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

18 January 2006
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DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

18/01/2006
Spokesman's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

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

AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

The 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 the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.

** Côte d’Ivoire

This morning, the Secretary-General has been on the phone dealing with the current crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.  He spoke several times to President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, the current chair of the African Union, and he also spoke to Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo this morning.  President Obasanjo is currently on his way to Côte d’Ivoire where he is expected to meet -- and he may already have done so -- with the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, as well as the head of the United Nations Mission, Pierre Schori.  The Secretary-General is hopeful that during these discussions, President Obasanjo will be able to find a way forward and diffuse the situation.  It is urgent that the parties in the Côte d’Ivoire crisis stay the course in the interest of the people of Côte d’Ivoire and the region as a whole.

Meanwhile, on the ground, the United Nations Operation says the situation there continues to be volatile.  Violence continues in a number of locations, including Abidjan and Guiglo.  The situation has calmed down somewhat in San Pedro and Daloa, but, as you are aware, last night elements of the Bangladeshi Battalion in Guiglo were forced to open fire to repel attackers who were trying to overrun the United Nations compound.  A number of attackers were killed and others wounded.  United Nations forces are exercising maximum restraint in dealing with these attacks.  Non-lethal methods were also used to disburse crowds and deter against attacks.

Particularly disturbing to the United Nations mission is the use of propaganda by hate media that continues to broadcast messages inciting Ivorians to arm themselves and attack the United Nations.  This is unacceptable and must cease immediately.  The Secretary-General’s Representative, as we had told you, was maybe on his way to New York, but has currently postponed that trip and is remaining in Côte d’Ivoire to deal with the situation.

The head of the Peacekeeping Department, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, briefed the Security Council late yesterday on the situation, and we expect the Peacekeeping Department and Jean-Marie Guéhenno to do the same thing for tomorrow.  We will bring Mr. Guéhenno to the stakeout tomorrow after he gives a full briefing to the Council.

**Security Council

Speaking of the Security Council, the members are currently holding consultations on Western Sahara.  Ambassador Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, briefed the Council on his trip to the region late last year.  Ambassador van Walsum has told us he does intend to go to the stakeout once the consultations have ended to speak to you.

** Iraq

Turning to Iraq, the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), in its latest bi-monthly report on human rights, expresses concern that the persistent conflict in Iraq and weaknesses in its law enforcement continue to have serious and adverse effects on the human rights in the country.  The Mission expresses alarm at the repeated bombing campaigns and killings, targeting of civilians, religious leaders and mosques.  Political and community leaders should continue to work towards countering such practices and improving community relations.  And we have copies of that report upstairs.

**Bird Flu

Turning now to bird flu, the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza, which opened yesterday in Beijing, has managed to raise $1.9 billion to fight bird flu.  David Nabarro, who, as you know, is the United Nations System’s Coordinator on Influenza, is in Beijing, and he called today that amount “brilliant” and “quite extraordinary”.  As you’ll recall, he had previously called for $1.4 billion in pledges.  Nabarro also told that, “What we've seen today is that the world really does care and wants to respond effectively to the threat of avian influenza and a possible human pandemic.”  And we do expect a statement or an update from Mr. Nabarro to be issued shortly.  We will let you know when that’s available.

For his part, the Secretary-General, in a video message to that conference, said that to be truly prepared for the bird flu, the world would need to mount a massive effort -- from upgrading vet systems to launching vaccination drives to encouraging change in the ways people coexist with animals.  Stressing that the amount that was asked for was small compared to the human and economic cost of a pandemic that the world was not ready for, he also encouraged all Governments to have a bird flu contingency plan in place.  We do have a full text of that video message upstairs.

** Afghanistan

Turning to Afghanistan, the outgoing head of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, Jean Arnault, yesterday afternoon briefed the Security Council and he told Council members about the post-electoral Afghanistan and how things have been going since September.  With the outcome of these consultations, the Compact for Afghanistan is to be launched on 31 January of this year.  Speaking at an open briefing of the Council, Arnault said that the Compact is “a comprehensive and strong blueprint for what will be, in the next five years, an intensive exercise in peacebuilding”.

** Sudan

And from Sudan, the United Nations Mission there reports that the security situation in West Darfur remains tense, and that reinforcement of Chadian and Sudanese forces on both sides of the border is continuing.  In South Darfur, there is continuing banditry.  Buses and commercial vehicles contracted to humanitarian agencies have reportedly been attacked.  We have the briefing notes from the Mission available upstairs.

