|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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. Desmond Johns, Director of the New York Office of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, and Jim Kim, Director of the World Health Organization’s Department of HIV/AIDS, will be joining us today to launch the 2005 AIDS Epidemic Update. And they are here already, and so we’ll turn over the floor as soon as we’re over with this briefing.
The Secretary-General is back at UN Headquarters today, where he will have his monthly luncheon with the Security Council this afternoon. He said that he will speak to reporters at the Dining Room stakeout once he departs that luncheon. Over the weekend, he returned from a 14-day, nine-country visit.
On Saturday, in Islamabad, Pakistan, the Secretary-General told the International Donor’s Conference dealing with reconstruction after the 8 October earthquake that we must be prepared to work together in the long run. He said action is needed to deal with urgent humanitarian needs, as well as to jump-start recovery and deal with long-term reconstruction.
After that, on his way back to New York, the Secretary-General stopped in Tbilisi, Georgia, where he met with President Mikheil Saakashvili. Following that meeting, he told the press that the United Nations was continuing in its efforts to deal with the talks between the Georgian Government and the Abkhaz side. He added, “In the meantime, it is important that all sides respect the rule of law and respect human rights and the dignity of individuals.”
The Secretary-General is pleased that the Pakistani Government was able to receive a substantial amount of pledges at the donors’ conference held in Islamabad on Saturday, which is just reported.
And we have more information from OCHA on that conference
In addition to today’s Security Council monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General, the Council also has scheduled consultations at 3:00 this afternoon on Bosnia and Herzegovina. Council members will consider the text of a draft resolution, which they expect to vote on following consultations.
I also have an update of the Security Council programme for this week that is not yet reflected on the website. So let me just give you that update.
In addition to the update in today’s programme, there are now changes in the programme for Tuesday and Wednesday. There are no meetings or consultations scheduled, as of now, for tomorrow. The Burundi item has been moved to Monday, 28 November.
On Wednesday, the Secretary-General is now scheduled to brief the Council in its consultations on his just-concluded visit.
The Middle East item has now been rescheduled to the following Wednesday, 30 November. Ibrahim Gambari, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, is expected to brief then.
** Middle East
Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, meanwhile wrapped up his visit to the Middle East today, meeting with UN staff in Israel. He intends to brief the Security Council next week.
During a visit over the weekend to the occupied Palestinian territories, Gambari toured Gaza, held meetings with senior Palestinian officials and observed parts of the Separation Barrier.
Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Gambari cited the Gaza withdrawal and the recent agreement on the Rafah Crossing as signs of progress. More needed to be done, however, on issues such as an airport and sea port in Gaza and in establishing freedom of movement, both between Gaza and the West Bank, and within the West Bank itself. Gambari said he hoped the Gaza withdrawal will give new impetus to the peace process and promised the United Nations would be working to “use its unique position and authority to help advance the peace process”.
Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, attended the preparatory meeting that began on Saturday in Cairo, dealing with national reconciliation in Iraq, and he read out a message from the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General said in that message that a broad understanding towards a national accord would strengthen and broaden the political process significantly.
Qazi also drew attention to the need to eradicate violence from Iraq’s political discourse, condemning attacks on civilians, and he called upon all Iraqis to promote respect for human rights.
And we have his full remarks available upstairs.
The twenty-first session of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission’s College of Commissioners takes place today and tomorrow. It is a closed meeting, in Conference Room 9.
The Acting Executive Chairman, Demitri Perricos, will brief the members on what has been going on in UNMOVIC for the last three months, mainly work on a vast "Compendium" on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes and lessons learned in the inspection and verification process.
The next UNMOVIC quarterly report is due to go to the Council on 1 December, and Perricos is expected to brief the Council during early December.
The UN is planning to increase its presence in northern Uganda next year, especially through UNICEF, the UN refugee agency, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the UN human rights office. It will also increase its request for funding for humanitarian programs to more than $200 million for next year. We have a press release on that.
**Secretary-General/ Iraq Conference
I just received a statement attributable to the Spokesman on the Conference in Cairo, I just mentioned.
