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

7 December 2005

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

07/12/2005
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 SPOKESMAN 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.

Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon. 

** Eritrea

The Security Council is currently receiving a briefing on the latest Eritrean Government decision involving the United Nations Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE).

As we announced to you earlier today, the Government of Eritrea had communicated to the United Nations Mission its request for United Nations staff who are citizens of the United States, Canada and Europe, including the Russian Federation, to leave the country within 10 days.  No reason was given with that request.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, is briefing the Council on this issue and we do also expect the Secretary-General to go down to the consultations. 

And we will also have a statement on this issue shortly.

**Security Council

In addition to Ethiopia and Eritrea, Security Council members also discussed the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), as well as the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq, known as UNMOVIC, and their report was released a few days ago as you know.

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi briefed the Council on Cyprus, and Demetrius Perricos, the Acting Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC briefed on the work of the Commission.

And today’s consultations were preceded by a meeting with the troop-contributing countries to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus.

** Zimbabwe

Turning to Zimbabwe, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, wrapped up his visit to that country earlier today and is now in South Africa, where he held a press conference.

Tomorrow, Egeland is scheduled to speak to you in this room about his just-concluded trip to Zimbabwe, and that will be as our guest at the noon briefing.

Meanwhile, UNAIDS has issued a press release saying that an HIV prevalence has fallen in Zimbabwe over the past five years and that HIV incidence has also declined.

** Iraq

From Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, expressed his serious concern today at reports of grave election-related violence in the governorates of Dohuk and Erbil that took place yesterday.

Qazi said that these incidents, which have also occurred in other places, such as the Shrine of Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, underlined the responsibility of all political leaders to ensure that their supporters and activists exhibit the necessary restraint during the election campaign.  This restraint should extend to election speeches and slogans, Qazi added.

He also called on the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) to ensure that no actions are taken that could in any way negatively reflect on the credibility of the electoral process.

And we have a press release upstairs with more details.

**Deputy Secretary-General

This morning in Montreal, the Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette, addressed the High-Level Segment of the eleventh Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, as well as the First Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

In her remarks, she said that, although the evidence for climate change was solid, the world’s response was inadequate.

She also urged all industrialized countries to intensify their efforts to bring greenhouse gas emissions well below the 1990 levels, thus paving the way for action in the developing world.

And the full text of her remarks is upstairs.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) has welcomed the arrest of Justin Ngole Dalo, also known by the name Koliba –- the leader of the militia known by its French acronym FNI -- and he was arrested in the Ituri district, in the country’s northeast.

Koliba is suspected of having led violent attacks in Ituri earlier this year, notably the slaughter of around one hundred people in the Gobu locality, and he is also suspected of being involved in the ambush that led to the deaths of nine United Nations peacekeepers, all from Bangladesh, in the Kafé locality in February.

Koliba was arrested by Congolese military authorities last Friday, and the United Nations Mission helped transfer him to the central prison of Makala in the capital Kinshasa.

The United Nations Mission says it will provide Congolese authorities with assistance so that Koliba can face the accusations before a court of law.

** Sudan

Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Sudan, is heading to Abuja, Nigeria, on Sunday.  He will meet with representatives of the negotiating parties, as well as with the African Union mediation team, of the peace talks on Darfur underway in that city.

He will meet with the partners who are also attending the talks as observers and supporting the African Union efforts.

The visit aims at assisting in boosting the negotiations process, in order to achieve a decisive outcome by the end of the year.

We have today’s weekly briefing notes from Khartoum, which also include an update on mine clearance, one of the main priorities for the United Nations in the Sudan.  And that briefing also includes a chart of mines in the Sudan.

** Haiti

From Haiti, the United Nations peacekeeping mission reports that along with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Transitional Government of Haiti, it met with Haitian political parties yesterday in order to share with them a strategy document on sustainable development in Haiti.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Haiti, Juan Gabriel Valdes, also asked the parties’ electoral candidates to show tolerance and moderation during the electoral process and to respect the final decision of the Haitian people.

** Central African Republic

Out as a document today, is an exchange of letters between the Security Council President and the Secretary-General on extension of the Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic, which is to be extended from 1 January to 31 December, 2006.

And he also informs the Council of his intention to raise the rank of his representative in that country to that of Special Representative, at the Assistant Secretary-General level.

And that representative, as you know, is General Lamine Sisse.

**Torture Panel

Louise Arbour, who just spent quite a bit of time with you here in this room, will be one of the speakers this afternoon in a panel discussion on the “Resurgence of Torture”.

Other speakers will include Juan Mendez, the Secretary General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.

And that’s at 3 p.m. in conference room 4.  And I assume if I’m telling you about it, you are all welcome to attend.

