10 November 2008
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Enrique Yeves, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


Good afternoon, all.


**Press Conferences Today


Our guest at the noon briefing today is Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN political Mission in Nepal.


After Enrique’s briefing and following Mr. Martin’s press conference, there will be a technical briefing on the media arrangements for the upcoming General Assembly meeting on culture of peace.  Of course it will be off-camera, so if you need to know, stay in the room.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


Fighting continued intermittently over the weekend and earlier today in North Kivu, says the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).  As a result of the spreading hostilities, the UN Mission has restricted the movement of UN personnel.  Meanwhile, internally displaced civilians continue to gather at UN facilities, with another 600 new arrivals reported today.  The UN refugee agency, for its part, says that a total of 15,000 Congolese fleeing the violence have now been registered in neighbouring Uganda.


In response to the mounting humanitarian crisis, UNICEF says that 29 tons of emergency relief supplies arrived yesterday in Goma to assist some 100,000 people displaced from their homes in the past 10 days.  Distribution of food aid to displaced people at the camps in Kibati, which was interrupted because of fighting on 7 November, restarted over the weekend.  Food for 65,000 people was delivered by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Red Cross.  Materials to build shelters for 333 families -- up to 1,200 people -- have also been delivered at Kibati, but more shelter equipment is still required.


The UN Mission, meanwhile, says that a multidisciplinary team it sent to the village of Kiwanja, near Rutshuru, to investigate reports of massacres of civilians has now returned.  The team said that it received credible reports that civilians were targeted, that a large number of them were murdered, even though no precise number is yet available.  The military hostilities on November 4th and 6th involved the PARECO movement and rebels loyal to Laurent Nkunda.


The team visited 11 burial sites that witnesses said contained 26 bodies of combatants and civilians.  Some sources gave a higher number for civilian deaths, but this is unconfirmed.


** Middle East


The Secretary-General met yesterday with members of the Middle East Quartet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  The meeting was unique since it was the first time that the Quartet was briefed by the parties themselves.  The two parties were represented by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.


The Quartet reiterated its commitment to supporting the parties’ efforts, underlined its commitment to the irreversibility of the bilateral negotiations, pledged to respect the bilateral and confidential nature of the negotiations, and called on all States to adhere to these same commitments.


The Quartet also renewed its call on relevant States and international organizations to assist in the development of the Palestinian economy and maximize the resources available to the Palestinian Authority.


In addition, the Quartet stressed its determination to keep working with Israel and the Palestinian Government to facilitate access and movement and an improvement in conditions on the ground.


The Quartet also reiterated its call to the parties to fully implement their obligations under phase one of the Road Map, including in relation to freezing settlement activity and the dismantlement of the infrastructure of terrorism.


The Quartet agreed that the spring of 2009 could be an appropriate time for an additional, international meeting in Moscow.


In a press conference held after yesterday’s Quartet meeting, the Secretary-General said he was “deeply distressed” about the plight of the civilian population in Gaza.  He added that, through its humanitarian work, the UN was standing by the people of Gaza and helping them in these difficult times.


The Secretary-General also said that the closure of crossings, roadblocks, settlement issues and the demolition of houses were not desirable for the ongoing peace process.  He had discussed such matters with Israeli officials, he added.  The Secretary-General noted that the creation of an atmosphere conducive to the ongoing peace process was extremely important.


Stressing that the calm brokered by Egypt needed to be respected, he also said that he was concerned about recent violence and called for it to stop immediately.  He added that the Palestinian factions must work together towards national unity and reconciliation.


** Iraq


On Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, condemned the double bombing in Baghdad today, which killed dozens of innocent civilians and wounded scores more.  De Mistura described these bombings as “repugnant crimes aimed at re-instilling fear, distrust and division among the public, just as Iraq prepares itself to assume political normalcy with the upcoming provincial elections”.


He extended his sincere condolences to the bereaved families and his wishes for the full and speedy recovery for the wounded.


