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

18 May 2006

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

18 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.

My guest today will be Ross Mountain, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Mr. Mountain also serves as UNDP’s Representative for the DRC.  And, he will be joining us in a few minutes to launch a new report on the cost and the registration in the elections in the DRC.  He will be joined by Pippa Norris of UNDP’s Democratic Governance Group and Jeff Fisher, who are the co-authors of the report.

**Secretary-General in Tokyo

The Secretary-General today, who, as you know, is in Tokyo, spoke about UN reform and the growing challenges of non-proliferation and disarmament in an address delivered at the University of Tokyo.

He warned that the world seems to be sleepwalking down a path, in which rapidly growing numbers of States feel obliged to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, and in which non-State actors acquire the means to carry out nuclear terrorism.  He chided the failure of Governments to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty twice last year, at the NPT Review Conference and the World Summit.

The Secretary-General called for increased efforts to achieve diplomatic solutions to the situations concerning the nuclear programmes in Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

And we have copies of that speech upstairs.  The Secretary-General also received an honorary degree from the university.  He then held a press conference, which capped the end of his official visit to Japan.  And, we do expect to have that transcript available for you very shortly.

** Myanmar

Meanwhile, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Myanmar today, where he met with Foreign Minister U Nyan Win and other senior officials.

During his three-day visit, Mr. Gambari will also meet Senior General Than Shwe, the Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, as well as representatives of political parties, including, in particular, the National League for Democracy, as well as members of the diplomatic corps and the UN country team in Myanmar.

Mr. Gambari is in Myanmar to convey a clear message that the country’s prospects for improved relations with the international community will depend on tangible progress in restoring democratic freedoms and full respect for human rights.  And Mr. Gambari also requested to see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit.

** Sudan

Meanwhile, from Sudan, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for that country, Manuel Aranda da Silva, has welcomed the recent announcement by the Government of Sudan to contribute some 20,000 metric tons of cereal for Darfur.

The contribution will help to meet some of the food gaps created by the rations cuts announced by the World Food Programme (WFP), due to funding shortfalls.  Specifically, the supplies cover gaps in food rations in Darfur in July and August.

However, to ensure distribution of this food, WFP needs to cover all non-food associated costs, such as transport, which amounts to about $16 million, and da Silva is appealing to international donors to support WFP to meet these distribution costs.

The United Nations is extremely concerned that there will be no food available for vulnerable persons in Sudan, from September onwards.

And, meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, is continuing his visit to Darfur, which lasts for another two days.  While there, he is scheduled to meet with commanders of the African Union’s Mission in Sudan, as well as the Governor of West Darfur and representatives of civil society and NGOs.

**DRC

From the DRC, the UN Mission in that country says that Kyungu Mutanga, the Mayi-Mayi militia leader who surrendered to peacekeepers in Katanga province last week, is now in the custody of the Congolese judicial military authorities.

Mutanga was handed over on Tuesday.  He’s been accused of murder, the recruitment of children, cannibalism, the use of firearms and the creation of a rebel movement.

Meanwhile, the Mission says that, along with the UN Children’s Fund and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, it’s concluded a training programme on humanitarian principles and the protection of civilians for 45 officers in the DRC’s armed forces.  And that exercise took place in Bunia in the Ituri district.  And we do have more information on that upstairs.

**FAO/China

The Food and Agriculture Organization and the Government of China today announced an agreement that will send some 3,000 Chinese experts to assist small-scale farmers and fishermen in developing countries.

This FAO-China collaboration is part of FAO’s South-South cooperation initiative, which aims to strengthen cooperation among developing countries at different stages of development, to improve agricultural productivity and ensure access to food for all.  The Chinese specialists will be gradually deployed for three-year assignments over a period of six years.  And we have more in a press release upstairs.

**WHO/Angola

Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) today says it has sent six international experts to Angola to help that country fight a deadly cholera outbreak.

WHO is already undertaking a range of activities, including disinfecting specific areas; collecting specimens for examination; distributing safe drinking water kits; and disseminating health-related educational material.

As of this week, Angola has reported more than 35,000 cholera cases and nearly 1,300 deaths.

**Disarmament

Upstairs we have a statement from the Secretary-General, officially welcoming the entry into force of a legal instrument relating to the explosive remnants of war.  We had flagged that development for you earlier this week.

