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

30 September 2005
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DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

30/09/2005
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

Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

** Iraq

Good afternoon, I’ll start off with a statement on the situation in Iraq.

“The Secretary-General is extremely concerned about the heightened violence in Iraq, which is overwhelmingly aimed at the civilian population.  He is appalled by the latest series of bombings yesterday in Balad that killed more than 90 people and wounded many more, including many women and children, as well as another serious attack today in Hilla.

“He strongly condemns these attacks, which appear to have been coordinated so as to kill and injure as many innocent civilians as possible.  No cause can justify such acts of terror.  The Secretary-General conveys his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims.

“The Secretary-General believes that those who refuse to participate in the political process should not, by acts of intimidation and violence, deprive others of their right to do so.  He once again urges Iraqis of all persuasions not to be deterred by such violence, and to express themselves peacefully through the democratic process, starting with the forthcoming national referendum on the draft permanent constitution.  The United Nations remains committed to working with all Iraqi communities and political entities in supporting the peaceful political transition of their country.”

That statement is available upstairs.

** Darfur

I also have a statement on Darfur.

“The Secretary-General is alarmed at the recent escalation of violence in Darfur.  The Secretary-General strongly condemns the attacks on civilians, humanitarian workers and assets, and the African Union Mission in Sudan, and deplores the many casualties.  He is concerned about the additional suffering and displacement these attacks have caused to the civilian populations.  He is particularly appalled by the attack on September 28 on a displaced persons camp in West Darfur, during which 34 people are reported to have been killed.

“The Secretary-General emphasizes the need to immediately halt the attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice.  He urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid any further escalation.

“In the meantime, the parties must apply themselves fully at the sixth round of the Abuja talks to bring an end to the suffering of the people of Darfur.

“He calls upon the Government of Sudan to protect its civilians and to continue its efforts in bringing stability and fostering national reconciliation in the country.”

That statement is available upstairs.

Also from Darfur, the UNHCR, which sent a team to the site of the camps, reported today that many of the 4,000 to 5,000 residents of the camp had returned from nearby mountains and surrounding countryside, where they initially fled as the horsemen swooped into the camp, killing residents and burning down their makeshift shelters, on Wednesday afternoon.

There is an update available on the UNHCR website, and we also have upstairs a statement from the Secretary-General’s Representative in Sudan, Jan Pronk, also condemning the attacks.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

From Côte d’Ivoire, the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire has warned that any attempts to remove some 2,700 internally displaced persons from a Catholic mission there would be a violation of human rights.

The UN unit was reacting to a published report that the local defence forces would forcibly evacuate a Catholic refugee centre in the western city of Duekoue.

The UN mission called on the national authorities to help protect the internally displaced persons.  A press release from Cote d’Ivoire is also available upstairs.

** Sierra Leone

The Deputy Secretary-General this morning urged countries to give generously at a pledging conference for the Special Court for Sierra Leone.  By doing so, she said, States will make clear that those who commit heinous crimes against international law, wherever they may be, should be held accountable.

The Court’s Registrar, Robin Vincent, estimates that $25 million will be needed to finance the Court’s activities next year, when the Court’s funding will come from voluntary contributions.

Mr. Vincent and the Court’s Prosecutor, Mr. da Silva, are here, and they’ll join me in just a few minutes to answer your questions on the Court.

**Security Council

As far as the Security Council is concerned, this morning they held two formal meetings.

In the first one, the Council extended the mandate of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by one month, until the end of October.  Then, the Council adopted a technical adjustment in the term of one of the judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

As a note, today is the last day of the Philippine presidency of the Security Council.   Romania will take over starting October 1st.

**Human Rights

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, has written to the Uzbek Government proposing to send an observer to the ongoing and future trials of persons accused of crimes committed in connection with the events in Andijan in mid-May.

The purpose of the observer mission is to establish whether these trials are conducted in compliance with international fair trial guarantees.

In order for the observer mission to work effectively, it is necessary that it be granted unhindered and unrestricted access to places of detention, including a number of documents, as well as to all interrogations of detainees.  We have more information upstairs.

**WFP

The World Food Programme (WFP) today warned that at least 5 million people in Malawi may require international assistance, as maize prices and malnutrition rates continue to rise sharply.

The agency reports that hundreds of unregistered people are turning up at its food distribution points in southern Malawi, trying to get rations.  Many say they are only eating one meal or less per day, and that they are resorting to eating water lily bulbs, which have little nutritional value and are dangerous to harvest.

**Sports for Peace

Also, from the office of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr. Ogi announces that he’s appointed the national cricket teams of India and Pakistan as Spokespersons for the International Year of Sport and Physical Education, in recognition of their efforts to use sport as a vehicle of peace.

**WSIS

The third meeting of the Preparatory Committee on the World Summit on the Information Society is scheduled to close today in Geneva.  The last plenary meeting is this evening and will go on into the night, we’re told.  Delegates today are considering setting up an open-ended working group that will meet in October, also in Geneva.

** Colombia Event

Here at UN Headquarters, you’re all invited this evening to an event focusing on the plight of Colombia’s internally displaced persons.  The event, which will feature film and photography, will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium, and is being sponsored by the UN Development Programme, as well as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

**Other Press Briefings

At 1:15 p.m. here in Room 226, the President of the General Assembly, Jan Eliasson, will brief you on his plans for the follow-up to the World Summit.  A letter outlining his plans is being sent to Member States this morning and will be made available to you right after this briefing.

On Monday, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sierra Leone, Mr. Mwakawago, will be our guest at the briefing.

That is it for me.  Any questions before we turn to our guests?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  A report came out this morning on staff members under arrest or detained.  It mentions that there are 7 arrested in Eritrea, in 2004 and 2005, still in detention, but it doesn’t really say what they do or why they were arrested.  I’m wondering if we could…

Spokesman:  Sure, we’ll check right after the briefing.

Question:  It’s a report of the Secretary-General on safety and security of humanitarian personnel.

Spokesman:  OK, I’ll check right after.

[The Spokesman later added that the seven UN staff members arrested in Eritrea were local staff.  The arrests were connected to national military service obligations.]

Question:  In light of the President of the General Assembly’s upcoming briefing, could you tell us what steps the Secretary-General has taken so far to implement the outcome document, things that he has been able to do or can do, sort of unilaterally I guess you could say?

Spokesman:  He is working with his management team on a number of issues.  The outcome document calls on the Secretary-General to report to the Member States on the management aspect.  We’re working on that response, and that includes the buyout option.  It includes the strengthening of ethics and the creation of an ethics office, and includes strengthening of the accountability and oversight.  But we can try to get you a bit more details as well.

Question:  Is there a timetable for when the Secretary-General would like to have that presented to the General Assembly?

Spokesman:  There is a timetable in the outcome document, which escapes me at this very moment, but we are working on this as soon as possible.

Question:  Is there any further identification of who perpetrated the attack on the IDP camp in Darfur, other than to say armed Arab men on horseback and camels?

Spokesman:  No, but my understanding is that UNHCR obviously has a team there, so hopefully they can get more information, and the African Union, as well, is looking into this.

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