Also today, the Secretary-General’s latest report to the Security Council on the work of the UN Mission in Iraq is out as a document.  In it, he notes the fragility of the improvements in the security situation and says that national reconciliation remains the main priority for ongoing UN efforts in Iraq.


He says that the provincial elections in early 2009 represent the most significant events in the coming months, as they can advance political dialogue, establish representative provincial councils and empower community leaders to meet the needs of local citizens in cooperation with the Government of Iraq.  At the same time, he warns, there is potential for election-related violence and instability.


** Haiti


On Haiti, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, is saddened by the massive death toll of the collapsed school building in Port-au-Prince.  In a statement just released, copies of which are available upstairs, Holmes expressed his condolences to the relatives and friends of the children and teachers who lost their lives in the accident.  He also appealed for calm in Port-Au-Prince to give rescuers time to do their work.  The UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, says that the official Haitian Civil Protection Unit has put at 89 the number of dead -- I think the number has gone up since -- with 150 people wounded.  Some 260 people were reported to be in the building when it collapsed on Friday.


Meanwhile, search and rescue operations by UN peacekeepers, local and international teams continue.  And the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Haiti, Hedi Annabi, has warned against any rash action to put heavy demolition equipment to work.  “As long as there remains a chance to find survivors, one must hold back on using heavy equipment,” he said.


** Cyprus


On Cyprus, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Cyprus, Alexander Downer, arrived on the island today in preparation for two meetings of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders, which will be held tomorrow and Thursday, 13 November, under UN auspices.


Today, Downer will host a meeting of the leaders’ representatives.  On Wednesday, 12 November, Downer is scheduled to meet separately with Greek Cypriot leader, Demetris Christofias, and Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat.  This week, Downer will also hold discussions and briefings with members of the diplomatic community and other officials.


** Afghanistan


Over the weekend, the UN Mission in Afghanistan opened its eighteenth office, in the town of Pul-i-Khumri in the province of Baghlan.  The office, the Mission said, will play a crucial role in coordinating development efforts, monitoring human rights, strengthening good governance and the rule of law, assisting local institutions and facilitating aid deliveries.


The UN Mission highlighted the opening of the office in its press briefing today in Kabul, which also mentions the World Food Programme’s efforts to preposition and distribute 36,000 tons of food before winter hits.


**Environment


Discussions are under way in Malaysia on whether to establish an intergovernmental scientific body on biodiversity and ecosystems, similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


Supporters say that such a body would put the state of the natural world high on the world’s political radar, and give momentum to policies that address the decline of the planet’s natural assets.


They note that scientific discoveries often remain within research institutes and universities for years before they reach the wider world.  By that time, it may be too late to protect the species concerned.


**Certain Conventional Weapons


We have upstairs also a message from the Secretary-General to the State Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons’ protocol on explosive remnants of war.  That meeting started today in Geneva.


In his message, the Secretary-General says he encourages the parties to agree on strong practical steps to help victims of explosive remnants of war.  More support to the clearance, removal and destruction of unexploded ordnance is also needed.


He also says that the parties should establish a culture of information-sharing.  The Secretary-General calls upon those States that have not yet ratified the relevant protocol, to do so without delay.


**Food and Agriculture Organization -- Miriam Makeba


With the sudden death of South African singer and human rights activist, Miriam Makeba, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has lost one of its most dedicated advocates, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said today.


Makeba had been an FAO Goodwill Ambassador since 1999.  She participated in a long list of events and concerts organized by FAO and was also active in communications campaigns against hunger.  Makeba’s last official mission on behalf of FAO was this past March.  She travelled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to visit FAO emergency projects designed to help survivors of violence and HIV-positive women and men to feed their families and revive their livelihoods through farming.  There is more information upstairs.


**Observance of Seventieth Anniversary of Kristallnacht Pogrom


DPI’s Holocaust and UN Outreach Programme will hold two events today in observance of the seventieth anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom, known as the “night of broken glass”, in Germany and Austria.


