9 October 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.


**Guest Update


Good afternoon.  We announced last Friday that José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Rachel N. Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, would be joining us today to brief on the Secretary-General’s report on violence on women.  They have now rescheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 2:15 in this room, and they are requesting that you kindly respect the embargo on the study and the accompanying press release, which should be upstairs in my office.


**Security Council - Secretary-General


The Security Council recommended to the General Assembly that Mr. Ban Ki-moon be appointed Secretary-General of the United Nations for a five-year term starting 1 January 2007.


That recommendation was made in a resolution adopted in a private meeting of the Security Council, and it was adopted by acclamation.


**New Secretary-General Appointment


The Secretary-General immediately welcomed the decision in a statement.  And, I will read now that statement into the record.


“The Secretary-General welcomes the decision of the Security Council to recommend His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, to the General Assembly for appointment as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations.


“He has the highest respect for Mr. Ban, having had the pleasure of working with him both in his present capacity and when he was Chef de Cabinet to the President of the General Assembly.


“The Secretary-General hopes that the General Assembly will be able to reach a decision on this important matter in the near future, so that the incoming Secretary-General designate will have time to prepare fully for his assumption of office on 1 January.  For his part, the Secretary-General will do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition.”


That statement is available upstairs.


**General Assembly


Meanwhile, the President of the General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa, has received a letter from the President of the Security Council informing her of the Council’s recommendation concerning Mr. Ban Ki-moon.  She will now consult the chairs of the regional groups, as soon as possible, to determine a date for the appointment.


**Security Council - DPRK


Turning back now to North Korea, which was the other item on the Security Council’s agenda.  The Security Council held consultations on the nuclear test announcement by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK].  Council President, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, told reporters that Council members strongly condemned the DPRK’s claim and once again urged it to refrain from further testing and return to the six-party talks.


Mr. Oshima said an expert-level meeting was scheduled at 3 p.m. today to discuss a draft resolution.


**DPRK Nuclear Test


Earlier today, we also issued a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the nuclear test, which I will now read into the record.


“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the news that the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has conducted a nuclear test, in spite of repeated worldwide efforts to discourage it from doing so.  This action violates international norms of disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as the current international moratorium on nuclear testing.  It aggravates regional tensions in and around the Korean Peninsula, and jeopardizes security both in the region and beyond.


“The Secretary-General calls on all parties to respond to this grave challenge in a constructive manner, and calls for serious negotiations to be renewed urgently in the framework of the six-party talks.


“The Secretary-General views this test as yet another reason for the international community to renew its collective effort to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty into force and to make progress towards multilateral nuclear disarmament.”


That statement is, of course, upstairs.  We also have a statement on North Korea from the Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mr. [Mohamed] ElBaradei.


**Security Council - Afghanistan


The Security Council is currently holding a private meeting on Afghanistan.


Tom Koenigs, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for that country, and Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the Office on Drugs and Crime, are in that meeting to talk about recent developments in Afghanistan.


** Sudan Wrap


From Sudan, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is urging the Government of Sudan to order an independent investigation into recent militia attacks that may have left hundreds of civilians dead in South Darfur.


In a report prepared with the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIL) and issued today, the UN Human Rights Office says that 300 to 1,000 armed militia from the Habbania Arab tribe carried out a series of attacks on some 45 villages in the Buram locality of South Darfur in late August.


The death toll is estimated to be as many as several hundred people –- and the attacks appear to have been carried out with the authorities’ knowledge and support.


Meanwhile, in South Darfur late last week, the UN Mission says the African Union operation received reports of 25 new cases of abduction, rape, harassment, torture and other human rights violations against local residents and internally displaced people.


We do have upstairs the full report from the Human Rights Office.


**Lebanon/Human Rights Commission


Also on a human rights related note, the three members of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon –- that’s João Clemente Baena Soares of Brazil, Mohamed Chande Othman of Tanzania, and Professor Stelios Perrakis of Greece –- have concluded their Mission in Lebanon on Saturday and have now returned to Geneva.


The Commission, as you may recall, had been mandated by the Human Rights Council to investigate the targeting and killing of civilians by Israel in Lebanon and other matters during the recent conflict.


And the Commission will now prepare its report and report back to the Human Rights Council.


** Iraq


Meanwhile from Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, condemned in the strongest terms the assassination, this morning, of General Amer al-Hashimi.  He called on the Iraqi authorities to relentlessly pursue the perpetrators and bring them before the law.


Qazi condemns all acts of political and sectarian violence that are tearing at the political and social fabric of Iraq.  He warned that the continuation of this violence can only serve Iraq’s enemies and obstruct the path to peace and stability.


