18 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.


**Guest at Noon Today


Good afternoon, all.  Our guest at the briefing today is Mr. Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, who will be updating you on the recent AU-UN efforts to revitalize the Darfur peace process.


** Iraq


A statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:


“As Iraq’s Constitutional Review Committee prepares to submit the results of its deliberations to the full Parliament, the Secretary-General reiterates the importance of the constitutional review process and of finalizing the outstanding issues that are vital to the process of national reconciliation in Iraq.  The Committee has undertaken its work responsibly in an atmosphere of mutual respect, and should be applauded.


“Striking a compromise on the core constitutional issues at the heart of Iraq’s system of governance is essential for establishing stability in the country.  The Secretary-General hopes that Iraqi leaders will embrace this opportunity by rising above narrow sectarian interests, remaining open to compromise, and fostering consensus.  The United Nations remains fully committed to a national dialogue towards a Constitution than can be supported by all Iraqis.”


** Sudan


The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called today for an immediate and independent investigation into the involvement of Sudanese security forces in attacks on villages near Nyala, South Darfur, that have left over 100 people dead and thousands displaced since January of this year.  The Human Rights Office is seriously concerned that, to date, no effective action has been taken by the Government of Sudan to prevent the attacks or bring the perpetrators to justice.


Available is a press release, as well as the report itself, that documents violence in an area known as Bulbul, resulting from a dispute over land between two groups.  The report, issued in cooperation with the United Nations Mission in Sudan, details the involvement of Border Intelligence Guards in attacks starting on 6 January.  The latest large-scale attack was reported on 31 March.  Members of both groups describe themselves as Arab.


Also available upstairs is an update from OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] on returns of refugees and internally displaced persons to southern Sudan and humanitarian efforts under way in that part of the country.


**Security Council


The situation in Côte d’Ivoire is on the agenda of the Security Council today.  In an open meeting just a few hours ago, Council members heard a message from the President of Burkina Faso, who was the Facilitator of the inter-Ivorian peace talks.  And that message was delivered by the Minister of National Security of Burkina Faso.  Council members then moved into closed-door consultations to hear a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, who is presenting the latest progress report of the Secretary-General on Côte d’Ivoire.  After that, Council members will take up other matters.  And we expect the Council’s President to be at the Security Council stakeout microphone shortly to take your questions.


** Haiti


The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti has strongly condemned the assassination yesterday of Haitian journalist Alix Joseph, the Director of Programming for Radio Provinciale, which is based in Gonaives.  Joseph was reportedly shot in the head by armed men, all of whom remain at large.  The Mission extends its condolences to Haiti’s press corps and pledges to provide all the necessary assistance to the Haitian police in finding Joseph’s killers.  The incident comes less than a week after the Mission conducted a training seminar for both State-employed and independent journalists at Cap-Haitien, which focused on media ethics and news reporting techniques, among other subjects.  The Mission also held a series of discussions and seminars for some 150 of the recently elected municipal leaders on the subject of good governance and the management of relationships with civil society and grass-roots organizations.


**WFP - Africa


The World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that it is airlifting equipment from its humanitarian response depot in Ghana to the Central African Republic (CAR).  That equipment includes temporary storage facilities, living accommodations and accompanying tool kits.  This is to help with WFP’s plan to urgently scale up its logistics capacity in the CAR, in order to reach some 230,000 people affected by the current crisis there.


Meanwhile, in Somalia, WFP said a second round of food distributions started today to more than 120,000 people affected by the recent violence in Mogadishu.  But it warned that a new spate of piracy threatens to strangle its main supply routes to Somalia.  We have press releases on both those items upstairs.


**WHO


The World Health Organization (WHO) is out today with World Health Statistics 2007, the most complete set of data from all of WHO’s member States.  The volume tracks some 50 health indicators, including projected patterns of major causes of death, access to treatment, and health spending.  We have more information in a press release upstairs.


**UNESCAP


On Asian economies, some 300 business leaders and policymakers are taking part in a UN-sponsored forum in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to discuss how to diversify Asian economies and increase their international competitiveness.  The event is organized by the Bangkok-based UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in cooperation with the Government of Kazakhstan, among others.  It is timed to coincide with the sixty-third UNESCAP Commission now ongoing in Almaty, in order to deliver the forum’s recommendations to Asian trade ministers attending the Commission’s session.


**HIV/AIDS


And just to flag for you on Monday, the Secretary-General will address the General Assembly’s session to review the implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.  We have embargoed copies of his speech in my office.


**Guest at Noon on Monday


And then also as a heads up, the guest at the noon briefing on Monday will be Dr. Djibril Diallo, Director of the UN New York Office of Sport for Development and Peace, who will be discussing the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and the Paralympics, Sport for Peace programmes in Liberia and Democratic Republic of the Congo, follow-up to the UN Global Youth Leadership Summit, and activities relating to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.


This is all I have for you today.  Let’s reduce the questions as much as we can because Mr. Eliasson is waiting for us.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  So far we haven’t seen the letter sent by President Lahoud of Lebanon to the Secretary-General.  Why is that?  I mean, why does it take that long to be circulated?


Spokesperson:  Simply because it hasn’t been circulated to the Security Council.  The Security Council would be the one to circulate it.


Correspondent:  We asked about it today and they still haven’t seen it.


Spokesperson:  Who hasn’t seen it?  The Security Council?


Question:  Yes.  Why does a letter from Siniora arrive straight away the same day and a letter from Lahoud takes a week or more to reach the Security Council?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have an answer to that.  I can ask for you what happened.


Correspondent:  It’s not the first time.  I mean, this is the third, fourth time this happens.


Question:  I wonder if the Secretary-General has a comment on whether he’s happy with yesterday’s election and the composition of the Human Rights Council.  And also, whether the Secretary-General regrets that an important country like the United States is still not in the Council and they didn’t seek a place in the Council, because at the end of the day the United States is the biggest financial contributor to this Organization.


Spokesperson:  Yes.  Well, as to the election itself, the members of the General Assembly pronounced themselves yesterday and chose a set of representatives from countries to go to the Human Rights Council.  So, this is a decision to be taken by them.  And then how they would perform in their duties is a matter for the Human Rights Council.  The Secretary-General will not comment on those elections as such.  What he will comment on eventually is on the good work or bad work or what he thinks should be done better by the Human Rights Council.


Question:  We understand that we’re not getting a copy of the letter from Lahoud because it hasn’t been given to the Security Council.  But this happened before in February when the letter of Lahoud, not like this case, wasn’t even given to the Security Council and we didn’t get a copy of it.  I understand this letter has now been with Mr. Pascoe’s office for a couple of days and it doesn’t seem like it’s being given to the Security Council.  I want to understand.  What’s the criteria that you apply in the Secretariat in how a letter gets to the Security Council?  This is, after all, from a Head of State, even though we understand the technicalities of the situation.


Spokesperson:  Well, I can ask for you why it is not circulated to the Security Council and I should have an answer for you shortly.


Question:  I wonder if the Secretary-General has any reaction to the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip which took place yesterday and this morning, and also if you can ask him please, whether the failure to lift the sanctions on the Palestinian Government is one reason behind the present situation we’re seeing in the occupied territories.


Spokesperson:  Well, we cannot speculate on the reasons behind the situation that exists.  In terms of the concern of the Secretary-General, he has expressed his concern about both the in-fighting, -- please come in, Mr. Eliasson.  We will get a chance to talk in a few moments.  I will ask Mr. Eliasson to come and join us.


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For information media • not an official record