A panel discussion will take place at 1 p.m., followed by a documentary film screening at 6 p.m.  Both events will be in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium. All are invited to attend, and we have more information upstairs.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


Tomorrow at 11 a.m., the Secretary-General will hold his monthly press conference in this room.  There will be no noon briefing, but we will post highlights on our webpage.


At 12:30 p.m., General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann will brief on the upcoming General Assembly meeting on the culture of peace.


And at 3:30 p.m., there will be a joint press conference by OXFAM, the International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch, on the situation in Goma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  This press conference is sponsored by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).


And this is all I have for you now.  Yes, Betsy?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Just a couple of quick questions.  First, on the DRC, do you know if the International Criminal Court is sending out any investigators yet or is there any interest in that?


Spokesperson:  There is interest in that, but they haven’t yet sent out investigators.  From what I gathered, they expressed interest last week.


Question:  And my second question is will the Secretary-General be here on Wednesday and Thursday for the culture of peace briefing?


Spokesperson:  He will be here on the 12th, he won’t be here on the 13th, because he has to travel on the 13th.  Yes, James?


QuestionTimes reports today that President Bush has an executive order allowing American forces to attack Al-Qaida wherever they are, in whoever’s territory that they are.  Does the UN have any response to that?  Whether it’s a legal thing or not?


Spokesperson:  We have not been informed of that.  We are not…


Question:  You read it in the newspaper, have you?


Spokesperson:  Yes, but I don’t react to newspaper reports.  We don’t have any separate information on it.  Yes?


Question:  It’s been reported that the United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti used gas against the civilians who tried to reach the class in the school.  So, do we know who decided about this use of force?  Do the UN peacekeepers there cooperate with the Government, or is it (inaudible) another position?  And also, my second question is if the United Nations staff was denied entry into Gaza?


Spokesperson:  For your first question, concerning MINUSTAH, they had a serious problem of crowd control on Friday evening and on Saturday, as parents were trying to go back to the school to see their children, and people from the neighbourhood were also coming into the school that had collapsed.  I was not aware they used gas -- I have to verify that information.  I know they had to create a cordon to stop the public from going into the school.  There were two teams working together -- a French team and an American team working together with MINUSTAH -- to get the children out, at least those who had survived, so they had to keep the crowd away from the site.  That’s all I know.   And about the second question about the United Nations staff not getting into Gaza, I have to check that.  I’m not sure it’s true -- we have UN staff staying in Gaza, at any rate.  Yes?


[The Spokesperson later added that, according to the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East (UNSCO), due to rocket fire, the Erez crossing into Gaza was closed today, so it is true that no one, United Nations or otherwise, was allowed into Gaza today. But this closure was not directed against the United Nations specifically.


Question:  Michèle, I’m sorry, maybe one of my colleagues had asked before but, I was wondering, concerning the conference of peace, there’s a lot of question in the Arab world who issued the invitations.  Particularly to the Israeli president, Simon Peres, is it the Saudis or the United Nations -- who’s doing the invitations for this?


Spokesperson:  Well, I’m sure you can get a better answer from the General Assembly Spokesperson, since the General Assembly is hosting the meeting.


Question:  Not the Secretary-General?


Spokesperson:  No, not the Secretary-General.  Yes, Masood?


Question:  Yes, Michèle, in the backdrop of this bombing in Iraq, in which so many people have been killed, I just want to find out, does the United Nations have any figures, since the invasion by the United States and other multilateral forces… Do they have a figure as to how many Iraqis in fact were killed since the invasion (inaudible), and how many Iraqis are displaced?


Spokesperson:  I don’t know if they have any exact figures since they were not there from the start.  You want a global figure?


Question:  Yes, the displaced Iraqis, also now that eventually the Mission is going to be winding down, the United Nations, at one point in time, did release these figures.


Spokesperson:  No, we’re releasing these figures on a yearly basis, but those figures were figures given by the Government.  They were not our own figures -- I mean, we’re not tallying our own number of dead or wounded.