He also called on all the leaders of Iraq to implement the 2 October agreement to end the bloodshed.  We have the full text of Mr. Qazi’s statement upstairs.


** Lebanon


And a note on Lebanon, which I should have read earlier.  The Acting Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Brigadier General Nehra, met today with senior officers from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to discuss the situation around the town of Gajjar, to ensure a speedy Israeli withdrawal from the area.


General Nehra afterwards described the meeting as productive.  During the meeting, the IDF provided UNIFIL with the maps of minefields in southern Lebanon, as of June 2000.  And UNIFIL handed over these maps to the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre and to the Lebanese authorities for review.


**World Food Shortage


Just one more note.  The Food and Agriculture Organization says that forty countries are facing food emergencies and require external assistance, with the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan still the most pressing humanitarian problem, according to an FAO’s Crop Prospects and Food Situation report released today.


Prospects for the 2006 world cereal harvest, FAO says, have deteriorated further since July.  In Darfur, the already deteriorating food supply situation may worsen, if deteriorating security disrupts the main harvest due to start in the coming few weeks, according to the report.


**Guests at Noon Tomorrow


And tomorrow at noon, we will have the pleasure of welcoming Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  He will be here with Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Hadi Husani, Chief Executive Officer of FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance, and Katherine Sierra, World Bank Vice-President.  They’ll be here to talk about disaster reduction, in advance of the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction, which will be observed on the eleventh of this month.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  The Council’s recommendation of Ban-Ki moon and yesterday’s nuclear tests by North Korea -- are both events in your opinion connected?  And, is there something to understand with the coincidence?


Spokesman:  I think I cannot speak for the leadership of North Korea and why they timed the test at this point.  The Secretary-General’s position on the test is fairly clear, and his condemnation of it was read earlier.  But, as for the timing and the link, I will leave that to you to make the analysis.


Question:  I’m going to ask this question again and again.  The Secretary-General -- does he intend now to appoint a new special envoy to North Korea in place of former Mr. Strong?


Spokesman:  There are no plans that I’m aware of an appointment of a special envoy or a special advisor.  The Secretary-General feels that the best way forward is through a negotiated settlement through the six-party talks.  And, as I’ve said to you, I think earlier when you asked the same question, just because there is no special advisor does not mean the issue is not being closely followed here, with the Department of Political Affairs being clearly in the lead.


Question:  That is his point now.  Would he consider it at another point in time to appoint someone and ask for a recommendation from the Member States to do so?


Spokesman:  I think I can only comment on the situation as it is now.  There was a dramatic act earlier today when the test was conducted and the Secretary-General clearly feels that the best way forward is through the six-party talks.


Question:  For the smooth transition that the Secretary-General’s talked about, would the Secretary-General ask his Under-Secretaries-General to resign?


Spokesman:  That will be a decision for the next Secretary-General, how the organization will run, how he will want to manage his team will be a decision for him.  But, as I’ve said previously, in the past either the contracts of most senior officials tend to end either in January or February, and we’ve had cases in the past where there have been resignations.  But, these are issues for the next Secretary-General [will have] to deal with.


Question:  Does the UN system have any comment on the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian journalist who covered Chechnya, over the weekend?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General very much condemns this attack, this murder of this journalist.  He has spoken out in the past for the need for protection for the journalists who bravely do their work in difficult circumstances, and we very much hope that the perpetrators of this crime will be found.


Question:  After this test was successful for North Korea -- they claimed this in the morning -- is there any communication saying how they are going to act towards the world’s condemnation about that type of test?


Spokesman:  We’ll have to see and watch what comes out of Pyongyang.  The Security Council is meeting on this and the Secretary-General very much hopes that they act and take a decision in a unified matter.


Question:  With the Secretary-General from South Korea, in the future, will that be an asset or a drawback to take care of North Korea’s situation?


Spokesman:  As much as I know, this makes for an interesting copy and analysis, it’s not a question that I will get into.


Question:  The reports in Somalia of Ethiopian troops taking over the Somalia town of Bur Haqaba.  I’m wondering whether Mr. [François Lonseny] Fall…  I mean it’s a BBC report at this time, so given there seems to be a war heating up there, what is the UN system doing about it?


Spokesman:  From our understanding from our colleagues who follow Somalia in the office in Somalia, the Ethiopian Government has denied that its troops are in Somalia.  That being said, the Secretary-General is following the situation with increasing concern, including the heightened tensions between the Transitional Federal Government and the Islamic Courts.  He very much calls on both to live up to the commitments they had made at previous rounds of talks.  He also calls on all neighbouring countries to exercise maximum restraint, to respect the arms embargo on Somalia and not to take any action that could further exacerbate the situation in that country.


Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record