The Secretary-General commends the League of Arab States for the holding of the Preparatory Meeting for the Conference on Iraqi National Accord, held in Cairo from 19 to 21 November. The Secretary-General was recently in Cairo and Baghdad, where he lent his support to this worthwhile initiative. He was represented at the meeting by his Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, who worked closely with the Arab League Secretary-General in preparing and facilitating the successful conduct of the meeting.
“he Secretary-General is pleased that the meeting was attended by a broad range of representatives of Iraq’s different communities, who seized the opportunity to discuss national reconciliation and the future of their country. The Secretary-General has asked his Special Representative to continue to work closely with the League and with the Iraqi Government in the preparations for the proposed Conference.”
**World Hunger Report
Tomorrow, in Rome, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization will release its World Hunger Report 2005.
Correspondents interested in getting a heads up on the report can contact Michael Hage at the FAO office here in New York.
The UN Environment Programme reports that an alliance of international organizations, led by the United Nations, will develop a worldwide early-warning system for avian flu.
The system will focus on the movement of possibly infected migratory birds. It will be ready in two years, UNEP said.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Just some Mercedes questions. As I can understand the diplomatic process by which you get a diplomatic exemption on customs import duty for a Mercedes into Ghana, you then get diplomatic licence plates. So the question is did this Mercedes have diplomatic licence plates? And does it still have diplomatic licence plates? Or how did it no longer have diplomatic licence plates?
Deputy Spokesman: I have a very brief statement to make on this subject. I understand Kojo Annan is in touch with the Ghanaian authorities about this matter. When they have something to say about this publicly, his lawyer will do so. Further questions will be addressed to his lawyer, and I have nothing further to add.
Question: I appreciate that statement, but the question isn’t really not a question that involves Kojo Annan. It’s a question about the United Nations and whether there’s a Mercedes with UN diplomatic plates tooling around in Ghana at the moment, and the implication being that if it hits anybody, the UN might be liable, for instance, to pay the insurance, etc. So I would like to reiterate my question, and see if I can get an answer to my question about whether this Mercedes had diplomatic plates?
Deputy Spokesman: James, I have nothing further. I just read you a statement. After the statement, I said I have nothing more to add. We do not consider this a UN matter.
Question: Last week I asked you about the use of phosphorous and other gases by the coalition forces, especially the operation of the Americans. And I had asked had the Secretary-General taken note of that, and is there any reaction? Is that OK for the coalition forces to use those chemical weapons (inaudible) Saddam Hussein?
Deputy Spokesman: I read to you a statement last week. Let me see if there are any updates on that. As of now I can refer to you to what I read, I believe last Friday or Thursday.
Question: In the outbreak of violence between the Hezbollah and the Israelis in the past two hours, does the UN have any comments, especially that an Israeli soldier was dead?
Deputy Spokesman: I have nothing right now to comment. I know we are watching the situation very closely. So let me follow up after the briefing on that. [She later announced that Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari expressed his grave concern at the heavy exchange of fire that, according to available information, began from the Lebanese side of the Blue Line shortly before 3 p.m. today. He condemned these serious attacks across several locations along the Blue Line.]
Question: I’m just wondering, in terms of the Secretary-General’s talks with G-77 countries over the management reform, can you tell us exactly what he’s going be saying and when?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, since he’ll be addressing reporters after the Council luncheon, and before the G-77, perhaps you’d like to address that yourself. As of now, I’d like to say that the Secretary-General is trying to find common ground so that Member States who are currently divided, can come together to move forward on the UN reform recommendations at the World Summit. And I would like to flag that it is a critical time to move forward on this.
Question: That conference you mentioned in Cairo organized by the Arab League, some participants have called on the Iraqi Government to meet with the insurgents. And the President of the Republic of Iraq said that he is ready to do that. Does the Secretary-General share this?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t have a specific reaction to that. I’d like to refer you to the overall comments on how he feels about what just transpired in Cairo.
