6 November 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:


**Democratic Republic of Congo


Starting off with the Congo, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo says that the Independent Electoral Commission this weekend began publishing provisional results of the run-off presidential election as a way to stem the flow of rumours circulating in the country, where the situation remains calm.


The Mission says the Commission published results for 12 of 169 constituencies on its website, giving incumbent Joseph Kabila an advantage over Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba.  However, the Commission also stressed that the figures were partial results and that final official results will not be available before 19 November.


Meanwhile, the Mission says, four former African Heads of State visited Kinshasa this weekend and held meetings with the two presidential candidates and members of the international community as part of ongoing efforts to appease the situation ahead of the final election results.  Those former Heads of State included Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, Pierre Buyoya of Burundi, Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Abdulsalami Abubakar of Nigeria.


** Sudan


The UN Mission in Sudan today reports at least three violent attacks on displaced persons near Kalma camp in South Darfur in recent days.


The Mission blamed the attacks on Arab nomads and reports that the displaced persons in the camp have requested more patrols by the African Union force in Darfur.


It also reports that the situation in the northern part of West Darfur continues to be very tense, with the continuous movement of armed militias.


**Security Council


And just for your information, there are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today.


And also out on the racks as a document today is a letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council, in which the Secretary-General clarifies the scope of activities expected to be performed by the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission for the year 2007.


These include continuing the demarcation exercise along the 1,700-kilometre land boundary and addressing the issues related to the needs of the affected populations in those areas. 


** Iraq


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, yesterday responded to the verdicts reached in Iraq by urging the Iraqi authorities to ensure that the right of appeal of persons convicted and sentenced by the Iraqi High Tribunal be fully respected.


“A credible appeals process is an essential part of fair-trial guarantees”, the High Commissioner said.  Arbour added that that was particularly important in this instance, in which the death penalty has been imposed.


She said, “Those convicted today should have every opportunity to exhaust their appellate remedies in a fair way and, whatever the outcome of an appeal, I hope the Government of Iraq will observe a moratorium on executions.”


She added that guaranteeing the right to a fair trial of persons accused of major human rights violations was key to consolidating and strengthening the important process of ensuring justice and countering impunity that Iraq had embarked upon.


** Sri Lanka


On Sri Lanka, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, announced today that her Special Adviser on Sri Lanka, Ambassador Allan Rock, will be visiting that country from 6 to 14 November, on the invitation of the Sri Lankan Government.


Ambassador Rock is undertaking this field mission to ascertain the situation firsthand to help ensure greater protection for children affected by the conflict.  He will meet with Government and Tamil Tiger representatives, among others, and will present a report after his visit to the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.  We have a press release available on that upstairs.


**Secretary-General Statement/China-Africa


We put out a statement over the weekend.  Yesterday, we issued a statement from the Secretary-General welcoming China’s announcement that it plans to double its aid to Africa by 2009.


In his statement on the Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the Secretary-General also said Africans can benefit greatly from the experience of their friends in China, who’ve had such success in sustaining growth and reducing poverty.


**Peacekeeping


On Friday, we also issued a message from the Secretary-General commemorating the creation of the first UN peacekeeping operation 50 years ago.  He said that half a century after launching the first peacekeeping mission, UN peacekeeping again faces another enormous challenge.


With 18 current operations, a historic high of 93,000 personnel in the field and a total that may reach 140,000 in 2007, UN peacekeeping is stretched as never before, the Secretary-General said.  Yet we confront that challenge with informed optimism.  “The task ahead will be demanding, but we will fulfil it,” he said in the message, which is available upstairs.


**Climate Change Conference


And talks on climate change got under way today in Nairobi at the twelfth Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention and the second meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol.


The Conference will focus on the need for adaptation measures to climate change as well as on talks for action after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.


**Environment


And on a related note, today is the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, which was designated by the General Assembly in November 2001.  It considered that damage to the environment in times of armed conflict impairs ecosystems and natural resources long after the period of conflict, often extending beyond the limits of national territories and the present generation.


