DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICEs OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
And the spokesperson for the General Assembly president
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General
Good afternoon. Sorry for the delay.
I do expect shortly a statement from the Secretary-General on Myanmar. As soon as we have that, I’ll read that out. Meanwhile, the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, today welcomed the release of Su Su Nway, noting her health had been a cause of concern. Pinheiro called on the Government of Myanmar to unconditionally release all remaining prisoners of conscience, which he said would be critical in facilitating the national reconciliation and democratic transition. We do have that statement upstairs.
The Security Council mission led by British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, today, where the delegation met with representatives of the African Union. We’ve just received a statement from Ambassador Jones Parry about the meeting, which is available to you upstairs.
Meanwhile, also in Addis Ababa today, the UN-AU mission led by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno is in Addis to assess the requirements for a possible transition from the African Union to the United Nations in Darfur. Today, Guéhenno and his team met with the leadership and staff of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
We were just informed that the Security Council mission and Guéhenno’s team are meeting also in Addis Ababa.
Meanwhile, from Timor-Leste, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Timor-Leste, Mr. Ian Martin, today left the capital Dili after a nine-day visit to assess the situation on the ground. Before leaving, Mr. Martin told reporters that he would convey to the Secretary-General his message that the current situation in Timor-Leste “is not a time for despair” but a time for the people and leaders of Timor-Leste, as well as for the international community, to act together.
He reaffirmed the United Nations’ commitment to assist the people and Government of Timor-Leste through the current crisis and beyond the immediate needs to restore security.
Both Mr. Martin and Timor-Leste’s Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, will be here later this week to brief the Secretary-General, and the Security Council, probably next week.
Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that it is preparing a flash appeal for Timor-Leste because of the worsening humanitarian situation there. The World Food Programme (WFP) today announced that it will provide food aid to 100,000 displaced people over the next six months. WFP is currently providing highly fortified biscuits to 6,000 children and pregnant women in camps in and around the capital, Dili.
The Security Council here is hearing from the Presidents and Chief Prosecutors of both the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. The officials reported to the Council on the measures taken and the challenges they face in fulfilling their completion strategies.
In her report to the Council, ICTY Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said speeding up proceedings remained a top priority for her office and she reiterated her call for concerned States to cooperate fully with her investigations. We are told both prosecutors will be available to speak to you at the stakeout at about 1:30.
Also, on a question that came up yesterday regarding peacekeepers in Haiti, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has sent a press statement which categorically rejects allegations made in the Canadian media regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer Marc Bourque.
We have that statement available to you upstairs.
From the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), we have an update on the investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct by UNMIL’s staff.
After preliminary investigation, 3 cases out of 45 allegations were found to be unsubstantiated and closed due to lack of evidence. Preliminary investigations were completed in another 24 cases, of which 16 were found to be substantiated. Investigations are ongoing in the other 18 cases.
Disciplinary action has been taken by UN Headquarters in 6 cases last year involving UNMIL personnel. For the remaining cases, if substantiated, disciplinary action will be taken at the conclusion of the case review. And we will keep you updated on that as well, as more news is made available.
Regarding the situation in Indonesia and the volcano, Mount Merapi, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), reports that a UN helicopter is scheduled to fly over the mountain today, to track any volcanic activity.
With 3,500 people evacuated this week from the base of the volcano, the UN’s resources are being strained. UN agencies are currently in the process of replenishing Mount Merapi’s contingency stocks, which had been redirected towards earthquake relief efforts, but that will take time, says OCHA.
Tomorrow our guest will be Peter Sutherland, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Migration.
That is it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéphane, the United States today expressed extreme outrage at the Deputy Secretary-General’s statement in which he accuses the United States of undermining the world body. And, it was said that the Secretary-General should repudiate the body, and some sort of action should be taken. Do you have any reaction to that?
Spokesman: First of all, the Secretary-General stands by the statement made by his Deputy, Mark Malloch Brown, and he agrees with the thrust of it. So, there is no question of any action being taken against the Deputy Secretary-General.
Question: When the United Nations is in the throes of a financial crisis and everything else, bringing this issue to a head is going to create chaos.
Spokesman: I think I would encourage everyone to read the speech in full. It should not be interpreted as an anti-US speech. In fact, it is a speech calling for greater United States involvement in the United Nations. It makes clear that the UN cannot work without US engagement and US leadership. And, UN reforms and effective operations cannot happen without the US. And, that is the thrust of the speech. Yes, Nick?