Question:  There were independently verified figures, by certain human rights organizations, that in Iraq, almost a million people were killed.  What I’m saying is nobody talks about refugees or people who are displaced.  (inaudible) can’t find any figures, or anything, to that effect?


Spokesperson:  I’m not aware of any global figures being compiled, and we have stopped giving out figures after we stopped receiving them from the Government agencies, so right now, I don’t think we will have those figures, but at least you can try to get in touch with the Mission itself or we can try to get in touch for you.  Yes?


Question:  About the revelations that (inaudible) has been financing Fatah al-Islam, and that five people were arrested, some of them involved in the killing of the UNIFIL staff in Lebanon.  Have you been following this story?


Spokesperson:  We don’t have that information.


Question:  Are you investigating…? I mean, such allegations are very serious since, of course, the United Nations is involved in Lebanon.  And these people who have been arrested by the Lebanese Army.  The Lebanese Army said today that some of them are involved in the (inaudible).  Is UNIFIL following up on that with them?


Spokesperson:  I’m sure they’re following it up, but I don’t think you’ll get an answer that soon.


Question:  But for some party to be financing a terrorist organization like Fatah al-Islam?


Spokesperson:  But we do not have enough independent information to really rely on.


Question:  There are confessions by the daughter of al-Abssi who is the leader of Fatah al-Islam.  It was put on television live.  Isn’t that worth an investigation from the United Nations?


Spokesperson:  I’ll check for you whether anything is being done.  But I’m sure there is some form of investigation going on, on this.  Yes, Edie?


Question:  Two follow-ups on Congo.  The United Nations staff that are being restricted -- who does that cover, and what are their restrictions?  And second, do you have any information on an outbreak of cholera?


Spokesperson:  In both cases, I’ll try to get the information for you about the details.  The part of the Mission which is restricted is in one specific area, it’s not in the whole of the DRC.  But I’ll get the information for you exactly where and what the restrictions are.  Yes, James?


[The Spokesperson later added that, as of this morning, the restrictions applied to the villages of Dungu and Nyazanle in North Kivu, where fighting was still intense.  The restrictions apply to civilian staff only, not to United Nations troops.  Their geographic scope also changes frequently, depending on where the fighting is taking place.]


Question:  On the culture of peace seminar, which I know the Secretary-General has been working on with King Abdullah for some time.  The way it seemed in the region, King Abdullah’s interfaith series is like part of the slow reform process in a religiously conservative country.   For one thing, is this reform process something the Secretary-General supports?


Spokesperson:  Right now, we cannot say either way, whether the Secretary-General supports what’s happening in Saudi Arabia.  No, I don’t have any statement to make on that.  First, Masood, then we get to you, Matthew.


Question:  Even though the United Nations said about UN dues, there have been no other updates since then?


Spokesperson:  I told you that we would get the update for you today.  It is being followed up.  Yes?


Question:  It has not been yet…?


Spokesperson:  You’ll get it today.  You can check the website.


Question:  …about the human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, by the United Nations?


Spokesperson:  I can check that for you.  You can check the human rights site also, the website.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  There was a standoff between Myanmar and Bangladesh at sea, which seems to have been defused.  I wanted to know if the United Nations or any standby mitigation team, or DPA or anyone in the United Nations system, plays any role in defusing this crisis?


Spokesperson:  I’ll try to get the information for you, but we are all very happy to see that there is less tension in the area.


Question:  I want to reiterate this idea about the standby mediation team, somehow learning more from DPA about what these guys have been -- and girls…


Spokesperson:  Yes, of course, we try to find out for you what they’re doing.  Jared is with us so I’m sure you’ll get something.


Question:  There’s this report in Kabul about the United Nations vehicle that’s either gone missing or been stolen, and it’s said that the cause -- obviously it’s a security problem.  So I know there are some things about it that you couldn’t say… Can you at least confirm the vehicle’s gone missing and/or state what safeguards have been taken so that UN-painted vehicles aren’t taken in a place like Kabul?


