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

8 November 2004
db041108

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

08/11/2004
Press Briefing

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

AND THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESDIENT

Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Djibril Diallo, Spokesman for the General Assembly President.

Spokesman for Secretary-General

Good afternoon,

**Côte d’Ivoire

We just spoke with the Mission in Côte d’Ivoire, which reports that unruly mobs are roaming some streets in Abidjan.  It says that the city is relatively quiet though, with most avenues deserted and people staying home.

Hate media broadcasts aimed at foreigners continue, and some 800 foreign nationals have sought refuge within the compounds and sites of the UN mission in Abidjan, where they are being guarded by UN peacekeepers.  They are taking refuge in UN buildings because they are being harassed or are frightened by the thugs who are roaming the streets.

Spokesman Jean-Victor Nkolo responded to a question from UN radio about the peace process.  He said in order for it to be put back on track, the Linas Marcoussis and the Accra III Agreements remain the only solution out of this crisis.  He added that we need to reach a level where we will have a full and immediate cessation of all hostilities.  Nkolo said, “The first sign over the past 36 to 48 hours are quite promising, but it remains to be seen whether this will actually take hold on the ground.”

**Security Council - Saturday

The Security Council met on Saturday to receive a briefing on the deteriorating situation in Côte d’Ivoire.  In closed consultations, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi informed Council members about the Ivorian Government’s attacks on Forces Nouvelles positions in the country’s north.  He said that a government air raid took place in Bouaké, in which a French base was hit, with eight French soldiers and one US civilian reported dead and 23 French soldiers injured.

Following consultations, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement condemning that attack, as well as the fatal air strikes in the north.  The Council demanded the immediate cessation of military operations by all Ivorian parties and full compliance with the May 2003 ceasefire agreement.  The Council also confirmed that the French and UN forces are authorized to use all necessary means to carry out their mandate fully.  It also confirmed that the UN Mission, within its capabilities and areas of deployment, is authorized to prevent any hostile action.

The Secretary-General had attended the consultations and formal meeting.  Afterward, he spoke to reporters and said he had spoken twice that day with President Laurent Gbagbo, French President Jacques Chirac and other leaders on the need to take all measures to calm the situation.

Asked what steps he would recommend, the Secretary-General said it is important that the hostilities stop immediately.  He added that it is important that President Gbagbo calm the population so they stop violent demonstrations in Abidjan.  We put out the transcript of his comments over the weekend.

**Security Council - Today

There are no Security Council meetings or consultations scheduled so far today.  However, informal discussions on Côte d’Ivoire are taking place at the experts’ level.  Afghanistan and Côte d’Ivoire are on the Security Council agenda for tomorrow.

**Sudan

The International Commission of Inquiry arrived in Khartoum late last night.  Their task is to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in Darfur by all parties.  Their mandate includes the determination of whether or not acts of genocide have occurred and the identification of the perpetrators of such violations.  They will travel to Darfur from 10 to 20 November.

Meanwhile, the UN mission reports that all major roads in South Darfur remain closed to UN movement.

Following the destruction of the El-Jeer camp on 3-5 November and the forced relocation of its residents, humanitarian agencies remain concerned about the protection of those who returned to El-Jeer and those who dispersed to Nyala town.  The World Food Programme says it has carried out food distribution to camps in Nyala and they have requested permission to distribute food to the dispersed IDPs from the now-destroyed El-Jeer camp.

**DRC

The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be providing support to military operations by the national Congolese army in the province of South Kivu, which borders Rwanda.  The joint operation, the first of its kind, will deploy troops in the area of Walungu, some 80 kilometres south-west of Bukavu, to protect the population from attacks by rebel groups. 

According to a joint communiqué by the UN and the Congolese armed forces, all combatants in the area are urged to voluntarily cease their activities and either join the national army or sign up for the demobilization and reintegration programme.  In addition, all foreign forces operating in the area are urged to go home.

**Lebanon

At approximately 10:30 am on Sunday, an unmanned aerial vehicle was launched from the Lebanese side of the Blue Line and into Israeli airspace, constituting a Lebanese air violation of the Blue Line.

The aircraft was reported to have flown over Israeli territory before re-entering southern Lebanon and landing in the vicinity of Naqoura.  Later the same day, two Israeli air violations, involving five jets, were recorded.  There were no reports of anti-aircraft fire from the Lebanese side.