Question: Steph, regardless of whether or not this speech is true, does the Secretary-General consider it somewhat impolitic that Mark Malloch Brown accused the US Government essentially of keeping Middle America in the dark about the good works of the UN –- this stealth diplomacy -- might that not have been the best way to go about criticizing the United States?
Spokesman: I think, again, it is not a speech criticizing the US. I think, obviously, we can probably do a better job of publicizing our own efforts throughout the globe, including in the United States. But, it is also the responsibility of every Government to make sure its population is well informed. We all have a role to play in this issue.
Question: A two-part question then: does this mean that this sort of unwritten UN rule of senior officials’ not “naming and shaming” countries no longer applies? And if that’s the case, can you tell us the countries whose peacekeepers are being investigated, or against whom claims have found to be substantiated in Liberia?
Spokesman: I don’t have any more information on Liberia. We have named a number of contingents of peacekeepers, especially when their home countries have taken action. You know, I think when you look back at the statements that the Deputy Secretary-General has made in the past, he has criticized the G-77, he has criticized others, and he’s been criticized by both the G-77 and the US for making those statements.
What the Secretariat wants, or the Secretary-General wants, is a UN that is better equipped to deal with all the complex emergencies that are being thrown at us, and the way to achieve that is through the reform process, which is stalled... which is in crisis.
Question: And, the last question -– did Mark Malloch Brown clear his speech with the Secretary-General, specifically, his mentions of “stealth diplomacy” and “keeping the heartland in the dark”?
Spokesman: What I will say again is that the Secretary-General stands by the statement made by the Deputy Secretary-General and agrees with the thrust of it. Yes, Benny?
Question: Let me ask you about that speech, about the political implications, American political implications of it. I mean, there’s clear buzz words here –- “certain political powers in America”, “ Middle America”, “Rush Limbaugh”, “Fox News”. All of these are political entities in America that Mark Malloch Brown, who is not an American by citizenship, and by UN rules should not interfere in American politics, is taking sides with one side of the political map.
Spokesman: He’s not taking sides. If you read the speech, he praises the leadership of Secretary Rice in a large number of areas in which the US engaged with the UN, from Lebanon to Afghanistan. What he’s saying, and this refers to all administrations, and he’s clear in his speech, to past administrations –- both Democrat and Republicans –- what he, what the UN is looking for is a more sustained and prolonged engagement by the US in the UN.
Question: We’re talking about a few buzz words – “ middle America”, “Fox News”, “Rush Limbaugh”. Those are all known political entities in the US.
Spokesman: First of all, I don’t believe Fox News, nor Rush Limbaugh, is a political entity. This was a speech to an American audience...
Question: ... perceived political entities.
Spokesman: I still don’t agree with you on that. This was a speech to an American audience; it is normal that he uses terms directed to an American audience.
Question: Is he taking sides with one side of...?
Spokesman: He is not taking sides. His appeal is for a stronger United Nations. That is the thrust of the message. And, to get to a stronger United Nations, we need sustained engagement from the United States. Yes, Bill?
Question: There’s all this about how the Secretary-General feels about this speech, that he stands by it, the statement, and agrees with the thrust of it. What did he think about Ambassador Bolton’s reaction -- the tone of it and the thrust of what Bolton had to say?
Spokesman: I think the answer to that is that the Secretary-General stands by his Deputy. Yes, Jonathan?
Question: What is Mark Malloch Brown’s intention today? Is he going to speak with Ambassador Bolton? I mean, obviously Ambassador Bolton feels very strongly about this; Ambassador Bolton views this as an affront to the American people. Fox News certainly feels that it’s been singled out here. And, what is the real interpretation? We understand the Secretary-General is standing behind Mark Malloch Brown. What exactly did Mark Malloch Brown mean by singling out Fox News?
Spokesman: You know, he has, in the past, has had words of praise for Fox News, I think, in your very active investigative work, which it’s true, has brought a number of issues to the forefront, in which we’ve acted upon. What he is saying is that others need to speak out, but it is in no way a criticism of those who do actively speak out. Yes, Mark?
Question: ...[talkover] what Fox News symbolizes to some people.
Spokesman: You’re welcome to make a statement, Benny.
