|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. Starting off with an update from Sudan.
The United Nations Mission in Sudan reports that violence continued today in various parts of Khartoum and its outskirts. In one incident, southern Sudanese from squatter and displaced persons’ areas in the outskirts of the capital attacked a market, which they then looted. In another area on the outskirts of the capital, northerners attacked a school and reportedly killed six or seven people, including children, according to the United Nations Mission. The southerners, the Mission says, reportedly retaliated and killed an imam from the same area. A 12-hour curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. remains in effect in Khartoum. In southern Sudan, the situation is reported to be calm.
The United Nations Mission says that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, will attend the burial ceremony of Vice-President John Garang scheduled to take place in Juba this Saturday, August 6.
And meanwhile here in New York, the Security Council, in a presidential statement just adopted, called on the people of Sudan to refrain from violence.
Turning to the Council, this morning it held consultations to adopt the programme of work for August. It was the first meeting under the presidency of Japan. The Ambassador of Japan, Kenzo Oshima, the Council President, will brief you in just a few moments about the programme of work for the coming month.
Also in this morning’s consultations, Council members received a briefing from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean Marie Guéhenno, on the situation in Sudan, including on the death of Vice-President John Garang.
And as I mentioned, Council members then went into a formal meeting to adopt a presidential statement, in which the Council expressed its profound regret over Garang’s death. It also called on all Sudanese to honour his memory by restoring peace and calm throughout the country.
Council President Oshima preceded that meeting by expressing Council members’ regret over the death of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.
Turning to Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed today that it has received a note verbale from Iran. That note was received yesterday, saying that Iran has decided to resume its uranium conversion activities in Isfahan. The Agency, in a letter it wrote in response, informed Iran that, in order to implement effective safeguards at Iran’s uranium conversion facility, it would need to install additional surveillance equipment, as well as to verify the nuclear material in question. The IAEA further said that it was in the process of preparing the necessary equipment, which it would be installing sometime next week. The Agency told Iran that it is essential that Iran refrain from removing its seals and moving any nuclear material until the surveillance equipment is installed and the IAEA has verified the material.
And we have copies of the IAEA information circular on Iran available upstairs.
Turning to Somalia, as you know, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, has been undertaking a trip to that country. He returned to Nairobi yesterday after talks in Jowhar with President Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi of the Transitional Federal Government. Security permitting, the Special Representative plans to visit Mogadishu later this week for discussions with the Speaker of Parliament, MPs and cabinet ministers, as well as civil society groups.
Yesterday, the meeting in Jowhar focused on three issues: the seat of the transitional federal Institutions, security and reconciliation. At a joint press conference following that meeting, Prime Minister Gedi expressed the Transitional Federal Government’s willingness to work with the United Nations, and in particular with the Special Envoy, on resolving the current difficulties.
** Sierra Leone
In a report that is out on the racks today, in fact, an addendum to the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, the Secretary-General outlines his recommendations for the proposed integrated United Nations office in Sierra Leone and his ideas for security arrangements for the Special Court. The integrated office, which would be established when the United Nations peacekeeping mission ends its work in Sierra Leone at the end of this year, would be headed by an executive representative, who would also work as a representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Security Council has scheduled consultations on Sierra Leone for August 10.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as of 5:30 pm on Sunday night, the voter registration process ended in the capital, Kinshasa. More than 2.9 million Kinshasa residents registered out of an estimated 3.5 million potential voters.
Meanwhile, registration has been continuing for the past week in the western province of Bas-Congo and in north-eastern Orientale Province. By Sunday, 230,000 people had registered in those areas. Registration centres are scheduled to open next Sunday in south-eastern Katanga province and in the central, eastern and western Kasai provinces, as well.
The elections will be the largest ever supported by the United Nations. The polls are to usher in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s first democratic government in some 40 years, and are to replace the current transitional power-sharing administration. And we have an update available upstairs.
Turning to the United Nations refugee agency, they said today that a team of specialists has arrived in Romania to help organize the resettlement of some 439 Uzbek refugees, who arrived last Friday from Kyrgyzstan. The agency is also negotiating the release of 15 others, who are still in the Kyrgyz city of Osh.
