DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

21 June 2001

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

21/06/2001
Press Briefing

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Sue Markham, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

      Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon everyone, thank you for coming.  Sorry for the slight delay.  Our guest at today's briefing is Michael McCann, Chief of the Security and Safety Service, who will talk to you about security arrangements during the General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS, which, as you know, starts on Monday and will go on until Wednesday next week.

**Secretary-General's Visit to United Kingdom

The Secretary-General this morning met in London with Prime Minister Tony Blair and discussed in great detail the situation in the Middle East following the Secretary-General's recent visit to the region.  Their talks also touched on Iraq, the Balkans, the proposed Global Fund against AIDS, economic assistance to Africa and progress in Sierra Leone.

Following that meeting, the Office of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Jack Straw, issued a statement supporting the Secretary-General's bid for a second term as United Nations Secretary-General.  The Secretary-General received the Prime Minister's personal warm endorsement today, the statement said.

The Secretary-General then went to Marlborough House to meet with the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Donald McKinnon.  Mr. McKinnon briefed the Secretary-General on Commonwealth activities in Fiji, and on land reform in Zimbabwe.  They also touched on the situation in West Africa, including the proposed Special Court for Sierra Leone; the United Nations conference on racism; and United Nations efforts to combat AIDS.

Back at his hotel, the Secretary-General had the opportunity to meet privately with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amre Moussa, who was in London.

The Secretary-General then went to Lancaster House for a working lunch with Clare Short, the Secretary for International Development.  Their wide-ranging discussions included issues in Africa, peacekeeping training and rapid reaction, the architecture of the proposed Global Fund for AIDS, and the humanitarian situations in Afghanistan, as well as the security of humanitarian workers, among many other topics.

The Secretary-General then met with Geoffrey Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence.  The Secretary-General raised the issue of the training of African troops for peacekeeping in Africa by the United Kingdom and other advanced military Powers.  He also brought up the Brahimi report on overhauling United Nations peace operations, especially the role of well-trained police, as well as

the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) plans for sending troops to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The Secretary-General also raised the issue of the economic reconstruction of East Timor, and they discussed Sierra Leone in some detail as well as the future of the international presence in Bosnia and the related issue of neighbouring Kosovo.

The Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan then went to St. James Palace for a private meeting with His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales.

This evening, he was to have a one-on-one meeting with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Jack Straw, after which the Foreign Secretary was to host a dinner in the Secretary-General's honour.

**Myanmar

I now have a statement attributable to the Spokesman on Myanmar:

"The Secretary-General welcomes the release Thursday of five more Members of Parliament of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar, which he hopes will provide a new impetus to the on-going talks between the Government and

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for democratization and national reconciliation in the country.

"The Secretary-General has been encouraged by a series of recent developments, including the release last week of a dozen political prisoners and the opening of some NLD offices in Yangon, that have unfolded since the visit to the country of his Special Envoy, Razali Ismail, in early June.  The Secretary-General calls on the two sides to build on this momentum and to achieve further progress in their dialogue process."

**Security Council

Here in New York this morning, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette began the Security Council's open debate on conflict prevention by presenting the Secretary-General's recent report on that subject, which proposes 10 principles to guide the United Nations' future approach to preventing conflicts.  She said:  "If this report has one message, it is that we must intensify our efforts to move from a culture of reaction to one of prevention."

She notes that the report also proposed the establishment of new mechanisms for discussing prevention cases in a more structured way, and the Secretary-General's intention to provide periodic regional or subregional reports to the Council on disputes that can potentially threaten international peace and stability.

The Deputy Secretary-General added that following three open debates in the Security Council over the past two years on preventive action, "the time has come to translate the rhetoric of conflict prevention into concrete action".

The open debate is continuing today, presided over by the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Abdus Samad Azad.

Prior to its formal meeting on conflict prevention, the Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina by one year, until June 21, 2002.

You will recall that last week, Assistant Secretary-General Danilo Turk was here to brief you on this report on conflict prevention.

**Angola

Moving to Angola, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced today the resumption of humanitarian assistance flights in Angola, ending a six-day suspension of such operations forced by two attacks this month on its aircraft.

Flights will resume to all areas except Kuito, in the central highlands.  These operations to Kuito will resume as soon as runway conditions permit.

The WFP, which feeds over one million people in Angola, urged all parties in the conflict to respect the neutrality of its humanitarian operations and allow unhindered delivery of aid.

**Kosovo

The briefing notes from the United Nations mission in Kosovo tell us about the police report on five murders in three days, including one of the last living Serbs in Maticane, a 70-year-old man who was shot while watching television in his home.  He is in critical condition in the Pristina hospital under United Nations police guard.

On a positive note, the mission announced that firefighters in Klina decided to name their firehouse after United Nations Fire Chief Robert Triozzi, who recently left that position.  Mr. Triozzi had put together a single Kosovo-wide fire department with the objective of keeping it multi-ethnic.  The success of the force was most evident when the Kosovo Fire Department took part in the World Extrication Championships in South Africa.  The Kosovo team, comprising four Albanians and two Serbs, beat seasoned teams from Spain, Scotland, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

**East Timor

In East Timor, an estimated 1,000 people have been left homeless in the town of Lospalos in the eastern part of the island following three days of heavy flooding earlier this week, which some residents say are the worst floods to hit that area in nearly 50 years.