Question: Stéphane, if you can answer, what is Mark Malloch Brown’s intention today? You said the Secretary-General stands by Mark Malloch Brown’s remarks at this gathering. Is Mark Malloch Brown going to speak to us? Will Mark...
Spokesman: At this point, he has no public speaking engagement, and whether or not he speaks to Ambassador Bolton, I don’t believe he’s ... I don’t know if he will speak to Ambassador Bolton.
[The Spokesman’s Office announced after the noon briefing that the Deputy Secretary-General would come down to the Security Council stakeout at 2:45 p.m. to answer some of the correspondents’ questions. The text of that press encounter has been issued separately as Press Release DSG/SM/288.]
Question: For the record, we would, as I mentioned this morning, like very much to speak with Mark Malloch Brown to understand what he was thinking, in fact.
Spokesman: I’ll pass that on. Mark?
Question: Two questions. One, was there, I mean, how much of a calculation was made beforehand as to the impact of making this speech to a specifically Democratic policy forum-making body? And the second question is, does this sort of reflect in any way a new UN strategy of basically starting to call a spade a spade, speak the truth? Has there been too much, sort of, lying, beating around the bush, ginger-treading, recently? Is it time to start getting serious and real about what the problems are here, as the UN heads towards a train crash?
Spokesman: Well, this was a long-standing speaking engagement/invitation that Mark had. The timing is important. It is really a warning signal about the impending crisis that we are facing, due to the deadlock on reform, the budget cap, and the longer ... which leads to longer-term risks for the UN to do the work that its members want it to do, and to react to complex emergencies as we are being asked to do. Yes, Mark?
Question: Well, just to follow up: from the Secretary-General, as the Spokesman to the Secretary-General, does the Secretary-General believe that, in a significant part, the problems of the UN are due to a failure of US leadership?
Spokesman: The problem with the reform process, as we are seeing it now, is that it is no longer about management reform; it is about who holds the power within the membership. And, I think if you look back at the statements made by UN officials, they’ve been equally criticized by the G-77 and by other groups, including the United States. And, it is clear to the Secretary-General that the Member States really need to knock their heads together and figure out that they do want a stronger UN, one that can react to their needs. And, that’s why we need to get this reform process through.
Question: One last attempt at this –- and then I won’t bug you any more. If the Secretary-General agrees with the speech, and this is not a question of whether he also has criticized, or got questions about the G-77, this is a specific question about this speech, and the thrust of this speech -– does the Secretary-General agree that a significant part of the UN’s problems has been due to a lack of US leadership?
Spokesman: It is clear that the UN cannot, that the UN needs strong United States involvement and commitment for it to function effectively. It also needs strong commitment...
Question: Has that sufficiently been forthcoming?
Spokesman: Well, I think you can be the judge of whether or not the G-77 and others have been forthcoming.
Question: It’s not about judging, it’s just, does the Secretary-General stand by the thrust of this speech, is the question.
Spokesman: He does, and I’ve said that clearly.
Question: But, does he believe there has been insufficient involvement and commitment from the US?
Spokesman: What we are looking for, and we’ve had strong engagement from US administrations, this one, in past, on a number of UN issues. What we need is continued and sustained involvement by the United States. Yes, Masood?
Question: Do you think, I mean, this particular confrontation between the United States and the United Nations has been going on for a long time –- do you think this was a great moment to do it, or has it just been done in order to sharpen the contradiction and bring out some sort of result at this point? Why is this being done now?
Spokesman: As I said, it is being done now, and again, I would encourage you to read the speech, which touches upon, not only the US, but touches upon the G-77. What we need is we need for this reform process to work, and we are at a moment of crisis in the reform process. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Stéphane, I have a question and a comment. The question is, you said something very important at the beginning, that the UN should perhaps do a better job in advertising its work outside. Is the UN going to do that? That’s the first question. The second is the comments about Mr. [Malloch] Brown’s speech, not the kind of questions that have been raised so far, but, he indicated, in his speech, that, referring to the permanent members of the Security Council, that the permanent members were the victors 60 years ago in that war. Some of us know that they were not victors, some of them. And, can we begin to correct that about some realistic lines when it comes to designating the permanent members of the Security Council as the victors in the Second World War?
Spokesman: Noted, but I think the message here was underscoring the call that the Secretary-General has made repeatedly, and that is, on Security Council reform, to increase its legitimacy. Yes, Nick?
