|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.
I expect a statement of the Secretary-General to share with you in a few minutes. Also, in case you had not heard, the Secretary-General will be available to you to take a few questions and to make some comments on the proposed new Human Rights Council any time after 2:30 p.m., but probably closer to 3 at the Security Council stakeout. We will advise you in due time.
The Security Council, this morning, is holding a public meeting during which Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, delivered a statement on the problem of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping and the progress achieved to date to tackle that problem. Guéhenno said that while progress has been made, there’s still much to be done -– and greater support is needed from Member States.
In his remarks, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, in his capacity as Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in UN Peacekeeping Operations, told Council members that peacekeepers perform a service to the international community and this fact must not be forgotten. He added that because of this, it’s all the more urgent for the blight of sexual exploitation and abuse to be removed from what is otherwise a distinguished and appreciated performance. We have copies of his remarks upstairs.
Prior to that meeting, the Security Council issued a presidential statement expressing support for the International Working Group’s efforts towards reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire. The statement also urged the authorities to facilitate the return of humanitarian workers to areas from which they were forced to flee during violence in January.
Just to go back to yesterday, following Security Council consultations, the President of the Council for the month of February, Ambassador John Bolton of the United States, read out a press statement on Iraq in which members condemned the recent attacks, calling the people of Iraq “to come together against violence and terror and support the peaceful political process of national dialogue and unity”. They also reiterated their call for Iraq’s political leaders to work with resolve toward the formation of a fully-inclusive Government.
On Haiti, Juan Gabriel Valdes -- the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country -– told journalists that Haiti’s legislative elections are expected to go into a second round at the end of March. Valdes also said he was satisfied with President-elect René Préval’s indications that he planned to invite all Haitian parties into a national dialogue.
Serge Brammertz, the head of the International Independent Investigation Commission dealing with the assassination of Rafik Hariri, had his first meeting in Damascus with senior Syrian officials today, according to his office in Beirut. He has now returned to Beirut. The Commission said that Brammertz had a good and constructive meeting in Syria. The discussion focused on cooperation on pending, new and future requests.
Also, a number of you have been asking about the visit of two senior Lebanese judges to New York. I can tell you that, as a result of discussions in Beirut last month between Nicolas Michel, the Legal Counsel, and the Government of Lebanon, two senior Lebanese judges are arriving in New York today.
They will continue the discussions between Lebanon and the UN Secretariat regarding the nature and scope of the international assistance needed for those charged with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others to be tried before a tribunal with an international character, pursuant to Security Council resolution 1644 (2005). The meetings between the Secretariat and the Lebanese delegation will occur over the next few days.
The Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, this morning addressed the opening of the 2006 Session of the Special Committee on Decolonization, here at Headquarters.
Although noting that more than 80 million people around the world had exercised their right to self-determination under UN auspices, she said that, with 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories still to decide their future, the UN’s decolonization work remained unfinished. We have her statement available upstairs.
The UN Mission in Sudan reports that in North Darfur, following attacks we reported to you yesterday, four more villages are reported to have been attacked. Soldiers reportedly burned and looted houses and properties and allegedly raped a young woman, according to the UN Mission. We may have more information on that upstairs.
The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) reports that the ban imposed by the Eritrean Government on UNMEE helicopters is still in place. Restrictions are continuing on the movement of UNMEE patrols inside the Temporary Security Zone. The Mission, at its weekly press briefing, also confirmed that two national Eritrean staff members were still being detained out of the 27 people originally arrested. Copies of the briefing notes from that mission are available upstairs.
Tom Koenigs, the new head of the UN Mission in Afghanistan, said at his first press conference in Kabul today that attacks against schools and teachers amount to a denial of human rights for Afghanistan’s children.
He said, “I can only appeal to those who apparently disagree with the development Afghanistan takes, leave Afghanistan’s children alone.” We have a full transcript of his press conference available upstairs.
**Horn of Africa
The Secretary-General’s Special Humanitarian Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Kjell Magne Bondevik, today visited the drought-stricken district of Kajaido in Kenya. He said, “I have seen with my own eyes the terrible effect this drought is having on pastoralists, farmers and their families.” Bondevik added that children are often the most vulnerable in these situations.
At a press conference he held in Nairobi, he added that 11 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia are threatened by starvation, and that much more still needs to be done by those countries and the international community to prevent the crisis from becoming a catastrophe.
The Secretary-General today is announcing the appointment of Tunku Abdul Aziz of Malaysia as Special Adviser on the Establishment of the Ethics Office. He will be Special Adviser to the Office. You will recall that the Ethics Office was established as a follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit, and is part of management reform efforts.
Mr. Aziz, who co-founded the Malaysian Chapter of Transparency International, will advise on the set-up of the Ethics Office and its operating procedures, as well as on the process of recruiting its staff.
**International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq
Also on an issue some of you regularly ask about: the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq (IAMB) has posted on its website (www.iamb.info) the minutes of its last meeting, which took place in Paris on 23 January.
At that meeting, the Board’s Iraqi member briefed on the progress of the audit of the Development Fund for Iraq, during the second half of 2005. The IAMB concurred with the recommendation of the Government of Iraq to proceed with that audit, which is expected to be completed by mid-May of this year.
And lastly, press conferences this afternoon: Terry Davis, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, will be here to talk to you about rendition flights in Europe (and I think that there is a cell phone which needs to be shut off).
