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

5 January 2006
db060105

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

05/01/2006
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

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

Good afternoon.  I’ll start off with a statement regarding Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

**Statement on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the health of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.  He is following developments closely and very much hopes that the Prime Minister will make a speedy recovery.  His thoughts are with Mr. Sharon and his family, as well as with the Government and people of Israel.

And that statement is available upstairs.

** Sudan

Turning to Darfur, the United Nations Mission in Sudan has reduced the presence of United Nations staff and restricted staff access in parts of West Darfur following increased security concerns there.

The decision was taken due to the increased instability in the affected areas, including a build-up of forces on either side of the Sudan-Chad border with increased potential for armed conflict.

The Mission says the move does not mean there will be an overall evacuation.  Essential life-saving humanitarian services delivered by the United Nations will continue, and the Mission will monitor the situation and carry out a fresh security assessment of the area in the next two to three weeks.

We have a press release available upstairs with more details on this, including the parts of West Darfur which are affected by this security order.

** Sudan Report

Also on Sudan, the Secretary-General, in his latest report to the Security Council on Sudan, says that serious concerns remain about the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement dealing with southern Sudan.  He notes that security has become a matter of growing concern in that area.

In Darfur, he says that security on the ground must urgently improve and the search for a durable political peace, including a permanent ceasefire, must be intensified.  Those who continue impeding the peaceful resolution of the conflict should know that they will be held accountable.

And that report is upstairs.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, is on his way to Abuja today to attend the latest round of talks there on Darfur, and he is expected back in Khartoum on Saturday.

In a briefing yesterday, Pronk said he was concerned about the slow pace of negotiations at the talks, and was disappointed that the objective of concluding the talks successfully by the end of last year did  not occur.

And as you know, the Security Council has scheduled an open briefing on Sudan, next Friday, on the 13th.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

In his latest report on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary-General notes that despite some encouraging advances -- such as the recent constitutional referendum -- the country’s transitional government and its leaders still have to demonstrate in more concrete terms their commitment to fulfilling their obligations under the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement.

The Secretary-General also notes that the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s humanitarian crisis remains severe, and that there is a significant shortfall in resources to address that crisis.

And copies of the report are available upstairs.

**Bird Flu

Regarding the reports which no doubt you have seen about two bird flu-related deaths in Turkey, David Nabarro, the United Nations System’s Influenza Coordinator, has told us that, following a request from the Turkish Government, a team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and other groups, is travelling today to Turkey.

The team will work with the authorities there in their investigation of the deaths.

Turkish health authorities have informed WHO that a total of nine additional patients have been hospitalized in the eastern part of the country.  A WHO centre in the United Kingdom is now analysing samples from those patients.

According to Nabarro, this report confirms the absolute need for continued local, national and international vigilance, as well as intensive efforts to detect and respond to suspected outbreaks of the disease.  Nabarro says that there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that the suspected cluster of cases in Turkey represents human to human transmission.

**Kosovo

Turning now to the situation in Kosovo, where a passenger bus was hit by explosives late yesterday, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo condemned this reckless act of criminal violence and said it was clearly not in the interest of the province.

In that regard, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Søren Jessen-Petersen, requested the police to enhance security measures across Kosovo to ensure that a safe and secure environment is maintained during the ongoing status process.

** Indonesia

From Indonesia, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is in contact with authorities there, in Central Java province, following torrential rains and landslides in that area.  A joint assessment mission of United Nations staff is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are currently undertaking a needs assessment mission in Eastern Java Province, following flash floods and landslides there.

And we should have more information on that tomorrow.

** United Arab Emirates

Just for the record, yesterday we did issue a statement expressing the Secretary-General’s sadness at the death of His Highness Sheikh Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

And as you may have noticed, the United Nations flag is flown at half-mast today in observance of the official mourning for Sheikh Maktoum.

** Nepal

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, today called upon both sides of the conflict in Nepal to respect international humanitarian laws.

The High Commissioner also said it would be a tragedy for the people of Nepal if full-scale armed conflict resumes, following the Communist Party’s decision to end its four-month unilateral ceasefire.

And the full text of that statement is available upstairs.

**United Nations Population Fund

And lastly, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says that in 2005 more countries contributed to it than in any year since its establishment in 1969.  The number of donor nations went up to 171, compared to the 2004 record of 166.

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the Executive Director of UNFPA, says the show of support from United Nations Member States is the clearest demonstration of their commitment to achieving universal access to reproductive health and ending discrimination against women, as they resolved to do during the World Summit.

And we have a press release available upstairs on that.

And that is it.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Are there any comments as far as Iran’s statement?  They are going back to their nuclear research.

Spokesman:  The statement by Iran regarding the resumption of its nuclear research programmes can obviously have very far-reaching implications.  The dialogue between Iran and the European countries, as well as Russia, is an offer of collaboration that should be given a chance.  And obviously the IAEA and its Director, Mohamed ElBaradei, are following the situation closely and, I believe, are having further discussions with the Iranians, so we will see where that leads.

Question:  The Security Council is going to be discussing Haiti and another postponement of the elections tomorrow.  Is the Secretary-General also concerned about this delay?

Spokesman:  Let me get you some guidance.  I’ll get you an answer on that.

Question:  I wonder if you could help me out -- if you know what I mean -- on Sharon.  The United Nations is part of the Quartet.  I wonder if you could talk about his significance to this whole process or his transformation from how some viewed him and how some now view him.

Spokesman:  You know, I think at this point, we’re obviously in a very delicate situation.  Our focus is on Mr. Sharon’s health.  We have two elections coming up, both in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority.  The Secretary-General has been in touch with the Israeli Ambassador here to get an update, and has also been discussing the situation with the United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

Question:  Just on Iran, is the Secretary-General having any contacts with the Iranian authorities? 

And another one -- on Chad-Sudan.  How seriously is the United Nations now taking the risk of war between the two countries?  Have you got any kind of presence there trying to work out what the chances are, what’s going on?  Are there any contingency plans being put in place?

Spokesman:  I think the situation along the border is obviously of concern, is one of the reasons we have taken this security measure in that part of Darfur that is affected.  No doubt when the Chadian Foreign Minister, I think, comes to New York next week we’ll have further discussions with him at that point.

Question:  Are there any contingency plans being put in place?  For example, you’ve got a whole bunch of refugee camps on the Chadian side.  What would happen to them if conflicts break out?  Is anybody doing any of this thinking?

Spokesman:  You know, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is running those camps.  No doubt they have put plans in place, but we’ll try to get you more information.

Question:  Concerning the Secretary-General’s telephone conversation with Secretary Rice, can you say when, who initiated it, what the gist of it was?

Spokesman:  It took place yesterday, last night, and I know one of the issues discussed was the Middle East and obviously the situation concerning Ariel Sharon.

Question:  Who called who?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that the Secretary-General called the Secretary of State.

Question:  And what was their shared...?

Spokesman:  That’s all I have on the conversation.

Question:  Were there any other issues discussed?

Spokesman:  That’s all I have on the conversation right now.

Question:  Just procedurally, if you could check, the flag is at half-staff now for the United Arab Emirates Sheikh.  But when would that then normally come down, up?

Spokesman:  It’s one day.  Thank you.

* *** *

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