All air violations of the Blue Line are an issue of concern.  The Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, Staffan de Mistura, reiterated the United Nations’ position that there should be no air violations from any side of the Blue Line.  He calls on all sides to fulfil their obligations to fully respect the Blue Line.

**Afghanistan

The leaders and people of Afghanistan continue to express their disapproval of the abduction, 11 days ago, of three UN staff members, the UN Mission in Afghanistan said.

The Mission noted that the chief of staff of the Afghan Defence Ministry said that the abduction goes against Afghan culture.  Four former presidential candidates issued a joint statement strongly condemning the abduction as “an inhuman act” and asking for the staff members’ release.  We have more details in today’s briefing notes from Kabul.

**Kosovo

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Kosovo, Søren Jessen-Petersen, told political leaders in the province that he had decided to create a number of new ministries.  These will be in the area of energy, local self-government, and returns and communities.  He also informed them about his agreement with their proposal to establish the posts of deputy prime minister and deputy ministers.  And we have more on that in a press release.

**Appointment of ASG in DESA

The Secretary-General today announced the appointment of Mr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram of Malaysia as his Assistant Secretary-General on Economic Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  This new post was created this year, as part of the Secretary-General’s reform package, to support policy coherence and management in the department.  Mr. Sundaram’s responsibilities will be to act as the principal economic adviser to the Under-Secretary-General and to lead and coordinate statistical, demographic and macroeconomic data gathering and analysis.

Mr. Sundaram is currently Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore and Professor in the Applied Economics Department in the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur.  And we have more in a biographical note on him upstairs.

**Cambodia

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, Peter Leuprecht, arrived in Phnom Penh today.  According to a press release, the Special Representative is there to update himself on the human rights situation in Cambodia and to prepare his recommendations for the next session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.  He will continue his strong focus on land and natural resources, through the release of a report on land concessions for economic purposes from a human rights perspective.

**SG/Lecture Series

This afternoon, at 1:25 in the ECOSOC Chamber, the Secretary-General’s Lecture Series will feature Professor Leon Botstein, the President of Bard College Conservatory of Music and the principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra.  Professor Botstein will speak on “Why Music Matters”.  And the presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

The Secretary-General hosts this lecture series on topics at the forefront of the humanities and natural sciences, and he will introduce today’s lecture with remarks on how music touches every aspect of our lives.  We have copies of his remarks available upstairs.

**Haiti

The UN Mission in Haiti has reported the arrival yesterday of 163 peacekeepers from Morocco.  The Moroccan troops travelled on a military vessel, and will be deployed in northern Haiti alongside the Spanish contingent which arrived at the end of October.

**World Chronicle Television Programme

Edward Mortimer, the UN Director of Communications, is the guest on an episode of World Chronicle that will be shown today at 3:30 p.m. on in-house television channel 3 or 31.  He is part of a discussion hosted by Tony Jenkins that focuses on UN actions in Iraq and what can be achieved in the future in that country.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

Press conference tomorrow at 11 a.m. in this room.  Ambassador Phillipe Djangoné-Bi of Côte d’Ivoire will be talking about the situation in his country.

**Guest at Noon Tomorrow

And then at noon, Alberto Motivans, a Research Officer of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, will be joining us to brief on “Education for All”, The Global Monitoring Report for 2005.

**Marathon

Lastly, a sports note.  Sixteen members of the UN’s Athletic Club ran in yesterday’s marathon.  On the male side, Kevin Shelton-Smith of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations ran the course just under 3 hours to finish 336th out of more than 36,000 runners.  As for the women, Lesley Brough of the Department of Political Affairs finished the race in slightly over five hours.  Our congratulations go to them and all the other participants from the UN.

That’s all I have for you. Warren?

Questions and Answers

Question:   Fred, as we all know, the Secretary-General last week warned that an invasion of Fallujah could alienate people and undermine the electoral process.  What is his reaction to word today that that invasion is now under way?

Spokesman:  He said, and I said for him at the time, that he did not want to comment on privileged communications.  He did speak to President Bush over the weekend.  It was a courtesy call primarily, at the beginning, or anticipating the beginning of the President’s second term.  And there was some discussion of Iraq.  But I think the President respects the Secretary-General’s position, and the Secretary-General, as he said, I think, in comments to you in the corridor, that sometimes force is necessary.  But he was merely warning that the use of force could destabilize the country at a critical point in the preparation for the elections.