Question: (inaudible) I understand Carina Perelli has been back now from her assignment for a couple of weeks. I’m surprised we haven’t heard anything from her. She hasn’t been down here to brief us after such an important mission. Could you ask Ms. Perelli to come down and see us some time this week to talk about the referendum and the ongoing political situation?
Deputy Spokesman: We have two days left in the week, but I’ll do that.
Question: There’s an annex in the Volcker report, annex IV of the third volume, the 7 September report, which is an e-mail from Kojo Annan to Michael Wilson. It’s the first mention of the Mercedes, but this question doesn’t revolve around the Mercedes, it revolves around other things in that e-mail. It seems this paragraph for consultative status, where Kojo Annan seems to be offering advice to Michael Wilson on how to get consultative status for a group called IFIA. As far as I can figure out, it’s possibly the International Federation for Inventors Associations. Can you tell us whether the Secretary-General’s son played any role in getting consultative status for the International Federation for Inventors Associations?
Deputy Spokesman: The Volcker Committee is still in existence. It will be in existence until at least through the end of this year, so if you have any more questions, please direct your questions to the Volcker Committee.
Question: Last time you told us that Volcker wasn’t doing any more investigating. Is the UN going to investigate the role of Kojo Annan?
Deputy Spokesman: Questions on the Volcker report should be directed to the Volcker Commission. We are not reopening the investigation.
Question: On that same e-mail, it’s quite an extensive report in the e-mail of advice given by Diane Mills Aryee?
Deputy Spokesman: We will not be commenting on the Volcker report.
Question: I’m asking about possible wrongdoing by UN officials as outlined in the Volcker report, Marie. Now, you’ve told us that the Volcker Committee was extending its life so it could cooperate with investigating authorities, and the UN would investigate as appropriate. So I’m asking about cases where I think it’s possibly appropriate for the UN to investigate, so this is what I’m asking about, as announced from your podium. So my question, if you’ll let me finish it, is in this e-mail, it’s a record and report on a conversation Kojo Annan had had with Diane Mills Aryee about the contract process and its advice that Diana Mills Aryee apparently gave to Kojo Annan, which Kojo Annan is passing on to Michael Wilson at Cotecna. Now, given that you explained to us that, in the Stephanides case that even passing publicly available information could be showing preference to somebody in the bidding process, my question is, is Diana Mills Aryee under any kind of investigation for showing partiality to Kojo Annan and Cotecna in the bidding process?
Deputy Spokesman: There were no adverse findings against this person you are talking about, and I have no further comment.
Question: Yes, one of them was already addressed, I would like to second the request for Ms. Perelli to come down. I want to ask about the Dialogue of Civilizations. I know you said something last week and I kind of missed it. Who is it that’s attending for the UN?
Deputy Spokesman: The Dialogue of Civilizations?
Question: Yeah, the meeting in Spain, I think at the end of the month?
Deputy Spokesman: There is the Dialogue of Civilizations, which as you know has been created by a GA resolution, and that effort is being followed by UNESCO.
Question: No, I’m referring to the one in Spain.
Deputy Spokesman: OK, the one in Spain, let me bring out the statement because I read to you that the Secretary-General, that Mr. Riza, who is his personal representative… this is the Alliance of Civilizations. Because he was unable to attend the inaugural session of the High-Level Group for the Alliance of Civilizations taking place in Spain on 27 of November, he’ll be sending his Personal Representative, Iqbal Riza, who serves as his Special Adviser on the Alliance of Civilizations.
Question: I asked a week or so ago about Giandomenico Picco, you know he was the Chairman of the board of IHC services, which has been suspended from doing UN business, and he still has, as I understand, a contract to make himself available to the UN until 2006. So I asked whether he’s also suspended from that contract.
Deputy Spokesman: By mutual agreement, Mr. Picco’s work has been completed, and his association with the UN is over. And your question about the IHC, yes, the company has been suspended from doing business with the UN.
Question: Maybe this was announced earlier. Is Mr. Annan going to have an end-of-the-year news conference?
Deputy Spokesman: We were planning on one. Let me get back to you on the exact date.
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