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

3 March 2006

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

03/03/2006
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.  Everybody sitting, seatbelts fastened?

**Secretary-General’s Appointments

I will start off with a series of appointments.

In light of the recent decision by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to step down next month and to ensure that his Executive Office and the United Nations Secretariat is able to carry out the full agenda remaining in his term, the Secretary-General has decided to make the following senior appointments:  Mark Malloch Brown of the United Kingdom, the current Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary-General, will become the Deputy Secretary-General upon Ms. Fréchette’s departure.

Mr. Vijay Nambiar of India, currently Deputy National Security Advisor to the Government of India and Head of the National Security Council Secretariat of India, will take up the position of Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, at the Under-Secretary-General level, based in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.  Mr. Nambiar previously served as India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Ms. Alicia Bárcena of Mexico, the Deputy Chef de Cabinet, will take the position of Acting Chef de Cabinet.  And they will join Carlos Lopes of Guinea-Bissau, who has been serving as the Political Director in the Secretary-General’s Office since the fourth quarter of last year.

And we have the four bios of those people available upstairs.

** Eritrea

Late yesterday, we issued a statement expressing the Secretary-General’s deep sadness at the death earlier that day of a member of the Indian contingent serving with the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea.  The peacekeeper suffered a cardiac arrest in the Temporary Security Zone and was pronounced dead after having been evacuated to Addis Ababa.  The Secretary-General is particularly troubled that because of the inadmissible restrictions imposed by Eritrea, the medical evacuation of the sick peacekeeper to a hospital required the use of a longer route.

The Secretary-General urges, in the strongest terms, the Eritrean authorities to lift without delay the arbitrary restrictions which place at risk the lives of UN personnel.  And we have the full statement available upstairs.

**Sudan/Chad

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reports that population movements in both directions along the insecure Chad/Sudan border are continuing, with some 100-125 Sudanese refugees now arriving at one camp in eastern Chad every day.  The new arrivals in Chad say they left Darfur or the troubled border area out of fear over attacks by armed militia known as the Janjaweed, or by various armed groups operating on both sides of the frontier.  The refugees are arriving in the town of Gaga on donkeys, on foot and in trucks from the border.  UNHCR is working with the Government, the World Food Programme and other partners to expand and improve the reception area, the medical screening process and shelter distribution.  And on Tuesday, the refugee agency reported that, in a worrisome new development, Chadians were also fleeing to Darfur because of insecurity in their own country.

**Kosovo

From Kosovo, the Special Envoy for the Kosovo future status process, Martti Ahtisaari, today completed a five-day visit to Kosovo and Serbia, where he appealed to the Serbian leaders to encourage the Kosovo Serbs to participate in Kosovo’s institutions.  Regarding the recent changes in Kosovo’s leadership, he said he trusted that the changes would accelerate the status process.  Ahtisaari will be in New York next week, to report on the status talks to the Secretary-General and the Security Council.  And he will speak to you at the Council stakeout on Tuesday, he has already informed us.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

And just updating you now on a military operation, which we talked about in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  An operation aimed at removing militia members from the town of Tchei, some 60 kilometres south-east of the town of Bunia, in the Ituri district, has been called off, so the national army soldiers involved can receive better training and preparation.  This follows an incident yesterday, which saw some of the newly integrated elements of the national army protest over their conditions of service.  UN peacekeepers had been supporting the national army soldiers, and both groups have now returned to Bunia.

** Guatemala

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland is in Guatemala today, where he is visiting people who were made homeless by Tropical Storm Stan and inspecting UN-developed emergency response projects.  And we have a press release on that available upstairs.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

Also, the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire today reports that its operation to assist schoolchildren in the north to take their examinations is going smoothly.  Some 500 Blue Helmets and more than 70 UN police officers are helping the Government distribute and administer examinations for children who had not been able to take the tests for more than three years because of civil unrest.  And the exams are necessary to proceed to higher education.

** Algeria

And UNHCR also reports it’s stepping up its efforts to help some 60,000 Sahrawi refugees left homeless by recent flooding in three camps in western Algeria.  And we have a press release on that.

** Kyoto Protocol

And we also have a press release from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which today announced that the Kyoto Protocol’s Compliance Committee, complete with an enforcement branch and facilitative branch, is now operational.

**Terrorism

And we’ve been asked by the Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism to announce that they’ve wrapped up a week of consultations today.  Its Chairman, Ambassador Rohan Pereira of Sri Lanka, said he was encouraged by the strong resolve shown by all delegations to continue the negotiating process, with a view to finalizing the text of a draft convention on terrorism.  Ambassador Pereira added that further consultations among delegations are necessary to determine the viability of certain innovative approaches that have been raised in dealing with this convention.

**CERF

And lastly, Egypt and the Republic of Korea have just made pledges to the new Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which will save lives by providing quick initial funding for sudden humanitarian crises and neglected emergencies.  Those new pledges have brought the number of countries currently supporting the Fund to 21.  The Fund, which the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs calls “a milestone in the UN reform process”, will be formally launched next Thursday.  And we have a press release available upstairs on that, as we do the Week Ahead, since today is Friday.