Question:   This was a call being placed to the President or vice versa?

Spokesman:  Let me find out who called whom.  Evelyn?  [The latter said that the Secretary-General had placed the call.]

Question:   That was one question.  The second one was, we had an interview with Solana today, who said there was little prospect of the holding of a national election for some time because of the security situation.  Can you check if there is any UN reaction on that?

Spokesman:  No, we have pretty consistently said that that will be a call for the Iraqi interim government to make.  And on the technical side, on preparations for the elections, you heard from Carina Pirelli on Friday, saying that basically everything was on track for elections by the end of January.

Question:   So, what provoked Solana to say that, and whether there have been consultations with this person or not?

Spokesman:  You’d have to ask him.  I am not aware of any consultations between him and the United Nations since Friday.  Mark?

Question:   Have there been any discussions between Kofi Annan and various parties related to Ivory Coast since Saturday, and if so, what is the UN, I mean, apart from calling for an end to the violence, has the UN any ideas as to how to get around this crisis?

Spokesman:  He had a very busy weekend on the phone.  I think most of his calls regarding Côte d’Ivoire took place on Saturday, and I think in the corridor he gave you an indication of some of the people he had spoken to.  I believe that his main message is “stop all military actions”, and, of course, that’s the message of the Security Council, as well.  It’s relatively quiet today.  We’re concerned about the continuing roving of bands of youths through Abidjan and the hate messages that continue on some Côte d’Ivoire radio stations.  Neither of these things helps calm the situation.  So, we would hope that the Government could get both of these things under control, as well as to cease its military operation that it launched last Thursday against the north.  We feel that there is no military solution to this problem between north and south.  And the solution is very clearly laid out in the Linas Marcoussis Agreement, reinforced by the Accra III Accord.  Yes?

Question:   Fred, given the Secretary-General’s concerns about escalation of violence in Iraq, what was his reaction about the French retaliation in the Ivory Coast when it destroyed most of the Ivorian Air Force?

Spokesman:  I don’t see a link between what’s going on Iraq and what went on in Ivory Coast.  The Secretary-General hasn’t said anything publicly or to me about his feelings regarding the action taken by the French, apart from his general concern about the situation in the country being very threatening.  Yes, Abdurrahim?

Question:   Fred, about the Security Council giving the French and UN forces the right to use any means necessary in Côte d’Ivoire, do you know if that would include either arresting Laurent Gbagbo or try to eject him out of power?

Spokesman:  I don’t think that’s what the Security Council had in mind.  You’d have to ask them, but that’s not the kind of thing that I would anticipate the United Nations getting involved in.  Yes?

Question:   Within the context of the letter to the United States and Great Britain, does the Secretary-General have any remarks about the violence since the beginning of the invasion?

Spokesman:  No, I think I already had that question, and... (interrupted).

Question:   (Inaudible)... from the context of the letter to... (interrupted).

Spokesman:  No.  I have nothing to say today on what’s happening in Fallujah.  Mohammad?

Question:   Fred, what was the topic of today’s meetings of Mr. Gillerman and the Secretary-General?

Spokesman:  I don’t have a read out on that.  I’ll try to get one for you.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:   Fred, on the abducted staff in Afghanistan, there are indications that the abductors or kidnappers have reduced their demands from withdrawal of all kinds of troops to merely an exchange of prisoners.  Do you have any information on that?  And is the Secretary-General hopeful that they will be released soon?

Spokesman:  No, we’re not going to comment on the contacts between the Afghan Government and the hostage takers.  We’re gratified by the strong public statements being made by political and religious leaders in Afghanistan saying that they thoroughly disapprove of hostage taking; and we’re hopeful that the Afghan Government’s efforts to get them released will be fruitful.  Bill?

Question:   Back on 28 June, Fred, the UN released a press statement relating to personnel issues in the Office of Internal Oversight Services.  And that release stated “As regards the issues raised in a recent resolution of the Staff Council concerning personnel matters in OIOS, the Secretary-General has instructed the Department of Management and OHRM to clear them up as quickly as possible.  He trusts they would prove to be without foundation.”  Can you give us any update on whether that action was taken; whether those issues have been cleared up?