Spokesperson:  This morning, we checked and we’re still waiting for an answer on that.  We should get one soon.  We read about it in the press and we’re trying to confirm that it did happen.


[The Spokesperson later added that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had confirmed that one of its cars was stolen.  UNAMA said that security measures are in place to locate the missing vehicle.]


Question:  One last -- Haiti, just a follow-up -- it seems like President Preval, he said… well, the headline is that he acknowledged State responsibility.  He said the building was badly constructed, and this was a result of instability and disorder on a State level in Haiti.  Given MINUSTAH’s central presence in Haiti, is the United Nations system going to provide… does it have anything to say about either building codes or about how things like this can happen again?


Spokesperson:  It has to do with the municipality of Petionville where this incident occurred.  It has nothing to do with the State as a whole.  It has to do with codes in general, but these codes exist – applying them is the problem.


Question:  Does the United Nations have any…?


Spokesperson:  Not for this, no, they exist, there’s a Government in Haiti… those codes have existed for 200 years.


Question:  Something grabbed me about this -- I don’t know if it was gas, it might have been batons, but they used, in the security cordon around the school… Is that something the United Nations checked with the Haitian Government before using force, or does it just use force in case of emergency?  How does that the use of force work?


Spokesperson:  The Haitian police were working with MINUSTAH on this.  And their objective was to keep the crowd away from the school.  So I think they used some measures to really curtail the outpouring of people coming in.  And there were enormous crowds going into a place that was still unstable -- they didn’t know if other buildings might collapse in the area.  So that was the reason.  Yes?


Question:  Is the Secretary-General meeting with King Abdullah over the next couple of days?


Spokesperson: Yes, he is. 


Question:  Do we know when?


Spokesperson:  I will let you know when.  Yes?


Question:  Just a follow-up on the letter that the Spanish Prime Minister sent to Ban Ki-moon.  Do we know if he received it – the one about the cluster bombs and he was requesting the maps…?


Spokesperson:  Yes, you asked me that last time, but I still don’t have an answer on that.  We’ll try to find out whenever that letter gets in. I’ll let you know, of course, immediately.  Yes?


Question:  I’m sorry if you already covered this, but has the Secretary-General’s report on Kosovo come out yet on the EULEX mission? 


Spokesperson:  No, it hasn’t yet.


Question:  Do you expect it by the end of today?


Spokesperson:  Maybe not, maybe by the end of this week.


Question:  Because the Security Council tomorrow may not happen without that report?


Spokesperson:  Yes, I’ll try to find out when that is, but I don’t think it’s tomorrow that the Council’s going to examine it.  I’ll check for you on the Council’s schedule.  Yes?


Question:  On the Lebanon tribunal issue, any information on when Mr. Bellmare is planning to brief the Council or present his next report on his investigation?  Is it December, or end of November?


Spokesperson:  I’ll check the date for you.  At any rate, there won’t be any names in that report.  You asked me that before – there won’t be any names in that report.


Question:  Just the date this time -- I don’t expect to know who killed (inaudible).


Spokesperson:  You don’t expect that, no. 


[The Spokesperson later added that Daniel Bellmare’s next briefing was expected in December.]


Question:  It’s kind of a housekeeping issue – there’s a lot of information that you need to get back to us on and I’m wondering how that will be disseminated?   Will it be squawked all day, will it be released in a subsequent…?


Spokesperson:  Usually, we send the answer in the afternoon to whoever asked the question, as soon as we get the answer.  We don’t squawk everything.  If there are several questions on one issue, then we squawk it.


Question:  Because there’s a lot of information and some of it I haven’t asked but might be interested in following. 


Spokesperson:  Sure.  You can let us know and we’ll of course get it for you as soon as we can.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon to everybody.  Since we’re all running, let’s go straight to the point, and I assume that what you want to know mostly is an update on the attendance at the meeting this week on culture of peace.  We have, up to now, 65 delegations that have signed on as speakers, and let me give you an update of the Heads of State and Heads of Government who are coming.


