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

15 August 2005

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

15/8/2005
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.


**SG Statement - Israeli Disengagement


I’ll start off with a statement on the Israeli disengagement from Gaza:


“The Secretary-General is following attentively the process of Israeli disengagement from Gaza and the northern West Bank, which begins today and is expected to last into the month of October.  This is to be the first Israeli withdrawal from Occupied Palestinian Territory.


“The Secretary-General is hopeful that it will be executed in a peaceful and smooth manner, building on the coordination efforts of James Wolfensohn, the Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement.


“Quartet members have been briefed by Mr. Wolfensohn about the progress achieved in the past two months and the considerable work that remains ahead.  They have been discussing the role of the international community in promoting a revitalization of the peace process on the basis of the Road Map.  The Quartet members will meet in mid-September to assess matters jointly.


“The Secretary-General believes this is a moment of promise and hope.  Success will demand statesmanship of the highest order, on a sustained basis, from all parties concerned.”


And, the full statement is available upstairs.


**SG Statement on Aceh Peace Talks


I also have a statement on the peace accord reached in Aceh: 


“The Secretary-General welcomes the signing today in Helsinki of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement.  He applauds both parties for reaching a peaceful settlement of the dispute through dialogue.  He commends Martti Ahtisaari for the mediation role that he played throughout the negotiation process.


“The Secretary-General is pleased to learn that the Memorandum of Understanding is a comprehensive agreement, covering a wide array of issues, ranging from the governing of Aceh and security arrangements to human rights issues.


“He sincerely hopes that the MoU will be implemented in full, so that a lasting peace can prevail in Aceh after nearly 30 years of conflict there.  The people in Aceh deserve a peaceful future.


“The Secretary-General reiterates his call for both parties to demonstrate continued resolve and commitment throughout the implementation of the MoU.  In this connection, he is encouraged to learn that the monitors from the
European Union and a number of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries are being deployed as of today in Aceh as a part of the Aceh Monitoring Mission.”


And, the full statement is available upstairs. 


** Sudan


From Sudan, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reports that Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, flew to Darfur today to meet with leaders of rebel groups and non-governmental organizations.  The visit is meant to complete a mission that was started last month but that he had to interrupt after the death of former Vice-President John Garang.


** C ôte d’Ivoire


And from Côte d’Ivoire, UN envoys in Côte d’Ivoire met with rebel forces over the weekend and today are heading to South Africa for conferences with South African President Thabo Mbeki, the mediator of the Ivorian conflict.


The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire reports that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Pierre Schori, and the UN’s electoral representative, Antonio Monteiro, met with the Forces Nouvelles in Bouaké, north of the capital, on Sunday. 


And, both envoys have scheduled meetings with President Mbeki in Pretoria to discuss implementation of the peace plan, as well as preparations for elections, which are scheduled for October 30. 


**Procurement Division


And, I have an update for you on the procurement division here at the UN:


Following the irregularities uncovered in the Procurement Service by both the UN’s Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), as well as the Independent Inquiry Committee into the oil-for-food programme, the Secretary-General has decided to commission a full financial and internal control review of the UN’s current procurement system. 


To carry out this new review, the United Nations will be retaining the services of an independent external consultancy company.  The review is expected to be completed by the end of September. 


Due to the seriousness of the situation, the Secretary-General has also asked Mr. Warren Sach, the UN Controller, to assume direct oversight over the Procurement Service.  This is a temporary and exceptional measure, pending the completion of the external review.


At the same time, OIOS is continuing its investigations into Mr. Alexander Yakovlev, the former UN procurement officer who has been accused of criminal wrongdoing.  And, that investigation continues in close cooperation with the US Federal Attorney for the Southern District of New York. 


Once the investigation is complete, OIOS will make separate recommendations for reforms to the UN procurement system, with a particular focus on strengthened supervision and controls over individual procurement officers. 


These reviews will complement a general assessment of UN procurement, completed in June by the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing, the results of which are being made public today.  And, that report will be available in my Office upstairs. 


The Institute, which is an American-based not-for-profit organization, initiated the review at the UN’s request.  It compared existing procurement rules and regulations with the best global practice of outside organizations and companies and contains a large number of recommendations for improvements to UN procurement systems and practices. 


The report will also be posted on the UN’s public website (ref: http://www.un.org/reform/).


The Secretary-General will implement expeditiously all the recommendations arising from all these reviews and investigations into the UN’s procurement operations.


And, that will be released as a “Note to Correspondents” and will be available upstairs. 


**SG Statement - Sri Lanka


On Friday, we issued a statement on behalf of the Secretary-General on the assassination of Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar.  And, I’ll just read it into the record:


“The Secretary-General was shocked and saddened to learn of the killing, deplored in the strongest of terms the criminal and senseless act, and hoped that the perpetrators will be found and brought to justice.


“The Secretary-General also hoped that this tragedy would not weaken the commitment of the people of Sri Lanka to achieve a durable peace.”