That’s it for me.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  According to a Western diplomat, Mr. Brammertz is going to issue arrest warrants against [Rustum] Ghazali and Jammeh Jammeh -- is it true?  Second, do you have anything on the interview with President Assad and his Vice-President Farouq al-Sharaa?  Third, when is Brammertz’ report expected to be released?

Spokesman:  I think, the Brammertz report you can see -- to take the last question first -- the Brammertz report is scheduled to be given to the Security Council, I believe, around 16 March, when he will brief them -- you can check the Security Council calendar for that.  And on your first two questions, I have no comment, since these things are dealt with directly by Mr. Brammertz.

Question:  I would like to remind you:  yesterday, I asked about Vijay Nambiar and you flatly denied that ...

Spokesman:  No, I said ... I think if you check the records, I said I had not been aware of ...

Question:  And Mark Malloch Brown also, I had asked you earlier, whether he was going to be Deputy Secretary-General.  I was just going to ask:  who is going to be performing the duties of the Chef de Cabinet now?

Spokesman:  Ms. Bárcena will be responsible -- will be the Acting Chef de Cabinet and will be responsible for the management of the Secretary-General’s Office.

Question:  And Mr. Nambiar is basically going to do transition work?

Spokesman:  Mr. Nambiar, I think, you can see his role as the one held previously by Lakhdar Brahimi.  It will be that sort of advisor to the Secretary-General.

Question:  Why did the Secretary-General choose to make Mark Malloch Brown’s job regular Deputy Secretary-General, while Ms. Bárcena is only an acting?  Is he planning to replace her with ...

Spokesman:  No, I think that the team you see there will be the one that we expect, will accompany the Secretary-General until the end of his term.  And as for Ms. Bárcena, I think her title may be reviewed before the end of the year.

Question:  I would also like to back Masood’s comments that there’s been a lot of misdirection regarding very straight questions on these appointments.  So I hope that doesn’t reflect the sort of affair by the Secretariat of being honest following the G77 backlash.  That aside, could you please, first of all, is the idea that these officials would also step down the same time that the Secretary-General steps down?  Is this the team to go to the end of this year and then leave?  And could you sketch out what you understand Mr. Malloch Brown’s job to be?  Is it Deputy Secretary-General in the sense of chief operating officer, for example?

Spokesman:  This is Kofi Annan’s team. Whoever the next Secretary-General, he or she will, of course, name his advisers as he or she sees fit.  I think, we’ve seen in the past that often senior officials may stay on for a few weeks, or a bit more to help with the transition, but this is Kofi Annan’s team and without any pre-judgement as to who the next Secretary-General will be, or when he or she will be elected.  As for Mr. Malloch Brown, he will take on the functions currently held by the current Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Fréchette, including with Member States ... and working with senior UN staff and Member States in the follow-through to the reform report, which will be unveiled on Tuesday.

Question:  Is this the chief operating officer?

Spokesman:  I think, you will have to wait until ... obviously, his functions ... we’ll have to wait till he gets into office.  And I think you will also have to wait till the reform report is unveiled.

Question:  Your Office told us, Marie told us here less than two weeks ago that the Secretary-General had decided not to name a number two, that Ms. Frechette would not be replaced.  What made him change his mind?  And second, did any Member States suggest the changes to him?

Spokesman:  No, I am not aware of any Member States suggesting the changes.  I think, what we’ve been saying over the past weeks is that whatever changes are made, would be made within existing resources, and Mr. Malloch Brown falls within existing resources.

Question:  Thanks for letting us know about the new positions.  I’m just surprised that Kofi did not take the opportunity yesterday, when he was before the cameras, to make some sort of announcement.  Why is he not making an announcement himself?  Is he planning to do something like that so he can field some of the questions we are now asking you?

Spokesman:  You know, the Secretary-General is routinely available to the press.  You are welcome to ask him.  Yesterday, he met with the regional groups and advised them and had a discussion with them, consulted with them on the appointment of the new Deputy Secretary-General, as he is required to do by the relevant General Assembly resolutions.

Question:  Is there going to be a job description worked out for these various positions?

Spokesman:  No, I’ve given you ... You’ll have to wait to see some of the reform proposals, but, of course, looking at the reform proposals and how they will deal directly with management, a lot of that will be for the next Secretary-General.  But I will ask you to wait till Tuesday, till the reform report is out.

Question:  And just one other question:  why did this all sort of come together in one bunch of appointments?  Is there any reasoning behind it?

Spokesman:  No, when you move one person from one job, that person needs to be replaced, and these are all just bunched together.

Question:  I wonder if you could give us some more clarification on the post of special adviser.  You indicated that he would do as Ambassador Brahimi was doing.  Is he appointed for general special political questions, or would he deal with the Arab, Muslim world and such questions as the Pakistani-Indian dispute?

Spokesman:  What issues exactly he will be dealing with, I think, we would have to wait, first, for him to be here, but he will be a very senior political adviser to the Secretary-General, and the Secretary-General will use him as he sees fit on various political issues, but we shouldn’t prejudge what he will be or not dealing with.

Question:  Mr. Nambiar -- you said all these posts are going to be done within existing resources, but Mr. Nambiar is ...