Heads of State, we have Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Kuwait, Israel, Bahrain, Jordan, Finland, Pakistan, Lebanon and the United States.  Then we have other Heads of Government: the United Kingdom, Qatar, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Djibouti, Egypt.  And then we have some Foreign Ministers from Paraguay, Guinea, from Oman, from the Dominican Republic and from Bosnia Herzegovina.  From Kazakhstan, we have the Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament; from India we have the Minister of State for External Affairs; and from The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, we have the Minister of Culture.  And those are basically the ones that I have up to now.  As you know, this is a list that keeps changing constantly.  And this is basically what I have since I don’t want to let Mr. Martin delay, but let’s go quickly to some questions.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  It’s the same question I asked Michèle -- who exactly is issuing the invitations for these leaders to come -- is it the Saudis?  We know the first round of this conference was held in Saudi Arabia and it was a Saudi initiative, so was it the Saudis this time that issued the invitations as well?


Spokesperson:  No, the invitations were issued by the President of the General Assembly in a letter on the 8 October -– that’s available online if you want to have a look in the website of the General Assembly.


Let me very briefly remind you how the system works at the UN -- when you have different countries putting forward initiatives, and in this case, the King of Saudi Arabia put forward this initiative, but then it is discussed by the General Committee of the General Assembly whether this is included or not in the agenda for the period.  And it was discussed and it was agreed.  And as such, once it is an event, when it is an item of the General Assembly, the President of the General Assembly sends the letter of invitation.


Question:  The Saudis, the ones who made this initiative, supposedly objected to something here and there.  So was this in consultation with the Saudis?


Spokesperson:  Well, it is in consultation -– the General Assembly always consults with several Member countries.  But as I said, if you go to the web -- because it’s online -- you have the letter of the President of the General Assembly and why he has the idea to convene this meeting on item 45 on the culture of peace of the General Assembly.  Masood?


Question:  Just a follow-up on the question I asked you last Friday.  Have you formed a consortium of Member States who are attending this conference to (inaudible) a declaration of objectives or so forth -- has that been done as yet?  The communiqué -- has that been decided or not?


Spokesperson:  They are still negotiating among themselves.  This is a negotiation -- a negotiating process -- and they’re discussing whether they are going to have a resolution or final declaration, and if so, what kind of declaration, etcetera.  It’s a normal UN meeting.


Question:  Are the United Kingdom and Finland the only two European Union countries participating?


Spokesperson:  I have to go through the list.  We have several European countries participating, but we have some at the level of Heads of State, some at the level of Heads of Government, some at the level of Foreign Ministers, but I can give you the full list so you can check which countries…


Question:  So Finland and the UK are the only two sending high-level delegations? 


Spokesperson:  No, we have several -- from Germany, we have the Special Envoy of Chancellor, we have the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Bosnia and Herzegovina, so you have several countries, and still, as I said, this is a list that keeps being updated.  The participation is quite high.


Question:  But it’s only 24 hours before the conference and we still don’t have the full list?


Spokesperson:  We have a list, we have everyday a list.  It is a full list, as of today.  The way it works in the United Nations, it’s always the same.  The delegations present or say either verbally or in writing at what level they’re going to participate, but the list keeps changing during the days.  So you might have Heads of State that had said they’re going to participate, but at the very last minute, they decide not to, so we have a list that we can share with you and with other colleagues, and it would be a different list probably from tomorrow to be updated.


Question:  The final list will be the last day…?


Spokesperson:  Of course.  By definition.  That’s the final list.


Question:  On the question of consultations, you said you consulted everything.  I just wanted to verify this -- did you invite the 192 States to attend, all the Member States of the GA -- that’s one.  Secondly, on the matter of consultations, when the Israeli President was invited, did you raise this question with the Saudis?  Let’s be very clear about this.  Did you raise this question with the Saudis, or did you go ahead and invite the 192 Member countries?  Do you have a list where they’re assigned times, such as you do with the general debate?


