30 June 2008
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.


**Noon Guest and Briefing


Immediately following this briefing, Lakhdar Brahimi, Chairman of the Independent Panel on Safety and Security of UN Personnel and Premises Worldwide, will be here to brief you on the Panel's report.  It will be at 12:30 p.m.  At 1:15 today, as the UN Economic and Social Council begins its four-day high-level segment, Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Lord Stern of Brentford will brief about their work in the area of sustainable development and the challenges they foresee.


**Statement on the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701


We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.  The Secretary-General welcomes the progress on the urgent humanitarian aspects of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) achieved by the recent decision of the Israeli Government.  These involve the return of the two abducted Israeli soldiers and the solution of the cases of Lebanese prisoners held in Israel.  He looks forward to the signing and the full implementation of the negotiated agreement in the near future.  He hopes that the envisaged humanitarian moves will encourage further steps on implementing other parts of the resolution and contribute to further humanitarian moves.


** Zimbabwe


On Zimbabwe, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro this morning addressed the leaders of the African Union at their summit meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, telling them that we must stand by the people of Zimbabwe, who are facing an extremely grave crisis.  She called the situation in Zimbabwe “the single greatest challenge to regional stability in southern Africa, not only because of its terrible humanitarian and security consequences, but also because of the dangerous political precedent it sets”.  She noted that, regrettably, the run-off election went ahead last Friday, despite the concerns raised and calls made by the international community, including by the Security Council, to suspend the vote.  This is a moment of truth for regional leaders, the Deputy Secretary-General warned.


In a statement we put out yesterday from Japan, the Secretary-General expressed his support for the views expressed by the President of the Security Council regretting the decision by the Government of Zimbabwe to go ahead with the presidential elections.  The Secretary-General has said repeatedly that conditions were not in place for a free and fair election, and observers have confirmed this from the deeply flawed process.  The outcome did not reflect the true and genuine will of the Zimbabwean people or produce a legitimate result.  The Secretary-General encourages efforts of the two sides to negotiate a political solution that would end violence and intimidation.  He supports the efforts of the African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) to promote an agreement acceptable to the people of Zimbabwe.  We have the full statement upstairs, and the statement by the Security Council President, which was issued Friday evening, is also available on our website.


**Deputy Secretary-General at African Union Summit


The Deputy Secretary-General, in her statement at the African Union summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, welcomed the summit’s focus on the Millennium Development Goals -- including the targets on water and sanitation.  With only seven and a half years to go, she said, we must do everything possible to accelerate progress on the Goals.  The Deputy Secretary-General added that we have seen progress in a number of post-conflict African States, with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau all embarking on longer-term efforts to consolidate peace.  Their efforts deserve greater support from the international community, she said.  And she said that Somalia, a country that has some of the worst indicators on Earth, has taken a step towards improving stability.  The Deputy Secretary-General welcomed the recent Djibouti Agreement on Somalia and called on all parties to abide by their commitments.


**Secretary-General in Tokyo


The Secretary-General is in Japan today, where, among other events, he met with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.  The Secretary-General and his wife had an audience also with the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and later in the day with the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan.  After his meeting with Prime Minister Fukuda, the Secretary-General told the press that they had an excellent discussion on the major challenges the world faces, and he particularly thanked the Prime Minister for his strong personal leadership and tireless efforts to make the coming G-8 [Group of Eight] summit meeting in Toyako a great success.  The Secretary-General said that the summit would be a major milestone in the common effort to mobilize international action on such challenges as climate change, the food crisis and the Millennium Development Goals.  He added that he and the Prime Minister had paid particular attention to Africa, given Japan’s long-standing effort to turn it into “a continent of hope”.


He also said he appreciated the news that Japan is going to send its Self-Defence Forces to the UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and also establish a peacekeeping training centre with financial support.  Earlier, the Secretary-General met with the Foreign Minister, Masahiko Koumura, who hosted a luncheon in his honour.  He also met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura and with Akihiro Ohta, the Chief Representative of the New Komei Party.  And you can have more information, of course, upstairs, but also on our News Centre site, where you have about two stories a day on what is happening in Japan.


