|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.
At 1:15 p.m. today, there will be a press conference by the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Margareta Wahlström, who will brief you on the Peru earthquake and flooding in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
**Statement on Peru Earthquake
A statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:
The Secretary-General was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death and destruction wrought by a powerful earthquake south of Lima, Peru. He extends his sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who died.
The United Nations is in close contact with the Government of Peru and stands ready to support relief efforts with measures, including the release of emergency funds and the deployment of a team of disaster assessment and coordination experts.
** Peru Earthquake - Humanitarian
Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström will have more details on UN humanitarian relief efforts in Peru when she briefs you in a few minutes in this room, but, in the meantime, I can give you a short update.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are providing $200,000 in emergency grants for immediate relief efforts.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Peru has activated the emergency operations centre there on a 24-hour basis. Meanwhile, UN disaster and coordination experts are on standby, ready to assist the Peruvian Government.
We have more information in a press release upstairs and again, Ms. Wahlström will brief you in about an hour.
**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea - Humanitarian
She’ll also have more information on the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where joint assessment teams involving representatives from several UN agencies visited Sohung County in North Hwanghae Province on Tuesday.
Local officials told the assessment team that there is an immediate need for essential medicines, water, food, shelter and blankets. Some 10,000 people in that county alone have been displaced. Flooding and mud have destroyed 70 per cent of arable land and crops, and many roads and bridges are either destroyed or under water.
We have two appointments to announce today.
The Secretary-General today announced the appointment of Mr. Bo Asplund of Sweden as his Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan. Mr. Asplund will also serve as the UN Resident Coordinator, as well as the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan.
Mr. Bo Asplund is the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and the UNDP Resident Representative in Indonesia, a post he has held since 2001.
The Secretary-General also announced today the appointment of Ms. Marta Ruedas of Spain as Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon. Ms. Ruedas will also serve as the UN Resident Coordinator, as well as the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, in Lebanon.
Ms. Ruedas has served the United Nations for nearly 20 years in increasingly senior positions in the United Nations Development Programme, both in New York and in the field.
You have their bios upstairs.
There will also be more appointments announced on Monday.
After a meeting with the troop-contributing countries for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the Security Council held consultations on the work being done by the UN peacekeepers in Lebanon and received a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi.
Council members also discussed a letter given to them earlier this month by the Secretary-General, in which he recommended a one-year extension of the Lebanon mission, until the end of August 2008.
** Chad and Central African Republic
The Secretary-General, in a report to the Security Council, presents a revised concept of operations for the UN presence in eastern Chad and the north-eastern Central African Republic.
The new concept of operations proposes that the tasks and functions of the military component would be performed by a European Union military force that has been accepted by President Idriss Déby of Chad. Also, there would be no direct involvement of the multidimensional international presence in the border area.
In a further adjustment, Chadian police and gendarmes would continue to serve in refugee camps, but they would be trained, monitored and mentored by the UN police component and provided with direct logistical support from the United Nations. For the new approach to be developed successfully, the Secretary-General says the United Nations, the European Union and the Chadian authorities will have to coordinate very closely, beginning in the planning stages.
The full report is upstairs and you can have it in my Office.
**Secretary-General’s report on Liberia
In his fifteenth progress report to the Security Council on the United Nations Mission in Liberia, the Secretary-General said remarkable achievements were made by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s Government in consolidating peace and promoting economic recovery in the country. He added that the process of consolidating peace and rebuilding State institutions is still in its formative stage and that remaining challenges are formidable.
Also stressing that illegal diamond mining continues to pose serious challenges and remains a potential source of instability, the Secretary-General urged the Liberian Government to further strengthen its regulation of the sector and to ensure that Liberia becomes fully compliant with the Kimberley Process.
The report is also on the racks.
Turning to Kosovo, the Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General today signed an executive decision authorizing the Central Elections Commission to start technical preparations for elections for mayors and assembly members in Kosovo. An election date is expected to be announced in early September.
In signing the decision, the Deputy, Steven Schook, reiterated the UN’s position that the democratic process in Kosovo should move forward. He stressed, however, that it is important for elections not to interfere with the resolution of final status.
We have more information in a press release upstairs.
**Secretary-General Message to Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit
Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, today delivered a message from the Secretary-General to the Seventh Summit of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
He said that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization had emerged as an important regional forum for addressing the threats posed by terrorism, drug trafficking and regional conflict.
He also noted the organization’s initiatives to improve access to technology, boost investment and trade, and develop infrastructure, thereby improving the lives of nearly 1.5 billion people.
We have the full text of his message upstairs.
On Cambodia, the United Nations has been notified that the Cambodian Government has issued a decree to appoint a judge for the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia, which is investigating the crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge years, as a President of the Cambodian Court of Appeal.