Spokesperson:  Let’s be very clear about this.  The President of the General Assembly always invites the 192 Members of the General Assembly, the Members of the Organization, and this goes for any meeting.  This is not different from any other meeting.  It is going to be published tomorrow in the Journal.  Okay?  However, I have a very draft first list I can share with you, in case you need it.  At the end of the meeting.  I’m sorry, let’s go here.


Question:  The United Nations is needed for that…?


Spokesperson:  Correct.  George?


Question:  Just wanted to verify one change.  As to the United Kingdom, I had this previously as Foreign Minister level, which would have meant Mr. [David] Milliband.  You’re telling me now that Mr. [Gordon] Brown is coming?


Spokesperson:  That’s what it says on the list that I have.


Question:  Enrique, can you tell us a little bit about what the hold-up is, in terms of what the language is going to be on the issue?  I mean, it seems awfully close to the wire to still be deciding whether it’s going to be a resolution or a declaration, or nothing, let alone, they have to pre-cook the language before people show up.  And also, can you tell us about what form is it going to take -- is it going to look like the General Assembly debate, or is it going to be round tables, or what?


Question:  Okay.  First on the format, yes, it’ll be just like the general debate -– you will have the Heads of Government, heads of delegations speaking, one by one, for two days, and you’re going to have some on Wednesday and some on Thursday.  And it’s going to be exactly the same format as you have in the general debate.  And the first question was what?  I forgot.


Question:  About the consultations.  What’s the hold-up?


Spokesperson:  There is no hold-up.  It’s simply that there is a discussion among Member countries whether they are going to have, in the end, a final declaration.  And as such, what kind of declaration it’s going to be.  And it’s up to the Member countries to decide what they’re discussing among themselves.


Question:  So who’s on the drafting committee?


Spokesperson:  No, there is no drafting as such.  If I remember well, I think it’s in the Journal today, we have a draft resolution put forward by a couple of countries -- the Philippines, the other I don’t remember by heart -- and this is part of the discussion they’re discussing, if I might say, to decide what’s going to be the final outcome.  And it is, again, like any other meeting where you have other final declarations, where you will have negotiations until the final minute to see which is the final outcome.


Question: If someone were to say that it’s gelling very late in the process, would that be accurate or inaccurate?


Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t say…  I leave the adjectives for you.  But in any kind of meeting, you always have at the very last minute negotiations going on for the final outcome of the document that’s going to be put forward, to have a broader consensus among the member countries.  So this is not very different.  George?


Question:  Will you be releasing any sort of schedule of events or schedule of meetings that at least, a list of speakers that they’re assigned times, such as you do with the general debate?


Spokesperson:  It is going to be published tomorrow in the Journal.  Okay?  However, I have a very draft first list I can share with you, in case you need it.  At the end of the meeting.  I’m sorry, let’s go here.


Question: About the United States, just to make sure, you’re talking about President [George W.] Bush, right?


Spokesperson:  Correct. 


Question:  Apart from him being in this building every September when he opens the general debate, what other occasions, apart from this one, was he in the General Assembly in the past eight years of his tenure?


Spokesperson:  I am, to be honest -- I have to do it by heart -- I am not sure.  But I can check that for you.  James?


Question:  A few quick questions -- one of them is, Gordon Brown -- did we know when, and in what circumstances, we found out that he’d be coming?  And two, you mentioned the draft resolution being circulated by the Philippines.  Do you have a copy of that?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have it here, but we can certainly check that.  And for the United Kingdom, I think you should check with the United Kingdom Mission.


Question:  My third question was the same question I put to Michèle, which was the idea that this -- the way it’s seen in the region, is that the King Abdullah’s interfaith series as part of the broader reform process in a fairly conservative country -- is this a process the GA President supports?


Spokesperson:  The President of the General Assembly has no comments on internal politics of the Member countries.