Question: Steph, you said that this was ... you sort of wanted to ring the alarm on the crisis in the reform process, so to elaborate a little bit on Mark’s question -– how involved was the Secretary-General in the planning for this speech? Did he sign off on the speech? Did he know Mark Malloch Brown was going to make it? What was the extent of his involvement?
Spokesman: He knew the Deputy Secretary-General was going to make it. This was the Deputy Secretary-General’s speech, and as I’ve said now, the Secretary-General agrees with it, agrees with the thrust of it, and stands by his deputy.
Question: Did he read it beforehand?
Spokesman: He stands by his deputy, and he agrees with the thrust of the speech.
Question: That doesn’t answer the question.
Spokesman: And, it is the Deputy Secretary-General’s speech, but... Yes?
Question: Stéphane, you say that the Secretary-General agrees with this and stands by the speech. Mark Malloch Brown has singled out Fox News for criticism. Does the Secretary-General stand for criticism of a US media organization?
Spokesman: It is not criticism; it is an observation, and I wish you would take it as such, as not as criticism. Yes, Bill?
Question: Steph, on the issue of whether the Secretary-General read the speech before -– he either did or he didn’t. You’re not answering the question. If you don’t know, could you find out?
Spokesman: No, what I’m telling you, the important thing for us is that the Secretary-General agrees with the thrust of the speech and sees no reason to take any action against the Deputy Secretary-General.
Question: [talkover among correspondents] Our question, we’re asking this question, it may not be important to you, but it’s important to us. Can you find out?
Spokesman: If I have anything to add, I will.
Question: That doesn’t answer the question, Steph. So, you’re not going to answer the question [talkover].
Spokesman: If I can answer it further after the briefing, I will.
Question: Steph, do you know whether he read it beforehand?
Spokesman: I don’t have the answer to that question. Yes, Mark?
Question: [inaudible] that a question of whether you know you don’t have the answer?
Question: Just back to the question of UN Secretariat officials who are also running for the post of Secretary-General. Shashi Tharoor. Are there any ... to what extent is the UN watching his activities, where he’s going, what conferences he’s holding, what journalists he might be flying out and putting up in hotels, with UN money, at a time, in places like Moscow, which has a permanent seat on the Security Council, at a time when he’s lobbying to become the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: Look, without agreeing with the thrust of your question, I don’t know the basis of the facts that you state in your question. The issue of the election of the next Secretary-General is one that is being led by Member States. The conference that is taking place in Moscow is one mandated by the General Assembly and is regularly hosted by a number of Member States.
Question: Well, just to follow up, a statement of policy. Would it be considered inappropriate for a UN Secretariat official to host events using UN funds that could be seen as furthering that official’s campaign to become the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: The conference you’re referring to –- the DPI Media Seminar on the Middle East peace process -– is one that is, again, mandated by the General Assembly and has been attended by every Under-Secretary-General for Public Information since it started.
Question: Is the title the Middle East peace process? It’s not the title.
Spokesman: You know what? Thank you for correcting me. Benny, we will check the exact title of that conference. Yes, Nick?
Question: On East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta said that the United Nations will be sending a police force, possibly within the next three months. What’s the Secretary-General’s view on that? Is that a commonly accepted...?
Spokesman: Well, obviously, the Secretary-General is keen to hear from Ian Martin, who will also brief the Security Council. The Security Council will have to make some decisions as to what the UN posture in East Timor will look like in the months ahead. But, it is pretty clear, already from here, that that will have to be increased. The details still have to be worked out with the Security Council.
Question: Is there huge support for the deployment of a UN police mission in East Timor?
Spokesman: It is clear we’ll have to deploy whatever we need to deploy to stabilize the situation and help the Timorese rebuild what has been destroyed over the last couple of weeks. Again, the deployment would have to be approved by the Security Council, but it is clear, as far as the Secretary-General is concerned, that our deployment will have to be increased. Yes, Mark?
Question: Some policy questions on Somalia. First, what sort of information does the UN have, and how closely is it following developments in Mogadishu? Secondly, does the UN in any way welcome, for example, the ouster of a bunch of warlords, whose human rights records are pretty atrocious? And, what does the UN think of the arrival of this Islamist group? Does it have any concerns about it, or does it perhaps think that this group might be able to offer a better standard of living for the people of Mogadishu?