At 1:30, General Assembly Jan Eliasson will brief you on the proposed text of the draft resolution on the Human Rights Question.
**Questions and Answers
Question: On Brammertz, you said he had interviewed Syrian officials. Can you get the names of those officials?
Spokesman: First of all, I did not use the word “interview”. I said he had his first meeting in Damascus, which is separate from an interview. I think you will have to get from the Syrian officials the names of the people that were at the meeting from their side, although I can confirm to you that the new Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was among the participants.
Question: Has it been confirmed that Mr. Brammertz’ first report will be issued on 15 March?
Spokesman: It is due whenever the Council has asked for, and I think that is mid-March. I expect Mr. Brammertz to be here to deliver that report, and we will get him here to talk to you.
Question: Former and current Lebanese MPs sent a letter to Terje Roed-Larsen, and maybe to the UN too, saying that they were under tremendous pressure when the extension of the mandate of President Lahoud happened. What is the reaction of the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: I’ll check on that and see if there is a reaction. [The Spokesman later informed the correspondent that the signatories of that petition had sent it to the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, Terje Roed-Larsen. The petition has relevance to resolution 1559. Mr. Roed-Larsen will give his full attention to the text.]
Question: The SG is scheduled to receive at this hour his Personal Envoy to Western Sahara. Is there any new development?
Spokesman: I’ll see if we can get you a readout afterwards.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any statement on the killing of three journalists of Al Arabiya in Samarra today, after the desecration of the mosque?
Spokesman: Nothing formal. We have no details as to exactly what happened, but, of course, we send our condolences to their families. It underscores the dangerous environment all journalists are facing in Iraq who are trying to bravely do their work in that kind of environment.
Question: Will there be a statement after the visit of the two Lebanese judges?
Spokesman: It is part of an ongoing dialogue they are having with the Secretariat. The resolution, as you’ll recall, asked us to talk to the Lebanese about the international character of an eventual tribunal. You may also see Mr. Michel going back to Beirut, at some point, to continue those discussions. So, it is an ongoing dialogue.
Question: According to a news report, some religious groups in America are pressuring the US Administration to press the UN to quicken the planning on Darfur in Sudan. What was done in that sense? What does it mean exactly? Do you feel any pressure?
Spokesman: The pressure that we feel is the situation on the ground. I have told you about the violence that has been going on over the last month. We know what the situation is on the ground. We do need to get... The planning is under way. It will be done as quickly as possible in order to alleviate the violence on the ground. That is what is driving our planning process.
Question: What does it mean: “as quickly as possible”?
Spokesman: As quickly as possible... I can’t give you the time line. I can see if I can get an update from our Peacekeeping Department, but I know that they are working full steam ahead on the planning, on trying to figure out how exactly the force will look like. We know broadly how it needs to look like, which is a highly mobile and robust force to do its work in Darfur. As I mentioned yesterday, it will be worthwhile for those Member States that have the capacity to help create such a force to start thinking about what they will be able to offer when we come knocking at their door and ask them for participation.
Question: President Bush has asked Jacques Chirac to involve NATO in Darfur. If that is done, will NATO do that in coordination with the UN?
Spokesman: We will need all the assistance we can get to put this strong force together, but it will be a UN-led force following up on the African Union.
Question: Regarding the Secretary-General’s visit to Doha this weekend: in a side meeting on Saturday with high-level missions, are there any US officials taking part in that meeting, and if not, why not?
Spokesman: No, there are no US officials that I know of... This issue the Secretary-General has been working on is not a national issue per se. It is an issue of culture and dialogue among cultures and religions. Also, I think the main flash-points that we have seen have been in Europe and the Middle East and parts of Asia. So, I think those two groups and those two cultures will be well represented at the meeting. You will have the Head of the European Union’s Foreign Policy, Javier Solana, the Foreign Minister of Austria as President of the European Union for this half of the year, the Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Spain and Qatar, as well as the Secretaries-General of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Question: The Secretary-General has always been calling on the Iraqis to unite and form an all-inclusive Government. The Security Council has issued a statement to that effect yesterday or the day before. Today, it appears that the Sunnis have decided to suspend the discussions on that issue. Is the Secretary-General apprised of that?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General is following the situation very closely and he is very much apprised of it. Yesterday, he himself called on all political, as well as religious, leaders to work together. Today, even more than ever, it is important for the different communities to work together and avoid further violence.
Question: There are a lot of new speculations again on who could be the new Secretary-General. Can you put a little bit more light on the process? How can somebody suggest or propose a name for the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: This is an issue that the Member States are deciding. The Secretary-General and his staff are focused on the work we have ahead of us. Member States are discussing meanwhile what the future will bring. We have a pretty good fact sheet upstairs about how that process works and I’ll be able to share that with you.
Question: Will the two Lebanese judges meet with the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: At this point, I am not aware that they have a meeting with the Secretary-General. The discussions are being held with Mr. Michel.
Question: Do you know when Ms. Fréchette’s last day in the building will be?
Spokesman: I have to check notes, but I’ll get back to you.
[Later it was announced that Ms. Fréchette’s last day would be 31 March.]
Question: There are indications that Italy has decided to refuse contributions to specialized agencies by $15 million, to UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR, et cetera. Is the Secretary-General concerned about this?
Spokesman: We very much hope that this will not happen. The agencies, as you know, rely on voluntary funding and their operations would suffer. We very much hope that would not be the case.
* *** *