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

23 August 2005

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

23/8/2005
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 Farhan Haq, Information Officer, Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon and welcome to the briefing.

**Statement on Iraq

I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Iraq.

“The Secretary-General welcomes the progress being made in the drafting of a permanent constitution for Iraq.  He expresses the hope that the additional time afforded by the Transitional National Assembly to finalize the constitution will enable all parties to reach an agreement that will meet the expectations of the people of Iraq.

“The Secretary-General reiterates his belief that only an inclusive and transparent process can lead to an enduring constitution that will bring peace, stability and prosperity to the people of Iraq.  He therefore urges all parties to demonstrate further flexibility and understanding to ensure that the constitution will serve the interest of all Iraqis.

“The Secretary-General pledges the full support of the United Nations in this endeavour.  His Special Representative, Mr. Ashraf Qazi, and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) constitutional team will continue to provide the necessary assistance to facilitate this process.”

**Statement on Lebanon

I also have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman on Lebanon.

“The Secretary-General was appalled to hear of another bombing in Beirut that injured several people in the Zalka suburb.  He strongly condemns this latest terrorist act and extends his sympathies to the victims.

“The Secretary-General strongly supports the efforts of the Government of Lebanon to improve the security situation and urges it to bring to justice those behind this crime.  He reiterates his call upon all parties to continue to work towards a united, sovereign and democratic Lebanon.”

**Statement on Guinea-Bissau

And last, there’s another statement, this time on Guinea-Bissau.

“The Secretary-General has taken note of the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice of Guinea-Bissau, announced on 19 August 2005, which confirmed the final results of the second round of the presidential elections held on 24 July 2005.

“He calls on all parties to accept the ruling of the Court, made within the framework of the electoral law and the country’s constitutional process, in order to enable Guinea-Bissau to move forward to a more peaceful and prosperous future with the support of the international community.”

We have all those statements available upstairs, and the Guinea-Bissau statement is also available in French.

**Secretary-General in Niger

The Secretary-General today kicked off his two-day visit to Niger by arriving in Zinder, where he was welcomed by the country’s President, Mamadou Tandja.

The Secretary-General and Nane Annan then went to see first-hand the facilities in Zinder that are trying to help the people of Niger, as they face the challenges of drought, desertification and the recent locust plague.  They visited the National Hospital of Zinder and a feeding centre run by Médecins sans Frontières.  The Secretary-General then travelled to the village of Madara, a few miles outside of Zinder.  Greeted by the provincial governor and local chiefs, the Secretary-General was briefed by village representatives on the various ongoing mechanisms put in place to fight food insecurity, such as cereal banks and fertilizer cooperatives. 

Speaking to reporters at that village, the Secretary-General said he had come to see the extent of the food crisis in Niger with his own eyes, and to see how the United Nations can work with the Government to improve the situation.  The United Nations’ assistance, he added, also needs to have a long-term effect.

The delegation has since travelled to the capital, Niamey, where the Secretary-General is to meet with the United Nations country team for Niger later today.

**Security Council

On the Security Council, Jean Arnault, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, today briefed the Security Council in an open meeting about the preparations for the Afghan elections, which take place in just a little over three weeks.

Arnault said that nearly $30 million in international funding is still needed for electoral costs, including ballot printing and transportation.  He noted continuing security concerns, saying that attacks have resumed with increased intensity in the south, the east and the south-east.

Despite such concerns, he said, “we are confident that, by the end of this year, a representative new National Assembly will be established and that, with it, the Bonn process will be successful completed.”  We have his briefing notes upstairs.

The Security Council’s debate on Afghanistan is continuing.  We expect the Council to adopt a Presidential Statement on Afghanistan at the end of today’s meeting.

**UNHCR

On UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, is in Khartoum today on the first stop of his ten-day mission to Sudan, Chad and Kenya.  Guterres is meeting with Sudanese government ministers today and will consult later in the day with United Nations officials on the state the refugee work in that country.

Tomorrow he will fly to west Darfur, where he will visit a camp for some of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the province.  On Thursday he will visit refugee camps in Chad.

**General Assembly

Lastly, on the General Assembly, General Assembly President Jean Ping is holding intensive consultations this week with regional groups on how to proceed with the finalisation of the draft outcome document for the September summit.

Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  While the Secretary-General is visiting Niger, Médecins sans Frontières has criticized the United Nations saying that it came with too little, too late.  And we all know that it’s not the fault of the United Nations.  How would the United Nations answer this criticism?

Mr. Haq:  Well, the way to answer it is that the United Nations has done all that it can with minimal funding.  We’ve been ringing the alarm bell for Niger since November of last year, but funding increased only recently.  Due in large part to our advocacy efforts for Niger, it’s been brought to the front pages all around the world, and the world response since then has been heartening.  And we’ve received more of a response in recent weeks. 