Question:  Since the General Assembly President is the one issuing invitations, is he trying to organize a meeting between Saudi Arabia and the Israeli Presidents?


Spokesperson:  It is not his role -– not that I’m aware of.  In this type of meetings at this level, they certainly -– the delegations are going to take advantage to have bilateral meetings of all sorts of levels.  But the President of the General Assembly is normally not involved.


Question:  Just a follow-up, the General Assembly President issued invitations to all Member countries, but again, since this is a Saudi initiative, has there been special consultations with the Saudi Kingdom about the programme of work, about who’s to be invited… since they’re the ones who had launched this…?


Spokesperson:  There have been no exceptions.  This is a normal meeting of the General Assembly, as I said before, and I reiterated again.  The President of the General Assembly invited the 192 Members of the Organization.  Masood?


Question:  Just a follow-up to his question, just want to make sure -- is this a follow up to the Madrid Conference that was organized by the Saudis?  This, of course, is being organized by the President of the General Assembly, but is it basically a follow-up to that conference?


Spokesperson:  It is not basically a follow-up.  It is part of the different initiatives at the level of the UN…


Question:  At that conference, they had two resolutions that said they’d ask the UN to hold this conference.


Spokesperson:  Correct.  And you will see in the letter of the President of the General Assembly, he refers to that.  But, at that meeting, they asked the General Assembly to decide whether they wanted to have this meeting, and then it was discussed at the General Assembly and the Member countries decided to have it.


Question: Is it also the understanding of the President of the General Assembly that one of the objectives will be a greater understanding between the Arabs and the Israelis in the creation of a [inaudible] Palestinian State?  Is that the understanding of what they want to do?


Spokesperson:  I can tell you what the understanding of the President of the General Assembly is, and this is going to be the final question, because I don’t want to keep our guest waiting anymore.  As I said before, the President of the General Assembly sees that we should go above the dialogue as such of religions and it should not be a dialogue just about religion.  It should be a meeting about the values that we have, the different cultures, religions and all the other ethical traditions that we have, from Confucius to Karl Marx.  And that we use all those values in this crisis to make sure that we work together with all those shared values in the crisis we are having ahead of us.  And he believes it’s a very good time to really go in-depth into those values that we all share (inaudible) from religious, from cultural, or whether they are ethical traditions, to work together to try to resolve the challenges of the world that we have.


Question:  Have world leaders scheduled press conferences yet that you know of?


Spokesperson: There is going to be a press conference tomorrow by the President of the General Assembly, prior to the meeting.  And then we will have a stakeout during the meeting.  As for practical issues, as Michèle said before, we are going to have now, a briefing by Gary Fowlie and you will have more information on the practical details on how you will be able to interact, from the media point of view, with the different leaders.  The very last question, Matthew.


Question:  A non-religious question, and I’m sorry to Mr. Martin.  But I’m asking because there’s a meeting this afternoon in which the Secretary-General is going to brief the General Assembly Members on the Congo and other issues.  Well first, is the meeting open, if not, why is it not open?  And is there going to be some summary given?  Can the members ask the Secretary-General questions about his approach to the Congo, is this a way for Member States not on the Security Council to have some input into the UN strategy in the Congo?


Spokesperson:  It is a closed meeting because you know the rules -– the countries decide amongst themselves whether they want to have it open or closed.  So this is a closed meeting where the Secretary General is going to be briefing about his latest trips.


Secretary-General’s Spokesperson:  I would just like to add that the Secretary-General himself will be here, too.


Question:  I guess it’s more this idea that when States ask him questions, is it a one-way street, or a two-way street?


Secretary-General’s Spokesperson:  An interactive dialogue.


Spokesperson:  And I was going to add that, after the meeting tomorrow, you’re going to have both the Secretary-General here, as Michèle has already announced, and the President of the General Assembly, on the meeting on the culture of peace.  That was the last question?


Question:  It’s the same question, do either of these two provide a summary of what questions countries asked?


Spokesperson:  Yes, I assume we can.


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For information media • not an official record