|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 said their hellos? Everybody’s okay? Everybody knows each other? Good.
And I’d like to say hello and welcome our visiting journalists from Iraq. Welcome to the UN and welcome to this briefing.
**Statement on Chad
I will start off with a statement on the situation in Chad.
“The Secretary-General is greatly troubled by the worsening security situation in Chad, resulting from the ongoing fighting between Government forces and rebel fighters. He strongly condemns once again any attempts to seize power by force or any other unconstitutional means, and appeals to the protagonists to resolve their political differences through peaceful negotiations.”
Also on Chad, the Head of the UN Refugee Agency, António Guterres, expressed alarm over violence in that country and the possible consequences for the security and welfare of some 200,000 refugees from Darfur in camps in the east of the country.
Guterres, in a press release issued a short while ago, urgently appealed to all sides in this political upheaval to respect the civilian character of the refugee camps and to leave in peace those who have already fled the terrors of Darfur.
Fighting was also reported Thursday between Government and rebel forces in the capital, N’Djamena, along with clashes in Adré in the east of the country. UNHCR, as you know, runs 12 refugee camps in the eastern part of Chad. And the situation in the camps was reported calm as of a bit earlier this morning.
Turning to Nepal, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, today said she was shocked by the excessive use of force by security forces in Nepal, as well as the extensive use of arbitrary detention in violation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
Reminding the Government of Nepal of its international obligation to respect the right of peaceful assembly, she also flagged to the security forces their obligation to use only minimum necessary force, even when faced with demonstrators throwing rocks.
Noting that Nepal’s police forces have helped the UN uphold the rule of law in peacekeeping operations, she nevertheless said she would provide the Department of Peacekeeping Operations with information regarding individuals implicated in any human rights violations.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme has appealed to all parties in Nepal to allow safe passage for its food convoys to that country. And UNICEF says it has expressed concern that children have been injured, arrested and detained in the recent demonstrations.
This morning the Security Council decided to extend the mandate of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea by one month, until 15 May 2006.
It is now meeting in consultations on the situation in the Middle East, as well as other matters.
** Côte d’Ivoire
The Secretary-General’s latest report on Côte d’Ivoire is out on the racks today.
In it, he says that despite setbacks from January’s violence, encouraging prospects for advancing the Ivorian peace process have emerged as a result of the initiatives taken by Prime Minister Banny with the support of President Gbagbo.
He said, however, that considerable challenges lie ahead, especially in the area of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.
To that end, he reiterated his appeal to the Security Council for reinforcement of the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
In another peacekeeping operation, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) reports that the Congolese army, with some Blue Helmet assistance yesterday launched a new operation against suspected Rwandan rebels in North Kivu province, in the eastern part of the country.
The operation is part of ongoing efforts under MONUC’s Chapter VII mandate, to take robust military action to contain these foreign armed elements and to encourage their repatriation to Rwanda, through the exertion of military pressure.
And we have no initial reports of any casualties but we will keep you updated if we get some more information.
**United Nations Holiday
And tomorrow is an official holiday here so the building will be closed.
Our office will not be staffed for the three-day weekend, but there is a duty roster if you need to reach any of us on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Enjoy the weekend.
**The Week Ahead
And we do have The Week Ahead here available for you to help with your planning.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Just wondered what the Secretary-General plans to do with the Chad situation. Has he been in contact with President Déby in N’Djamena?
Spokesman: He has not had any contact with President Déby. The Secretary-General is planning to have a conversation with President Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo, who, as you know, chairs the African Union -- presides over the African Union. He’s obviously following the situation very closely. We’ve also provided a briefing to the Security Council this morning. And you may look to them to see if they will come out with anything a bit latter on.
Question: Sorry. Just because I’m finding it difficult getting information on the ground. I’m wonder if you know of anything -- World Food Programme flights in and out of, I think it’s Abeche, which, I think, is where the French garrison is. Are they still doing that to your knowledge?
Spokesman: I don’t know. I’m happy to check for you afterwards.
