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

25 October 2005
db051025

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

25/10/2005
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

Good afternoon.

** Iraq

I have a statement on the results of the Iraqi elections.  The Secretary-General is pleased that the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq released the preliminary results of the referendum on the draft constitution this morning.  He commends the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq for having organized the referendum under very difficult circumstances.

The Iraqi people have made their decision and have approved the draft constitution.  The Secretary-General commends them for this historic event, which he hopes will mark a milestone on Iraq’s path to democracy.  The high levels of voter turnout throughout the country and amongst all the main political constituencies are particularly encouraging.  That so many voters turned out to vote despite the threats against them is a welcome sign of their desire to choose ballots rather than bullets to express their political views.

With the adoption of the constitution, Iraq can now move forward to the next step in its political transition process, the holding of national elections on December 15th.  The Secretary-General calls on all Iraqis to participate with the same commitment in the upcoming election campaign, which will determine the composition of Iraq’s new parliament.

The Secretary-General hopes that the adoption of Iraq’s constitution will encourage all Iraqis to reach out to one another in a spirit of national reconciliation through a fully inclusive political process to build a democratic and united Iraq.  The United Nations will continue to make every effort to support the efforts of the Iraqi people and the Government to that end.

And that statement is, of course, available upstairs.

**Security Council

Detlev Mehlis, as you all know, the head of the UN Independent International Investigation Commission, this morning briefed the Security Council on his report on the assassination on February 14th of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Mehlis said in the open meeting that for such a multidimensional and complex case as this one, the investigation cannot be considered complete as of now, with more time to be allotted to look into emerging leads.  When the overall investigation is completed, he added, it will be up to the Lebanese authorities to seek the way ahead, including any judicial mechanism.

Ambassadors from Lebanon and Syria also addressed the public meeting, which is now being followed by closed Council consultations, also on Mehlis’ report.

Once that’s done, we will bring Mr. Mehlis here in this room, in 226, so you can speak to him, and he has told us he is willing to speak for at least 45 minutes to you.  Due to the large number of German media present, we’ll also have German-English interpretation, in case Mr. Mehlis decides to answer a question in German.

** Eritrea

Turning to Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Secretary-General has written a letter to the Security Council on Ethiopia and Eritrea in which he warns that, in the absence of concrete action, the situation could escalate and, by intent or as a result of miscalculation, lead to another round of devastating hostilities.

In the letter sent yesterday evening, which is now available upstairs in our Office, the Secretary-General mentions a recent meeting with troop-contributing countries to the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), where there was an appeal to the Security Council to send an unequivocal and strong message to reverse an increasingly untenable situation.

The Secretary-General in the letter reiterates his call to the Security Council to exert its maximum influence to avert a further deterioration of the situation and to ensure that the restrictions imposed on UNMEE are lifted.

He also says he is ready to work closely with the Council and with key stakeholders to bring this dangerous crisis to an end, to conclude the peace process as soon as possible and re-establish vital humanitarian activities in Eritrea.

**Secretary-General in Geneva

The Secretary-General will tonight leave for Geneva, where tomorrow he will make the opening speech at a ministerial-level donors’ conference to boost international assistance to South Asia as the region seeks to recover from the October 8th earthquake.  We expect him back in New York on Thursday.

While pleading for increased assistance last week, the Secretary-General said, “If we are to show ourselves worthy of calling ourselves members of humankind, we must rise to this challenge.  And our response will be no less than a measure of our humanity.”

Concerning the UN's Flash Appeal, the UN has now received $67 million in contributions and pledges of $35 million.  Christiane Berthiaume of the World Food Programme said WFP was awaiting tomorrow’s donor meeting because the funds so far were just not adequate.  And we have more information upstairs in the briefing notes from the Geneva press conference.

**South Asia Quake

And also, while on the subject of the earthquake, the UNHCR reports that the NATO-UNHCR airlift, which we told you about, has so far flown in some 250 tons of aid and is getting a boost today with the addition of a chartered Boeing 747 cargo plane.  In comparison with the NATO cargo planes, which can carry about 10 tons of aid per flight, the 747 can carry 76 tons per flight. 

** Haiti

The UN Mission in Haiti reports that a Jordanian peacekeeper serving with the UN Mission in Haiti died last night from wounds sustained during a weekend patrol.  The “Blue Helmet” had been shot in the head by armed outlaws at the entrance to the Cité Soleil area in Port-au-Prince.  He’d been part of a patrol which had been trying to rescue a woman who’d been reported kidnapped.  The peacekeeper was evacuated to the Dominican Republic, but died last night from complications.

The UN Mission in Haiti expresses its condolences to the victim’s family, battalion and Jordanian authorities.  And, we have more information upstairs if you’re interested.

** Darfur

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, said that the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan is once again deteriorating sharply, and warned that a further calamity could take place there very soon.

