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

17 May 2006

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

17 May 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.


** Noon Guest


First, we had been expecting the Secretary-General’s outgoing Special Representative for Haiti, Juan Gabriel Valdés, to be our guest today, but, because of a scheduling problem, he couldn’t make it.  But, he will be here on Friday to take your questions on Haiti.


**Secretary-General in Japan


Today, the Secretary-General met in Tokyo with the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Koizumi.  In a press encounter, following that meeting, the Secretary-General said they had talked about UN reform, the North Korean nuclear issue and the issue of abductees, as well as the Japanese-Korean relationship.


He was asked about Iran, and responded that he hopes that negotiations will resume and that “all parties will go to the table with an open mind”.


And we have the transcript of that press encounter upstairs.


Following the meeting with the Prime Minister, the Secretary-General also had separate meetings with Foreign Minister Taro Ase, and separately met with the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Shinzo Abe.


And we do have more details of the Secretary-General’s visit upstairs.


**Central Emergency Response Fund


And also, on a Japanese-related note, Japan today announced a pledge of $7.5 million for the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).  That makes Japan one of the top-10 donors to the Fund, and brings the total number of contributing countries to 41.  Total pledges and contributions now amount to more than $261 million.  And, you’ll recall, the goal for the Fund is for $500 million.


We do have a press release upstairs on the CERF.


**Security Council


Meanwhile, the Security Council, after brief consultations, voted to adopt a resolution, in which it reiterated its call for the full implementation of resolution 1559, concerning Lebanon.


The resolution encourages Syria to respond positively to Lebanon’s request to delineate their common border, and urges both parties to make efforts, through further bilateral dialogue, to this end, while bearing in mind that the establishment of diplomatic relations between States takes place by mutual consent.


That resolution was adopted by a vote of 13 in favour, none against, with Russia and China abstaining.


**Internet Governance


Today is World Information Society Day and the Secretary-General has issued a message, saying that, in an increasingly interconnected world, it has become critically important to safeguard our vital systems and infrastructures against attacks by cybercriminals, while instilling confidence in online transactions.


We have upstairs the full message, as well as a press release from the International Telecommunication Union to mark World Information Society Day.


Meanwhile, the Secretary-General has also established an Advisory Group to assist him in convening the Internet Governance Forum.  As you’ll recall, he was asked by the World Summit on the Information Society, held in Tunis last November, to convene such a Forum, for a multi-stakeholder policy dialogue.


The group includes 46 members from around the world, from Governments, the private sector and civil society.  And it will be chaired by Nitin Desai, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on this issue.


And we do have a statement and press release upstairs on that.


**Ethiopia-Eritrea


From the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, it tells us that one of its Eritrean national staff members –- who had been detained for more than a week –- has been released.


The release leaves 10 national staff members still in detention in Eritrea.  The authorities there have not provided any explanation to the United Nations on the detentions, or today’s release, for that matter.


**UNESCO – Tsunami


And the UN’s Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization -– UNESCO -- today reports that the first test of the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System was “a great success”.


UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura congratulated the 30 countries that participated in the event yesterday and today.


He said that, although a detailed analysis of the test is pending, the authorities in participating countries received the information bulletins from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Honolulu rapidly, and were able to act accordingly.


**UNEP - World Cup


And World Cup fever is gaining in every UN agency.  Today, the UN Environment Programme and the organizers of the World Cup announced details of their plans to make the event the most environmentally friendly football tournament ever.


The plan, known as the “Green Goal” initiative, calls for offsetting all of the 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide expected to be generated by the presence of 3.2 million spectators in Germany, through such measures as free passes on public mass transit, waterless toilets, reusable drinking cups and watering the playing fields from rain-harvesting systems.


The plan calls for films promoting environmental care to be shown before every match.


And we do have a press release on that upstairs.


**Press Conference


And lastly, Ross Mountain, the Deputy Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who also serves as the UNDP’s Resident Representative in that country, will be joining us tomorrow to launch a report entitled CORE - A Global Survey of the Cost of Registration and Elections Report.  He’ll be here together with Pippa Norris ofthe UNDP’s Democratic Governance Group, and Jeff Fisher, the co-author of the report, to discuss the registration efforts in the DRC.


And that is it for me.  I’ll take your questions.  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Speaking about this football game, which is environmentally friendly, won’t it also, because there’s no water being used in the toilets and so forth, create an environmentally unfriendly atmosphere by being unsanitary, because you don’t use water…?


Spokesman:  Masood, I’ll stop you there.  I don’t have all the details off the top of my head on how waterless toilets work, but one would assume that they are both hygienic and environmentally friendly.


Question:  Some teams stink enough already, don’t they?


Spokesman:  Let’s move on.  Laura?


Question:  Thanks for the information I got from your office on Western Sahara, for the questions I had asked previously.  But, I was told that this mission is supposed to make recommendations on the follow-up to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Are those findings also going to be shared with the Security Council and the Secretary-General?  Are they going to make a special report, and are those findings going to be released to the press?


Spokesman:  I don’t know, but we could find out.  Benny, you had your hand up.


Question:  Before I ask my question, I have to say that now I understand why Achim Steiner was described by you as the most qualified to head UNEP, because, I mean, they do important work. 


As for the Secretary-General on Iran, I don’t understand his call for dialogue on the day that Iran basically rejected anything that could include suspension of its enrichment programme, which is demanded both by the IAEA and the Security Council.


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General’s message is for one to focus on diplomatic initiative, to lower the rhetoric, as it doesn’t seem to help the situation.  The Europeans, as far as I understand, are finalizing their package.  So, I think we need to take one step at a time and focus on the diplomatic contacts, rather than what may or may not be said in public.


Question:  The President of Iran said…


Spokesman:  I understand.  What I’m telling you is that the Secretary-General’s message is really one for all the parties, to focus on the diplomatic initiatives, and that the Europeans are still putting their package together.


Question:  Any movement on the assessment team for Darfur?


Spokesman:  No, contacts are continuing at all levels.  Obviously, we want to get this assessment team on the ground as quickly as possible.  The Security Council, I think, was very clear in its resolution yesterday, saying it wants it on the ground within the week.  We’re still in dialogue with the Sudanese authorities, but we are ready to move as quickly as possible.


Question:  There’s no change in attitude overnight in Khartoum, considering the resolution?


Spokesman:  Talks are still ongoing.  Yes, Masood?


Question:  Expanding on Benny’s question, does the Secretary-General still maintain that direct talks between the United States and Iran are also essential?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General has repeatedly spoken to that effect, and I see no change in his thinking.


Question:  And, can you also tell me something about this CERF?  The response has been good so far?


Spokesman:  It’s getting better.  I think the numbers in the Fund are increasing.  The number of countries that have contributed is increasing.  Obviously, we’d like to see more, but the CERF has already been able to disburse funds to a number of emergencies, which I think I announced last week -– listed a whole number of countries.  So, it is moving along.  It’s been implemented quickly, and hopefully it’s already having some effect.  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Did the Secretary-General, while talking with the Prime Minister of Japan, discuss with him the candidacy of Japan for a permanent post to the Security Council?


Spokesman:  I’m not aware of specific discussions on the Japanese efforts to get on the Security Council.  The make-up of a new and expanded, reformed Security Council is a decision for the Member States.  The Secretary-General’ position has been clear, that he does see Security Council reform as an important part of the reform of the Organization, but exactly what shape that takes, that will be up to the Member States.


Thank you very much.


* *** *

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