**Economic and Social Council


The Economic and Social Council today opened its high-level segment, which runs through Thursday.  Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang this morning delivered a message on behalf of the Secretary-General.  In it, he noted that we are at a critical juncture in the implementation of the UN development agenda.  The fragile state of the major developed market economies, persistent global imbalances and soaring oil and other commodity prices are slowing global economic growth, while rising food and energy prices are hitting the poor and vulnerable especially hard.


“No social or economic order is secure if it fails to benefit the majority of those who live under it,” he said, adding that we should also all have serious concerns about a system whose wealthiest 400 citizens command more resources than its “bottom billion”.  He called on the international community to pursue truly concerted efforts to redress the woes of the global economy, which also include the challenges of climate change and scepticism about globalization, and fears that it is leaving many people behind.  This session of ECOSOC should give new impetus to achieving economic growth, social development and environmental protection, he said. 


**Appointment of New Head of Peacekeeping Operations


We have two appointments to announce.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today the appointment of Alain Le Roy of France as Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.  Mr. Le Roy will replace Jean-Marie Guéhenno.  The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Guéhenno’s dedicated service to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and for his important contribution to the achievement of its goals.  He recalled the strong sense of commitment and professionalism shown consistently by Mr. Guéhenno to the fulfilment of his responsibilities.


As the new Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy brings to the job an extensive experience in public administration, management and international affairs, both at the political level and in the field.  After serving in the private sector as a petroleum engineer, he joined the public service as Sous-préfet, then as Counsellor at the Cour des comptes (French Audit office).  Mr. Le Roy was appointed as Deputy to the UN Special Coordinator for Sarajevo and Director of Operations for the restoration of essential public services.  He went on missions for UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] in Mauritania and was appointed UN Regional Administrator in Kosovo (West Region).


After having been National Coordinator for the Stability Pact for South-East Europe in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he was appointed European Union Special Representative in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  He was subsequently appointed Assistant Secretary for Economic and Financial Affairs in the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, before serving as the French Ambassador to Madagascar.  You have more on this appointment upstairs.


**Appointment of AU-UN Chief Mediator for Darfur


Another appointment, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the African Union Chairperson have appointed Djibril Yipènè Bassolé of Burkina Faso as Joint African Union-United Nations Chief Mediator for Darfur.  Mr. Bassolé will conduct the mediation efforts in the Sudan on a full-time basis.  He will be based in El Fasher.  United Nations and African Union Special Envoys for Darfur Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim will remain available for advice and engagement as required.  Djibril Yipènè Bassolé, who is 51 years old, comes to this position with extensive experience in multilateral diplomacy and mediation processes.  Since 2007, Mr. Bassolé has been serving as his country’s Foreign Minister.  Between 2000 and 2007, he was Minister of Security and played a key role in facilitating the Ouagadougou Agreement of 2007.  You have more on this also upstairs.


**Security Council


The Security Council this morning unanimously adopted a resolution clarifying how Member States are to implement the sanctions measures that have been previously imposed on the individuals, groups and entities linked to Al-Qaida and the Taliban.  Council members then received a briefing on the work of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate by its chief, Mike Smith.  He presented a survey on the implementation of resolution 1373 (2001), which set up the Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee.  Today is the last day of the United States presidency of the Security Council.  Tomorrow, Viet Nam will assume the presidency of the Council for the month of July.


** Sudan


This morning in Darfur, a patrol from the UN-AU Mission, known as UNAMID, to the Zamzam camp for internally displaced persons was denied entry to the camp for their normal duties by members of the SLA (Minni (M)) group, which is a faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army.  When the patrol attempted to return to their base, they were again prevented from doing so.  The SLA (M) soldiers were demanding immediate compensation for an injured member who was involved in a motorbike accident with a UNAMID vehicle on 25 June.  That accident is presently being investigated by the Government of Sudan and UNAMID Military Police, but the SLA (M) soldiers want immediate compensation without the necessary legal procedures being followed.  The patrol was eventually allowed to return to their base after a wait of more than five hours.


[The Spokesperson later noted that the 38 peacekeepers had been held hostage at gunpoint for more than five hours.  They were released following negotiations between UNAMID and the SLA (M) leadership.]