[He later informed the correspondent that WFP had begun relocating all non-essential UN and non-governmental organization staff and their families from N’Djamena and Abeche. The evacuation doesn’t signify the complete halt of WFP operations in Chad. But the lack of capacity on the ground will have an impact on the level of work, WFP said.]
Question: Did the Secretary-General receive any letters from Chad and is it possible to have a copy of the briefing? This is no longer a spillover from Sudan.
Spokesman: We’ll see if we can get you a copy of the briefing which is basically an update of the situation on the ground. And I’m not aware of any letters from Chad, but I will check.
Question: Does the Secretary-General support the actions of the French military in Chad?
Spokesman: I think we have no specific -– at this point, I have not seen any –- we’ve seen contradictory reports of what the French military may be doing.
Question: Were there any contacts or communications between the Secretary-General regarding Iran in the last day or two?
Spokesman: No, not that I’m aware.
Question: Can I come back to that? Just on a wider thing, the Secretary-General and various United Nations officials have been warning that this sort of thing could happen for about six months now. Is there a sense of frustration in the Secretary-General’s office that quicker action on behalf of the international community and the Security Council could have prevented this?
Spokesman: It is something that the Secretary-General and top humanitarian envoys have been flagging. It’s not so much a sense of frustration at this time; it’s really just a growing sense of worry about what may happen, notably in the refugee camps.
Question: Just to follow up again, I guess from the questions I was asking yesterday, do you still see the way to deal with Chad as the Darfur mission, or does Chad now warrant its own specific attention?
Spokesman: Well, I think Chad –- it’s two different issues. The situation in Chad obviously warrants its own specific attention, and the Secretary-General is drawing attention to what is going on on the ground. Obviously there are internal political factors in Chad, which are leading to what is going on now. But those are also linked the greater instability in the region.
Question: Sorry, just to follow up. So, the Secretary-General sees this as an internal problem?
Spokesman: There are multiple factors. There are internal political factors that are driving the rebels, but the situation is not independent from the greater regional situation. It’s not one or the other: it’s both.
Question: Sorry, what I’m trying to get at is, is the Secretary-General or anyone in his office making representations to the Sudanese Government who’ve been widely accused of fuelling this current crisis?
Spokesman: I think the focus is on a number of fronts. One is securing the safety of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are in Chad, making sure the Chadian population is protected by making sure that both Government forces and the rebel fighters protect the civilian population, and, obviously, a focus on trying to stabilize the situation in Darfur.
Question: There is a new Security Council proposal for a resolution that includes for names of possible targeted sanctions. Do those names, since we don’t know them, do they correspond to the names that were in the Secretary-General’s list, which we don’t know the names of?
Spokesman: I don’t know.
Correspondent: You know both.
Spokesman: Since I don’t either, I don’t know.
Question: Is there any concern on the Nepal issue that you have soldiers in Nepal beating up on their own people about the capabilities of the Nepalese soldiers on UN peacekeeping missions? Louise Arbour made a statement, as you said, but is there any scrutiny into how they’re behaving?
Spokesman: The point is that Ms. Arbour said she would keep the Department of Peacekeeping Operations informed of any –- in that respect. And while we were talking, I was just given a statement to read out on Nepal from the Secretary-General.
**Statement on Nepal
“The Secretary-General is more than ever concerned about the deteriorating situation in Nepal, particularly the absence of any movement towards a political solution. He reiterates his call for an inclusive national dialogue of all Nepalese political forces, and for His Majesty to take courageous steps to find a way out of this situation and to avoid further bloodshed.
“It is quite clear that the Nepalese people want a swift end to the conflict and instability and the immediate restoration of democracy. The loss of life and denial of legitimate rights should end without delay.”
Question: As a follow-up to that, I’ve only been here for a couple of years, but I know the Secretary-General has been pretty active in making statements during and before the first Iraq warandhe’s been involved in the Cyprus issue, but lately it seems like he’s issuing a lot of statements but not really getting involved in a lot of these issues, maybe using his good offices. Is he scaling back as he winds up his terms, or is he sort of taking a fundamentally different approach?
