27 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 Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.


Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General


**ICT Global Alliance Meeting


At 3 o’clock this afternoon, the Secretary-General will attend the High-level meeting of the Steering Committee of the Global Alliance on Information and Communications Technologies, which is one of his initiatives.


That meeting will take place in Conference Room 8, here at UN Headquarters and the Secretary-General is expected to deliver remarks on the role of communications technologies in advancing development.  Copies of his remarks are already available upstairs to you under embargo.


Our guest at noon today will be Dr. Craig Barrett, the new chairman of the Global Alliance, who is also the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Intel Corporation, the technology firm.


**Security Council


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, William Lacy Swing, is briefing the Security Council in consultations this morning on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Organization Mission in that country.


As I mentioned to you yesterday, that report recommends that the mandate of the UN Mission in the Congo be extended for four-and-a-half months to allow for consultations with the Government on the Mission’s future role.


Swing will be available to speak with you at the Security Council stakeout area once he has completed his briefing at the Council.


** Lebanon


Turning now to Lebanon, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reports that a Lebanese Armed Forces helicopter landed in Naqoura yesterday, for the first time since the establishment of UNIFIL.  The helicopter had carried the Lebanese delegation for a meeting with the UNIFIL Force Commander.


UNIFIL reports that, since 14 August, when the cessation of hostilities went into effect, the Mission has cleared thousands of meters of roads, distributed more than 1.7 million litres of water, and provided medical and dental treatment to over 3,000 civilians in south Lebanon.  UNIFIL demining experts, most of them from the Chinese contingent, have collected and destroyed approximately 3,500 items of unexploded ordnance.  We do have a press release upstairs from UNIFIL.


**Timor-Leste


The UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) says that a first group of the country’s national police force is returning to duty this week in Dili under a mentoring scheme being run by the United Nations Police.


Timor-Leste’s police were relieved of duties following the violence of April and May this year, in which military and police factions fought.


UNMIT says the return to duty of these 25 police officers is a crucial step in restoring Timorese public authority and ensuring law and order to the streets of the capital, Dili, and the whole country as well.


Approximately 900 Dili-based national police force members have registered for screening -– a prerequisite to returning to work.


**Terrorism Report


Also, available today is the latest report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, and that report is prefaced with a letter to the President of the Security Council from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee on Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities.


In the report, the Sanctions Monitoring Team says that several States have introduced new measures to counter terrorism and that implementation of the relevant Security Council resolution 1267 has proceeded steadily.  That report is out on the racks.


** Kenya


The World Food Programme (WFP) today reports that rains have reduced the number of drought-hit Kenyans in need of food aid from 3.5 million to 3 million.


But, despite that good news, WFP still needs $44 million to continue feeding those still in need for another six months.


Among the Kenyans who still require assistance are nomadic herders in the north and north-east, who lost all their livestock –- their only assets -– in the drought.  We do have a press release on that upstairs.


**WFP/UNICEF


Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) head James Morris and UNICEF chief Ann Veneman briefed the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday in Washington, DC, on the Ending Child Hunger and Under-nutrition Initiative.


The two UN agency heads are working to engage partners throughout the aid world -– humanitarian organizations, foundations and businesses, as well as Governments -– to eliminate the extreme hunger that still threatens the lives of an estimated 400 million children in the developing world today.  We do have more on that upstairs.


**Human Rights Council


Turning to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, today the Council discussed several country reports presented by special rapporteurs –- namely, on the human rights situations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Sudan and Belarus.  It also held an interactive discussion on human rights and extreme poverty.


** Ukraine


Today, the Secretary-General sent a message to Kyiv, Ukraine –- to the Ceremony and International Forum Commemorating the sixty-fifth Anniversary of the Tragedy of Babyn Yar.


Saying that communities under assault must not be left alone to defend themselves, the Secretary-General added that we must reject the false claims of those who say the Holocaust never happened or has been exaggerated.


In that context, he flagged the UN’s launch of the Alliance of Civilizations, as an important addition to the UN’s wide-ranging, long-standing work to promote and protect human rights.  As you may recall, Babyn Yar was the site where close to 30,000 Jews were massacred 65 years ago today.


**International Criminal Tribunal – Former Yugoslavia


Now turning to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, tribunal judges today sentenced a former member of the Bosnian Serb leadership, Momcilo Krajisnik, to 27 years in prison, convicting him of persecutions, extermination, murder, deportation and forced transfer of non-Serb civilians during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


**AIDS – Miss Universe


On a completely unrelated item, Miss Universe 2006, Zuleyka Rivera of Puerto Rico, will be in the UN Express Bar from 4 to 6 p.m. this afternoon to launch the AIDS Awareness Tour, an initiative supported by UNAIDS, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs here at the UN, and the Give them a Hand Foundation.  This has to do with encouraging AIDS testing.


**Press Conference Tomorrow


Immediately following tomorrow’s noon briefing, Ann Veneman, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will be here to launch UNICEF’s report, “Progress for Children” which, this year, focuses on the world’s water and sanitation crisis.  That will be, as I said, right after the noon briefing.


