to assisting the Congolese people through this crucial and historic transition.  Again, that statement is available upstairs.


** C ôte d’Ivoire


The Secretary-General has written to the Security Council to inform it of his decision to extend the appointment of the Group of Experts on Côte d’Ivoire until 15 December.  This is the panel that is charged with monitoring the arms embargo, and you can find copies of the letter on the Security Council website.


**Secretary-General Speech to Group of 77


The Secretary-General this morning addressed the thirtieth annual meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Group of 77 bloc of developing nations, telling them that, as he prepares to leave the United Nations, the task of UN reform is far from finished.  However, he said, he is convinced that, over the past 10 years, we have managed to make the United Nations more effective, more accountable and better coordinated than ever.  He also detailed the achievements that have resulted since last year’s World Summit.  We have copies of his speech upstairs.


**Human Rights Council


Earlier today in Geneva, the Human Rights Council concluded its discussion on the incitement to racial and religious hatred and the promotion of tolerance.  At present, the Council is considering the reports of three UN-appointed independent experts –- namely, the special rapporteur on the right to health, the special rapporteur on the right to food and the special rapporteur on human rights defenders.


As usual, our colleagues from Geneva will post a press release on their website on the activities of the Human Rights Council.


** Colombia


The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Catatumbo region in north-eastern Colombia where increased violence is displacing people.  UNHCR says the remote area has seen some of the worst violence and human rights violations in Colombia’s conflict, and the problem is made worse by the illegal cultivation of coca.


** Niger


Turning now to Niger, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that UNICEF has sent medicines and the World Health Organization has sent an assessment team there, following heavy rains and flooding, which have led to an upsurge in cholera cases.  Urgent needs in Niger include food, as well as sheets and covers that have been treated against mosquitoes.


** Iraq – International Advisory and Monitoring Board


For those of you who follow the affairs of the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq, they have informed us they have put out the most recent audit of the Development Fund for Iraq, and it is available on their website, www.iamb.info.  We do have copies of that audit, which was prepared by the firm Ernst and Young.  That is available for you upstairs.


**Secretary-General Lecture Series


The next guest in the Secretary-General’s lecture series will be former US Vice-President Al Gore.


He will be here this coming Thursday to speak on the topic of global warming.  As always, the lecture will be followed by a question-and-answer session.  You are all invited as are delegates and staff.


US Senator John McCain has also been invited and has agreed to come and deliver a lecture in November on international relations.  We will give you the date of that as soon as we know it.


On Monday, Alan Doss will be our guest here.  He is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Liberia, and he will talk to you about the situation in that country.  This afternoon, two press conferences:  3 p.m., the Foreign Minister of Yemen; and 6 p.m., the Foreign Minister of Finland, who is also presiding over the European Union for the next six months.  And that is it for me.  Any questions?


Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you Stéphane.  Do you have anything on the report, the Brammertz Report?  When will it be available?


Spokesman:  It’s supposed to be soon, isn’t it?  That’s my question too.  I will find out.


[The Spokesman later added that the Security Council had scheduled a briefing on the Brammertz report on 29 September.  The report would thus go to the Council a day or so before that.]


Question:  Second thing, about the Lizani River, it was rerouted from Lebanon by Israel and UNIFIL was just checking on this matter.  Do you have anything?


Spokesman:  I will ask our colleagues in UNIFIL.  Yes, sir?


Question:  I was just talking at the Premier’s press conference, there was an issue on the insulting religions as a whole.  I asked Mr. Amr Moussa the issue that really needs to be addressed.  He was agreed and also other Members of the United Nations, I asked them before, such as the President of Pakistan.  What is the United Nations going to do about this issue that nobody is allowed to insult any religion as a whole?  As a special…(inaudible).  As you can see in the news this morning, Pakistan again, there is a big demonstration.  Do we want to see again that something like the cartoon happens again?  Does the United Nations have any research developing on the theme of ideology and people (inaudible), the issues, or are they working on a daily basis?  Do they go as the problems are raised, or do they have any kind of agenda to tackle the problem as a whole, not only the religions, but other problems that might come in the future?  What’s going on?


Spokesman:  This is an issue that has been of concern for the Secretary-General and has been one of the reasons he has promoted the work of the Dialogue among Civilizations, and this effort, which is being held in strong cooperation with the Governments of Turkey and Spain.  These experts have been working on a report, which they will present to him in Turkey at some point during the fall.  But, this is something the Secretary-General has spoken out on a number of times, on the need to be responsible and avoid words that would harm other people and other peoples’ faiths and religions, and the need to respect those faiths and religions.  Yes, Laura?


Question:  I wanted to ask you a procedural thing (inaudible).  The Foreign Minister of Bahrain spoke yesterday in the Ministerial Meeting on Peace in the Middle East and asked the Secretary-General to come up with a report to present to the Security Council and then go forward.  The Secretary-General has not received a formal request from the Security Council.  I asked the same question to the Secretary-General of the Arab League this morning and he said, basically implied, that their statement yesterday was enough of a request and that shows the willingness of the Arab League to get the ball rolling with the Secretary-General.  What is the actual path, because everybody says the time is now?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General is continuing to work with both the Quartet and the Security Council on the issue of trying to bring peace to the Middle East, and especially focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict, as you heard in his speech last night.  However, there has been no official request from the Council as a whole on that particular, of him filing a report.  Any request for the Secretary-General to send a report to the Security Council would have to come from the Security Council as a whole, and of course, he would then follow whatever the Security Council requests of him, but he continues to work actively with both the Council and within the Quartet on this issue.


Question:  So, he cannot take as official the statement…


Spokesman:  There would need to be an official request from the Council as a whole for him to report back to the Council.  Yes, Matthew?  And then we go to you, George.


