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

31 May 2006

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

31 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.  I apologize for the delay, but it’s been kind of a hectic day.  For you, mostly.

**High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS

Today is the first day of the General Assembly’s three-day High-Level Meeting on AIDS.  At the opening of the Meeting this morning, the Secretary-General noted that, over the past 25 years, AIDS has spread further, faster and with more catastrophic long-term effects than any other disease.

He also said that we must apply the main lesson of the past 25 years -- namely, that it is only when we work together with determination and unity of purpose that we can win against the disease.  Such efforts require visionary leadership and unprecedented partnership, among Governments, the private sector and civil society, he said.

Acknowledging the importance of involving civil society in the High-Level Meeting, he paid special tribute to Khensani Mavasa of South Africa, who this morning became the first person living with HIV to address the General Assembly.  Following his address and subsequent appearance at the press stakeout, the Secretary-General made remarks at an informal interactive civil society hearing on AIDS.

We have copies of what he said at both those meetings available upstairs.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

I have a statement on the Democratic Republic of the Congo relating to the events earlier in the week.

“The Secretary-General is deeply saddened at the death of a Nepalese peacekeeper and the wounding of three other Nepalese peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), in the area of Tsupu in the Ituri district, as had happened on 28 May earlier this week.  The Secretary-General strongly condemns this attack, and the capture of seven Nepalese peacekeepers by armed groups, and calls for their immediate release.  It should be underscored that those responsible for these acts should be held accountable.

“The Secretary-General wishes to express heartfelt condolences to the Government of Nepal and the bereaved families.”

**International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers

Today, as you know, is the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, and a ceremony was held earlier for the posthumous awarding of the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal to those who died in the line of duty.  The Secretary-General attended the ceremony and paid tribute to the fallen colleagues and friends who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the cause of peace.

More peacekeepers died last year than in any other year in the past decade, with 124 of them -- both national and international, civilian and uniformed -- losing their lives to violence, disease and accidents.  Another 33 have died so far this year, with the latest being the Nepalese peacekeeper who I have just referred to in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Secretary-General also mentioned the seven Nepalese peacekeepers who went missing in the same encounter, and he said those responsible must be held accountable.  Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is continuing its indirect contacts with the militia believed to have captured the seven peacekeepers.  On this same topic, the Acting Security Council President said yesterday that the Council members condemn the attack and also call for their release without delay.

We have a press pack with more details on the International Day of Peacekeepers available upstairs.

**Timor-Leste

Turning now to Timor-Leste:  The United Nations Office in Timor-Leste today reports that, during the last 24 hours, the number of security-related reports has decreased markedly, although youth gangs are still on the streets.

The Office says that the United Nations World Food Programme has begun distributing rice and high energy biscuits to displaced persons and local hospitals, augmenting supplies provided by the Government.  The United Nations Office itself is providing assistance to approximately 5,000 internally displaced persons camped near its compound.

Several United Nations agencies are also helping displaced persons.  The United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO) are providing hospital supplies and assisting pregnant women in the camps.  UNICEF is also aiding the Government with technical assistance on water distribution, and WHO is also sending out immunization kits.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that it will airlift in tents, plastic sheeting, blankets, jerry cans and cooking utensils to those in need.  And the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has sent in specialists to coordinate the work of the humanitarian agencies on the ground.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Timor-Leste

The Secretary-General, who, as you know, sent Ian Martin as his Special Envoy to Timor-Leste, is expected to record a videotaped message to the Timorese people.  His direct appeal to the people of Timor-Leste is expected to be recorded later today.  We will make the full text available as soon as it is ready.

**Security Council

Meanwhile, back here, the Security Council began the day by holding a meeting with the troop-contributing countries to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus.  Then, in an open briefing, the Chairman of the African Union, Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, briefed the Council on African issues concerning the Security Council.  Discussions continued in a closed meeting of the Council.

Next on the agenda are closed consultations on Eritrea/Ethiopia, Somalia and other matters.  A formal meeting was expected on Eritrea/Ethiopia.  As you know, the mandate of the Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea expires today.

** Indonesia

Turning now to the situation in post-quake Indonesia.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that local health facilities continue to be overwhelmed, especially as the population has no homes to which to return.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is covering the operational costs for the mobile clinics that the Indonesian Government has set up.  Meanwhile, the United Nations Population Fund plans to dispatch supplies to meet the emergency needs of pregnant women.  For its part, UNICEF is providing 22 trucks to supply 320,000 litres of clean water per day, and is planning a measles and vitamin A vaccination campaign.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), for its part, is organizing an assessment of cultural sites.

** Palestinian Territories

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that, with the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory looking extremely bleak and predicted to worsen in the coming months, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations have decided to revise their appeal for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians upwards by 80 per cent -- from $215 million to $385 million.  That revision is a consequence of the fiscal crisis facing the Palestinian Authority.

We have a press release from OCHA upstairs.

**International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia today released the report on its inquiry into the death of Slobodan Milosevic.  The inquiry found that Milosevic’s heart attack had been brought on by natural causes.  Thus, any allegations that he had been poisoned are false.

We have a press release on that in my Office.  The inquiry’s full report is also available on the Tribunal’s website.

**Statement on Dileep Nair

Lastly, I wanted to read out a statement on something a number of you have been asking me about for the last six months, almost.  That is the report of Mr. Ackerman on Mr. Dileep Nair.