The United Nations peacekeeping forces in the area are setting up relief and protection centres, supplying food, blankets and medical support and rescuing people living in isolated areas.  The Republic of Korea's battalion has evacuated more than 200 people from flood-hit areas.

**Deputy Secretary-General at UNV

This afternoon in Conference Room 2 at 3 o'clock, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) will hold an event as part of the thirtieth anniversary celebrations of the UNV programme.

The Deputy Secretary-General will open this event by saluting the dedication of United Nations volunteers who serve in all corners of the world in support of almost every United Nations agency.

The Deputy Secretary-General is expected to make a special mention of the volunteers who participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations.  On her recent trip to Sierra Leone, she was able to witness the essential work of some of the UNVs serving with the United Nations mission in that country.

More than 300 people are expected to take part in today's event, which will include musical performances by two groups -- Ashe from Jamaica and Dreamz FM from Singapore.  Both groups have donated the proceeds from some of their recordings to the UNV programme.

We have copies of the Deputy Secretary-General's statement in our office.  It is embargoed until the time of the event.

**Afghanistan

The Office of the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan today said the situation of vulnerable communities in northern Afghanistan is getting worse and is of great concern.

The Office, in a press release, announced that camps will be set up in northern Afghanistan, where at least 150,000 people have been displaced by war, drought and widespread poverty.

Since the summer of 2000, more than one million Afghans have left their homes and over 700,000 of them are inside the country.

**Drug Control

We have upstairs the full text of the speech delivered in Australia today by the Executive Director of the United Nations Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Pino Arlacchi.  He is there on an official visit.  In his meetings with senior Australian officials, he is discussing money laundering, human trafficking, corruption and related issues.

**Compensation Commission

The fortieth meeting of the United Nations Compensation Commission came to a close today in Geneva, under the presidency of Ambassador Sverre Bergh Johansen of Norway.

During this session, the Commission approved $842 million in compensation.  Included in that amount is $243 million awarded for environmental monitoring and assessment to five countries:  Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

To date the commission has awarded over $35 billion to claimants.

A press release is upstairs with full details on that.

**Puerto Rico

Here in New York, in Conference Room 4, the Special Committee of 24, which deals with decolonization issues, is hearing from 29 representatives of various political parties and other organizations dealing with Puerto Rico.  This is part of the Committee's annual work, which over the past three years has included consideration of Puerto Rico.  The Committee's proceedings are open to the media, and will also include testimony from parties in Western Sahara and Gibraltar today and tomorrow.

**Budget

Slovenia this morning became the ninetieth Member State to pay its

2001 regular budget contribution in full with a payment of more than $800,000.

**Monthly Summary of Troop Contributions to Peacekeeping Operations

We also have an update on the number of peacekeeping troops who were serving with 16 United Nations peacekeeping operations at the end of May 2001 -- a total of 43,885 military and police personnel from 89 countries.

**Tomorrow's Press Conferences

At 10:30, Dr. Cecil Blake, Minister of Information and Broadcasting of Sierra Leone, will be here.  And then at 11:15, there will be a press conference on the state of negotiations on the Multiyear Work Programme and the Plan of Action of the United Nations Forest Forum.  These two press conferences will happen here in Room 226.

**Guest at Noon Tomorrow

Tomorrow our guest at the noon briefing will be Stephen Lewis, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Finally, I have an announcement by the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA).

Mark Schneider, senior vice-president of the International Crisis Group and former United States Peace Corps Director, and Sandra Thurman, president of International AIDS Trust, will hold a briefing on AIDS as a security issue today at 12:45 p.m. at the UNCA Club on the third floor.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Do you have any information concerning a letter from Iraq to the President of the Security Council?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't know the content of that letter.  It was sent to the Council so we have to follow up with the Council.  Perhaps you can ask the President as he walks out of the Council today.

Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly

I will be very brief because I'm really here to answer questions which might come up during the course of the briefing on the special session next week.

Just to let you know, there will be informal informals this afternoon in the General Assembly hall.  This is a closed meeting where delegates will be brought up to speed on the negotiations on the outcome document.

At that stage they will make a decision about whether they will meet in a formal session tomorrow or when the negotiations will continue.  I'm hopeful that I'll have more information for you after that meeting.

Thank you.

**Question:  Can you bring us up to date on the availability of facilities for broadcast and print media for the round table meetings?

**Spokesperson:  I think there has been some confusion in a lot of our minds about what the General Assembly's intention was in terms of the roundtables.  There is a resolution that the General Assembly adopted, which states that the round tables will not be open to the general public.

And then it goes on to say that those people who are not participants in the roundtables -- because you know there's a limited number of people who are actually participants -- but who are accredited observers, delegates, civil society members and members of the news media may view the proceedings in an overflow room.

So we have made arrangements, which I'm sure Mr. McCann will confirm to you, that the media will be able to go into the overflow room, which is Conference Room 3.  The round tables will be held in the Economic and Social CouncilChamber.

However, it has been brought to our attention that it is very difficult for the broadcast media to sit in a room and get the information they need in the way that the print media can.  So we are making arrangements for an audio and video feed to be provided.  At the moment it will be into the media centre, Conference Room 1, but we'll work on the technical details if that is not sufficient.  I'm not sure what other capability we have, given all the things that are going on.

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For information media. Not an official record.