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

25 August 2005

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

25/8/2005
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, everyone.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning received a briefing by the Secretary-General’s High-Level Coordinator, Yuli Vorontsov, on the question of missing Kuwaitis and third-country nationals in Iraq.

Following that briefing in closed consultations, the Council President, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan, told reporters that Council members shared the Secretary-General’s view, expressed in his recent report, condemning the execution of Kuwaiti and other nationals by the previous Iraqi regime.  Council members agreed that those responsible should be brought to justice.

This afternoon at 3, the Security Council has scheduled consultations on Lebanon.  Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari will brief the Council on the progress of the investigation into former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination.

** Côte d’Ivoire

The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire reported today that four militia groups in the western part of the country have joined in a ceremony marking their intention to disarm and demobilize.  The Mission reported the actual weapons transfer will begin as soon as the National Programme for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration works out the details and secures the necessary funds.

** Haiti

A Peruvian peacekeeper serving with the UN Mission in Haiti was shot and wounded in the leg yesterday.  The peacekeeper was part of a patrol in the Shodecosa area of Port-au-Prince.

The patrol was helping a group of people near a voter registration centre after that group was attacked by other people throwing stones at them.  When the peacekeepers arrived, they were also attacked by the stone throwers, and as the incident escalated, the peacekeeper was shot by an unidentified individual.  He’s undergone successful surgery for the wound.

**UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees

I have one appointment to announce today.  The Secretary-General has appointed Filippo Grandi of Italy as Deputy Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, otherwise known to you as UNRWA.

Until now, Mr. Grandi has been serving as the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative at the UN Mission in Afghanistan.  He was in that post since May 2004, and was responsible for political affairs.

We have upstairs more details about Mr. Grandi’s past experience.

** Cambodia

I have another appointment today.  Michelle Lee, of China, was appointed to be the Coordinator of the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, effective on 1 September.  She will act as the international Deputy Director of the Office of Administration, which will service the Extraordinary Chambers and other various bodies relating to the Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia.  We have her bio data upstairs.

** Department of Economic and Social Affairs Report

Today, just about a few minutes ago, you saw that a UN report was released, which says that, although some parts of the globe have experienced unprecedented growth, the world is more unequal than it was 10 years ago.  The report, titled “The Inequality Predicament” says that inequalities between rich and poor have often accompanied globalization.  It says unemployment remains high, particularly among the young, and poverty is still entrenched in much of the world.

A press release is upstairs and a booklet is available at the Document Media Counter.

**United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

In another report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD, reports today that the Palestinian economy continued a sharp deterioration that started in the year 2000.

According to UNCTAD’s Annual Report on Assistance to the Palestinian People, the gross domestic product of the Occupied Palestinian Territory declined in 2004, to a level 15 per cent below that of 1999.

The UNCTAD report recommends that the Palestinian Authority target poverty reduction while expanding production and trade.  A press release is upstairs, and the full report is on UNCTAD’s web page.

**World Health Organization

The World Health Organization, WHO, has welcomed a donation from Roche Pharmaceuticals of enough antiviral medicine to treat 3 million people in case of an outbreak of an influenza pandemic.  WHO reports that it is monitoring the outbreaks of avian influenza in parts of Asia, Russia and Kazakhstan, and it is creating an international stockpile of antiviral drugs for rapid response, should a pandemic occur.

The agency says that although rich countries can afford to stockpile antiviral drugs, poor nations cannot.  If a pandemic were to emerge in a poor country, the agency says, the drugs could be flown in quickly to stop its spread.  We have a press release on that upstairs.

**Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Lastly, some news from OCHA.  The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs today announced that it will organize a regional meeting of United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations working to combat the recent cholera outbreaks in West Africa.  The meeting will be held next week in Dakar, Senegal.  It will be aimed assessing the scope of the problem and the responses to it.  A press release is upstairs.

And with that, do we have any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Is there any news on Zimbabwe?

Mr. Haq:  Nothing so far, but stay patient.  There is a possibility that we could have a press briefing to announce for you that could take place as early as tomorrow.  We will be in touch with you later today to let you know whether we, in fact, will have Mr. Egeland come down to you to talk about that.  But we’ll have to wait on that.

Question:  Is Mr. Egeland going to come down to tell us that maybe there will be a flash appeal?

Mr. Haq:  We’ll have to see whether there will be a briefing by Mr. Egeland.  We have not firmly scheduled anything yet.  At this stage, we don’t know if we will have anything to announce, but we might have something for you.  Just stay in touch with our Office and we’ll let you know whether there is a briefing planned for tomorrow.

Question:  Are the people upstairs planning to have the Secretary-General give a press conference or any major press availability on the eve of the 60th anniversary?

Mr. Haq:  We are working on that.  I’ll check and see where we stand on that.  Obviously, for the next week or so, he is not actually going to be back at the Office.  We expect him back after he visits another country, in a trip we have yet to announce.  But we expect him back around 8 September.  Presumably, some time after that, we will see if we can fit something into his schedule.

Question:  12 September would be good.  Another item:  the “UN Wire” said that Louise Fréchette laid a wreath a week ago, Friday, at the second anniversary of the bombing [of the UN compound in Baghdad, Iraq], but she really didn’t.  That ceremony, I was told, was organized by the Staff Union, and she was just there.  How do you explain the…

Mr. Haq:  There was a wreath-laying, but no, I don’t believe the Deputy Secretary-General was the one who laid the wreath.  She did attend the ceremony.  That was a ceremony that took place last Friday at about 10:15 at the visitor’s side.

Question:  The “UN Wire” said she laid the wreath.

Mr. Haq:  I don’t have anything to do with how “UN Wire” is produced, I don’t know about that.  I know that she did participate.  I believe the wreath-laying was done by other people.

[A correspondent who had been present at the ceremony said the wreath-laying was done by two injured survivors of the bombing.  The Deputy Secretary-General was among some other UN staff among a group of about 300 or 400 people who watched.]

There is your answer.  She was in attendance, but it was other people who did the wreath-laying.  I don’t know about the “UN Wire” account.

Question:  Will you release something soon about the coming summit, like the list of speakers with some 170 Heads of State?

Mr. Haq:  Yes, as you know, every year, as we come across these meetings, we try to get to you as soon as possible a list of speakers.  That is being worked out and as soon as we can distribute it, we will give you it out to you.

Question:  How are you going to fit in 175 leaders of the world?  Two minutes each?

Mr. Haq:  As you know, all the world’s leaders are very short and pithy when they talk.  That shouldn’t be a problem.

Anything else?  If not, have a good afternoon.

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