Spokesman:  The action was taken, but I’d have to check with the Department of Management to see where their review of those allegations stands, and I’ll get back to you after the briefing.  Richard?

Question:   It might have been a question I couldn’t hear in this room or maybe you referred to it earlier; what was the read out of the Gillerman, Ambassador from Israel...(interrupted).

Spokesman:  I said I didn’t have a read out but I’ll try to get one for you.

Question:   And who requested the afternoon meeting?  Was the Iraqi Ambassador the topic for that one?

Spokesman:  I don’t know, I’ll find out and let you know after the briefing.  [He confirmed that the Iraqi Ambassador had asked for the meeting.]

Question:   And I know it happened last week when I wasn’t here; but is there a specific day when the High-Level Panel report will be issued in early December?

Spokesman:  2 December is the date it will go the General Assembly and become public that same day.

Question:   There used to be a Secretary-General reception every year in September for the press.  Did I miss it or has it been cancelled?  I was not invited.

Spokesman:  The year before last, they started to lighten his programme and said that they no longer accepted the automaticity of certain annual invitations that he gives or certain annual events that he hosts.  And so I don’t believe there was such a reception last year.  I’d have to find out for you whether he plans to do one this year.

Question:   Is it a trigger mechanism to...(interrupted)?

Spokesman:  I am sure he’d love to have all of you at his home.  But I’ll have to see if that’s gonna happen this year.

Thank you very much.  Djibril Diallo for the General Assembly.

Spokesman for General Assembly President

Good afternoon,

The General Assembly is considering four items today.  The first item is agenda item 16 entitled “Elections to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs and other elections, Election of seven members of the Committee for Programme and Coordination”. This is pursuant to General Assembly decision 42/450 of 17 December 1987.  And in that connection, four countries, or a number of countries, had their terms expire by 31 December 2004.  Those were China, Ethiopia, Japan, Nigeria, the Republic of Korea, Tunisia and Uruguay.  Those States are also deemed to be eligible for re-election. 

The President, in his introductory statement, listed another 27 countries who were members of the Committee as of 1 January 2005 and, therefore, are not eligible for that election.  After consideration, seven countries were elected.  Three from Africa:  Algeria, Ghana and Kenya.  Three from Asian States:  China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.  One from Latin America and the Caribbean:  Jamaica.  Another item that was considered was the election to the Committee on Conferences.  Again, here the President followed tradition of not having elections when the submissions by regional groups are the same as the number of vacancies.  And in that connection, the President appointed Austria, China, Egypt, Jamaica, Kenya, Nepal and the United States as members of the Committee on Conferences with effect from 1 January 2005. 

On the appointment of members of the Joint Inspection Unit, the same procedure was followed, and the following results were given by the President:  For African States, the regional groups have endorsed Senegal as the new member; for Eastern Europe, Hungary; for Western Europe, France and Turkey.

There was an item called “Implementation of the resolution of the United Nations”.  That item is not going to be considered for this session.  It’s going to be deferred to the 60th session of the Assembly.  Item four has to do with cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations.  Two items, also, I wanted to draw to your attention:  One regarding the high level plenary meeting of the General Assembly, that is, as part of the 60th anniversary.  There will be a closed meeting tomorrow of the open-ended informal consultations of the plenary, and that closed meeting will address the modalities to format an organization of the high level plenary meeting as part of the report of the Secretary-General.  I gave you the references to that report before.  I repeat them -- it’s A/59/545.  That meeting will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, at 10 a.m. in Conference Room 1.

Another meeting, this time of the General Committee, which is open to all delegations, will be held on Wednesday, 10 November, at 10 a.m., and will hear a presentation by Mr. Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  The subject will be the strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian assistance, including special economic assistance.

Committee work:  Today the Second Committee will discuss strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance.  Tomorrow in the Second Committee again, Professor Jeffrey Sachs has been invited to provide an update on the work of the Millennium Project and an overview of the report on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, as mentioned at his last address at the United Nations.

Fourth Committee, i.e., Special Political and Decolonization Committee, will take up agenda Item 76, Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.  This Committee was established by a General Assembly resolution in 1968.

The Sixth Committee discusses the report of the International Law Commission and the status of protocols additional to the Geneva Convention of 1949, relating to the protection of victims.

That’s all I have for you.  Any questions?

If not, thank you.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.