Spokesman:  No, I said the Deputy Secretary-General’s job is going ...

Question:  Well, anyway, could you explain a little bit about the process that led to the appointment of Vijay Nambiar?  Was there some kind of job application?  Was there some sort of criteria, that sort of thing that the UN was saying it would apply in the appointment of senior officials?

Spokesman:  You know, the process you’ve seen of naming shortlists has been done for heads of agencies, funds and programmes -- not for advisers for the Secretary-General.  Obviously, the Secretary-General felt he needed someone with Mr. Nambiar’s qualifications to work with him as special adviser on political and policy issues.

Question:  When exactly are these changes going into effect?

Spokesman:  The Deputy Secretary-General, I think, had advised us that her last day would be March 31, and I need to check for you when exactly Mr. Nambiar will be coming on board.

[The Spokesman announced following the briefing that Mr. Nambiar would start his new job on 1 April.]

Question:  [inaudible] for such a long period of time no Mark Malloch Brown would never be ...

Spokesman:  No what?

Question:  ... that Mark Malloch Brown would not be Deputy Secretary-General.  What caused this change of heart?  And as far as Nambiar is concerned, how long was this in the works?  Yesterday, you didn’t know ...

Spokesman:  I was informed of Mr. Nambiar’s appointment late yesterday.  And as for Mr. Malloch Brown, all we’ve said for the Deputy Secretary-General is that it would be done within existing resources.  That’s what we’ve been saying for the last couple of months.

Question:  Back to the death of the peacekeeper in UNMEE.  Could you fill us in on some details on the issue -- whether this guy’s life could have been saved, how long the previous route would have been to get him to the hospital versus the ...

Spokesman:  We will never know whether or not his life would have been saved, had he been able to take the helicopter flight directly to the hospital, but what is clear is that when someone undergoes a cardiac episode, you want them to get to a medical facility as quickly as possible, and that did not happen.

Question:  Well, he didn’t die immediately when the episode began.  Did the episode continue for some time?

Spokesman:  He died -- I will have to check -- I think, when he arrived at the medical facility after having taken a much longer route.

Question:  How long did that take?

Spokesman:  I’ll get you the details.

Question:  How many miles -- how was he transported?

Spokesman:  He was transported by road for quite a bit of the time.

Question:  We don’t know the length of time, or the distance?

Spokesman:  I will check for you right after to get the details.

Question:  How long would it have taken if he. ...

Spokesman:  No, the helicopter flights are much shorter.  They are less than an hour.  I mean, we are talking substantial -- substantive amount of time that it took to get him to the hospital.

Question:  Are these details available in terms of ... normally it would have taken him 15 minutes ...

Spokesman:  Yes, we can get you some of these operational details.  [The Spokesman later informed the correspondent that, whereas the helicopter journey would have been under an hour, the journey by road (from cardiac arrest to pronouncement of death) took around nine hours.]

Question:  Regarding Mr. Nambiar, would you be able to say a little bit about why he was chosen, how he was chosen and what qualities you believe he brings to the post?

Spokesman:  He brings the qualities of having extensive international diplomatic and security experience.

Question:  And the process -- how did it work? ... Were there discussions between Mr. Annan and the Indian Government?  How did this work?

Spokesman:  The process is that probably a number of people were looked at and he was chosen.  I think the Secretary-General has the right to choose his closest advisers in that way.

Question:  Ambassador Pak of DPRK Mission, in a letter dated February 27 addressed to the Secretary-General, called for dismantling of the UN command in Korea as part of the reform.  He called it illegal and the only reason it’s there for over 55 years is because the super-Power is [inaudible].  Does the Secretary-General have any position on this?

Spokesman:  I’ll have to check -- I’ll have to see if we got the letter.

Question:  Do you have the shortlist of candidates for the United Nations Environment Programme?

Spokesman:  We have it upstairs, yes.

Question:  Louise Fréchette was mainly dealing with reforms.  Is the appointment of Mr. [Malloch] Brown then on the basis of that he will push vigorously for the implementation of the reforms?

Spokesman:  The functions that Mr. [Malloch] Brown will do upon his appointment is to work closely with Member States and with the Secretariat on the follow-through of the reform process.

Question:  On Ethiopia, the UNMEE report gave the time ... said it took about four hours to get him to the hospital instead of 40 minutes ...

Spokesman:  I know, we put that report out yesterday.  I still don’t have that with me.

Question:  But questions still remain.  It said he was pronounced in Addis -- it doesn’t say that’s where he died.

Spokesman:  We’ll try to get you as much details as we can.

Question:  Two things:  one is whether there is any progress -- I hope for a briefing on Cyprus situation and what exactly is going on with the low-level negotiations.

Spokesman:  Come with me -- I’ll see what we can get.

Question:  And the other thing is -- regarding the Congo, ... there was a mutiny of troops that shot at UN helicopter and I was wondering if you could explain a little bit more about the situation there right now.

Spokesman:  My understanding is that the situation with the mutiny has been put under control with the help of the UN officers on the ground.  We’ll see if we can get you more.

Thank you very much.

* *** *

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