**Guest


And tomorrow, as I mentioned, François Lonseny Fall, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, is scheduled to brief the Security Council.  Depending on what time consultations end, Mr. Fall will either join us at the noon briefing or he’ll be at the stakeout, but either way he will be available to take your questions.  That is it from me.  I will take your questions.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Can you give us an update on planning, the whole sort of debate on the UN force for Darfur?  Have you guys essentially come to the realization that this isn’t going to happen and everybody is now moving to focus on trying to beef up the AU as kind of a long-term peacekeeping solution?


Spokesman:  The short-term focus remains on beefing up AMIS.  We have some people deployed already; we have more standing by in Khartoum, ready to go.  We also have appealed to the Member States to provide some 90 military officers.  At this point, only 23 nominations have been received, but we are continuing to work and we are continuing to work for an extended and in the longer term for a greater UN presence in Darfur, which will obviously need the approval of the Government of the Sudan, as stated in the resolution.  We do hope that all of those who have some influence will use that with Khartoum.


Question:  A follow-up.  There was a package that was presented to the Sudanese Government for sort of “AMIS plus”, is there an effort now to work on sort of a second package which would be “AMIS plus, plus”.  That would even sort of bolster that even more?


Spokesman:  At this point, as I’ve said, the immediate focus remains on the support to AMIS, which the Khartoum Government has approved and in the longer term getting the consent for longer UN deployment in Darfur.


Question:  Has the Lebanese Government requested from UNIFIL to extend its role on the coast of Lebanon all from the North to the South, including the six-mile zone?


Spokesman:  At this point I am not aware of any new requests.  The naval component of UNIFIL continues to work with the Lebanese Government to help the Government secure its sea border, but I am not aware of any new requests.


Question:  Any progress about the Israeli sorties over Lebanon?


Spokesman:  As far as I’m aware, there have been no reported air violations in the last two days.


Question:  Just to follow-up on the Saddam Hussein trial.  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to the sentences issued yesterday?


Spokesman:  Nothing to add from the Secretary-General beyond what Louise Arbour has said and he supports her statement.


Question:  What are the latest figures of the numbers of its (UNIFIL) latest complement and how close to the authorized 15,000 total complement do they expect it to reach?


Spokesman:  I think we went through those numbers on Friday and I am trying to remember, we are close to or now at nearly 12,000 but we will have to check the numbers.  Out of that, there are about 2,000 or 1,700 sailors, which are part of the naval component.  But I’ll get you some hard numbers.


[Later the Spokesman’s office said there were 9,450 UNIFIL troops, with 7,730 on the ground and 1,700 naval troops.]


Question:  On the AMIS thing, just to clarify, the only specific thing I heard was an appeal for 90 officers of which there were 23 nominated by countries.  Is that it?  I mean in terms of beefing up AMIS?


Spokesman:  We’ve gone through the package which also includes communications equipment, which includes vehicles, but in terms of personnel, the update I was given in terms of personnel we have an immediate request for 90 staff officers, there will be more.  But we’ve had to go out to those Member States and out of those 90, we’ve only received 23 nominations.


Question:  What would be helpful is to get a real breakdown of what actually has been given.  There is always this vague thing of extra vehicles or something, but would it be possible to get a breakdown of what has actually been given to AMIS in terms of beefing it up?  One other question, Joseph Kony from the Lord’s Resistance Army has asked to meet Jan Egeland on his next trip.  Does Jan Egeland have any intention of actually meeting him?


Spokesman:  I don’t have an update yet from OCHA, as soon as I get an answer I’ll let you know…


Question:  Is the UN aware that Nigerian and Rwandan troops are not paid their salary for two months and what is the attitude of the UN towards that development?


Spokesman:  If you are referring to the AMIS troops, that is obviously a responsibility of the African Union, but the Secretary-General has repeatedly appealed for donor countries to help the African Union with the needed funds to pay for those troops.  We do hope they do get paid.


