|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.
It’s exactly 12 noon and we’re starting.
The latest reports that we have received from Haiti for the elections, which, as you know, are taking place today, indicate a high turnout. And aside from a few technical glitches, which have caused some delays in some polling stations, the vote is proceeding without serious incident.
The UN Mission is helping resolve the technical issues. And so far, there are no reports of any injuries.
Also on Haiti, the Secretary General’s latest report is out on the racks. And that’s his report to the Security Council. In it, he says it is essential that the incoming leadership show strong commitment to reconciliation and an inclusive approach.
The Secretary-General recommends that the Mission be extended there in the present configuration for a further six months to help in the post-electoral period.
And the Council today met in closed consultations and they heard the first of the new daily briefings that are provided by the Secretariat. The Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, gave the ambassadors an update on the elections in Haiti.
And regarding the issue of sanctions in Côte d’Ivoire, the Permanent Representative of Greece, Ambassador Vassilakis, who, as you know, chairs the Security Council's committee on that subject, told you a short while ago at the stakeout that a public announcement was expected later this afternoon.
** Afghanistan - Cartoons
Violence in protest at the cartoons that have appeared in some European newspapers has taken place in several parts of Afghanistan in recent days, and the UN Mission in Afghanistan, in a statement it issued today in Kabul, expressed great concern at the attacks.
The Mission urged all parties to avoid all acts and statements that could further inflame the situation, adding that violence and destruction of property cannot be condoned under any circumstance.
And we have that statement available upstairs.
**Secretary-General Appointment - Children and Armed Conflict
Also today, the Secretary-General has appointed Radhika Coomaraswamy of Sri Lanka as his new Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
She is, as you know, a lawyer by training and currently the Chairperson of the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission. And she’s also known as an international human rights advocate who was the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women from 1994 to 2003.
And she succeeds Olara Otunnu who left that position in the latter half of last year.
**Secretary-General Appointment - Cyprus
On another appointment, the Secretary-General has written to the Security Council to inform members of his intention to appoint Major General Rafael Jose Barni of Argentina as the new Force Commander for the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
General Barni replaces Major General Herbert Figoli of Italy, to whom the Secretary-General extends his gratitude for his exemplary and highly professional service.
The United Nations is sending a four-member team to observe a referendum in the South Pacific Territory of Tokelau.
For those of you, like me, who don’t know much about the place, Tokelau is an island in the South Pacific about 500 kilometres north of Samoa. It has a population of 1,500. New Zealand has been administering the Territory since 1926.
The UN team will observe a referendum for self-government in free association with New Zealand that will take place from 11 to 15 February.
And for those of you who are interested or need more information, we have a press release available upstairs.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, announced today that she will visit the Russian Federation from 19 to 25 February.
Her office said the visit would include stops in Chechnya, specifically Grozny, and in North Ossetia, in addition to Moscow and St. Petersburg. There were plans for Ms. Arbour to meet with President Putin of the Russian Federation during her time in Russia.
**Horn of Africa
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today says in a report that severe drought in the Horn of Africa is endangering an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five.
The agency said the drought has left an estimated 8 million people in need of emergency assistance in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti.
Working with Governments, the World Food Programme (WFP) and NGO partners in the affected countries, UNICEF is already supporting the feeding programmes. And today it is launching an appeal for $16 million to continue that effort.
And tomorrow in this room, Nancy Barry, the President of Women’s World Banking, Roberto Bissio of the Third World Institute, and Sanjay Reddy of Columbia University will be here to brief you on the issue of poverty eradication.
And that is it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: You know Steph, I had asked you two questions on Friday about the report by Deloitte and its follow-up of forensic audit -- audit report by Deloitte and its follow-up on forensic audit -- the same report, and you ...
Spokesman: I need to rattle and get an answer for you on that. I apologize, I will.
Question: Also I wanted to find out -- there are reports that the United Nations Pension Fund is being privatized. Is that true?
Spokesman: That is the first that I’ve heard of it, and I will be happy to check that for you.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Spokesman: Yes, sir?
Question: This is also a follow-up. In this room in December, Mr. Halbwachs, from the United Nations on IAMB, the Development Fund for Iraq, he had said that the oil was going to begin to be metered and that a contract had been let to a United States firm. And then more recently, on 30 January, IAMB put out a press release without mentioning that that’s actually taking place. So I wonder what is taking place with that. I’m trying to find out.
Spokesman: We can try to find out right after the briefing.
Thank you very much.
Question: Sorry, I have one. It’s a slightly curious question. There was a report that a Wikipedia entry on Kofi Annan had recently been edited to take out reference to his father being a Freemason. I was just wondering if there was, had been sort of a representation from Mr. Annan or his office to Wikipedia to change his biography?
Spokesman: Not that I’m aware of. But isn’t Wikipedia one of these websites that anyone can go in and edit?
Question: Well that’s what’s interesting about it because the rules are changing. People are getting more power to change, to demand changes to what’s on Wikipedia. That’s why it’s interesting.
Spokesman: It is interesting. Yes sir?
Question: Regarding Haiti. Early this morning, we have about 800 U.S. marines in Haiti. Will you tell us if the United Nations is aware of that or if they are there under the condition of the UN peacekeeping in Haiti?
Spokesman: I don’t know, but I’m happy to check for you.
Question: You don’t about that?
Spokesman: I’m happy to check on the report for you. Thank you.
[The Spokesman’s Office later announced that the United Nations has no information on any arrival of United States marines in Haiti.]
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