01 May 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon all.


**Guest at Noon


The guest today at the noon briefing is UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, who will brief you on the results of the International Conference on Displacement of Iraqis and his recent mission to Sudan.


**Climate Change Envoys


As part of his efforts to address the major global challenges posed by climate change, the Secretary-General this morning announced the appointment of three Special Envoys on Climate Change.


They are Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Prime Minister of Norway and former Chair of the World Commission of Environment and Development; Han Seung-soo, the former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, who also served as President of the General Assembly five years ago; and former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Escobar, who currently is President of the Foundation for Democracy and Development, which he created.


The three envoys will meet with heads of Government and other key actors in climate change negotiations to solicit their views.  The Secretary-General says he “looks forward to working with these three highly respected international figures on a matter which is of highest importance to the future of the planet.”  We have copies of the announcement upstairs, as well as the bios of the three envoys.


** Sudan


UN Humanitarian Coordinator Manuel Aranda da Silva strongly condemns the temporary abduction of six staff members of the [Office of the United Nations] High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the hijacking of the refugee agency’s vehicles by unknown armed men in West Darfur.


Six UNHCR staff members in a two-vehicle convoy, clearly marked with the UN refugee agency’s logo, were attacked yesterday morning while they were on their way for a routine visit to a refugee camp, located approximately 80 kilometres southwest of El Geneina.


The attackers drove away with the UNHCR staff members and dropped them off later.  After several hours of search carried out by the UN with the assistance of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and the Government authorities, the staff members were located near Saraf Omra, which is located East of Geneina, near the border between West Darfur and North Darfur state, where they were brought by truck by the local population.  None of the staff members was hurt.


** C ôte d’Ivoire


On Côte d’Ivoire, with the integration of former rebels into the National Army now well underway, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire has welcomed the willingness of the parties to fully implement the Ouagadougou Agreement.


Yesterday, in the western town of Bangolo, the UN Deputy Force Commander, General Mouhamadou Kandji, and Police Commissioner Cristian Gérardo Chaumont, attended the installation of two new mixed brigades in a bid to stress the UN’s commitment to support the gradual dismantling of the Zone of Confidence, one of the key provisions of the Ouagadougou Agreement.  And yesterday’s event comes on the heels of the 16 April official launching by President Laurent Gbagbo of the abolition of the Zone of Confidence and last Friday’s inauguration of the Integrated Command Centre in the capital Yamoussoukro.  There is more on this upstairs.


** Nepal


On Nepal, Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Nepal, gave a press conference today in Kathmandu, saying that although the United Nations would have been delighted if it had proved possible to hold elections before this year’s monsoon, postponement should not be viewed as a disaster.


He expressed his hope that a new date will soon be decided upon by the Interim Government, in consultation with the Election Commission, and that the time available will then be used to address the several critical issues that pose risks to the peace process.


Martin said that the postponement of the Constituent Assembly election may prolong the period during which Maoist army personnel remain in cantonment sites.  This makes it urgent, he added, to improve cantonment conditions, which have repeatedly proved to be unsatisfactory for current weather conditions, and certainly cannot withstand the fast-approaching monsoon.


** Afghanistan


On Afghanistan, the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, bringing together the UN Mission in Afghanistan and the Afghan Government, met today to examine progress in implementation of the Afghanistan Compact.  Overall, the Compact was found to be on track with momentum on both early and longer-term benchmarks.


The Board also highlighted further work that needs to be done to implement the Compact.  And we have more details in a press release upstairs.


**Security Council


The United States today replaces the United Kingdom as the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of May.  US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is holding bilateral consultations with other Council members on the Council’s programme of work for this month.


The Council is expected to hold consultations tomorrow to approve the programme of work for May.


**Budget


Today, we have an update on Member State contributions to the UN regular budget.


As of the end of April, a total of 73 countries have paid in full their assessments to the UN regular budget for 2007.  We have more details upstairs.


**Press Conference Tomorrow


At 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by Robert Mahoney, Deputy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Joel Campagna, the Committee’s Senior Middle East Program Coordinator, who will brief you on a new report released to mark World Press Freedom Day, which is on Thursday, as you know, 3 May.


This is all I have for you.  Thank you.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Just with regard to the climate change envoys, once again, why is it not possible to get this information before to help those of us that need to pitch stories before midday, unless you did and I missed it?


Spokesperson:  I’m sorry, Mark.  The information went on the “lid list” to all of you at 9 a.m.  You should all have received it.


Question:  But just to follow up, can we have any kind of briefing on what they’re going to do, these people, and from them?


Spokesperson:  Yes, we’re hoping to have them come.  We don’t know yet when because, as you know, they are in different capitals.  But we are hoping that they will come and talk to you.


Question:  Can you explain a little about what their job is going to be and what they’re going to do?


Spokesperson:  Well, the job was described in what I said earlier, the fact that they’re going to be discussing the way forward on climate change issues.


Question:  Are they going to travel around the world? 