Guterres expressed his deep concern about the possible devastating impact on neighbouring countries, as well as the situation in other parts of Sudan.  He made those remarks in London to mark the international launch of a DVD, Voices for Darfur, that took place over the weekend.

The UN refugee agency reports on the event and his remarks are on their website today.

**Principal Organs

Later this afternoon, the Secretary-General will be holding the seventh annual meeting of the principal organs of the United Nations.  They will be represented by General Assembly President Jan Eliasson; Security Council President Motoc of Romania; Economic and Social Council President Munir Akram of Pakistan; the President of the Trusteeship Council, Michel Duclos of France; and, of course, the President of the International Court of Justice, President Shi Jiuyong.

**HIV/AIDS

The Secretary-General earlier this morning helped launch a new UN campaign aimed at focusing the world’s attention on the impact of HIV/AIDS on children.  He said the world must address what he called “one of the cruellest tragedies of our time”.

The Secretary-General said that with a young person contracting the virus every 15 seconds, the information campaign begun by UNICEF and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, was very important.  “As we know”, he said, “in the world of AIDS, silence is death.”  And we have his remarks, as well as a press kit from UNICEF, available upstairs.

**Peacekeeping/Panel of Experts

Today, the Secretary-General appointed a group of legal experts to study ways to ensure that UN staff members and experts on mission who serve in peacekeeping operations and who commit crimes during their assignments can be held criminally accountable in a manner consistent with due process of law.

The group is part of a broad package of reforms that the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations has put together, aimed at improving conduct and discipline, and it comes from a wide range of recommended actions proposed by Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the Secretary-General’s Adviser on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeeping Personnel.  That’s a report submitted, as you know, to the Secretary-General and adopted by the General Assembly last June.

The group of experts is expected to submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the Secretary-General in January.  And we have upstairs a press release with a list of those named.

**Budget

Burkina Faso is the latest country to join the ranks of fully paid-up Member States -- bringing that number up to 128.   Burkina Faso sent us in a cheque for $35,590.

**Press Conferences

Our guest tomorrow will be Jose Antonio Ocampo, the Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Guido Bertucci, Director of the Division for Public Administration and Development Management, who will be launching the World Public Sector Report 2005, and that’s tomorrow at noon.

At 11 a.m., the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) will be sponsoring a press conference by the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325, which relates to women, peace and security.

And at 1:30 p.m., Manfred Nowak, the Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment, will brief you on his work.

And, at 2:15 p.m., in case you’re not busy enough, Martin Sheinin, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, will brief you on his work.

And that is it for me.

Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Two different things.  Is Mr. Larsen going to go the stakeout tomorrow or is he coming to 226?  It sounds like a busy day with press conferences.

Spokesman:  I’ll check for you.  I’ll ask him what his plans are and we’ll try to make sure we don’t have too many things going on at once so you can cover as much as you can.

Question:  The second thing is, the group of legal experts who are getting together with DPKO, are they looking into, I guess, wresting the power of the individual countries away from those?

Spokesman:  No.  Prince Zaid’s report focused a lot on what Member States need to do in terms of uniformed peacekeepers, police and military.  This is looking at behaviour and for us, how to better police our own staff, own UN experts and how best to deal with situations, when they are found, when they commit a crime in a mission, what is the best and most efficient way to bring these people to justice.

Question:  So it is not the peacekeepers, it’s the staff?

Spokesman:  It’s the staff.  It’s UN personnel on peacekeeping missions.  The civilian staff and experts on mission.

Question:  Will there be a briefing by OCHA?

Spokesman:  Not today, but I have a lot more information on the earthquake which I can share with you after the briefing if you want.

Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President

This afternoon, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson will open the plenary meeting with a statement on the humanitarian situation following the South Asia earthquake.  He’s expected to say that, “Yesterday, we celebrated the 60th birthday of the United Nations.  Tomorrow in Geneva [at the donors conference], we must show the world what this Organization can do.”  It is expected that some of the affected countries may speak in reply.

The Assembly will be meeting in plenary this afternoon to take up three items:  the Report of the Economic and Social Council; integrated implementation of the outcomes of the major UN conferences and summits; and the global road safety crisis, for which a draft resolution has been tabled.  And we have upstairs the list of speakers for the meeting, which may continue tomorrow morning.

This morning in the Third Committee, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, made a statement introducing her report on human rights questions.  She said that the Outcome Document from the World Summit “clearly articulates the need and means by which to advance the place of human rights within the Organization”, and that “the challenge before us now is to ensure that we deliver”.  We have copies of her statement upstairs.

Tomorrow through Friday, the Third Committee will hear statements by a number of special rapporteurs, special representatives and independent experts introducing reports on their areas of expertise, including the human rights situations in specific countries.  The schedule of these statements is given in the Journal, or we can provide that to you.

Also tomorrow, in the afternoon, the Assembly will hold informal consultations of the plenary on the Peacebuilding Commission.  The co-chairs are planning to circulate a revised options paper tomorrow.

Any questions?

Thank you.

* *** *

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