|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.
**Guest at Noon today
Good afternoon. Our guest at the noon briefing today is Sergey Karev, Officer-in-Charge of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate. And he’s already here and he will brief you on the recent technical assistance meeting for West African States.
I have an announcement on the Secretary-General’s travels. The Secretary-General is scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C., next week for a meeting with President [George] Bush at the White House on 17 July.
He looks forward to discussing a wide range of issues with the President, including ending the tragedy in Darfur, pressing geopolitical issues, UN-US relations, UN reform and climate change.
The Secretary-General will also meet with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
He will also attend a private dinner the previous night with political leaders and experts on climate change.
So we’re talking about Monday evening through Tuesday next week, 16 and 17 July.
**Secretary-General in London
The Secretary-General this morning left London, meanwhile, ending his two-week trip to Europe, which also included his surprise visit to Afghanistan.
He met yesterday with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, saying afterwards that he and the Prime Minister had held very good discussions on the entire spectrum of the UN’s work, from Darfur to climate change, and from the Middle East to the Millennium Development Goals.
He told reporters: “I am delighted that we have now taken our partnership to a whole new level,” and he added that he feels reassured that he is able to depend on a partner as profoundly committed and knowledgeable as Prime Minister Brown.
And here at UN Headquarters, the Secretary-General this morning transmitted to the Security Council the latest report by Serge Brammertz concerning the work of the International Independent Investigation Commission that is looking into attacks that have taken place in Lebanon.
In his letter to the President of the Security Council, the Secretary-General notes that the present report provides information on the Commission’s priority work in the investigation of the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri and into 17 other cases, including the killing this June of former Member of Parliament Walid Eido.
The Security Council expects to discuss the report with Mr. Brammertz next Thursday.
There are no Security Council meetings or consultations scheduled for today.
We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson on the proclamation by the Court of Appeals of Timor Leste on the results of the 30 June elections for the National Parliament.
As anticipated from the preliminary returns, five parties and two coalitions have won parliamentary seats in proportion to their share of the vote, but no single party will hold an absolute majority of the 65 seats.
The date for the commencement of the new Parliament is yet to be fixed. Discussions related to the formation of a Government are also being undertaken by political parties.
UNMIT, that’s the UN Mission there, is committed to working with the new Government and the Parliament, particularly in the areas of democratic governance, the rule of law, security sector reform and social and economic development programmes.
We have that statement upstairs for you.
** Western Sahara
And just to recap for you on the Western Sahara from yesterday, the Security Council issued a press statement following a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Peter Van Walsum.
In the statement, read out by the Security Council President, Ambassador Wang Guangya of China, members expressed the hope that the parties will use the next round of negotiations -– scheduled for 10 and 11 August in Manhasset -- to engage in good faith in substantial negotiations on the way forward, in accordance with resolution 1754 (2007).
**UNHCR – Iraq
The UN refugee agency says it is doubling its 2007 budget for uprooted Iraqis, as severe violence continues to drive thousands more people from their homes every day.
UNHCR notes that more than 4 million people -– or one in seven Iraqis -– have been uprooted. Half of them are now in Syria and Jordan.
UNHCR’s revised appeal for $123 million will go to help Iraqis in neighbouring States, as well as those displaced within Iraq. The money will provide emergency shelter, schools, food and other assistance.
We have more information in a press release upstairs.
And the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, has, meanwhile, continued his consultations in major Asian capitals on Myanmar, and is wrapping up today his meetings with Indian officials in New Delhi.
Mr. Gambari told reporters that he had had a candid discussion with the Indian Foreign Secretary and found agreement on the need to recognize positive steps made by Myanmar, while at the same time encouraging it to make further progress towards democratization and human rights. He reiterated that he intends to visit Myanmar soon, although dates have not yet been determined.
Mr. Gambari will be meeting with senior Japanese Foreign Ministry officials on Friday in Tokyo before returning to New York.
And then turning to Sudan, the World Food Programme (WFP) is launching an emergency relief effort to deliver food and supplies to thousands of people driven from their homes by floods that began last week.
As a first step, the agency plans to distribute food to 20,000 people in five locations near the city of Kassala, which is near the Eritrean border. WFP is joining forces with other UN agencies who are also assisting flood victims --relief efforts that we flagged to you on Tuesday.
And also on Sudan, the first 103 returnees -– internally displaced persons -- arrived yesterday in Yambio, in the Western Equatoria State. More returnees are expected in Yambio tomorrow and another 400 are due to arrive in another town that same day.
**WFP - Afghanistan
And on Afghanistan, the World Food Programme says it has resumed its deliveries of food assistance along the southern ring road in Afghanistan. Shipments had been suspended in late May due to insecurity.