Since the aid efforts have received better funding, the United Nations has now been able to ramp up its operations sharply and the response we’re mounting now is quite effective.  And we’ll continue to work with all of our partners –- the Government, the Red Cross, NGOs, donors –- to give the best possible assistance that we can to the people of Niger.  And of course we hope that the Secretary-General’s trip today and tomorrow will also help to raise awareness, show our solidarity with the people of Niger and also with the people of the Sahel as a whole, since Niger is not the only country in the Sahel region that has faced a crisis.  And hopefully we can get more aid to the people in need in all of these countries.

Question:  Earlier today, the United States Mission spokesman made some comments, suggesting that while the United States believes in having this deadline -- September Summit, for many reforms is a good way to pressure States in coming to an agreement -- that the United States doesn’t necessarily expect there to be a ribbon-tied package to be delivered at that point.  Does the Secretary-General still want nations to come up with a definitive outline for reform by that date, or is this something like Council reform, that he’s willing to see pushed back until December or some other date?

Mr. Haq:  What the Secretary-General has said about this is that he’s hopeful, and quite strongly hopeful, given the advanced stage of discussions and negotiations, that Member States can come to agreement on a significant number of issues in time for the September Summit.  And we want to have some outcome at the Summit that will show how far we’ve gotten. 

He is still hopeful, by the way, of some agreement on Security Council reform, but if we cannot get that by September, you’re right, that he has said that, at the very least, he would like Member States to agree on the need for Security Council reform and to agree on having some sort of deadline, possibly by the end of this year, for that reform to be achieved.  So we’re trying for this.  Obviously this is a membership-led process, and we’ll see how the Member States proceed. 

But, as I just told you, General Assembly President Ping is talking with Member States right now to see what sort of progress we can make on the draft outcome document and we’re still quite hopeful that we will get something, we’ll get advances on actually quite an impressive number of fronts by September.

Question:  Is he concerned that there’s too much focus on the document rather than actual reforms, or is it his belief that the document is sort of a blueprint by which the reforms have already been decided?

Mr. Haq:  Well, the document, as it currently stands, includes a number of proposals, a number of steps, that if you put it together, it would amount to in itself a significant overhaul of the way the United Nations and the international system work.  And so we’re hoping that Member States will agree and that the draft outcome document will in fact represent a significant advance in how the United Nations system and the international system works.  And we’ll just have to see how these discussions go.  Clearly, though, Member States are talking seriously and we’re hoping that they’ll come to some agreement.

Question:  Can we just have an update -– I’m sorry if you answered this already -– on when the Lebanon interim report is going to be put out.

Mr. Haq: On Thursday, Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari will talk to the Security Council in its consultations about the work of the commission that’s investigating the Hariri assassination, and that briefing is, in fact, the interim report that they’re getting.  And we hope we can have Mr. Gambari talk to you at the stakeout after he briefs the Security Council.

Question:  Do you have any update on Iraq, the demands that it be further delayed for another week or so? Has Mr. Qazi communicated with you whether there’s been any development as far as that’s concerned?

Mr. Haq:  The only thing I can really say about that is that this constitutional process, these negotiations, are Iraqi-led and Iraqi-owned.  As you know, the United Nations is actively engaged in helping to facilitate this process and at this stage, it would not be appropriate to go into the details of the negotiations.  The United Nations will continue to do everything possible to promote a mutually acceptable outcome to all parties.  So that’s all I have to say about that.  In terms of how many days it will take, we’ll have to see what the Iraqi parties are agreeing to.

Question:  On the draft outcome, what you were talking to Nick about, from the conversations of many delegations it seems that the draft outcome is almost as doomed as Security Council reform.  Does the Secretary-General intend to take stock of this situation, as such, and come up with some sort of plan…

Mr. Haq:  Just the same as what I told Nick a couple of minutes ago, that we’re quite hopeful that you will have a draft outcome document and that many of the things that are already being agreed to and being negotiated among Member States, if taken together, would represent a major advance and a major overhaul of the United Nations system.

Question:  Has Kofi Annan offered to go to Burma and have Burmese authorities offered to host him?  Are there any plans for Kofi Annan to go Burma, or Myanmar?

Mr. Haq:  Obviously there are a number of countries that the Secretary-General is thinking about visiting between now and the end of his term.  Myanmar is one of them, but we don’t have any dates or any schedule for any trip.  And we would have to see whether the proper arrangements could be put in place for any such visit.  But I don’t have anything to announce about a visit. 

Question:  When would it be possible for the General Assembly President Ping to meet the press here, once he has concluded the consultations?

Mr. Haq:  We’ll certainly put in a request to him on that.

Question:  Carina Perelli -- is there a decision yet, or when does a decision have to be made?

Mr. Haq:  We’re waiting on a decision.  She gave a reply on Thursday afternoon to the charge letter from the Office of Human Resources Management, and that Office is now studying that letter.  And we’ll see what kind of decision they have.  We will let you know once any decision is made.

Question:  Is there a deadline?

Mr. Haq:  I don’t know about that.  I’ll inquire.

And with that, thanks very much.

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