Question:  On Darfur, and then Thailand.  On Darfur, yesterday United States Assistant Secretary of State Frazer told the (inaudible) press that the Bashir Government has been dismantling armoured personnel carriers that are intended for the African Union force in Darfur, has blocked visas and refused to allow communications equipment to come in.  She came out with factual things.  Is the United Nations aware of it?  Does the Secretariat have any comment on that?


Spokesman:  I’m not aware of those particular issues raised by the Assistant Secretary of State.  What we will be doing in the next few weeks with AMIS as agreed upon, is moving more than 100 United Nations personnel, including staff officers, as well as equipment, including communications equipment and other types of equipment, to help beef up AMIS through the end of the year; and as we very much hope, to an eventual transition to a United Nations force.  But, I would be happy to look into those particular issues.


Question:  If you know if the UN material will be delivered directly to AMIS?  Because she seemed to be saying there was some kind of chain of custody, like it goes through the Bashir Government.  She said, like, parts are taken out of the APCs and delivered.


Spokesman:  We’d have to check, but obviously we’d have to go through, as with any peacekeeping operation, we have to work with the sovereign Government to bring equipment in.  But, we would expect that equipment arrives in whole, and in one piece, to the attendant destination, and obviously, as the equipment travels, there is UN personnel accompanying that equipment.


Question:  On the coup in Thailand, there are human rights groups that have chided either Louis Arbour or the UN as a whole.  Has anyone spoken about the coup in terms of the suspension of political rights, political parties, closing radio stations?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General expressed himself in person in a statement, over the last couple days, and he very much looks forward to the very quick restoration of full democracy and all that it implies in Thailand.  George?


Question:  Quick question, the lecture with Al Gore next Thursday the 28th, I guess.  What is the exact venue?  What is the exact time?


Spokesman:  The venue, I believe is the Dag Hammarskjold Library.  The exact time is late afternoon, but will try to get…


Question:  The auditorium, in other words, in the library?


Spokesman:  Yes, ignore what I’m actually saying, you know what I mean.  Yes, the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium.


Question:  What time?


Spokesman:  Late afternoon.  I’ll get you a more exact time.  On that note, I will turn over to my colleague Gail, who will brief you on the General Assembly.


Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President


Thanks, Stéphane.  Have a good weekend.  Good afternoon everyone.


The Assembly’s fourth day of general debate continued this morning.  Yesterday, the Assembly heard 32 speakers and by the end of today will have heard from 120 speakers.  (This includes 74 Heads of State or Government.)


The President of the Assembly Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa this morning addressed the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 and China.  In her statement Sheikha Haya paid tribute to the Group’s efforts in implementing the World Summit Outcome Document of 2005.  Noting the importance she attached to achieving fuller implementation of the Development Goals during her presidency, she called on the Group to work with her to achieve this objective and to build on the achievements made in the areas of reform.  “Our aim should be to reinforce multilateralism and achieve more effective cooperation between all Member States, developed and developing,” she urged.


The President, at the invitation of the Secretary-General, also attended the seventh high-level meeting between the United Nations and regional organizations.  At this forum, the Assembly President said she believed that regional organizations play a valuable role in partnership with the United Nations in the maintenance of international peace and security.  She thanked the Secretary-General for his vision and personal engagement in promoting this relationship, which she said could be only enhanced by the establishment last year of a standing committee.  She noted the General Assembly has also played its part in nurturing the relationship between the UN and regional organizations.  She expressed her conviction that for the partnership with regional organization to be more effective, “a deep sense of ownership” needed to be cultivated through capacity building programmes that would support the work of regional and subregional organizations.


The President met this morning the President of Comoros, and is scheduled to meet this afternoon with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Liechtenstein and of Switzerland.  She will also participate, tomorrow, Saturday, 23 September, in an interactive discussion on women and political participation, economic empowerment and justice, which will be hosted by the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


Next week, a lot of the committees will begin their work.  The First Committee will have its first meeting on Thursday, the 28th  and will begin its substantive work on the 2nd of October.  The Second Committee begins its general debate on Monday, 2nd of October.  The Special Political and Decolonization Committee will hold its first meeting on Thursday, 28 September, and will begin its substantive work on Monday, the 2nd.  The Third Committee meets on 2 October, and the Fifth Committee will hold its organizational session on Friday, 29 September.  I just thought I would give you those dates so you have a head’s up for when things really begin to roll.


Question:  One question.  Has it been determined yet who will speak for Thailand and how that will be decided, and when they will speak?


Spokeswoman:  I guess you weren’t here yesterday, perhaps.  Usually, these issues are decided by the Credentials Committee.  I’m sure you know that two sets of credentials have been received, and therefore, the Credentials Committee will meet, and they will then make a recommendation to the General Assembly as to which credentials will be accepted.


Question:  Will they meet…I was talking about the general debate…


Spokeswoman:  Who will speak, yes?  That I will have to check, but I will assume that if there is someone who is going to speak for Thailand, that person will have to be included next week.  But, I will just double check on that and get back to you.


Question:  Gail, I seem to recall when you started a couple weeks ago, that there were to be 144 countries speaking in the general debate.  Has that number changed at all?  Have any countries been added?  Might it not be an idea to have a list of the countries not expected to speak and to update…  There must be some changes.


Spokeswoman:  As far as I know, if I said 144, then I would have misspoken, because there are 191 countries speaking.  There is only one country that is not down to speak and that’s Djibouti. 


Question:  Then I misinterpreted.


Spokeswoman:  In terms of changes, there have been very minor changes; instead of Heads of State, in some cases, we’ve changed to foreign ministers -- in the case of Somalia, for example.  Today there may be a change.  Ethiopia may not speak today.  It may switch with Central African Republic. 


Anything else?  Well, may I wish you a very good weekend.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record