WFP says that this is a major breakthrough for their operations, particularly in the western region, where it was unable to distribute promised food to tens of thousands of people for weeks.
WFP hopes to go back to normal operations as quickly as possible, shipping 1,500 to 2,000 tons of food assistance each week.
** Sierra Leone
And on Sierra Leone, the Peacebuilding Fund Steering Committee for Sierra Leone yesterday approved four new projects aimed at supporting the ongoing electoral process and improving the judiciary and water, sanitation and health facilities at army barracks and detention facilities. The four new projects together will cost a little over $16 million.
Meanwhile, in Freetown, the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, Victor Angelo, has hosted representatives of political parties contesting the August polls to a second interparty dialogue. Together they discussed confidence-building measures and other preparations for the elections.
And there’s more on both of these developments in press releases available upstairs in the Spokesperson’s Office.
**OCHA – Pakistan
And there’s an update on relief efforts in Pakistan in the wake of the recent cyclone and flooding there.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 14,000 combined tent and “shelter kits” have been distributed by United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations.
More than 20 flood assessments have been conducted and a strategy on shelter and on the allocation of flash appeal funds is currently being prepared.
**Press Conference Today
And, in addition to our guest who we just mentioned, at 1:30 we have Ambassador Peter Burian of Slovakia, who is the Chairman of the Security Council’s 1540 Committee; Richard Cupitt, Assistant Coordinator of that Committee; and Elizabeth Turpen, Senior Associate of the Henry Stimson Center, to brief you on the current work of the Committee and its efforts to facilitate the resolution’s implementation. The resolution calls on Member States to prevent access to weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors for terrorist purposes.
Copies of that advisory for the event are available upstairs and in this room.
So that’s what I have for you. Before we turn over to Mr. Karev, do you have any questions for me?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Is the Secretary-General hopeful that the parties to the Western Sahara conflict would reach an agreement on the forthcoming meeting on 10 and 11 August, given recent developments, the statement by the Security Council yesterday and by US Ambassador Anderson?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think at this point we don’t have anything further to say than what Mr. [Peter] van Walsum told you at the stakeout yesterday. He is the Secretary-General’s representative on this issue.
Question: Related to this issue, but I don’t know if you have any comment on some reports in Morocco a weekly magazine that said that they had gotten access to the private computer of Mr. Ban Ki-moon and had published very important and shocking news about what he said about his meeting with the Moroccan delegation and that he got his bank cards stolen from him.
Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, I think there was a retraction that was printed in that newspaper following that because it was an erroneous report.
Question: But there’s no comment from you… he didn’t deny it, he didn’t…?
Deputy Spokesperson: Oh, it was not factual at all. So I think the newspaper published a retraction.
Question: Two OIOS questions. One, there’s a report today that OIOS since last month has been inquiring into a probing -– the office of finance and administration at UNDP -– and [inaudible] it’s a pretty detailed report. So I’m wondering if, one, you can on the side of OIOS and the Secretariat, if you can confirm that that inquiry is taking place and if it’s related in any way to either the ethics complaint or some… What is OIOS’ jurisdiction over UNDP and where’s that inquiry heading?
Deputy Spokesperson: I’ll look into…
Question: Are you aware of that?
Deputy Spokesperson: Nope.
Question: OK. The other one is something that you mentioned -- that’s been mentioned from this podium before -- is the OIOS’ acknowledged inquiry into the alleged trading of guns for gold by peacekeepers in the DRC. There’s a recent report now saying that that inquiry, although MONUC was made aware of it in December 2005, didn’t begin until August 2006. What’s the status of that inquiry and why would it not have begun until eight months after MONUC was informed of the charges?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think I’m going to have to get back to you on the latter because I did have something that I thought was for the briefing, but I don’t seem to have brought it with me. So I will get back to you after the briefing on that.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the inquiry had found no evidence of weapons trafficking, but did suggest that one officer had facilitated the exploitation of resources. She added that the United Nations remained very concerned by these, and all such, allegations.
We regret that our internal procedures took such a long time to run its course, but we have an obligation of due process, the Deputy Spokesperson said.]
Question: On this flash appeal by OCHA for Pakistan, when will they make the appeal or are they still preparing it?
Deputy Spokesperson: They’re preparing.
Question: OK. They’re still preparing. Do you have any update on this inspection by IAEA of North Korean facilities that were supposed to be shut down? Do you have any update on that?
Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, we gave you one yesterday. I don’t think there’s been much of a change. It was following receipt of an invitation from DPRK, a team from IAEA will travel to DPRK within the next few days and the team will implement arrangements agreed between the IAEA and the DPRK, and approved by the Agency’s Board of Governors to undertake verification and monitoring of the shutdown and sealing of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities. So that’s what we had for you.