And also available is a backgrounder from our colleagues at the Mine Action Service on what this actually all means.

**Bird Flu Preparations

And, as part of the UN’s work to prepare for a possible human influenza pandemic, Imelda Henkin of the Netherlands has been designated as the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Coordinator for the UN system in New York.

She’ll work closely with Dr. Nabarro, who is preparing a strategy for both avian and pandemic influenza prevention, preparedness and response for the entire UN system.  And we do have more on that upstairs.

**Upcoming Events

And a couple of events to flag for you today and tomorrow.  The fourth day of the annual session of Indigenous Peoples opened this morning with a statement by Nobel Laureate and indigenous leader Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala.  Ms. Menchu will be attending other events related to the session throughout the day, including a seminar on the evaluation of the First International Decade of Indigenous People, and that takes place in Conference Room 2 at 1:15.  And you’re all welcome to attend that.

Also, tomorrow, Jakaya Kikwete, the President of Tanzania, will be in the building to launch, in the afternoon, a new publication on democracy and development in least developed countries.  He will be joined at the launch, by Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown and Under-Secretary-General Chowdhury, as well as Kemal Derviş, Administrator of the UN Development Programme.  The launch starts at 3 p.m., and you’re all invited to that.  And again, that’s in Conference Room 3.

**Tomorrow’s Noon Guest

And tomorrow, our guest at noon will be Juan Gabriel Valdés, the Special Representative for Haiti.  And he’ll be joining us to provide you with an update of what has been going on in Haiti.

Before we turn to Mr. Mountain, I’ll take any questions.  Yes, Mark?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I just wondered, on the preparations for the eventuality of a budget freeze, first of all, would it be possible to clarify how much money the UN has left?  It would be great if we could actually have a sheet or something to explain who’s paid and who hasn’t paid, just to get a sense of who’s where, and when you expect various people to pay.  And also, to tell us of any preparations, plans, contingency you might be considering.

Spokesman:  We can surely provide you with a sheet of who’s contributed so far.  That’s probably already available upstairs, but we can see whatever more details we can give you.  Obviously, the budget discussion is something we are following closely, and we’ll be making any plans, as needed.

Question:  Stéphane, I wonder if you could update us on what the UN has been hearing on this end from the Sudanese Government on the ability to send an assessment mission in.  There were some positive signs from the Sudan.

Spokesman:  I mean, we’ve seen the press reports from the Prime Minister, if I’m not mistaken, out of Moscow, but our discussions with the Sudanese Government are continuing at various levels, regarding the dispatch of the assessment team, as mandated by the Security Council.

Question:  So, no word on any…

Spokesman:  Discussions are continuing.

Question:  It’s related.  Does the Secretary-General or your Office have, on Darfur and the press, the Government of Sudan has not allowed any press permits to visit Darfur since the Peace Agreement was signed.  I think Jan Egeland had said something about it.  But, I’m wondering whether… what you think about it.

Spokesman:  First of all, somebody has a cell phone on, which needs to be turned off.  Second, that’s not completely what we’re hearing.  We’ve had senior officials travel to Darfur, notably Mr. Egeland, and he had quite a large press contingent with him.

Question:  If they don’t do that… journalists seeking to go, not as part of a delegation… (talkover)…

Spokesman:  It is not something that we’ve heard here, but I’m happy to check with the Mission in Sudan, in Khartoum, to see if they’ve heard anything to the contrary.

Question:  Stéphane, there was a strong attack by Taliban elements in Afghanistan against the Afghan security forces, and there were a lot of casualties on both sides.  Now the President, Karzai, has accused Pakistani security forces for training these elements that attacked.  Was there any reaction from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan?

Spokesman:  You know, the growing violence and the incidents are obviously of concern to us.  We’ve been trying to get some word out of the Mission to get any more details on the attack and what they know.  So as soon as we do, we’ll let you know. 

Question:  This is a request.  You have a big AIDS conference coming up, I believe, early next month.  And there have been informals for a number of days now, I presume, on a declaration that will be issued at the end of it.  I’m wondering if we could arrange a briefing, maybe a few days before the opening of the conference, to say what to expect out of this conference and what the state of play is on this declaration.

Spokesman:  Sounds like a good idea.  Thank you.  Mr. Mountain and guests, you’re all up.

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