**Security

One housekeeping matter, some of you may have noticed that the entrance on 45th Street and the Delegates Entrance have now been closed to repair damage to the tent caused by the high wind conditions, which tore off the tent in front of the Delegates Entrance overnight.  During the closure, you may use the 42nd Street and 46th Street entrances.  The Safety and Security Service regrets any inconvenience caused by this.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow, the Foreign Minister of Sweden will present the Secretary-General with a major report on peace operations.  The report, entitled “Meeting the Challenges of Peace Operations: Cooperation and Coordination”, is the result of an eight-year study compiled by 14 countries and partner organizations.  It analyses some of the difficulties encountered in contemporary peace operations, and offers recommendations for action by Governments, international and regional organizations, training centres and all involved in peace operations.  At 10 tomorrow morning, Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds will give you a briefing in this very room, and following that, she will lead an expert-level discussion on the report’s findings in the Trusteeship Council.  I understand that discussion is open to the media.

At 11 a.m., Gay McDougall, the United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues, and Mark Lattimer, Executive Director of Minority Rights Group International, will launch a report entitled, “State of the World’s Minorities 2006”.  That will take place here.

And at 3:30 p.m., the Ambassador of Côte d’Ivoire will be here to speak to you about the situation in his country.

And going backwards and flagging something for you this afternoon, at 4:15 p.m., the President of Slovenia will be here to talk about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

That is it for me.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On the Ivory Coast, what specifically is the Secretary-General looking for President Obasanjo to try and get the Ivorian Government to do?

Spokesman:  In his meetings with the President, we would first of all like to see an immediate halt to what has been orchestrated violence and a recommitment on the part of the Ivorian parties to the peace process and to the peace map as laid out by the African Union and the Security Council.  The immediate cessation of violence is crucial.

Question:  There is some excitement about the Secretary-General and an old map of the Middle East.  Can you confirm that that map was pre-1948 Palestine mandate and further to that does this mean that there is going to be a fuss every time the Secretary-General stands next to an old map and that he can’t stand next to old maps of East Pakistan or Cameroon before 1960?

Spokesman:  Well, this dates to an event which took place late last year, which the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council attended to mark the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which is a day mandated by the General Assembly.  The map that you refer to was in fact a historical map of Palestine which did not show Israel.  The map was put there by the organizers of the meeting.  These organizers are the Committee for the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and it was the decision of the organizers to do that.

It is obviously unfortunate that ... we would not want to give the unfortunate impression that the Secretary-General standing or speaking in a room where that map was displayed could give the impression that the United Nations favours the replacement of Israel by a single Palestinian State.  That is, of course, not the case.  The Secretary-General’s position on this and the United Nations as a whole is well explained and has been stated numerously, which, is of course, that the Secretary-General has been calling for an independent Palestinian State alongside Israel that enables both people to live in peace and security side by side.  But it is clear that the map was put there by the organizers, which is a Committee of the General Assembly. We have been in touch through the Department of Political Affairs with the Chairman of that Committee, and we would very much hope that they will consider not displaying that map in the future.  We’re confident that this issue would be resolved positively.

Question:  Are there any official announcements about the Haiti Force Commander?

Spokesman:  No, that announcement is still in the pipeline.  It is making its way.  The procedure is that the letter would go from the Secretary-General to the Security Council President announcing his intention to name a new Force Commander.  But we are not yet ready with the official announcement.

Question:  Anyway, the Brazilian Government has announced the name of General Jose Elito?

Spokesman:  I understand the announcement has been made out of Brasilia.  These are for better or for worse very detailed and sometimes archaic procedures that we follow here in terms of making these announcements. So we are following these procedures.

Question:  (Inaudible) the United Nations Secretary-General did meet with General Jose Elito yesterday.  I was wondering if there were any details about the (inaudible).

Spokesman:  No I do not.  At the risk of repeating myself, as I said yesterday we very much hope that announcement to be made soon.  We had expected it this morning, but they’re not ready with it yet.

Thank you very much.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.  Just to give you a quick heads-up, on Friday morning informal consultations of the plenary on the Human Rights Council will take place from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.  The General Assembly President and the Co-Chairs, the Ambassadors of Panama and South Africa, will report on the state of play after this week’s intensive bilateral consultations and discuss the way forward. The meeting, which is closed, will be held in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.  We will see if we can set up a stakeout for that.

Any questions?

Thanks very much.

* *** *

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