3 October 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


**Security Council


Good afternoon.  The Security Council met in consultations this morning to discuss the programme of work for the month of October.


Under “other matters”, members also discussed the situations involving Georgia and, separately, the situation regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well as the timing of the formal vote on the selection of the next Secretary-General.


Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, who you know is the President of the Security Council for the month of October, will brief you here immediately after this briefing, and after Gail briefs you, on behalf of the President of the General Assembly.


** Lebanon


Meanwhile, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is steadily enhancing its operational capabilities in order to fulfil its responsibilities under Security Council resolution 1701.  More than 3,000 additional troops, for a current total of around 5,200, plus an Interim Maritime Task Force, have been deployed so far.


In a press release, UNIFIL says that, should the situation present any risk of resumption of hostile activities, its rules of engagement allow UN forces to respond as required.  The UN Mission commanders have sufficient authority to act forcefully when confronted with hostile activity of any kind.


UNIFIL has set up temporary checkpoints at key locations within its area of operations, while permanent checkpoints are being established by the Lebanese Armed Forces to stop and search passing vehicles.  In case specific information is available regarding movement of unauthorized weapons or equipment, the Lebanese Army will take the required action, but, if it is not possible to do so, UNIFIL will do everything necessary to fulfil its mandate.  We have a very detailed press release available upstairs from UNIFIL, which I recommend to you.


Also on Lebanon, the World Food Programme has started its third and final round of food distributions.  This round, which should wrap up by 15 October, is expected to reach 655,000 people in southern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and the southern suburbs of Beirut.  We do have information on other humanitarian activities upstairs.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is taking part in patrols called “Kinshasa, City without Weapons” that have been launched with the aim of preventing armed clashes in the capital.


The patrols follow an agreement reached by representatives of President Joseph Kabila and Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, the two candidates for the second-round presidential poll.


The patrols started yesterday and they are made up of elements of the Congolese National Police, the Military Police of the Congolese’s Armed Forces, formed UN Police units and the European Union Police Mission in Kinshasa.


** Georgia


Meanwhile, from Georgia, the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, which covers the period from 26 June 2006 to 28 September 2006, is out on the racks.


In it, the Secretary-General says a new and tense situation emerged between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, particularly as a result of the Georgian special operation in the upper Kodori Valley.


He adds that a negotiated solution to the conflict is undoubtedly difficult to reach today, as the positions of the two sides have grown further apart over the years on the question of political status.  Nevertheless, there is no alternative to dialogue.  The threat of force can only deepen existing mistrust, and a resumption of violence would be the worst possible outcome for the communities concerned and for the stability of the region and beyond, he says.


Given recent developments, the Secretary-General recommends an extension of the mandate of the Mission in Georgia for a further six months, until 15 April next year.


** Guinea-Bissau


And the report is out on the racks, as is the Secretary-General’s latest report on developments in Guinea-Bissau and on the activities of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in that country.  It was issued today.


In it, the Secretary-General says a strong commitment to improve the political climate continued to emerge over the past three months, but, enduring tensions and difficulties highlight the ever-present risk of occasional setbacks.


He adds that he believes the UN should continue to play a key role in Guinea-Bissau, and with that in mind, he plans to slightly revise the mandate of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office and request an extension until the end of 2007.


** Afghanistan


From Afghanistan, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is concerned about the increasing number of internally displaced persons in southern Afghanistan, following the recent hostilities between Government forces, NATO and insurgents.


UNHCR, together with the UN Children’s Fund, has sent supplies for children to approximately 3,200 families in the area.  The World Food Programme, for its part, is providing food aid.


**Arctic Ozone Hole


The World Meteorological Organization says today the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic was the most serious on record.  It was the largest in surface area and also suffered the most mass deficit, meaning that there was less ozone over the Antarctic than ever before.  You can read more about that in the briefing notes from our colleagues in Geneva.


**Website


A number of events to flag for you.  Later today, in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium, the Department of Political Affairs will be launching into the public domain a new website, UN Peacemaker, which is designed as a support tool for UN and non-UN peace envoys, as well as the general public.  The site already contains the most comprehensive indexed database of modern peace agreements available on the Internet.  Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari will host the event, taking place at 3 p.m. in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library.


** Georgia Statement


At 2:30 p.m. this afternoon, Ambassador Irakli Alasania of Georgia will be here to talk about recent developments in Georgia, and on cue, I now have a statement on Georgia.


The Secretary-General is pleased that Georgia and the Russian Federation have been able to resolve the issue of the recent arrests of Russian officers in Georgia in a peaceful and constructive manner.  He appreciates the efforts undertaken by the Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, Mr. Karel de Gucht, from Belgium, to help bring about this result.


The Secretary-General expresses the hope that all parties concerned will refrain from statements or actions that could affect stability in the region, and encourages them to engage constructively to address existing problems.


**Press Conferences


And going back to my scheduled press conferences, at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, the Permanent Mission of Germany will be sponsoring a press conference by Romani Rose, the Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, who will here to talk about protection and promotion of human rights of the Roma and Sinti minorities in Europe.


At 3 p.m., the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic will be sponsoring a press conference by representatives of the Asian Inter-Parliamentarian Caucus on Democracy in Burma.  And that is the name of the organization.


And lastly but not least, tomorrow at noon, my guest will be Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno.  He will be here to brief you on the surge in peacekeeping operations.


Questions and Answers


Question:  On the issue of North Korea, in the past, the Secretary-General always used to have one special representative like Maurice Strong.  Now that Mr. Strong has quit, he has not appointed anyone in his place.  Now that the situation is again coming to a head, does the Secretary-General think about reviving that office?