**Statement on Guatemala


I have also a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Guatemala.  The Secretary-General of the United Nations is saddened by the news of the helicopter crash that took the lives of Vinicio Gómez and Edgar Hernández, Minister and Vice-Minister of the Interior of Guatemala.  He wishes to express his sincere condolences to the Government of Guatemala, its people and the families for this tragic loss, both personally and for the important work they were doing at the head of the Ministry.


**World Food Programme in Sudan


On Sudan, the World Food Programme (WFP) has sent its condolences to the family of one of its drivers, who was killed in an ambush over the weekend in Southern Sudan.  Twenty-eight-year-old Muzamil Ramadan Sida from Uganda was shot and killed after delivering food to a WFP warehouse in Juba.  His death brings to five the number of WFP-contracted drivers or their assistants killed in south Sudan this year.


With banditry and insecurity making it dangerous for humanitarians to travel by road in many parts of Southern Sudan and Darfur, there is welcome news for aid workers from more than 200 organizations who depend on WFP’s humanitarian air service.  That service will remain up and running through the end of September, after receiving donations of nearly $15 million.  This is for the air service.  The funds are still not enough to prevent some service cuts, and the air service has no funds to operate beyond the end of September.  There is more information upstairs on that issue.


** Afghanistan


On Afghanistan, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes spoke to the press in Kabul yesterday about his first visit to Afghanistan, where he discussed the worsening humanitarian situation in the country.  He said that the most serious immediate problem is food insecurity, as a result of the rise in global food prices and the recent drought.  He noted that the UN appeal earlier this year for $81 million to deal with that food crisis has been well-funded, but more may be needed, so work is being done on another larger appeal.  Holmes added that the number of civilian casualties from the fighting in the country is a source of great concern.  He said that most of the casualties are caused by insurgents, but there are also still significant numbers caused by the international military forces.  We have the briefing notes upstairs.


**WFP in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea


The World Food Programme has signed an agreement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that will allow it to increase rapidly food assistance to more than 5 million people.  WFP will also expand its operations into 128 counties, up from just 50.  New areas covered include the traditionally food-insecure north-east and some counties that have never before been accessible to humanitarian agencies.  The agreement will also allow WFP to send nearly 50 more international aid workers to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  They will oversee and monitor the delivery of food to make sure it reaches those most in need.  Following the signing of the agreement on Friday, a ship from the United States arrived yesterday in the port of Nampo, carrying 37,000 tons of wheat.  It is the first instalment of a US food aid pledge of up to 500,000 tons.


**World Health Organization and Tuberculosis


The World Health Organization (WHO) today took part in the unveiling of a new rapid test for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).  Instead of waiting two to three months for the diagnosis, during which time they can transmit the disease to others, patients in 16 developing countries will now receive their test results in just two days.  In addition to enhancing lab facilities and training lab staff, today’s initiatives will also boost the supply of drugs needed to treat MDR-TB in these and nearly 40 other countries.


**UNDP Ethics Office Appointment


The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has announced the appointment of a new head of its Ethics Office.  Ms. Elia Armstrong of Canada has been working as a Senior Governance and Public Administration Officer for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) since December 2006.  Prior to that, she helped set up the operations of the new UN Ethics Office in the Secretariat.  She also worked for six years as a Public Administration officer for DESA and as a consultant on civil service reform, primarily on public sector ethics.  Ms. Armstrong replaces Karunesh Bhalla, who has served as head of UNDP’s Ethics Office since last December.


**Food and Agriculture Organization on China Quake


Last month’s earthquake in China’s Sichuan province caused an estimated $6 billion in damage to the agricultural sector, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).  An FAO assessment mission that recently visited Sichuan province found that over 30 million people in rural communities have been severely hit, losing most of their assets.  FAO notes that it could take three to five years to rebuild the agricultural sector in Sichuan.  There is a news release from FAO upstairs in my Office.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


And then, just a look ahead, tomorrow, here in Room 226 at 11:15, Léo Mérorès, President of ECOSOC; Liu Guijin, Special Envoy on African Affairs of China; and George Gyan-Baffour, Deputy Minister of Finance of Ghana, will brief on the launch of the first ECOSOC Development Cooperation Forum, as well as speaking on lessons learned in the area of international development cooperation.  There might be some changes on this panel, and I will let you know by tonight.


