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

25 April 2006

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

25 April 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.

Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  Joining us today will be Peter Smith, who is UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Education, and Albert Motivans of UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics.  They are here to present UNESCO’s report on teacher shortages in the developing world.

** Nepal

From Nepal, the UN Human Rights Office in Nepal reports that the curfew in that country has been lifted today, following the King’s speech last night.

The Human Rights Office had teams travelling throughout the capital, Kathmandu, today, observing the rallies that took place in a number of locations. There were no reported clashes between security forces and the people holding these rallies. Also, no clashes were reported by human rights teams that were observing rallies in the other Nepalese cities and regions.

Also, many detainees held under the Public Security Act were released today.  And, the Nepalese authorities told the UN Human Rights monitors that all such detainees would be released, and the Office will be following up on that.

**Lebanon/Syria

Many of you have been asking us about the travels and work of Serge Brammertz, who heads up the independent inquiry into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, as well as 22 other people.

Brammertz travelled to Damascus today, where he held two separate meetings, one with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and another one with Syrian Vice-President Farouk al-Shar'a.  These meetings had been referred to in the Commission’s third report, which was released on 14 March.

**Security Council

The Security Council today is currently holding closed consultations on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Western Sahara, which came out on the racks yesterday.  Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi briefed the Council on the report, as did the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Peter van Walsum.

Council members are also scheduled to discuss two draft presidential statements and a draft resolution on Sudan.  And those texts may be acted upon following consultations early this afternoon.  Also after consultations, the Council is expected to vote on a resolution concerning a European force that would contribute to the stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo around the time of the elections.

** Egypt

And yesterday, as a reminder, we did issue a statement, late yesterday afternoon, in which the Secretary-General condemned the targeting of innocent people in the explosions that took place in Dahab, Egypt.  The Secretary-General offered his sincere condolences to the injured, the families of those who were killed and the people and Government of Egypt.  And that statement is still available upstairs.

** Haiti

Also, on Haiti’s second round of parliamentary elections last week, the Secretary-General says that together with the outcome of the presidential election, Friday’s vote represents a crucial step towards placing Haiti firmly on the path to peaceful and stable development.

The Secretary-General also believes that it will be essential for the country’s progress that all elements of Haiti’s political spectrum and the various branches of Haiti’s Government work in a spirit of close cooperation to ensure that this opportunity is fully grasped.  And we have copies of that statement, which was also issued late yesterday afternoon, upstairs.

** Côte d’Ivoire

Following a one week visit to Côte d’Ivoire, the Secretary-General’s Representative for the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Dr. Walter Kälin, says the internally displaced there have been largely forgotten.

Kälin says the country is facing a protection crisis in terms of the human rights of the displaced, and that this was mainly due to the lack of an adequate response to their needs and the lack of knowledge of their rights. And we have more on his comments available upstairs.

**Horn of Africa

The Secretary-General’s Humanitarian Envoy for the Horn of Africa, former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, arrives in Eritrea tonight to begin a regional mission which will also include Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.  Bondevik will be studying the recurrent drought and food insecurity that is threatening the lives of 11 million people in the region.

** Colombia

And a new report out today from the UN Children’s Fund says that at least 1 million children continue to be severely affected by the ongoing armed conflict in Colombia. UNICEF does not have adequate resources to respond to their needs.

The report says that between 2.5 and 3.5 million people are internally displaced in Colombia, and about half of them are children and adolescents.  UNICEF says it has a shortfall of about $1.7 million for its work in Colombia.

**Budget

And lastly, the arrival of two cheques from Grenada and Mozambique today brings the number of fully paid-up Member States to 81.  And each of those countries contributed about $17,000.  Thank you for those.

**Press Conference on Wednesday

And one more thing, flagging a press conference tomorrow at 11:15 a.m., Julia Freedson of Watchlist on Children in Armed Conflict will be here to brief you.  And that briefing is being sponsored by the Canadian Mission.

That is it for me.

Yes, Nick?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On this World-Check announcement that we had the press conference on before, Kevin Kennedy was up here with them and it seemed a little odd that someone from the UN procurement office was not up there. And the UN itself is not on the list of UN agencies or organizations that would be working with them. So is the UN procurement office going to be working with World-Check or taking advantage of these services?

Spokesman:  I will check for you.

Question:  Do you have any sense of how long they’re going to be offering their services pro bono to the UN?

Spokesman:  No, I don’t, but that’s probably a question you should have posed to them.

Question:  And one more question on Charles Taylor.  Has the United Nations, or has Secretary-General Annan, appealed to Denmark formally for a request?

Spokesman:  I can confirm the letter that was mentioned in the press today.  The Secretary-General did write to Denmark regarding assistance after a judgement is rendered in the Taylor case.

Question:  Is he considering going to any African countries?  And, though there’s some reluctance about that, but given that no European nations are coming forward, would he go to African nations?