Spokesperson:  As you know, there are several steps which are envisaged.  There is going to be a conference in Bali on climate change.  There is going to be, most probably, an informal high-level meeting during the General Assembly on climate change.  This is being worked on by Member States and by the Secretary-General.  And, of course, there is the objective of going even further, which we have not determined yet where it will go.  So, they all have very important credentials as international figures, and we can certainly get more.  You have their biographies, and we have all the information you need upstairs.  But, of course, we can give you more. 


Question:  Michèle, I want to register an official complaint about what happened yesterday after the Security Council meeting, regarding United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara and the Western Sahara.  The representative of the Frente Polisario went to the stakeout and, at some point, I was asking him questions.  I wasn’t able to tape it.  The tape was bad.  So I rely on the professionalism of UNTV, who is always very professional, in recording this so that I can go downstairs and get a tape.  There were a lot of people around and there was a lot of interference.  Somebody turned off the image and then they eventually turned off the sound.  And when I went to ask about this, I was told that somebody went up to the cameraman and said that somebody from the Department of Political Affairs went and complained, and said that the representative should not be at the stakeout.  So first of all, what are the guidelines about this because I’ve never heard of this before?  Number two, I was told that whatever was recorded, even if there was not a TV image, that it would be on the website.  It was not on the website at 4 p.m., and this was done by, I think, 12:30 p.m. /1 p.m.  So I don’t understand what the huge delay was.  This is very suspect and I’m very upset.  And this is an issue that comes up once every six months in the Security Council.  This is something that is not before the Security Council every week.  And I’m very upset about this.  And I want to know what the reasoning is behind cutting the video feed.


Spokesperson:  Well I have to say we’re sorry it happened.  We talked to the Department of Public Information about this.  They said that what happened is a mistake, and they’re sorry about it.  We also talked to DPA.  There was no order from them for anything to be cut off.  Apparently, there was confusion about the identity of the speaker.  When Mr. Ahmed Boukhari approached the mic, staff did not recognize him and were unable to identify him.  The judgement was made that the TV feed should be cut short.  And for this, we are sorry.  There is no policy of that sort.  Of course, Mr. Boukhari had the right to speak at the stakeout.  And the majority of his press encounter is now on the website.


Question:  But the question that I have for you is that, there were journalists -- myself and others -- who were asking questions.  So who made the decision to cut off the feed while questions were being asked?  It’s not that somebody was at the stakeout.  There was nobody there except UNTV.  There’s a difference between cutting something off and cutting something off for a reason.  And he was answering my questions and others.  And that is the part that upsets me. 


Spokesperson:  It was a mistake.  They took whoever told them to stop it as being someone who was authorized.


Question:  Who told them?


Spokesperson:  We don’t know at this point.  We have been trying to find out who said it.  We can tell you that no one was authorized to do it.  No one. 


Question:  If you can just update us on the situation concerning the meeting between Mr. Ban Ki-moon and Mr. Nicholas Michel on Lebanon, and what would be the next step, because the Secretary-General made a speech in front of the General Assembly yesterday.  And he said, probably, that Mr. Michel did not make much success.


Spokesperson:  Mr. Michel is going to be meeting with the Security Council, most probably, tomorrow.  And he will definitely accept to come and brief you as soon as the Security Council consultations are over. 


Question:  What is the next step from Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s perspective?  Is he going to send him to Lebanon again?  He’s meeting today with the Siniora, I think, advisor.  So what does he think?  Where are we going with this?


Spokesperson:  Well, the best person to answer those questions would be Mr. Michel.  As you know, he’s the point man on this tribunal issue.  And I’m sure he will be very willing to answer your questions.


Question:  With reference to this appearance of Mr. Boukhari yesterday, I was present when he spoke to us at the stakeout on two, somewhat separated, occasions some minutes apart.  On the second occasion, he identified himself orally as Mr. Bouhkhari.  At all times, even on the first occasion, he had his ID card with his name clearly written on it and visible.  I know because I knew what Frente Polisario was, but I did not know who he was personally.  And I was able to identify him by that means.  If this was really done on the idea that they did not know who he was, then God help them they should have asked. 


Spokesperson:  You’re quite right.  And we’re really sorry about the incident.  It should have never happened.


Question:  Are we going to be getting a briefing by Ambassador Khalilzad on the plan of work for the month of May?  


Spokesperson:  No, we’re not.


Question:  Have they given any reason?


Spokesperson:  No. They just said he would rather answer your questions at the stakeout. 


Question:  I wanted to ask you about the Chief Executive Boards meeting in Geneva.  I know it’s getting a little in the past, but we just heard from Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro that the issue of United Nations funds and programmes making their internal audits available to Member States did come up.  I’ve heard actually that Ban Ki-moon himself said to the heads of funds and programmes that they should each recommend to their executive boards to make this change, as soon as possible.  Is that accurate?


Spokesperson:  That he has recommended that?  Yes.  That’s all I can say at this point.  I was not at the meeting in Geneva.  And the Deputy Secretary-General is the best person to inform you on that.   You asked a question about that, right?


Any other questions…because Mr. Guterres is here?  OK, I invite him to come to the podium.


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For information media • not an official record