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

3 August 2005

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

3/8/2005
Spokesman's Noon Briefing
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.

**Statement on Situation in Sudan

“The Secretary-General is concerned about the reports of continuing violence in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan following the recent tragic death of Dr. John Garang de Mabior.  The Secretary-General appeals for calm and calls on all Sudanese to refrain from actions which may lead to tension during this time of mourning.

“While all available information suggests that the helicopter crash was a tragic accident, the United Nations system stands ready to assist the authorities concerned in an investigation conducted in accordance with internationally established standards and practices.

“The Secretary-General shares the widespread sorrow expressed by the Sudanese people and the international community.  At the same time, he welcomes the parties’ reaffirmation of their commitment to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and its implementation, which is a fitting tribute to First Vice-President Garang.”

And that statement is available upstairs.

** Sudan

On the ground, Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, also appealed to the people of Sudan to uphold John Garang’s vision for peace, stop the rioting and behave responsibly in the face of the tragedy that has struck the country.  Pronk said that the United Nations will also be providing the SPLM with logistical assistance for the funeral arrangements for John Garang, which is scheduled for this Saturday in Juba.

**Statement on Mauritania

We also have a statement on Mauritania.

“The Secretary-General is deeply troubled by the reports of an attempt under way to overthrow the Government of President Ould Taya in Mauritania by force.  The Secretary-General condemns any attempt to change the government of any country unconstitutionally and stresses that political disagreements should be settled peacefully, through the democratic process.”

And a copy of that statement, in English and French, will be available upstairs shortly.

** Iran

The Spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Melissa Fleming, said today that the Agency has made it clear that it needs until the middle of next week to get its surveillance equipment in place in the Iranian city of Isfahan before any seals could be cut and nuclear activities resumed there.  The Agency said it calls on Iran again not to start any activities in Isfahan before the IAEA inspection system is in place.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 5,000 internally displaced people in the eastern part of the country are returning home voluntarily, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  The returns are taking place as United Nations peacekeepers, as well as Government troops and national police, have made significant advances in providing 24-hour security in the town of Bunia and its surrounding areas.  The humanitarian affairs department of the United Nations is encouraging the displaced persons to return home to rebuild their lives in and around Bunia.

And we have a press release available upstairs with more information.

** Niger

From Niger, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that its Deputy Executive Director, Rima Salah, is now en route to the country to assess the agency’s efforts to help children suffering from the current food crisis.  Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) is working to double the number of people receiving food aid, but warns that time is of the essence, since the rainy season will soon hamper access.

Although the international community has rallied over the past two weeks to support Niger, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners are updating and revising their appeal for the country, because of the severity of the ongoing crisis.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also expects to issue that appeal in the next few days.

**ECLAC

And the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean is presenting its annual report today in Santiago, Chile.  The report says that economies in the region grew by 4.3 per cent this year.  It also says that indications are that these economies will expand again next year -- that would be for the fourth year in a row.

And the press release is upstairs, and the entire report is available on the Web.

** Afghanistan

And lastly, some good news from Afghanistan:  the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization today reports that an operation designed to control locusts in croplands there has been successful.  All the main agricultural areas have now been cleared of locusts, according to the FAO.

And that is it for me.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Would the United Nations be likely to lead the investigation into John Garang’s death?

Spokesman:  No.  We would be available with whatever support the Government of Sudan would ask us to provide.

Question:  So you envisage the Government of Sudan leading the investigation?

Spokesman:  I would imagine so, but we would be ready to offer and assist in whatever way we can.  Obviously, our role would depend on what they would want us to do.

Question:  The President of Sudan has already established a committee to investigate John Garang’s death.  Has he asked for any assistance up to now?

Spokesman:  Our people on the ground have made it clear that we are willing and able to assist, but my understanding is that, as of this morning, we had not yet received an official request for assistance, whatever its scope.

Question:  And on Niger, the situation is deteriorating.  Children are still continuing to die, and they are losing their shelters because of the drought.  Would the Secretary-General consider it appropriate at this stage to make an appeal to the international community at his level?

Spokesman:  Well, our colleagues at OCHA are preparing an appeal, and that should be ready in the next couple of days. -- We were going to have Margareta Wahlström [Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator] here to brief you on that appeal, but it’s not yet ready.  And the Secretary-General would obviously support those efforts to gather more funds for Niger.

Question:  The IAEA is asking for another two days, or is that the same two days that had been mentioned before?

Spokesman:  I think, I’ll go back to what… The IAEA had said that they would need about a week -- they would need about ‘til the middle of next week to get their equipment in place.

Question:  So that’s the two days they had asked for before.

Spokesman:  Well, the information that we have is that right now their target date for the deployment of those inspectors and equipment is the middle of next week.

Question:  Do you know specifically what sort of help the United Nations is offering in Sudan?

Spokesman:  It’s a generic offer of help from the United Nations system.  Obviously, we have to wait [for a request] from the Sudanese authorities to see what they want us to do.  There are all sorts of help that the United Nations system can offer, from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to just ferrying people to the crash site.  We are waiting from the Government of Sudan to see what is the scope of the assistance they would require of the United Nations.

Question:  How much of the population in Niger currently has access to food aid and supplies?

Spokesman:  I will check with OCHA right after the briefing.  I’ll get you the number on that.

Thank you very much.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.