2 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  I’m going to start the briefing, but if Nicolas Michel, the United Nations Legal Counsel, walks in, I may have to turn the floor to him.  He is our guest, but I promised him that he would be in and out quickly.  So I will start, but I warn that I may have to abbreviate this a bit.


**Secretary-General’s Travels


The Secretary-General is in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, today, where, tomorrow, he will launch, along with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the International Compact with Iraq.


The Secretary-General just met tête-à-tête with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  They discussed Darfur, the Iraq Compact, the work of the Middle East Quartet, the meeting on the Arab Peace Initiative that will take place later this week, Kosovo and Lebanon.


In about half an hour, the Secretary-General will meet with Prime Minister al-Maliki.  And he is also scheduled to meet, this evening, with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amre Moussa.


** Sudan


Turning to Sudan, the judges of the International Criminal Court today issued warrants for the arrest of Sudan’s Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and a Janjaweed militia leader in connection with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.


In a public decision, the ICC judges ruled that there is sufficient evidence on the merits of the Prosecutor’s case and reasonable grounds to believe that the two individuals are responsible for murder, rape, torture, the forced displacement of entire villages and other war crimes and crimes against humanity.


The Prosecutor’s case not only highlights the connection between a senior minister in the Sudanese Government and a militia leader, it also shows the underlying operational system that enabled massive crimes against innocent civilians in Darfur.  And all of this is contained in a press release from the International Criminal Court, available upstairs. 


Meanwhile, the UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) reports that, despite recent numerous attacks against humanitarian workers in Darfur, the humanitarian community is still exploring how to increase its access and resume activities in hard-to-reach areas.


In West Darfur, for example, a key road has been reopened for humanitarian traffic after being declared a “no go” zone in October 2006.  Efforts are also under way for the resumption of humanitarian operations in one area of West Darfur after a series of road incidents over the past months led to a significant reduction of humanitarian activities there.  And there is more information in the form of a press briefing in Khartoum today conducted by the UN Mission in the Sudan.


**Security Council


And here in New York, as you all know, the Security Council held its first consultations for the month of May, under the US presidency of the Council, and began this morning’s work by adopting a programme of work for the coming month.


The Council members then heard a briefing in closed consultations by Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel on his recent trip to Lebanon.  And he will be joining us shortly to brief you.


And right now the Security Council is holding an open meeting to hear a briefing by the Belgian Ambassador, who led the Security Council mission to Pristina and Belgrade, among other stops.  And the Ambassador of Belgium, Johan Verbeke, intends to speak to reporters at the stakeout afterwards.  So he will be at the stakeout following his briefing to the Security Council on his mission.


** Lebanon


Turning to Lebanon, the Force Commander for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Major General Claudio Graziano, and senior officials from the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces today held a tripartite meeting to discuss the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).  The focus was on the full respect of the Blue Line and the strict adherence to the cessation of hostilities agreement.


“The meeting was a productive one and I am pleased with the progress made,” the General said afterward, adding that the constructive attitude shown by the parties augurs well for the future.


**Ethiopia/Eritrea


And available today as a document is the Secretary-General’s latest report on Ethiopia and Eritrea.  Noting a surge in the number of troops on either side of the disputed border and within the Temporary Security Zone between the two countries, the Secretary-General describes how the prolonged restrictions by Eritrea on the movement of UN patrols and helicopter flights restrict and delay the full implementation of the UN’s mandate.


The Secretary-General emphasizes that he is deeply concerned by the impasse in the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process and by the growing tensions between the neighbours.  He appeals to the parties to carry on with the implementation of the Algiers Agreements and the rulings of the Boundary Commission.


**Health


And then the World Health Organization today launched a new patient safety initiative, aimed at reducing health-care mistakes.


An estimated 1 in 10 patients in developed countries is harmed while hospitalized, WHO says, and that figure is likely much higher in the developing world.


The health agency’s nine “patient safety solutions” are suggested guidelines that cover such topics as medication names that sound alike, correctly identifying patients, performing medical procedures at the correct body location and improved hand hygiene.  We have more information from the WHO in a press release upstairs.


**Pension Fund


And this from yesterday, the Investments Committee and the Committee of Actuaries, which are both expert advisory Committees working under the auspices of the UN Joint Staff Pension Board, completed joint meetings that had begun on Monday.  The Secretary-General met with the members of these Committees and expressed his appreciation for the dedicated contribution made by the two Committees to the smooth running of the Pension Fund.


During the course of the meetings, it was reported that the principal of the Fund now exceeded $38 billion and was in excellent financial health, earning good returns and enjoying a positive actuarial balance and a funding ratio close to 100 per cent.


The Committees also reviewed a draft of the first ever asset-liability management study to be conducted for the Fund.  And there’s more information on this upstairs.


And because Mr. Michel has arrived and I said I would turn the floor over to him as soon as he arrived, I’m going to do so.  And, since he has very limited time, I think maybe half an hour or so.  Or maybe he can correct me on that one?   Shorter than that.  OK. So, please join me up here.


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For information media • not an official record