Spokesman:  No, the process is still under way regarding what will happen to Mr. Taylor after the judgement, but I don’t have any further details to share with you.  What I would add, and what the Special Court has asked us to remind you, is that, meanwhile, the process by which Mr. Taylor is going to trial is continuing, following a pretty detailed timeline in Freetown.

Yes, Masood?

Question:  Yesterday I asked you about Mr. Jan Pronk and the OIOS.  Do you have any update on that point?

Spokesman:  No, I do not.

Question:  Is Brammertz leaving Damascus now or is he going to be there for a while?

Spokesman:  No, the only information we received from his office is about the two meetings.  As you know from the past, they’ve been very reluctant to share any detailed information about his travel plans.

Yes, Matthew?

Question:  On South Sudan, there is a report today on Relief Web saying that the UNHCR, due to weakness or lack of presence in South Sudan, is holding back the return of people to South Sudan.  And the report calls for the UN or UNMIS to review that and do something about it. What’s going to happen with that?

Spokesman:  I will check. I don’t have any information on this particular case, but we can check right after the briefing.

Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any further travel plans?  Will he be attending the Summit of the African Union or visit other countries?

Spokesman:  He does have quite extensive travel plans in the next few months.  And, as soon as we can share the details with you on the record, we will.

Question:  Will he be going to China?

Spokesman:  As soon as we can confirm those travel dates on the record, we will.

Question:  Any further details on the UN Baghdad bomber?

Spokesman:  No, I think the use of the word “confusing” remains apt at this point.  We’re trying to get some more information on exactly what transpired in the courtroom and who exactly this man is and what he confessed to.

Yes, Benny?  And then we’ll go back to Matthew.

Question:  Just one more on Baghdad, since OIOS will not confirm independently that Mr. Qazi has been exonerated, are you going to take it back?

Spokesman:  I’m not taking anything back, Benny.  As soon as we have the complete report, you can expect a statement from the Secretary-General’s office.

Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Downstairs in the basement, in conference room “A”, there’s a meeting going on, the sign of which says “DPKO Logistics Support Division Darfur Planning Team”.  I was wondering, is that planning, sort of, in case?

Spokesman:  Yes, it’s going forward.  And, tomorrow, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations will present to the Security Council a number of options on what a UN force would look like for an eventual transfer of a force from the African Union to the United Nations.

Question:  There is not new news?  That’s preparing for a presentation of possible options?

Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  Does that mean that DPKO pretty much adopted the idea of visiting the country without a visa?

Spokesman:  At some point, one can’t have deployment without, obviously, a field visit, an assessment visit.  But, the fact that the Sudanese President told the number two official in peacekeeping operations that, at this point, he did not feel that he could allow an assessment team to go forward in Darfur, has not stopped us from being able to present, tomorrow, options on what a UN force could look like.

Question:  Has the Osama (inaudible)…

Spokesman:  As I said, the security assessments of all our people who work in the field in sensitive places is done on a daily basis and changes are made accordingly.

Yes, Mark?

Question:  I asked about this a couple of days ago, and I’m wondering if you had a response.  Kofi Annan was reportedly going to go to Thailand to give the King a prize from the UN, which was to be (inaudible) now I think.  What is this all about?  Was there an open procedure to determine if the King was the most suitable recipient of this prize?  Why is the UN giving the King of Thailand a prize?

Spokesman:  I owe you an answer on that question.

Yes, Nick?

Question:  Sorry to go back to this World-Check thing, but I just want to pin something down.  World-Check announces what appears to be a fairly major deal with various UN agencies today, on background checks and procurement, and you don’t know whether the UN procurement office itself is in any way involved in this deal?

Spokesman:  This announcement was made by OCHA.  I think they were in the lead in procuring World-Check, and I will verify with the procurement department what they plan to do with it.

Question:  Also on South Sudan, the report that you mentioned that would be presented to the Security Council tomorrow, is it the report that the Council requested by the 24 April or is it just another report (inaudible)? 

Spokesman:  No, it is the report that the Council had requested.

Question:  (Inaudible)?

Spokesman:  No, it will be an oral presentation, but we are working on getting a peacekeeping official to brief the press afterwards at the stakeout.

Yes, Mark?

Question:  Did DPI yesterday have a meeting with someone from the Temple of Understanding?  What is the Temple of Understanding?  Why is the UN meeting with the Temple of Understanding, and is this the sort of meeting that Robert Orr was referring to as a useless waste of time and taxpayers’ money and UN officials’ time?

Spokesman:  I have no clue what the Temple of Understanding is.  I obviously don’t belong to it, because I would know more.

Question: It’s the code of silence.

Spokesman:  Yes, it’s the code of silence.  Yes, that’s my temple.  But I will follow up on that.  On that note, I think I will invite my friends from UNESCO to rescue me.

So, please.

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