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

12 August 2005

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

12/8/2005
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.

** Noon Guest

Our guest today will be Ms. Thoraya Obaid and a number of other young guests.  As you know, she’s the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund and she and her guests will be here to brief us on the role of young people in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. 

**Security Council

This morning the Security Council held consultations on Guinea-Bissau, with Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tuliameni Kalomoh briefing Council members on the results of the presidential elections in that country.

Under other matters, the Council discussed the recent incidents in Côte d’Ivoire.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

And those incidents are, as reported by the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire, that two of its unarmed military observers were harassed by hostile crowds in the town of Gagnoa, west of Abidjan.  Their vehicle was ransacked, and the observers had to be rescued by UN Bangladeshi troops.

The incident was the second such attack on UN personnel in the same town, which is in an area controlled by the followers of President Laurent Gbagbo.  President Gbagbo has called on the population to refrain from blocking the work of the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire.

** Iran

Yesterday afternoon, following the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, we issued a statement on behalf of the Secretary-General on Iran, and that statement was as follows:

“The Secretary-General notes that the IAEA Board has spoken with one voice, and he expects its resolution to be implemented.”

**Kuwaiti Nationals Report

On the racks today is a report from the Secretary-General to the Security Council regarding the repatriation or return by Iraq of Kuwaiti and third-country nationals or remains.

The Secretary-General hopes that eventually more human remains will be brought to Kuwait and that the files can be closed.

He strongly condemns the executions by the previous Iraqi regime.  He says that those responsible for those crimes, in particular those who ordered the executions, must be brought to justice.

** Niger

The World Food Programme (WFP) today announced that the first of ten WFP flights carrying corn soya blend departed today for Niger’s capital, Niamey.  The blend is intended for children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers as a supplement to the food rations and to combat malnutrition. 

Meanwhile, WFP is continuing with its general food distribution in Niger. This week, some 5,000 persons received their rations. 

On the funding side, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that, of the nearly $81 million requested in the revised Niger appeal, more than $29 million has been received to date.  Pledges of an additional $13 million have also been made.  The donor community has also contributed some $25 million in humanitarian assistance through other channels, bringing total donor assistance to the country to more than $54 million.

** Sudan

On Sudan, the World Food Programme has said it’s concerned about chronically impoverished regions in the southern, central and eastern parts of the country. 

WFP is increasing its assistance and providing aid to an additional 267,000 people in those areas.  But the agency says that its activities are being severely hampered by critical funding shortages, a lack of sufficient jet fuel, and the rainy season.

More information is available upstairs from WFP.

**Uzbek Refugees

Turning to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR reports that negotiations are continuing to free the remaining 15 Uzbeks who are in detention in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

The 15 remained in Kyrgyzstan after 439 other Uzbeks were flown to Romania for resettlement.

The agency said it is still “concerned” with the plight of the refugees, but has assurances from the Kyrgyz authorities that the Uzbeks will not be forcibly sent home. 

** Burundi

In Burundi, UNHCR says that it’s seeing a dramatic increase in the number of Burundian refugees returning home from camps in Tanzania.  Many of the refugees are saying that June’s orderly elections gave them the confidence to return home after up to nine years in exile.

**UNICEF

The UN Children’s Fund announced today the return to Bangladesh of 36 child camel jockeys who had been working in the United Arab Emirates.

A new law in the United Arab Emirates banned the use of children jockeys.  Some who returned yesterday are teenagers, but the group included a four-year-old boy.

And we have more information from UNICEF upstairs.

**International Youth Day

In his message for today, International Youth Day, the Secretary-General asks young people to hold world leaders to their promise to translate the Millennium Development Goals into reality.  And I think we’ll hear from young people in a few minutes.

He asks them not to accept a world where people die of hunger and remain illiterate.  They must make sure their voices are heard, and to make sure their generation is the one to defeat poverty.

**Press Conference

And lastly, a press conference this afternoon at 1:15, Don MacKay, Ambassador of New Zealand, will brief on the disability convention, following its two-week session here at Headquarters.

And today, thank God, being Friday, we do have the “Week Ahead” for you.

Before we turn to our guests, any questions?  Yes, Edie?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I’d just like to express my dismay that we only learned about this incident in the garage at the UN building across the street from the New York City Police Department in the evening, last night, when this was an incident that happened at 10:30 in the morning, and I’d like an explanation.

Spokesman:  Okay, we will try to get one from Security.  I myself learned about it late last night or this morning from one of your colleagues.  But it needs to be stated that the incident was not on any UN premises and did not involve… no UN security guards were involved in the actual incident.  We were allowed to question the man who was detained afterwards but it was not on property policed or secured by the UN.

Yes, Masood?

Question:  As the Israeli forces prepare to aid a partial withdrawal from Gaza, will Mr. Alvaro de Soto be coming here for a briefing or to update us as to what exactly is happening with the disengagement and so forth?

Spokesman:  Sure, I’ll find out for you when he is next here.

Question:  Similarly, on Iraq, is Mr. Qazi expected any time?

Spokesman:  I think we need to get through the constitutional drafting process.  His efforts and his work are concentrated on that.  I have left numerous messages on your behalf in the Political Affairs Department to make sure you’re the first one to know when Mr. Qazi is on a plane to New York.  So you will not be surprised. 

Yes ma’am, in the back?

Question:  Can you comment on the AP Wire that says that the UN special investigation on Mr. Hariri’s death is going to take longer than scheduled?

Spokesman:  On Mr. who’s death, sorry?

Question:  Hariri.

Spokesman:  No, I do not have anything on that.  I’ll see if I can get an official statement from Mr. Mehlis on the investigation.  But if you recall, the Security Council resolution set a time limit but also had a clause whereby they could ask for further time to conduct the investigation.  But I will get you some language on that.

Yes, Akram?

Question:  You mentioned the United Arab Emirates, the children… those were used as jockeys for the camels or horses, which ones?

Spokesman:  The tradition had been to use children as jockeys in camel races in the United Arab Emirates, and the country enacted a law banning the use of children in those races.  So, with the help of UNICEF, those children were repatriated to their home country, to Bangladesh.

Question:  Is there any specific number?

Spokesman:  You can look at the press release upstairs from UNICEF, but there were specific numbers of children that were, thank God, being able to get home.

Question:  I just wanted to let you know I called the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) two times.  They have not responded.

Spokesman:  I spoke to them on your behalf late yesterday afternoon.  I gave them your number.  So we’ll go upstairs and we’ll get them on the phone together, Masood.

Thank you.

* *** *

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