DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

22 September 2005
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DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

22/09/2005
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


AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT


Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.


Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General


**Secretary-General in Washington


Good afternoon.  We have an update on the travels of the Secretary-General.  He will be going to Washington, D.C., tomorrow, where he’ll be the keynote speaker at a forum on the topic “Africa Matters”.  The event is being held in conjunction with the Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus.


Following his appearance at that event, the Secretary-General will meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the State Department.  He will then return to New York later in the day.


** Sudan


I also have a statement on Sudan, on the swearing in of the Government of National Unity:


“The Secretary-General welcomes the swearing in of the Government of National Unity of Sudan and commends the parties on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for achieving this major milestone on the road to lasting peace. 


“The United Nations Mission in Sudan will do its utmost to support the new Government of National Unity as it addresses the enormous challenges of establishing a durable peace and bringing economic development and reconstruction to Sudan after decades of civil war.


“The Secretary-General also notes that, as the new Government begins its work, the parties to the conflict in Darfur have convened in Abuja, where they have been brought together by the African Union, to negotiate an end to the terrible conflict that has caused so much suffering to that troubled region.  The Secretary-General calls on participants in the Abuja negotiations to apply themselves fully to bringing an end to the suffering of the people of Darfur by reaching an agreement during this round of talks and by the end of this year.”


That statement, as usual, is available upstairs. 


**Report on Darfur


Also on Sudan, the latest monthly report to the Security Council on Darfur is out as a document today.  It notes that the establishment of the Government of National Unity and the normalization of the situation in the rest of Sudan offers a tremendous promise for Darfur.  It also says that the resumption of the Abuja talks is a positive development.


Also on Darfur, I wanted to draw your attention to yesterday’s briefing by the Special Representative, Jan Pronk, in which he noted increasing violence in Darfur.

In the report, the Secretary-General flags the importance for the expansion of the African Union force to be successfully concluded for the safety and security of the people in Darfur.


**Security Council


The Security Council is holding consultations on Guinea-Bissau and Afghanistan today.  On Guinea-Bissau, the Secretary-General’s Representative to that country, João Bernardo Honwana, briefed the Council on the latest report, in which the Secretary-General said the country cannot meet its multiple challenges without international assistance.


Also on Guinea-Bissau, yesterday we issued a statement after the Secretary-General met with the Prime Minister of that country, Carlos Gomes Jr., to discuss the post-electoral situation.


On Afghanistan, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi briefed on last weekend’s elections.  The Council is expected to put out a press statement on both Guinea-Bissau and Afghanistan a bit later on this afternoon.


** Iraq – Security Council


Yesterday, on Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, briefed the Council on the situation in that country, notably on the constitutional process.


He also voiced his concern at the high toll of civilian casualties caused by the ongoing violence.  Also of great concern, he added, is the deterioration of the human rights situation.  We have copies of his statement to the Council available upstairs.


That meeting was followed by a private meeting in which both Qazi and Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Zebari, participated.


**Security Council – C ôte d’Ivoire


Also yesterday, on Côte d’Ivoire, Security Council President Lauro Baja of the Philippines read out a press statement in which Council members reiterated their support for the efforts of the Secretary-General, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, known as ECOWAS, towards promoting peace and national reconciliation, as well as for the continuing facilitation efforts of President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.


Council members also expressed their support for the upcoming visits of the Chairman of the Sanctions Committee on Côte d’Ivoire, so that the Council will be in a position to take appropriate action in response to those who pose a threat to the peace and national reconciliation process, and who are determined to be responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in that country.  The statement is, of course, available upstairs.


**Secretary-General Appointments


I have two senior appointments to announce today.  The Secretary-General is appointing Angela Kane of Germany as his Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs.  She’s replacing Danilo Türk.


He’s also appointing Jan Beagle of New Zealand as the new Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management. She will be replacing Rosemary McCreery.  Biographies of both these people are available upstairs. 


**Group of 77


Earlier today, the Secretary-General addressed the annual ministerial meeting of the “Group of 77” Foreign Ministers.  “We all know that the Summit did not achieve everything that we had hoped for”, he said.  “But it did achieve important progress, across a broad front, not least on development issues.”


The task now, the Secretary-General added, is to implement what was agreed, and on no issue is implementation more important than development.  He also pointed to the need to move ahead on management reform of the UN.  We have copies of that upstairs. 


**Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty


Also yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General addressed the fourth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, saying that we should all be concerned that after nine years the Treaty is still not in force.


Also yesterday at that meeting, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was elected President of the Conference, and the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament, Mr. Abe, was elected Vice-President.


Meanwhile, the Treaty parties have been discussing a proposal to work together to use the CTBT network as an early warning network to deal with natural disasters, such as the tsunami.


Tomorrow, the guest at the briefing will be Ambassador Deborah Stokes of Australia, and she will brief you on the meetings of the CTBT.


**Tsunami


Also on the tsunami, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who is the UN’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, today convened key players in Washington to take stock of current efforts. 


Among the participants were World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, heads of UN agencies, representatives from NGOs, and delegates from both the affected and donor countries.  We have more information available upstairs on that.


**UNESCO


From UNESCO, the organization today condemned the murders last week of two journalists in separate incidents in Iraq.  The agency said that it was a deliberate campaign in that country to kill journalists.


Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said he condemned the assassination of both Hind Ismail, of the Mosul daily As-Saffir, and Fakher Haider, of The New York Times, who was shot on 18 September.


**WHO/Obesity


The World Health Organization (WHO) today put out a press release in which it estimates that over 1 billion people are overweight globally, and that if current trends continue, that number will increase to 1.5 billion by 2015.


The agency said that obesity is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the world’s number one cause of death and accounts for over 17 million deaths a year.


According to agency estimates, the Pacific island nations of Nauru and Tonga have the highest global prevalence of the problem, with nine out of every 10 adults being overweight.  But the problem is also a cause for concern across a much wider range of countries, including Barbados, Egypt, Mexico, South Africa, the U.S., and the U.K., to name just a few.


**Budget


With the arrival of a cheque from Sudan, the numbers of fully paid-up Member States has now reached 122.  Any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Can we have an update on the Mehlis Commission in Syria?  And also, is the tribunal to be held in Lebanon or outside Lebanon?


Spokesman:  I don’t have an update for you on the Mehlis investigation.  He is continuing his work and I think most of the news will come out of his office in Beirut, but I have nothing here to add.


Question:  And the tribunal?


Spokesman:  On the tribunal, I think it’s a little early and I don’t have anything, but I’ll see if I can get you something on that. 


Question:  On the issue of Shaba’a Farms, during last week’s meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Secretary-General Annan, it was reported that Annan asked Sharon to withdraw from Shaba’a Farms because (inaudible) in that area.  Can we portray such a request as further efforts to disarm Hezbollah and do you see any withdrawal for Israeli troops from Shaba’a Farms any time soon? 


Spokesman:  During the course of the meeting, the Secretary-General had with Prime Minister Sharon, the Secretary-General recalled the work the UN had done in connection with Security Council resolution 426 (1978) notably, which includes the drawing of the withdrawal line of Israel from Lebanon, which you know is the Blue Line.  The Secretary-General noted that Shaba’a Farms remained one of the issues to be resolved.  Indeed, he called it “a thorn in need of extraction”.  However, the Secretary-General made no specific call or request for action at this time. 


Question:  Also yesterday, British State Minister for Middle Eastern Affairs Howell said that there should be an international arbitration over that dispute at Shaba’a Farms.  Do you think arbitration is needed, especially given that the two concerned countries, Lebanon and Syria, are agreeing that it’s Lebanese territory?


Spokesman:  I haven’t seen that statement, but I think, as to the status of Shaba’a Farms, the Security Council and the Secretary-General have made that clear, that Israel did comply with 426 when it withdrew. 


Question:  So he just noted the issue?  Kofi Annan told Ariel Sharon, “Let’s just talk about drawing the line”?  It doesn’t make sense.  He must have asked him something.  Did he actually tell him to fix it?


Spokesman:  He noted that Shaba’a Farms was one of the issues that needed to be resolved, among other issues, for comprehensive peace in the Middle East.


Question:  Does the Secretary-General think that it will be helpful if Israel withdraws from the Shaba’a Farms, given the fact that it’s an Arab-occupied territory regardless, that it is recognized as an occupied territory?


Spokesman:  Resolving this issue and all of these issues would be helpful.


Question:  I’m sorry, what does that mean?  Will you answer my question?  Does he think that they ...


Spokesman:  Resolving this issue of Shaba’a Farms, among others, would obviously be helpful towards a peace settlement in the Middle East. 