**Violence against Women

In ECOSOC at 1:15 p.m., Claudia Garcia Moreno of the World Health Organization (WHO), will lead a discussion on WHO’s latest survey on violence against women.  The study says that such violence has such a far reaching impact, that the phenomenon should be treated as public health threat.

And we have a press release upstairs.

**Press Conferences

And at 1:30 p.m. the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh will hold a press conference on the report entitled “The State of Micro credit Summit Campaign:  Report 2005”.

And at 3 p.m., Mandiaye Niang, Special Assistant to the Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, will be here to brief you on the work of the Tribunal.

**Budget

And lastly, our honour role.  Checks have arrived today from Poland and the Solomon Islands, bringing the honour roll of fully paid-up Member States to 132.   Poland paid $8.2 million and change, and the Solomon Islands paid almost $18,000.

So thank you, to both the Solomon Islands and Poland.

On that note, any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Does the Secretary-General intend to ask the Government of Eritrea for the specific reasons why it has decided to withdraw the staff?

Spokesman:  Well, you know, interestingly enough, they have yet also to provide us with a reason as to why they suspended our rights to fly helicopters.  I think the reasoning doesn’t matter as much as the fact that the request directly violates Eritrea’s obligations under Article 100 of the United Nations Charter, which respects the exclusively international character of the responsibilities of the Secretariat.  And that is not acceptable. 

But you will hear more in a statement we’ll have, and also from Mr. Guéhenno, and maybe even the Secretary-General himself afterwards.

Question:  Has the Secretary-General spoken to anyone in Asmara today, and if so, who?  And has he ever asked the question, “What are the reasons?”, and not got a reply?

Spokesman:  We’ve been asking for a reason ever since we first got the order.

Question:  Has he personally?

Spokesman:  You know, I’ll have to check on what phone contacts he’s had, but whether it’s him directly or his representatives, in letters that he himself has sent -- we’ve asked for reasons, and we’ve never received a reason.  But I will check for you on the phone calls that may or may not have taken place today, and I’ll get back to you.

Thank you very much.  Pragati, all yours.

**Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon. 

Tomorrow morning the General Assembly will meet in Plenary to adopt a number of resolutions contained in the reports of the First, Fourth and Sixth Committees.  Among the action will be the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel that will extend protections to personnel engaged in humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding work.  The General Assembly President is expected to make a statement on this. 

This week General Assembly President Jan Eliasson sent a letter to all Member States enclosing a schedule of planned informal consultations on Summit follow-up issues through the end of the year and giving an update on the status of negotiations.  We have circulated the text of that letter this morning, as well as other letters from the co-chairs of the informal consultations.

In his letter, the President reminded delegates:  “The extent to which we are able to reach agreements in the next few weeks will determine the way the 2005 World Summit is judged…  The results of our labours will strongly affect the standing of the General Assembly, the United Nations and multilateralism.”

On the Peacebuilding Commission, the President stated in his letter that he believes that no more than one or two more meetings are needed to reach an agreement, which must be concluded very soon to meet the 31 December deadline set in the Summit Outcome document.  Consultations were held yesterday afternoon, and the next meeting will be Thursday at 11:00 a.m.  

On the Human Rights Council, three meetings each week have been scheduled through 23 December, with the aim of seeking an agreement before the end of the year.  Those consultations are taking place today, and a new text is expected early next week.

On management reform, the first informal consultations of the plenary were held yesterday, to consider the Secretary-General’s report on an ethics office, independent evaluation of the oversight system, and an independent audit advisory committee.  Those are the three issues the co-chairs identified for early action before the end of the year.  The next meeting is scheduled for Friday morning.

On development and ECOSOC reform, the co-chairs circulated a letter this week, attaching a paper outlining possible issues on ECOSOC reform.  That will be one of the subjects of consultations over the next two weeks, along with follow-up on the development commitments made at the Summit.  The President and the co-chairs said that decisions on those issues should be concluded as early as possible next year.

And on the ACABQ, Mr. Rajat Saha of India was elected by the Advisory Committee as its new Chairman on 2 December.  He was Acting Chairman at the time of his election.

Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Correspondent:  Pragati, I just wanted to give a public thanks for your email on the Year of the Potato.  It was comprehensive and explained a lot.  I really appreciate it.

Spokesperson:  Thanks.

Question:  You listed quite a few reform issues being discussed by the President and others.  Was there any document or paper circulated regarding the reforms of the Security Council? 

Spokesperson:  The President has been mandated by the Summit Outcome document to issue a report on Security Council reform before the end of the year.  And he and his Chef de Cabinet, are holding consultations now to prepare that report, which should be out around 20 December.

Thank you very much.

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