Spokesman: As far as the UN is concerned, the key is for all the political actors and others in Mogadishu, in Somalia, to support the Transitional Federal Institutions. As for what we’re doing, the Secretary-General’s personal representative for Somalia, Lonseny Fall, is currently, as I understand it, in discussions with a number of Somali leaders. We’ll try to get you more details. I just found out just before coming down to the briefing. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure. There’s a quote from Ambassador Bolton saying that the speech from Mark Malloch Brown was, since 1989, the worst mistake by a senior UN official that “I’ve seen in that entire time”. I wonder if –- if any graver mistakes come to mind?
Spokesman: The assumption is that it was a mistake. The speech was not a mistake.
Question: This is maybe related –- there’s a report today by the Council of Europe on extraordinary rendition, of flying of people without due process –- and saying that Poland and Romania may have had camps and calling it a reprehensible policy. Does the Secretary-General or the UN system have any comment on those flights, or are they involved?
Spokesman: We haven’t seen the comprehensive report done by the Council of Europe, but obviously, the Secretary-General’s message has always been that, in the fight against terrorism, one had to pay full respect to international human rights law.
Question: Do you think that would have been among the critiques that Mark, I mean, in Mark Malloch Brown’s critique that the Secretary-General stands by, do things like extraordinary rendition play any part, or is it generally about UN reform?
Spokesman: The thrust of the speech was about UN reform.
Question: May I ask a question about East Timor -– we had a [inaudible] sort of today, in which the SRSG, well anyway, a senior UN official in Dili basically saying that it was a mistake to pull out too soon, and all the rest of it. Does the Secretary-General agree with that, that basically it was a mistake to pull the troops out of East Timor, because wasn’t that actually partly due to UN recommendations? So, I’m a bit confused: the UN would have put down on paper recommending action, and I think it was followed in this case, but now it’s considered to be a mistake. So, what kind of process is going on in the UN to examine what kind of a mistake this was?
Spokesman: I think, first, our focus right now is on the weeks and months ahead, to see how we can help Timor. Obviously, I think everyone will have to look back and analyse the decisions that had been made previously.
Question: Just to clarify -– in terms of the investigation into the affair where the UN disarmed –- after an agreement with soldiers -- disarmed a group of policemen, marched them out of in front of the soldiers, and then the soldiers gunned them down. Is there any investigation at the UN level, onto whether there’s any culpability, what mistakes were made? I mean, is this something being talked about?
Spokesman: [talkover]. We’re obviously very keen to get to the bottom of it, and we’d cooperate with any investigation with the Government of Timor-Leste.
Question: Will there be any compensation? Does the UN [inaudible]?
Spokesman: I think it’s too early to tell at this point. Yes, Benny?
Question: Since Ambassador Bolton said that he called on Annan, he called him, and then called him [inaudible] what Mark Malloch Brown has said, and obviously, the Secretary-General hasn’t done so. Are you concerned that there will be further fissure between the US and the UN, are you concerned about actual hostilities here?
Spokesman: I think what we are hoping, again, is for everyone to read the speech in full and try to understand it as a call for greater US commitment and on the part of the G-77 to the UN reform process.
Question: Well, obviously that’s not the way it was read by Ambassador Bolton.
Spokesman: I think, you know, he’s...
Question: I’m asking about the specific request that Bolton made to the Secretary-General [talkover]...
Spokesman: I think the answer to that request is what I said earlier, which is that the Secretary-General stands by the Deputy Secretary-General.
Question: [inaudible] major fight with the US over it?
Spokesman: I think we very much all hope that the US and the other 190 Member States will get together in a spirit of consensus and move this critical reform process forward. Yes, James?
Question: [inaudible] asked the larger question about whether it’s appropriate for the UN to have a Deputy Secretary-General who’s so closely aligned with one political party in the major Member State. Mark Malloch Brown -– he lives in a house owned by George Soros; he was appointed Chief of Staff after a meeting of people in an apartment owned by Dick Holbrook, a former Democratic US Ambassador. There’s a question about him releasing a member of UNDP staff to work as a Democratic campaign operative in Maine. Is it appropriate that the UN should have a Deputy Secretary-General who is actually seen as aligned with one of the political parties in the major Member State?
Spokesman: You know, I don’t agree with any of the statements you made. Mr. Malloch Brown is obviously not aligned with any one political party. He’s an international civil servant. His speech was a call to arms for the good of this Organization, and UN officials routinely speak at functions organized by all sorts of political parties in this country and in others.