Question: As far as Mr. Gambari’s meeting in India is concerned, with the Indian officials, is he maybe using the Indian Foreign Ministry as a go-between to talk to Burma? Is that what the plan is?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as you know, Mr. Gambari started his mission this week in China. That’s where he started earlier this week. He is travelling to Delhi. As I mentioned, he will be going to Tokyo for further consultations. And he is continuing the dialogue with the partners in the region, so that he will continue to engage partners in the region and those who are interested in achieving the same objectives as the UN.
Question: And then what?
Deputy Spokesman: As I mentioned, he does intend to visit Myanmar, although he will not be going on this trip.
Question: You mentioned that one of the issues Mr. Ban Ki-moon is going to discuss with President Bush in D.C. is how to end the tragedy in Darfur. I was wondering, we have already here the draft resolution on the hybrid force. Is there any new actions to be taken, any new ideas to be discussed? Would you please elaborate on this?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as you know, the Secretary-General is working on four fronts that he has outlined on a number of occasions on Darfur. One is, as you mentioned, on the assembling of the hybrid force, which is about to be authorized by the Security Council and for that, obviously, he needs the support of troop contributors to make contributions to the force.
Correspondent: It’s already there, the support, it’s already there. It’s supported by the Security Council member States.
Deputy Spokesperson: The Security Council has not officially authorized the hybrid operation. I understand that they will soon be discussing a draft resolution on the subject. So yes, the Secretary-General would very much want to have support, I mean contributions to the force, once the force is authorized. He also, in the meantime, needs the African Union force on the ground, which will be there until the hybrid operation can take over, to get the needed funding and support, and he will be pushing for that.
In the meantime, as you know, the peacekeeping operation on its own is not the only answer. There’s a political process in the works. He has his Envoy, Jan Eliasson, working very closely with the AU representative counterpart, Mr. Salim Ahmed Salim… they’re working on a road map, they’re trying to get through the prenegotiation phase. They’re trying to get all the parties together, and he needs, again, all the support he can get from the international community to galvanize action for a peace agreement, which is really the answer at the end of the day.
In the meantime, he needs support to carry on with the UN’s largest humanitarian operation right now on the planet. He will constantly need support for that, and he also would like to start getting together efforts for an eventual reconstruction package on the ground.
Question: Still on Western Sahara, does the Secretary-General intend to attend any of the sessions during the August meeting in Manhasset? Would Under-Secretary-General Pascoe attend –- any other officials from the UN?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have no further details. This was just something that was just announced yesterday, and I’m sure details of the next round are being discussed right now as we speak.
Question: This is about Somalia, maybe for a comment and some information. Ban Ki-moon apparently gave an interview to a German newspaper and said that he urged the Somali Government to negotiate with all political factions, including those that oppose the Government. So, I’m wondering, this is a reference to the National Reconciliation Congress? What the UN’s role will be in the Congress? If the UN believes it is on track to actually begin Monday and how… you know, if the UN has provided any funding for it, and if you can just explain a little bit more what range of opponents he was referring to.
Deputy Spokesperson: I have not looked at the… I don’t have the exact wording of his interview on Somalia, but what I can tell you the UN is supporting the holding of the reconciliation conference and hopes it succeeds. We’re watching this very closely because, as we’ve said, what’s critical in Somalia right now is a political process in the direction of national reconciliation.
The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the UN mission recently took part in an international delegation as part of an international delegation to Somalia to look at the progress in organizing the Congress, including providing security for that event. They have been engaging -- the UN mission and country team -- have been engaging directly with the organizers to provide substantial technical and financial support, including a $200,000 contribution from a UN trust fund.
In the meantime, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Mr. [François Lonseny] Fall, has been in touch with parties in Somalia and around the region to try to ensure the broadest possible participation. And yes, I think that’s… the Secretary-General, as you know, met recently with the Prime Minister here in New York and was encouraged by his assurances that the Congress is going forward. So that’s where we are on that.
Question: So from that, does the UN believe that this will actually begin Monday?
Deputy Spokesperson: We are hopeful.
Question: And when you said security, is this $200,000 to be used for security around the Congress? Who will be providing the security? Will it be the TFG, the Ethiopian troops who is actually securing the Conference?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well it would probably be the forces on the ground. The United Nations doesn’t have forces…
Correspondent: I understand. I understand. OK.
Deputy Spokesperson: So, if there are no other questions, let’s turn over to our guest, Mr. Karev. Will you be joining us?
* *** *For information media • not an official record