Questions and Answers


Question:  A couple of things.  The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions says it has asked the UN to no longer accept Zimbabwean soldiers as peacekeepers, given repression in the country.  And they also say that one Zimbabwean peacekeeper has been recently sent back to the country due to abuse.  One, has the Secretary-General received the request?  What is the response to the request, and is it true that a peacekeeper has been sent back to the country?


Spokesman:  I will have to get an answer on all those questions for you.  Yes, sir?  [The Spokesman later informed the correspondent that he was not aware of any such request.]


Question:  I’m trying to make a connection between the fact that the UN said it cannot deploy troops to Sudan until Sudan has conceded to (inaudible).  On the other hand, you have the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) organizing a troop-contributing meeting.  What is the purpose of that meeting that the UN would have to wait for Sudan to say so for it to deploy troops?


Spokesman:  It is clear from the Security Council resolutions that for the UN to deploy peacekeepers under its own flag to Darfur, that needs to be done with the approval of the Government of Sudan.  As you are well aware, and it is no secret, that approval has not been forthcoming yet.  But, that should not stop us from planning for the eventuality that the situation will change, so that once it changes, we are not caught flat-footed, and we’ve done our homework and we’ve put all our ducks in a row so that we can move quickly once that happens.


Question:  Is there going to be a follow up on the meeting…?


Spokesman:  The contacts with potential troop contributors will continue in the weeks ahead.  We’ve gotten some pledges, some promises, from a number of countries and we will obviously be following up to turn those pledges into firm commitments down the line.  Yes, Linda?


Question:  Regarding resolution 1701, has there been any progress in terms of UN efforts to secure the release of Israeli prisoners or facilitate an exchange?


Spokesman:  There is nothing else to add, other than what we’ve said previously.  The Secretary-General has a facilitator working on the issue, and the nature of the work demands that that person work under the radar screen.  And that is ongoing.


Question:  Is he or she in the region at the moment?


Spokesman:  I really have nothing to say on that, unfortunately.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  On Sudan as well.  There’s this outstanding issue of the Al-Bashir Government taking parts out of military things that arrive, directed to the African Union Mission in the Sudan force in Darfur.  I’d asked last week for either Pronk or UNAMIS to say whether that takes place or not.  Since then, there’s another report that laptops are screened by the Al-Bashir Government as humanitarian and other workers arrive in the country.  If there is some way to find out through UNAMIS…I guess, if UNAMIS could come forth on its working conditions of its current Mission and things that would need to be addressed, if the peacekeeping force…


Spokesman:  Sure, we’ll try to get you something on that.  [The Spokesman later added that the United Nations Mission in the Sudan had previously drawn attention to the issue of pieces missing from military equipment destined for AMIS.  Regarding the laptop issue, the Spokesman said that OCHA was not aware of the searching of laptops at airports being extended to United Nations staff.]


Question:  Is there any update on the report on the deaths of the peacekeepers in Lebanon, which apparently was supposed to be released?


Spokesman:  First of all, the actual report, the Board of Inquiry report, will not be released.  As a matter of policy, we do not release these reports.  They are shared with the countries concerned, whose peacekeepers were lost and obviously, with the families of those who died.  We do intend to make some of its conclusions available to you and I expect that to happen before the end of the week or before the weekend happens.


Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President


Today is the final day of the general debate.  We expect to hear from the last 20 speakers and any rights of reply that are pending.  President Sheikha Haya Rashed al Khalifa continued her bilaterals today.  She held consultations with the former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, the Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey.  The President, this evening, will also make her wrap up statement at the end of the debate.  And just for those of you who tend to like figures, at the end of the debate, you would have heard from 193 speakers, 191 of them are Member States.  That excludes, of course, the Holy See and the Palestinian Authority.  We heard from 55 Heads of State and 19 Heads of Government.  So, those are the figures to date.  If there are any questions, I’ll take them.


Question:  Could you repeat?


Spokeswoman:  We have heard from 193 speakers.  We have had 191 Member States, and then we add to that one from the Holy See and, of course, the Palestinian Authority; and then there were 74 Heads of State or Government:  55 Heads of State and 19 Heads of Government.


And just a reminder -- I think everybody thinks that once the general debate is finished that the Assembly is finished.  It isn’t.  There’s a lot more that has to happen and of course, by the 28th, the various committees are going to begin to look at organizing their work.  By 2October, many of the committees will start their general debate.  So, just a reminder that that is due to happen.  Yes?


Question:  Is the Security Council sharing information with the General Assembly regarding the selection process of the Secretary-General, because I would like to know whether the President of the General Assembly knows whether they are going to use coloured ballots for tomorrow’s straw poll?


Spokeswoman:  They have been sharing information, yes.  Specifically, whether the President is aware of the colour of the ballots, no, I don’t know that.  I’ll have to find out for you.  But, they have been keeping the President informed of what’s happening.  Matthew?


Question:  On the general debate, is the one country that didn’t speak Djibouti?


Spokeswoman:  Yes, it’s Djibouti.


Question:  And, did they communicate to the General Assembly why?  Or no reason was given?


Spokeswoman:  I would have to check as to whether they gave a specific reason as to why they didn’t participate.  Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record