Question:  Would it be helpful in the implementation of 1559, in the context that Hezbollah says that it remains a resistance force because there is occupied land in Shaba’a Farms, so would it be helpful then in order to ...?


Spokesman:  I’ll stick to what I said, which is resolving this issue would be helpful in resolving a number of questions in the Middle East.


Question:  I was wondering whether, following the question yesterday, whether the UN could make a statement over whether Mugabe, or the Zimbabwean Government, continues to pull down houses in Zimbabwe?


Spokesman:  The information we’ve received from the country team indicates that there have not been any new demolitions, but there was an incident at the end of last month in Manicaland Province, where the Government tore down tents that had been set up by a number of UN agencies to relocate people that had been displaced by the demolitions.  And the UN has lodged a protest with the Government over that action. 


Question:  So the UN is basically saying, apart from that incident, nothing’s been pulled down.  That’s the UN’s position?


Spokesman:  The information that we have to date is that there have been no new demolitions to this date.  This is the information that we have received from the country team, based on its network of NGOs and civil society, which it has set up.


Question:  On CTBT, the Secretary-General noted yesterday that it should come into force.  Entry into force cannot take place until the 10 nations who are members of the CD (Conference on Disarmament) can sign on.  What, if any, efforts can the Secretary-General make to bring about an agreement amongst these nations to sign on, if at all he can do it, except for appeals?


Spokesman:  Unfortunately, at this point, his main avenue is the appeal for these nations to sign on to the Treaty.


Question:  I’m going to go back to the issue of the meeting between Kofi Annan and Ariel Sharon.  First of all, what was the response of Ariel Sharon when Kofi Annan said to him the issue of Shaba’a Farms needs to be resolved?


Spokesman:  I don’t have any more details of this private meeting than I’ve given you.


Question:  Secondly, can you tell us what’s the opinion of the Secretary-General on the idea of international arbitration on Shaba’a Farms?


Spokesman:  I’ll see if I can get you some guidance on that. 


Question:  We’re just curious, what is the UN Organization doing in regards to Hurricane Rita?  Is anybody going down early? 


Spokesman:  No, I’m not aware of anything that we’re doing in response to that.


Question:  On management reform, has the Secretariat sent now to the General Assembly its costing on the initial phase of setting up these new units and so forth? 


Spokesman:  Not yet, but we do expect some movement on that front, well, on the broader issue of management reform, what falls into the domain of the Secretariat, over the next week or 10 days. 


Question:  Can you give me some hints?  Do you expect movement ...?


Spokesman:  In terms of what we can do and what we’ve been asked to do, we should expect some movement over the next week or 10 days, but I’ll keep you updated.


Question:  Can we also get a readout of the meeting that Annan is having right now with OIC, the OIC ministers?


Spokesman:  Yes.


Question:  Is the U.S. among the paid-up countries?


Spokesman:  I’ll have to check.


Question:  In reference to that question about management reforms, I had asked about Mr. Burnham, and also the fact that now that the Summit is almost over, that the United Nations is going to move out of this Building. Mr. Burnham has said probably within nine or 10 months.  Can you tell us anything?


Spokesman:  We are trying to get either Mr. Burnham or Mr. Reuter to come down here and talk to you about the issues of the Capital Master Plan.  Thank you.  Pragati?


Briefing by the Spokesperson for General Assembly President


In the General Assembly, the general debate continues today with statements in the morning and afternoon meetings.  President Eliasson noted that the statement by Singapore this morning was a particularly useful intervention, focusing on the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in the world today.  The debate will wrap up tomorrow.


There are no meetings of the plenary expected on Monday through Wednesday of next week, but on Thursday, 29 September, the plenary is expected to meet in the morning to take up the agenda item on the report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization.  The Main Committees of the Assembly will also begin meeting next week to discuss their organization of work.  During this period, President Eliasson is also keeping an extensive schedule of bilaterals and consultations to discuss a range of issues, especially the follow-up to the World Summit.  He expects to issue a letter to Member States late next week outlining his plan for the way forward, and will hold a press briefing in conjunction with that.  Any questions?


Question (to Secretary-General’s Spokesman):  Just back to buildings, was this week’s (inaudible) earlier on sort of a carefully staged reminder to the delegates that the General Assembly would be ...?


Answer:  Informally.  Thank you.


* *** *


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