The United Nations is concerned about the effect of that appointment on the efficiency of the proceedings currently before the Court. The United Nations is also concerned about its impact on the perceived independence of the Extraordinary Chamber.
Further clarification is now being sought from the Cambodian authorities.
**WHO - Malaria
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued today new guidance on insecticide-treated mosquito nets, saying their distribution should be free or highly subsidized.
The agency also recommends that the nets be used by everyone in affected areas. Previous WHO guidelines focused primarily on providing nets to children under 5 years old and pregnant women.
The agency reports that results obtained in Kenya, on the basis of a new WHO strategy, show that free mass distribution of nets is a powerful way to quickly and dramatically increase protection against malaria, particularly among the poorest people. Malaria still kills more than 1 million people each year.
And we have more on these new guidelines upstairs.
**Tribute - United Nations Baghdad Bombing
And then, tomorrow morning, at 10:15 in the General Assembly Building’s public lobby, there will be a brief wreath-laying ceremony to remember the 22 people who were killed in the 19 August 2003 bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad. More than 150 people were injured in that bombing, as well.
The Secretary-General will make remarks at that occasion.
Also, UN staff will observe a moment of silence tomorrow at 10:30, in tribute to the memory of all those who were killed in Baghdad that day.
This is all I have for you. Any questions? Yes, Mark?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Two for me. Just one quick one, is Ed Luck going to be…?
Spokesperson: Pardon me, I didn’t hear you.
Question: Is Edward Luck going to be getting an imminent appointment from the Secretary-General? And just with regards to questions yesterday, does the Secretary-General consider the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to be a terrorist organization?
Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General doesn’t have any opinion on that to express at this point. On your first question –- no, we don’t have anything on any appointment of that sort.
Question: So Ed Luck is not going to be getting an appointment soon?
Spokesperson: We don’t know. I said I would announce further appointments as soon as I have them.
Question: Before I ask my question, for clarification, that appointment you announced in Lebanon, is she going to work under Pedersen, or is she going to replace Pedersen?
Spokesperson: No -- under.
Question: Secondly, the Secretary-General announced this morning a meeting with the Saudi Foreign Minister. Can you tell us what this is all about?
Spokesperson: Well, they haven’t met yet. As far as I know, it has been postponed.
Question: Who asked for it? Is there anything on the agenda that we know of?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know…
Question: Is this about [talkover]?
Spokesperson: Well, they have been facilitating talks about a number of issues, on the Middle East. They were also involved on a solution on the Darfur situation when we were in Riyadh. So I will get for you the full scale of their meeting as soon as they meet.
Question: When you say “full scale”, you mean you will [talkover]…?
Spokesperson: I will tell you what was discussed.
Question: [Inaudible] and they shook hands?
Spokesperson: No, no, I will tell you what was discussed and the specific topics.
Spokesperson: Pardon me?
Question: We won’t hear it was constructive.
Spokesperson: Well, what I usually say, Evelyn, is that I don’t qualify them. I do tell you what was discussed during those meetings.
Question: Can I follow-up? Is one of the topics to be discussed the issue of the Tribunal in Lebanon by any chance? I mean Saudi support -– finance for the Hariri Tribunal.
Spokesperson: As I said, after the meeting I will get the information for you.
Question: But [inaudible] probably you prepare something for the SG before he goes into discussion with someone. So, I was wondering what some of the topics…
Spokesperson: Well, I prefer to give you the final thing once it happens.
Question: Will he come out to the mic?
Spokesperson: I don’t think so. He has not told us that he would.
Question: So you said it was postponed? It’s not 12:30 anymore?
Spokesperson: It’s -– no, it is 12:30. It is 12:30. Yes?
Question: On Iraq, does the Secretary-General think the situation as it is unfolding now -– yesterday, 250 were killed and it is becoming a killing field. And there have been calls from authors and writers [inaudible] that the situation in Iraq should be declared genocide. Since the US invasion, so many people have been killed. Does the Secretary-General think that it should be declared genocide?
Spokesperson: At this point, he’s following the situation closely. That’s all I can say. You had his statement yesterday on the events that occurred yesterday, and he’s following the situation closely. That’s all I can say.
Question: On another issue, on this issue of Sri Lanka and Mr. Holmes, he was being accused by the Sri Lankan Government [inaudible]. Has that issue been resolved?
Spokesperson: I didn’t understand your question.
Question: Mr. Holmes.
Spokesperson: Mr. Holmes, yes?
Question: He had accused the Sri Lankan Government, had some sort of dispute with the Human Rights Minister of Sri Lanka. Has that dispute been resolved as yet?