Question: Has he spoken at any Republican-organized events?
Spokesman: I think we can get you a list of all the functions, all the speeches he’s given, and we have UN officials speaking at many different organizations.
Question: What was the result of the Justin Leites investigation?
Spokesman: I think we touched that months ago, and I’m sure you can call UNDP, and we can find out the results.
Question: Sorry Steph, if I could just follow up. There was a letter from ... I think there was a letter from some UNDP staff to Mr. Malloch Brown criticizing him particularly on this point –- that he’s aligned the Organization too much with the Democrats. Has he ever answered that letter, and could you release the answer to that letter, if he has done so?
Spokesman: I don’t know, but what is clear is that the Deputy Secretary-General, nor anyone else, is aligned with one political party in this country. Yes, Masood?
Question: Could you ask Mr. Mark Malloch Brown to come and see us, because of the situation? We would like to hear from him.
Spokesman: We will see, but I don’t believe he has any, I don’t believe he will speak to the press today.
Question: Is it true, Stéphane, that he’s appearing at the Trusteeship Council this afternoon to [inaudible].
Spokesman: James, Mr. Malloch Brown’s public schedule is posted on the web. I don’t have it in front of me, but it’s a public ... it’s on the web, and you can take a look. Yes?
Question: I’m confused and thought maybe you can explain how singling out Fox News is what you estimate as an “observation” rather than a “criticism”. Can you explain what you mean by that, or what Mark Malloch Brown meant by that? And, then I have a follow-up question about Iran.
Spokesman: I would just encourage you to read the speech. It’s, as I said, an observation of some of the realities in this country and it is not meant as a criticism. What we do want is more people to talk about the UN, and we want the US more engaged in the process.
Question: Stéphane, I think in his speech, the word used is a “UN detractor”, I think is the word used. Would the Secretary-General have preferred that Fox News did not cover the “oil-for-food” scandal, the procurement scandals, it has been covering?
Spokesman: As I said, and I think you may have missed it, I think the Deputy Secretary-General himself has often praised Fox News in the past for its aggressive investigative work on the UN, which has led us to act upon some of its work.
Question: Stéphane, did he repeat that phrase in this speech [talkover]?
Spokesman: This speech –- I would just encourage you to read it, and it speaks for itself. I have nothing further to add on that.
Question: Let me try one more time since you used the word “some of the realities” in relation to Fox News. Doesn’t that mean some of the realities, doesn’t that mean some of the political realities of what Fox News represents to lots of people in that particular room where Mark Malloch Brown was speaking? And Rush Limbaugh, and Middle America?
Spokesman: What he is -– read the speech. What the Deputy Secretary-General was doing was warning of some of the damages that can be caused to public opinion in the US and other countries. I don’t think [talkover]. That’s not at all what he was saying. Read the speech and read the paragraph.
Question: I have read the speech, but that’s what it sounds like in, to anybody...
Spokesman: It was not at all a criticism, and it was not, should not be interpreted, and was not a criticism of Middle America. Yes, Mark?
Question: On the Fox News issue, while you praised the investigative work, does the Secretary-General believe that Fox News has been biased in its coverage and only covered the negative and not sufficiently covered the positive?
Spokesman: You know, beyond what the Deputy Secretary-General had to say about your colleagues, I really have nothing else to add.
Question: ...that the people in Middle America don’t know what the UN is doing. Is that the Secretary-General’s position?
Spokesman: It is not the clear implication. What I said, and what I said in the beginning, is I think we need to do a better job of letting people throughout the world -– not only in Middle America -– know what the UN is doing. And, the Member States should also make a greater effort at letting people know what the UN is actually about.
Question: Was there an attempt by Mark Malloch Brown to embarrass the US, with a particular phrase in there of attributing the decaying of this building to the US, as if it was the only Member State responsible for the walls to stand? And so, if the suggestion that there’s a party leaning, it would be a perfect opportunity to take the side of, as the journalists have suggested, the Democratic side, and then accuse the administration of...
Spokesman: I think Mr. Malloch Brown’s speech looked back at the work of a number of administrations, both Republican and Democratic. It was not meant to embarrass any one administration.
Question: He could cite decades of policy failures by US administrations, but then he praised Madeleine Albright, who happened to be in the audience. I don’t quite understand...