Meanwhile, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, issued a statement today, praising Romania for hosting the refugees on a temporary basis, while they are awaiting resettlement. Arbour called the gesture “generous and courageous”, particularly since the country is recovering from disastrous flooding.
Turning to Niger, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today renewed its call for emergency assistance to drought victims in that country. The FAO said the appeal it made in May had gone largely unheeded. The agency said so far it has received about an eighth of the money it requested. Some 2.5 million people are at risk, the FAO said.
Also in Niger, the United Nations Children’s Fund reports that it has begun a training programme for local health workers. The World Health Organization says it is also working on programmes to help children suffering from malnutrition.
And just a note from the General Assembly -- they are continuing today their informal consultations on the revised draft outcome document for the September Summit. General Assembly President Jean Ping plans to submit to Member States a second revised version of the outcome document later in the week, on Friday. And following the drawing of lots by the Secretary-General yesterday afternoon, Thailand will occupy the first seat on the right side of the podium during the 60th session of the General Assembly.
And this afternoon at three, Jan Petersen, Foreign Minister of Norway, will come to this room to brief you about a new initiative by seven foreign ministers to revitalize the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The Secretary-General has called the new initiative “encouraging”, following the failure of the Non-Proliferation Review Conference last May.
And that is it from me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Could you give us an update on the Secretary-General’s health? The video of his meeting with John Bolton showed his arm still in a sling, and there was talk last week about some complications and the possibility of him having surgery again.
Spokesman: I think the only talk about complications and surgery came from you. I brought that to his attention, and he says everything is going fine. I think it is only normal that his arm is still in a sling during this process in the procedure.
Question: So there is no trouble at all? Everything is normal?
Spokesman: As far as I have been told, everything is fine and he thanks you for your concern.
Question: At their meeting, did Mr. Bolton assure the Secretary-General that he would not take out the ten floors of the United Nations and [inaudible]?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General received Mr. Bolton’s credentials today. He is now officially the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, and I think we will refrain from doing “colour” commentary on Mr. Bolton’s activities, now that he works here.
Question: Did he assure the Secretary-General that he will…
Spokesman: We look forward to working with him.
Question: He said nothing to the press. Did he say anything to the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: I have no readout of the meeting with the Secretary-General yet. If I have something, I will share it with you.
Question: Regarding the refugees now in Romania, do you have any idea, which countries are going to take them for permanent settlement? Also, how long will it take?
Spokesman: No. I do not have any more information, but that is exactly what the UNHCR is working on now -- trying to resettle them.
Question: Any time lines, or anything?
Spokesman: No, but we can check with the refugee agency right after we are done here.
Question: How does this drawing of lots work?
Spokesman: I did not see the video. I encourage you to watch it, but it is probably something akin to a lotto.
Question: And is there a hat?
Spokesman: There is a hand, and the Secretary-General reaches in, and I don’t know if it is balls, or pieces of paper, but Thailand was the lucky winner.
Question: Does Secretary-General himself have anything to say about on Iran’s threat?
Spokesman: On Iran, the Secretary-General urges restraint and patience on the part of the Iranian authorities. He very much believes that they should wait for the latest proposals from the “European three” before making any attempts to restart the nuclear activities. In his dealings with the three European countries, the Secretary-General is convinced that they are very constructively engaged in a search for a solution, and he, therefore, encourages the Iranian authorities to continue to work with them. The Secretary-General very much supports the dialogue between the European three and the Iranian authorities.
Question: On Iran also, the Washington Post had a report today on the threat that Iran is posing right now. Is this matching the information that the United Nations has?
Spokesman: We do not have any information to that effect here, but you may want to check with the IAEA.
Question: Do you have any idea how much money the United Nations is spending in Darfur?
Spokesman: No, but I can get you an update, as soon as we are done here with the briefing.
Question: Yesterday, the Secretary-General appealed for calm in Sudan, and today the Security Council, as you mentioned, did the same, yet the violence continues. There are reportedly 42 dead now and many injured. Is Mr. Pronk in close contact with the Government of Sudan regarding the violence?
Spokesman: Mr. Pronk is very much in close contact with the Government of Sudan on the events that are going on, and we very much hope that these are isolated events and we do hope that calm quickly returns to Khartoum and its environs.
Thank you very much.
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