Question:  On Mr. [Jan] Pronk, now that Mr. Pronk is basically rendered impotent because he is unable to go back to the Sudan.  Is the Secretary-General assertion that he still remains…


Spokesman:  I don’t agree with your choice of words.  Mr. Pronk is currently on leave he will go back to Khartoum as we said during this month for a handover period and that plan has not yet changed.


Question:  Do you have updates on the Iran nuclear issue, meeting again and having the Europeans involved?


Spokesman:  No I don’t those are discussions taking place within Council Members, but I don’t have an update for you.


Question:  What is the extent of the Secretary-General’s support for the statement by Louise Arbour?  Does he support the whole statement?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General has nothing to add to what Ms. Arbour says and he supports her statement.


Question:  In her statement she calls for a moratorium on the death penalty.  Does she call for Iraq not to execute Saddam Hussein?


Spokesman:  The gist of her statement is that there is still a procedure going on and that the appeal process be respected.  And we don’t want to pre-judge the outcome of that appeal process.


Question:  She went on record and said she is against the death penalty?


Spokesman:  Yes, she is and the statement clearly says that.


Question:  So does that part apply to Annan as well?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General supports her statement.  We don’t want to pre-judge what the final outcome of the appeal will be.


Question:  Okay, one more question.  This mediation group, could you clarify how exactly it works, who it belongs to, which part of the UN will it deal with, who will head it, and also will you tell us if [Jan] Egeland is staying in his current job?


Spokesman:  Mr. Egeland has made it clear and it’s already been reported in the press last month that he will be leaving at some point in December to return home.  What his future plans are, I don’t know and I do need to get better educated on this Mediation Support Unit and I will be able to brief you better on it.


Question:  In Haiti there are increasing reports of yet more violence and now a call for virtually insurgency if [Rene] Préval does not allow [Jean-Bertrand] Aristede supporters back into various offices.  There seems to be a vast silence from them.  Is there any report or update from them?


Spokesman:  On that specific political issue, no I don’t think so.  It is something the Haitian Government is dealing with.  But I don’t have any other operational update from MINUSTAH.


Question:  Let’s move to the shortlist at WHO.  They named the moderately sized list and then the shortlist; it seems to be a very public process.  Why on the WFP do you refuse to confirm the shortlist?  What’s the difference?


Spokesman:  The WFP hiring process is distinctive, quite distinctive from the WHO.  The WHO is a specialized agency, the head of it is being elected by those members.  As we have said for WFP, as opposed to UNHCR and UNDP, it is not one that is going to the General Assembly and that is why the shortlist is not being made public.


Question:  But it seems like there is an executive board of WHO and there is an executive board of WFP?


Spokesman:  They are completely different agencies.


Question:  Can you follow-up; I mean did the US request the Secretary-General not to have a long list or a shortlist, to do this in a sort of more behind-the-scenes way?


Spokesman:  No, there is no specific request, this is a decision taken in-house.


Question:  About the killing perpetrated by Israel in Gaza, is there any follow-up about the Secretary-General’s concern expressed last week?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General over the weekend spoke to both Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert to express his concern over the situation.  He urged the Israeli leader to exercise maximum restraint and recalled to him the need to protect civilians and do his utmost to do that.  He also, in his conversation with President Abbas, encouraged him to do his utmost to stop the firing by Palestinian militants of rockets into civilian targets in Israel and he reminded both of them that the continuing violence is liable to make the search for a just and lasting peace even more difficult.  The contacts within the Quartet envoys are also continuing on the ground.


Question:  Can I ask you about this conference on system-wide coherence that is about to happen.  Do you have any updates about it?


Spokesman:  I believe the launch will be on Thursday.


Question:  Is it going to be in the conference room or here?


Spokesman:  It will be here, I think there will be a launch at 12:30 p.m.  A number of the chairs of the panel will be present and I will give you the list of exactly who will be here, but it will be here at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.  And I believe there will be some briefing beforehand, a background briefing on the report.  Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record