Spokesman: He also praised Secretary Powell and Secretary Rice. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Stéphane, does the Secretary-General contemplate any trips overseas in the next few weeks, and does he contemplate taking a vacation this summer.
Spokesman: As soon as we have anything on his travel schedule, we’ll announce it. Yes, Mark?
Question: I have a budgetary question, just to try to understand -- when does Japan normally pay its dues? Because I understand it was normally May or June. So, is it fair to say that Japan is already late on paying its dues, according to historical precedent?
Spokesman: I’m going to have to check for you on that.
Question: That would be very helpful.
Spokesman: All right.
[The Spokesman later informed the correspondent that Japan was not late. According to the United Nations Budget Office, countries have all of 2006 to pay their 2006 regular budget dues.]
Question: Is the Secretary-General planning any trips to Middle America any time soon?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General has done quite a number of trips in various cities in the US, far away from the coast, and, in fact, he was partly educated in the Midwest.
Question: Two questions on Liberia, quickly. One, there was a court decision out of the Netherlands that Gus Kouwenhoven was convicted of trading timber for arms, in violation of the UN embargo. I tried to raise this to you, earlier. Does the UN, does the Secretary-General, have any -– he was also found “not guilty” of war crimes.
Spokesman: Well, obviously, it is up to Member States to enforce judicial proceedings against people who violate these types of sanctions, and we would welcome such action.
Question: [inaudible] UN sanction, he was subject to UN travel restrictions?
Spokesman: No. That’s why I said we would welcome these, this enforcement.
Question: And also, Ambassador Bolton yesterday said he’s going to ask the Security Council to take off the arms embargo in Liberia. I understand it’s a Security Council matter...
Spokesman: It is.
Question: Okay, thanks.
Spokesman: Yes, John?
Question: It’s been a couple of days since the Secretary-General spoke with the Iranian President. Any news, any developments, on that front?
Spokesman: No, the Secretary-General is very much hopeful that the Iranians will take the time, and the authorities will take the time, and study the proposal put to them, carefully. Yes, Mark?
Question: Does the Secretary-General view the Iranian President as a man he can do business with? That’s a serious question, actually.
Spokesman: The Secretary-General recently spoke to the Iranian President, and as I said, encouraged him to consider fully the package brought to him by Mr. Solana.
Question: Do you happen to know whether Mark Malloch Brown’s speech was read before it was carried out by his friend, [inaudible], George Soros?
Spokesman: It’s a ridiculous question, which I won’t even answer.
Question: I talked to the organizers there who said it was originally Kofi Annan who was invited to give the speech. Why was it that Kofi Annan didn’t give the speech, and Mark Malloch Brown gave the speech in his stead?
Spokesman: I don’t know. The Secretary-General gets a lot of invitations. He does not accept them all. I am not aware that there was any bait-and-switch at the last minute. Often, when people do invite the Secretary-General, he can’t attend, and we offer other officials.
Question: Perhaps I hadn’t followed, was there anything pressing on his schedule that he wasn’t able to do it?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General is following a number of issues, and he does not have to accept every invitation that is put to him.
Question: Does Mr. Mortimer contribute to the speech writing of Mark Malloch Brown?
Spokesman: The speech was Mark Malloch Brown’s speech. Thank you. Pragati, all yours.
Briefing by Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Good afternoon –- just some brief announcements. The General Assembly is scheduled to meet in plenary tomorrow morning to elect the Assembly’s President and 21 Vice-Presidents for its sixty-first session. The Chairpersons and the Bureaux of the six Main Committees are also to be elected tomorrow morning.
The President-designate, whose candidacy has been endorsed by the Asian States, is Ambassador Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain. She will be the third woman to serve as General Assembly President. We have copies of Ambassador Al Khalifa’s bio, as well as the list of the 21 candidates for Vice-President, upstairs.
Assembly President Jan Eliasson will speak this afternoon at the United Nations Population Awards ceremony, which is scheduled to be held in the Trusteeship Council beginning at 5.
As Stéphane mentioned yesterday, the two winners of the 2006 population award are Dr. Halida Hanum Akhter, the Director-General of the Family Planning Association of Bangladesh, and a Haitian organization known by its acronym FOSREF, which is a private NGO devoted to reproductive health and the promotion of family life in Haiti.
Thank you very much.
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