12 October 2010
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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, everybody.


**Guest Today


I would like to welcome our guests to the briefing.  And I would also like to welcome my guest here, Radhika Coomaraswamy, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  I think that Ms. Coomaraswamy has some introductory comments.  We’ll then take questions.  And then after Ms. Coomaraswamy’s briefing, I will be happy to read out a couple of other items and take any other questions that you might have.


So, I’m passing the floor now to Ms. Coomaraswamy.  Welcome.


[Ms. Coomaraswamy’s press conference is issued separately.]


**General Assembly — Security Council Elections


A couple more items and I am happy to take some questions.


The General Assembly, as you well know, is voting today on the five incoming members of the Security Council for two-year terms beginning in January 2011.  The incoming members will replace Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda, whose two-year terms expire at the end of this year.  Once all five incoming members have been elected, we will have a chart of next year’s Security Council members in my office.


[The Spokesperson later added that the new elected members were Colombia, Germany, India, Portugal and South Africa.]


**Secretary-General at Portrait Unveiling


And as we speak, the Secretary-General has been attending the unveiling of the UN portrait of his predecessor, Kofi Annan.  The Secretary-General is saying that the painting, by artist John Keane, is a fitting tribute to the wisdom and grace that Kofi Annan showed throughout his long and distinguished career.  And we’ll have his remarks available shortly.


**Guinea


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit, will travel to Guinea tomorrow to extend UN support to the efforts to create the conditions for a peaceful second round of presidential elections, which is now planned for 24 October.  Djinnit will meet with Interim President Sékouba Konaté and the two candidates in the presidential election run-off.  After Conakry, Djinnit will travel to Abuja, where he will meet on Thursday with the President of the ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] Commission, to discuss Guinea and other regional issues.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


At 11:15 a.m., tomorrow in this room, Ms. Yanghee Lee, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, will hold a press conference.


And then at noon, my guests will be Under-Secretary-General Cheick Sidi Diarra, who is the Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.  He will be joined by Alpha Oumar Konaré, the former President of Mali, and James Wolfensohn, the former President of the World Bank.  Alpha Oumar Konaré and James Wolfensohn are the Co-Chairs of the recently established Eminent Persons Group for the Least Developed Countries.  The Secretary-General appointed this Group to raise the visibility of the challenges faced by the group of 49 least developed countries.


Happy to take questions.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask a couple of questions about Sudan.  One is, there has been, I guess in the last 24 hours, there have been a couple of developments.  One is a quote by President [Omer Hassan] al-Bashir that he will not accept any alternative to unity, which many people say is basically a threat not to accept the “yes” vote if the vote is in fact held 9 January.  So I am wondering, there was a statement made on 24 September, but this statement by al-Bashir seems to be totally contradictory to it.  So, I am just wondering, what’s the process for either UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] or the Secretariat to… What did they think of that statement?  And also there was an arrest made on Saturday, as it turns out, of these pro-secession people in Khartoum as part of the demonstration.  They were not only beaten, but it turns out they were arrested.  So the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] has said that’s a bad move and violates the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] that they are not allowed to campaign for secession.  Does the UN have any response to that?


Spokesperson:  On that second question, I’ll see what we can get you on that.  I don’t have anything right now.  On the first question, I would indeed refer back to the statement, the communiqué, that was issued.  I don’t think we will be commenting on every twist and turn.  The basic principles of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are well-known, and the communiqué speaks very clearly about the need to stay on track.


Question:  Did you get anything back on this issue of this village of Sora that was listed as being…?


Spokesperson:  I can assure you that something is in the works.  I don’t have anything for you right now.  Something is in the works.  Yes?


Question:  On Djinnit’s travel to Abuja, can you throw more light on other regional issues he will discuss?


Spokesperson:  I can’t here and now, but I will be happy to find out for you.  Other questions?  All right.  Okay, thank you very much.


[The Spokesperson later added that, when they meet on 14 October in Abuja, Said Djinnit and the ECOWAS Commission President will discuss the situations in Guinea and in Niger.  They will also discuss cross-border and cross-cutting matters related to peace and security that include upcoming elections, drug trafficking and organized crime, security-sector reform, human rights and gender.]


Question:  It’s in the nature of a follow-up.  This issue of Mr. [Jean-Maurice] Ripert, remember this question, it was announced that he is no longer the envoy to Pakistan, but that you said his contract runs to the end of the year.  So I said:  “What is he doing?  Is he actually going to be paid to do no UN work?”  So, I am just wondering, has there been an answer yet to that?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, it wasn’t so much a question you put as a statement and a question.  I still don’t have an answer to give to you right now.  But the notion that you put across in your statement before the question, I would reject that.


Question:  What do you mean?  That he was… Not removed, no, he is no longer in that function.  Is that true?


Spokesperson:  No, that he is doing something for nothing.  That’s not what we said.


Question:  No, no, but does he currently have a job with the UN?  Is he doing any work…?


Spokesperson:  What I have told you is that his contract runs to the end of the year, and I will be happy, once I have that information, to tell you precisely what he is doing between now and then.


Question:  And also you… yesterday the Secretary-General…


Spokesperson:  So, is this a follow-up to this question?


Correspondent:  No, I think I can ask three questions, this is a noon briefing.  I mean, it seems [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  I am not, I am just trying to…


Correspondent:  Okay.  No, it’s a totally different question.


Spokesperson:  I am just trying to establish what the line of questioning is, Matthew.


Question:  Sure, okay.  No, no, this was just… I meant to ask you yesterday, but things ended sort of abruptly.  There was a meeting yesterday morning between the Secretary-General and Roger Wicker, a senator from Mississippi, a Republican, and I just wondered who asked for the meeting and if there was any readout of that meeting?


Spokesperson:  We can request one.  People from all walks of life and from different countries ask for meetings, and when these are appropriate, these meetings take place.


Question:  Sure, I am just wondering what the topic was.  And if you don’t mind, it’s up to you, something fast and seems like they’re going pretty quickly here.  Can you confirm that the Secretary-General is going to Thailand on 26 October?  There’s been reports to that effect and the red shirts have said that they are.  I don’t know if they have already asked, or going to ask, the Secretary-General to look into events that took place in Thailand during the disturbances.


Spokesperson:  As we told you yesterday, the Secretary-General is travelling next to Morocco and Strasbourg.  He will be going on a subsequent trip that includes Thailand.  We will be able to provide more details at a later stage.


Question:  And then one final question, if you don’t mind.  It’s been reported that Sri Lanka is on the verge of contributing peacekeepers to UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force] in Lebanon.  I wanted to know, one, if you are aware of that?  And two, whether that’s the kind of thing that the UN might check with its Panel of Experts that is looking into accountability in Sri Lanka, if there is any connection between what’s being looked into that by that Panel and the [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  You know very well what the Panel is doing.  It’s advising the Secretary-General on questions of accountability in a general sense.  It’s advising the Secretary-General.  And as for troop-contributing countries and their possible deployment, I would ask you to check with DPKO [Department for Peacekeeping Operations].  All right, thanks very much.  Good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record