“The Staff Council, in February 2005, made serious allegations against Mr. Dileep Nair, then Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), concerning violations of rules, regulations and administrative issuances regarding appointments and promotions in OIOS.  At the request of the Secretary-General, an outside investigation was undertaken by Mr. Jerome Ackerman, former President of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal, as well as Mr. John Vanderstar.  The time it took to complete the investigation was regrettably longer than was expected.  On 1 May 2006, the Deputy Secretary-General, on behalf of the Secretary-General, received the report of the investigation.  The Secretary-General transmitted the report to Mr. Nair, through his lawyers, for comments.

“The main conclusions of the report are that the investigation found no evidence supporting the regrettable anonymous allegations of improper payment by one senior staff member to Mr. Nair or improper sexual behaviour on the part of Mr. Nair and another staff member.  The report, however, found that in two cases involving appointment and promotion in OIOS, it appeared that Mr. Nair had predetermined the outcome of the selection process.  In other promotion cases, the investigation refrained from drawing any conclusions with respect to legal issues pending before the Joint Appeals Board.

“The investigation report and Mr. Nair’s comments were thoroughly reviewed by the Secretary-General.  He took note of the findings and conclusions of the report, as well as Mr. Nair’s comments.  The Secretary-General decided that there was no further action to be taken by him in the case and, accordingly, decided the matter is now closed.  Mr. Nair and the President of the Staff Council have been informed of the decision.  The full report and Mr. Nair’s comments thereon, as well as the two letters, have been made public.”

They are now available in my Office for those of you who are interested.

**Press Conferences

A couple of press conferences this afternoon:  At 12:45 p.m., Peter Piot, the head of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and Richard Feachum, the head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, will brief you on the ongoing meetings today.

At 1:30 p.m., DPI is sponsoring a press conference on the continuing impact of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda on women in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

At 3 p.m., Richard Holbrooke, President and Chief Executive of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, will be joined by Peter Parry of Booz Allen Hamilton and Peter Piot of UNAIDS to launch the report State of Business and HIV/AIDS 2006.

Tomorrow at 10:15 a.m., Stephen Lewis, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa, will be here to brief you on the financial needs for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.

At 11 a.m., Peter Piot will be back to launch the agenda for action on women and AIDS.

At 12:30 p.m., Hans Blix, the Chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, will brief you on the Commission’s final report, which he will be presenting to the Secretary-General earlier in the day.

**United Nations University

One last thing I want to flag:  The United Nations University is opening up a new research centre in Malaysia, and they have made a press release available to you in my Office.

That is truly it for me now.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Steph, can you give us the status of the United Nations peacekeeping assessment team that’s heading to Sudan?  Do you expect that there might be an overlap with the United Nations Security Council visit to that country?

Spokesman:  All those details are being worked out, in terms of the dates.  The Security Council mission is separate from the work of the assessment team.  We are in contact with the African Union, who will be fielding people for that team to travel with us.  The team will likely go within the week.  Its first stop will most likely be Addis Ababa to talk with the African Union (AU) and on to Khartoum, Darfur and back to Khartoum.

Question:  This morning the United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, made an important statement to the effect of, if Iran stops enriching uranium, the United States will join the Europeans and continue on the discussion with Iran.  She also mentioned a package of incentives for Iran.  I know the Secretary-General was busy with the AIDS programme.  Is there any reaction from him, or will there be?

Spokesman:  Yes, we’ve seen the announcement from Ms. Rice.  This is a very welcome development.  We hope that Iran will respond in a positive fashion.  This initiative is consistent with the Secretary-General’s repeated calls for dialogue and a negotiated, diplomatic solution.  Secretary of State Rice’s statement was long and detailed, which we will study closely before commenting any further.

Question:  Mr. Dujarric, so far it seems to me that on the negotiations on Kosovo, we are -- the journalists are, from this side of the Atlantic -- left somehow in the dark.  How do you explain that fact, since the negotiations that are going on under the auspices of the United Nations may very well produce, supply you, with a new Member State before the end of the year?

Spokesman:  The fact that you’re not hearing from Mr. Ahtisaari every day doesn’t mean he’s not hard at work.  He and his team are working a bit below the radar -- these are very sensitive issues they’re dealing with.  When they’re ready to announce a resolution to what they’re discussing, I’m sure we’ll have the announcement.  Any time Mr. Ahtisaari is back here, we will try to get him to brief you.  In the meantime, we are happy to put you in touch with his spokeswoman in Vienna, where he is currently based.

Question:  Just as a follow-up.  Is the Secretary-General fully aware and prepared for that moment, maybe by the end of his last (second) mandate, to have the new -- not only Kosovo but maybe another one; actually, more than assured, another one, Montenegro -- as the new Member State?  And what are his comments and reactions to this?

Spokesman:  I think it would be foolish for us to prejudge the outcome of Mr. Ahtisaari’s efforts on the future status of Kosovo.  As for Montenegro, I’m waiting for an official reaction, but obviously the issue of membership as a whole, in general, is one to be decided by the General Assembly and by the 191 Member States.

Yes, Matthew.

Question: We were of one mind on this one.  The results in Montenegro have now been confirmed.  So you’re just awaiting the Secretary-General...?

Spokesman:  We’re waiting for more official guidance from my colleagues upstairs.

Question:  On Kosovo, there’s a report that UNHCR has prepared contingency plans for an exodus of Serbs? 

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of that, but we can talk to UNHCR.  [The Spokesman later confirmed that UNHCR had indeed prepared a contingency plan.  Such planning was routine and necessary, so that humanitarian agencies such as UNHCR could be prepared to alleviate any human suffering that might or might not happen in the future.]

Question: And thanks for the update on the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Spokesman:  You’re welcome.

Thank you very much.

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