At 12:30 p.m., Jean-Maurice Ripert, Permanent Representative of France, will brief on the launch of the French European Union presidency on 1 July.


And at 1:15, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, presents this year's UN World Economic and Social Survey.


This is all for tomorrow.  I have very little time.  We have two minutes.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  What happened to the briefings with Mr. Brahimi and the other gentleman?


Spokesperson:  That’s why I’m saying I’m going to shorten the question-and-answer period.  Mr. Brahimi is coming at 12:30.


Question:  You said someone else is coming.


Spokesperson:  No, I did not say that.  I said Mr. Brahimi is coming at 12:30.


Question:  In view of the very strong statement by the Secretary-General on Zimbabwe, does that mean the United Nations no longer recognizes President Mugabe as President and will not deal with him?


Spokesperson:  No, this is not what this means.  There are negotiations going on.  The Secretary-General has been pretty straightforward about his view of what is happening.  At any rate, it is not for the Secretary-General to recognize a State or Head of State.


Question:  But he says the election was flawed?


Spokesperson:  But it is not in his mandate to recognize a Government or not recognize a Government.  It is a matter for Member States.


Question:  Two questions, Michèle.  One, about the current Security Council resolution that was passed today, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan had seen that there was a problem with the way these names are put on these lists with no due process, that the people don’t have a chance to challenge that they’re being put on, sometimes they don’t even know about it, there’s no review process for them.  This is a serious issue that’s been brought up by a number of European States, as well as something before the Advocate General, in a case about this Saudi Arabian person has said that he thinks this is not appropriate that the Security Council is having Member States do this, this is a violation of due process rights.  Does the Secretary-General have any response to the fact that there is now the new Security Council resolution 1822 does not do anything about that problem?


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General will not have an input on this.  This is a Security Council matter.


Question:  Michèle, I’ll keep these brief.  One is about Sudan.  There is some controversy over the extension of Mr. Karenzi [Karake], the number two man in UNAMID, based on an indictment in Spain in February.  Mr. Agwai has apparently been offered a contract and not Mr. Karenzi.  What’s the Secretariat’s thinking in this regard?  Is it an open question whether he will be extended?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have an answer for you at this point.  I asked this morning.  We don’t have anything new to add on this.  As soon as we get something I’ll let you know.


[The Spokesperson later said that the United Nations takes this issue seriously and is continuing consultations with all parties, including the Rwandan authorities.]


Question:  And I wanted to also ask, the contract of those who work on UNTV is about to expire today, and I won’t go into it, except to say that over the weekend, apparently, the contractor, vending services, was bringing in replacement workers, apparently with the UN helping them to bring them in.  What is the position of the UN on the rights of these workers to continue their contract and not be replaced, to strike, or not be locked out?  


Spokesperson:  You do know that it’s not a UN contract.  It’s a contract with a company, and the company hires the people working for them.  Of course, I’m sure it has been brought to the attention of people in human resources, but at this point, there is really no UN answer.  This is a contract.  The UN negotiates contracts with the contractor himself, and the people working for the contractor have their own contract with the company.


Question:  Is the UN, one, giving any guidance to the company in terms of how to treat its workers, and two, if they were to go on strike or be locked out tomorrow, who would be filming this?


Spokesperson:  Actually I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.  I’ll try to find out, but, as I said, this is a matter between the company and its employees.  One last question, because Mr. Brahimi is waiting.


Question:  You were talking about the prisoner swap and the Secretary-General welcomed it.  Now, admittedly there are 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails.  Has the Secretary-General asked the Israelis to start thinking about releasing the Palestinian prisoners who’ve been languishing for such a long period of time?


Spokesperson:  You know the question of prisoners has been a constant subject for negotiation.  The negotiations are still ongoing and the UN is certainly trying as much as possible to facilitate the process.  That’s all I can say, really.


Question:  Do you have any response to the question I asked on Friday, on the beating up of journalists by the Israeli security forces?


Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have anything on that.


Question:  [Inaudible] these were agents and ministers of Government.  These were not fighters and taken.  These were just grabbed.


Spokesperson:  I welcome your statement.  That’s really all I have to stay.  Thank you very much.  Now Mr. Brahimi will be coming in.


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For information media • not an official record