Spokesman: No, not at all. I think in Nepal, he has been involved. He’s sent a number of high-level envoys to Nepal. If you remember, Mr. Brahimi went a few months ago when he was still working full time for us to talk with the King and the opposition. So I think Nepal is one place where he has been involved in tandem with the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Question: A couple of questions, one just to follow up on Nick’s question about Nepal. Does the Secretary-General consider it appropriate to be deploying as peacekeepers the troops of the country that use those same troops to beat up on its own population? Does it not undermine the image that UN peacekeeping is meant to portray when you basically deploy troops with human rights atrocities behind them?
Just one other, a second question. I would just be very grateful, when we’ve got a situation like Chad, what kind of resources does the Secretary-General have at his disposal to actually go about trying to resolve this conflict? I mean how many people does he actually have? Is there one desk officer and then a telephone, or is there more resources that he could actually apply to this situation? What goes on now?
Spokesman: He has a whole, a wide variety of resources which are either himself placing calls, placing calls to leaders, leaders in the region. Obviously UNHCR is very much in the lead in terms of our presence in Chad. So it’s a whole array of various resources.
Question: Sorry on the Nepal --
Spokesman: On Nepal, I think as I said, Ms. Arbour will be informing the Department of Peacekeeping Operations of any issues regarding human rights violations by the army and the police. And I’m sure the Department of Peacekeeping Operations will be following those up. Yes?
Question: But as it stands, the UN has no problem with using Nepalese troops for peacekeeping?
Spokesman: As it stands, the issues that are being, if the Nepalese forces and the police –- the Nepalese police -– that are involved currently in Kathmandu, if they are found to be involved in human rights violations, it is something that would be brought up with the Peacekeeping Operation and followed up on.
Question: Since the UN is closed tomorrow for Easter, as it always does on major Muslim holidays, does the Secretary-General feel it’s okay for the Security Council to always schedule conversations on the Middle East on major Jewish holidays?
Spokesman: I wish you a happy Passover, and I won’t touch that with a 10-foot pole. The Council is master of its own schedule.
Question: Does the Secretary-General himself have any opinion on the process by which the next Secretary-General should be chosen in terms of whether he considers it would be good for the Organization that the next Secretary-General be chosen by –- have more input from more members of the General Assembly rather than this P-5 monopoly?
Spokesman: The selection of the next Secretary-General is laid out in the Charter, but obviously I think the Secretary-General would encourage a process that is as open as possible within those parameters.
Question: Yesterday, Australia announced that asylum-speakers that arrive by boat on land would be sent to Nauru and other places to be -- won’t be allowed even to stay in Australia. So I wondered, one, if the Secretary-General has any view of that new policy and, two, if UNHCR would be processing these asylum-seekers on Nauru.
Spokesman: We’ll check with UNHCR, if they have anything.
Question: Ethiopia and Eritrea -- I seem to remember the Secretary-General put out five suggestions, five possibilities for a way to deal with the stand-off there. Instead of taking any of those up, the Council’s just done another one-month rollover. Is there any contact between the Secretariat and the Security Council? Is there sense of urgency there?
Spokesman: There’s always contact between the Security Council and the Secretariat. I think if you look at the resolution, it talks about a rollover for a month, with a view for a possible adjustment of UNMEE to a transformation to a possible observer mission, which is one of the options laid out by the Secretary-General to the Council.
Question: I’m sorry if you answered this already, but will you get an interim feedback from IAEA inspectors before final reports from the [inaudible]?
Spokesman: We don’t expect to have anything for you.
Question: Earlier in the week, I asked you about this UN Resident Coordinator in Uzbekistan, Fikret Akcura. I’ve heard back from him. I guess my question -- he seems to be doubling as UN Resident Coordinator and also UNDP, the Resident Coordinator...
Spokesman: That’s the way they’re set up. Usually the Resident Coordinator is the Head of the UNDP office.
Question: Right, and I guess my thing, I’m sorry that it’s something you’re going to have to look into, how many UN staff, given UNHCR is being put out of the country by 17 April, so it’s just unclear to me. It was a nice response, but, I guess from the Secretary-General’s office -- how many -- what UN staff are remaining there and what’s going to happen to the refugees that are now being left behind?
Spokesman: Thank you very much. Have a great weekend.
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