And, the full statement is available upstairs.


** Clinton Statement - Sri Lanka


And, also, a statement was issued by the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, former President Bill Clinton, on the assassination. 


And, we also expect to have a statement from Mr. Clinton on the peace accord reached in Aceh.


**OCHA - FYROM


And, from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, it reports that it is providing emergency funds to The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, following flooding in that country.  And, there is a note on that available up stairs.


** Noon Guest Tomorrow


And, finally tomorrow, our guest will be Kemal Derviş, the new Administrator of the UN Development Programme, and he will be introduced here by the Deputy Secretary-General.


And that is it for me.  Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Is the OIOS inquiry into Mr. Yakovlev looking at other people in the department, as well?


Spokesman:  The focus is on Mr. Yakovlev and his work in the department.  I think, as to who and what they’re looking is obviously up to them to decide.  But, that investigation is continuing. 


Question:  Steph, I just wanted to ask you -- earlier in this room today, we had a briefing from the Ambassador of Israel, Dan Gillerman, and he mentioned a number of things specifically about high schools and pre-schools being closed but not demolished.  And, I know that UNRWA works heavily with the Palestinian school system.  Would there be any possibility of having an UNRWA representative brief us here in this room regarding UNRWA and the future…?


Spokesman:  I’ll ask.  I’d be happy to ask for you.


Question:  Do you have any reaction to these reports of the Secretary-General’s brother’s involvement in oil-for-food and so forth?


Spokesman:  The only thing I can tell you is to confirm that the Secretary-General does have a brother named Kobina Annan, who is the Ghanaian Ambassador to Morocco.  As to whether or not he’s being questioned by investigators of the IIC, I have no comment, and you’d have to ask Mr. Volcker’s office.


Question:  Who is the gentleman who is taking over procurement, whom you just announced.


Spokesman:  On a temporary basis, Warren Sach, who is the current UN Controller.


Question:  And, what is the external consultancy company that’s going to do the review, and can you tell us anything more about, I guess, the terms of their hiring.  Is there a budget for this, or a time frame?


Spokesman:  The time frame is by the end of September.  That study will focus on internal controls and financial management of the procurement division.  It’s more of a retrospective look at decisions and behaviours in the procurement division.  And, it has not yet been chosen, but that will happen shortly.


Question:  On the same issue, why is it, more than a year after the oil-for-food scandal broke, to put in place this procurement review, overhaul?  I mean, shouldn’t this have been done by the day after everybody knew what was going on?


Spokesman:  Already, months ago, we had undertaken a broader review of the procurement division, and that’s the report that I alluded to of the National Government Institute, which will be making recommendations.  The big impetus for this announcement is obviously Mr. Yakovlev’s case, which was unearthed by OIOS and involves quite a substantial amount of money. 


Question:  Mr. Yakovlev, I mean, that story, has been on the news for probably two or three months, but Annan’s son’s case has been in the papers for a year, and that has clearly something to do with procurement.  My point is -- why did they wait so long?  This is part of all of the criticism of the Organization -- there is no reaction…


Spokesman:  We had undertaken a review of the Procurement Division months ago.  Obviously, the case of Mr. Yakovlev shows that whatever measures and safeguards that had been in place need to be looked at again, and procedures need to be tightened.  Any other questions?


Question:  Do you know if the Secretary-General has spoken to his brother since these revelations in the Times?


Spokesman:  No, I do not.


Question:  On Iraq, do you have any update on whether the Constitution is being delayed?


Spokesman:  No, we’re obviously taking a look at the situation very closely with Mr. Qazi.  The discussions are ongoing and we’re following them very closely.  These discussions are still going on, and I think the Secretary-General’s message to all the parties is to urge compromise.


Question:  Are any other members of the Annan family being investigated regarding oil-for-food?  Or, let me put it another way. Does the Secretary-General know about somebody else in his family that might have a connection with oil-for-food?


Spokesman:  Who is being questioned by oil-for-food and when is a question for Mr. Volcker to answer.


Question:  I’m asking about the Secretary-General.  Does he know, when did he know about his brother’s alleged involvement in…


Spokesman:  As far as I know -- first of all, we don’t know if Mr. Volcker is actually questioning it.  So, it’s… (talkover) and so I don’t know and we don’t know.  All I can tell you is that Kobina Annan is, in fact, the Ambassador of Ghana to Morocco.  Further than that, I have no other information. 


Question:  Back to Gaza.  There was some conflicting information over the weekend about pulling UN staff out or not.  What’s the situation with that?


Spokesman:  Yes, the UN has pulled non-essential international staff temporarily out of Gaza; relocated them in Jerusalem.  Those people who had been relocated perform administrative functions -- mostly for UNRWA, but also for other UN agencies in Gaza.  In that relocation, great care has been taken so that the temporary relocations had no effect on the operational activities of UN agencies working in Gaza.


Thank you very much.


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