Spokesman:  The issue of North Korea is being followed very closely by the Secretary-General through the Department of Political Affairs.  I am not aware of any plans, at this point, to appoint any special envoy but that should not be seen as a sign that this is not an issue that is being followed closely.  And, I am waiting for some type of a formal statement, which is still not here, so, that is all I have to say on that.


Question:  How about the Foreign Minister of South Korea as an envoy?


Spokesman:  Question or statement?


Question:  Question.  In his speech to the General Assembly, the Secretary-General, when he was speaking on the Middle East, he said that some pro-Israel groups, and rightfully so, complained that some agencies of the UN are perceived as anti-Israel.  Now this week, for the fourth time, according to my count, the Human Rights Council is taking the one country-specific issue that has been able so far to coalesce around and that is the Israeli resolution.  Is this Human Rights Council, which was created to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission, whatever, is that one of those agencies that Kofi Annan was speaking of?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General, in his recent press conference, was very clear that he very much hoped that the Human Rights Council would move on and beyond focusing on just one country and look at the human rights situations throughout the world.  He still hopes that will be very much the case and he hopes that the Human Rights Council will also focus on helping countries build better human rights protection structures and help them move towards better human rights regimes.  He very much hopes that the Council will move beyond some of the focus that we have seen previously in the Human Rights Commission.


The Council is still going on and his comments to you in his press conference remain valid, and he was obviously following the work of the Council closely.


Question:  One follow-up on the Human Rights Council and then something else.  Recently some human rights groups have criticized the Human Rights Council for not doing a public review of Uzbekistan and the killings in Andijan and so they’ve decided to review it privately.  Does the Secretary-General have any view on the appropriateness of doing a private review of a matter of that importance?

Spokesman:  One of the main points of the new Human Rights Council, as proposed by the Secretary-General, was the peer review mechanism that all countries would have their human rights records reviewed by their peers.  Obviously, the Council is the master of its own operations and the way it does its work, but it would be good if they would operate with the greatest amount of transparency.


Question:  There is a report that has been out for a while by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), their report on various agencies with details and some missing detailed checks.  I mean, I have a question about it, but rather than ask you, many of us have asked for OIOS to come and give a briefing, and it would seem like, now with this report out that would be the time.  Do you want to answer questions about it?  Or do you want to get someone else?


Spokesman:  I would be happy not to answer any questions about it, and we will talk to them and see what can and can’t be done.  Thank you very much.


Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly


Just to bring you up to date on what is happening in the Assembly -- after a day-long discussion, the General Assembly, on Monday, took note of the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Organization.  It was the tenth and final annual report of Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  The Secretary-General, in his concluding remarks, stressed that the Organization will become stronger and more effective only if it is better managed and more accountable.  He also reminded Member States that good governance and accountability is not simply a matter of improving the efficiency of the UN but, goes beyond that to ensuring that governors are responsible to the governed and that world Powers remember their responsibilities”.


During the meeting, speakers painted a mixed picture of progress achieved in implementing the reform agenda launched after the 2005 Summit.  While most had high praise for the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Human Rights Council, the Central Emergency Relief Fund and the Ethics Office, many pointed to the lack of progress on reform efforts and expansion of the Security Council.  Others expressed concern about the stalled international trade talks and the breakdown of consensus on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Yet, others pointed to the need to urgently address revitalization of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.  Many speakers called for finding ways to address extreme poverty and dealing with the spread of AIDS.  There was also consensus on giving a higher profile to development on the international agenda, particularly the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.


Some Member States also mentioned initiatives they planned to undertake.  The representative of the European Union noted that her group was committed to actively participating in developing “coherent international climate change policies”.  The representative of Belarus said he hoped to present a draft resolution on the subject of human trafficking, which would include not only protection for victims, but prosecution of consumers of such trade.  Pakistan expressed the hope that a special conference would be called on the issue of disarmament and proliferation, and India’s representative said he would be presenting a working paper during the current session on the same issue.


Among the Main Committees of the Assembly, the Special Political and Decolonization, the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural and the Disarmament and International Security committees have begun their general debates.  Meanwhile, the President of the Assembly continues to hold bilateral meetings with heads of delegations and working groups.


Questions and Answers


Question:  There was a briefing earlier today about deep-sea bottom trawling and a proposal that’s being made to the Assembly.  They had the ambassadors of New Zealand, Australia and Palau.  Does the General Assembly President or, separately, Bahrain -- what’s their view of this upcoming proposal by those three countries and others to ban trawling of the bottom of the sea?


Spokeswoman:  I will raise this with her.  It’s not an issue that I’ve discussed with her, so I would have to get her view on that and get back to you.  Anything else on the Assembly?


Question:  On the reform process, is she going to call upon the Member States to discuss this issue quickly?


Spokeswoman:  That’s exactly what she is doing now -- meeting with all the heads of delegations and the various groups to discuss where people are on those issues.  So, that Friday, we are hoping that she will meet with you to give you a sense of what she has heard back from everybody to date and how she’ll move forward with the agenda.  Because this week, as you’ve noticed in all the Committees, it’s mainly the general debates and getting a feel for what people would like to place emphasis on.  I think next week’s work will begin in earnest on the programme of work.


Question:  What’s happening with the Security Council reform?


Spokeswoman:  That depends on Member States.  That is why she is talking to them to find out what they would like to do.  If you listened to the general debate, and even yesterday the discussion on the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Organization, there have been a number of comments that.  So, I think there is interest, definitely.


Anything else?  Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record