Spokesperson: There is no dispute. There was a statement made in the press and, you know, giving accusations against Mr. Holmes. We believe them to be unwarranted and unacceptable. The Secretary-General fully supports the work of his Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes. So that’s what I can say at this point concerning those comments.
Mr. Holmes has conveyed his own views in a letter to the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights of Sri Lanka. Holmes said that it is regrettable that a few words used in an interview have attracted disproportionate attention and have threatened to overshadow his sincere desire to have the most constructive relationship possible with the Government. He had simply been referring factually to the terrible incidents that have taken place regarding humanitarian workers last year and the need to step up further all efforts to prevent such things in the future.
That’s what I can say in terms of Mr. Holmes’ reaction and the Secretary-General’s reaction.
Question: And that’s not a dispute?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t know whether it is a dispute or not. Mr. Holmes would not see it as a dispute and, simply, he finds it regrettable. [Talk over] and the Secretary-General has expressed his comments.
Question: [Talkover] said somebody was a terrorist who took bribes from a terrorist organization. You call it unwarranted and unacceptable, and that’s not a dispute?
Spokesperson: Well, I’m not qualifying dispute or no dispute. I’m just saying what the reaction is. Okay? You asked me for the reaction. I gave it to you.
Question: Just to follow-up on that, there was also a Sri Lankan defence official said that Action Contre la Faim, the NGO who had 17 workers killed, that it was their fault that the people were killed. Is there a UN response to that?
Spokesperson: Well, I think it was largely responded to by Mr. Holmes when he spoke about the incident. And we had a statement by Mr. Holmes about the incident.
Question: Okay. Can I ask, yesterday, there was a meeting between Mr. Ban and the Georgian Mission? Georgian press has reported that Mr. Ban is interested in, or in support of, a UN investigation of the unexploded missile that fell in Georgia. What is Mr. Ban’s position on –- what was the meeting about, first of all?
Spokesperson: Well, I got a readout of the meeting for you, because all those reports were untrue. There was no statement made by Mr. Ban at the end of the meeting. There was no press briefing. You would have been informed if there was such a thing. So there was no press briefing or any statement by Mr. Ban after the meeting.
What I can tell you is that, during the meeting, the Secretary-General and the Permanent Representative of Georgia discussed the 6 August incident in the Georgian territory.
And the Secretary-General expressed his hope that the investigation, which is led by international experts, could bring more clarity on this mater. He noted that the UN would not have first-hand information that could confirm or deny the reports.
The Secretary-General also hoped that the peace process would continue, despite this incident.
This was the content of their discussion. The Permanent Representative of Georgia gave a copy of the international experts’ report to the Secretary-General. He also gave the Secretary-General a letter from the Georgian Foreign Minister requesting a meeting of the Friends of Georgia on the margins of the General Assembly.
But it was to inform him of those letters. They were not addressed directly to the Secretary-General. That’s all I can say. Yes?
Question: On humanitarian relief coordination and the North Korea floods, you said before, mentioned all these –- do we know whether such floods occur regularly, or can we compare them to what is described sometimes as Government-generated famine?
Spokesperson: I would suggest you talk to Ms. Wahlström about it. She will be here in a few minutes to inform you about the flood situation.
Question: It’s also about that. She may answer it, but I wanted to ask you; in your initial statement today about Peru, you said that UNDP and OCHA have made money available on an emergency basis. But I remember, yesterday, I think I asked if the lack of UNDP in North Korea was having any effect, and you said no, because humanitarian is all done by the other agencies and not UNDP.
Spokesperson: No, I said humanitarian in Korea would be taken care of by the other agencies. Yes, I said that.
Question: But I guess what –- it seems from what you said today about Peru that UNDP has a role in humanitarian response.
Spokesperson: In this specific case. It depends on the structure that we have in each country that is available to face an emergency situation. In this specific case, we have a structure there, and the structure is essentially UNDP. And UNDP in Peru is acting, but the other agencies, and Ms. Wahlström will give you the details of which agencies would be involved. Some of them are not right on the ground. So when you have an emergency response, first the ones on the ground react, then you have other agencies coming into play.
Question: But do you mean -– I guess this, you may -– prior to UNDP leaving North Korea, would UNDP have been the primary responder to the North Korea floods?
Spokesperson: Not the primary one, but in quite a few countries, UNDP is the central agency coordinating the work of all the others. In this specific case, the others will be acting on the relief effort.
Yes, any other questions? Ms. Wahlström will be here shortly.
Question: I’m sorry, what time is she due to be here?
Spokesperson: She said 1:30 she will be here. 1:30.
Spokesperson: Yes. Let me see if I have something else about the time. She said she would come after the noon briefing -– 1:15 today.
* *** *For information media • not an official record