|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General this morning addressed the opening of the UN Small Arms Review Conference, and he warned that tens of thousands of lives are lost each year, because of the trade in illicit small arms and light weapons. “These weapons may be small,” the Secretary-General said, “but they cause mass destruction”.
He welcomed the progress made in dealing with small arms, with nearly one third of all States having made efforts to collect weapons from those who are not legally entitled to hold them. Yet, important challenges remain, including a need to reach agreement on a realistic and effective approach to end-user certification.
The Secretary-General also stressed that the review conference is not negotiating a global ban on guns, nor does it wish to deny law-abiding citizens their right to bear arms in accordance with national laws. We have his speech upstairs.
Earlier this morning, the Secretary-General received the Million Faces Petition, calling for an international arms trade treaty, from its 1 millionth signer, a Kenyan victim of gun violence. The Secretary-General said he would transmit that call onward to the President of the Review Conference.
The Conference, meanwhile, opened with the election of its President, Prasad Kariyawasam, the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN. The high-level segment of the general debate started with addresses this morning at the ministerial level by Austria (on behalf of the European Union), Belgium, Argentina (on behalf of MERCOSUR), Iran, Mozambique, Gabon and Andorra.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Timor-Leste, Ian Martin, arrived in Dili today to plan the next stage of United Nations assistance to Timor-Leste. Martin will meet leaders of all sides of the Timorese political spectrum, as well as religious and civic organizations and the UN country team, before reporting to the Secretary-General on the make-up of an increased UN mission, should one be approved by the Security Council.
Meanwhile, the Head of the UN Office in Timor-Leste, Sukehiro Hasegawa, has asked political leaders to ensure that their followers restrain themselves from any behaviour that might result in violence, following the resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri today.
On the humanitarian front, the UN Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme and the International Organization for Migration say that food supplies and other support items were sent to the camps, despite the disruption of traffic by the demonstrators. Assessment teams have been sent to the outlying districts to determine the needs of the displaced persons.
From Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, today welcomed the broad-ranging initiative by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki on national reconciliation in Iraq. Qazi, in a statement, said that, at a time when violence and sectarian strife continue to mark the loss of life all across Iraq, it is important that the new Government has chosen to widen the door for dialogue. All parties should see this as an opportunity for a new beginning and reinvigorate the spirit of national unity to ensure wise governance in the days ahead.
The statement added that the efforts of the Prime Minister should receive the utmost encouragement from national, regional and international forces. The United Nations is ready to facilitate and assist in the implementation of the issues outlined in the reconciliation project by the Prime Minister, in accordance with the mandate given to us by the Security Council.
The UN Mission in Sudan says that, at the invitation of the African Union, the Secretary-General’s Principal Deputy Special Representative, Tayé Brook Zerihoun, attended, in Addis Ababa this past Saturday, the first meeting of the Darfur Joint Commission since the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement.
Meanwhile, UN representatives attended a voluntary Janjaweed disarmament ceremony in Nyala, in South Darfur, sponsored by the state government there, where some 150 members of the militia surrendered their weapons.
And lastly, representatives of the UN Mission in Sudan also attended a ceremony held in Juba, in Southern Sudan, over the weekend, which saw the Sudan Armed Forces hand over command to the Joint Integrated Units.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has asked us to flag their latest World Drug Report today, which says that cocaine consumption in Western Europe is reaching alarming levels, while opium production in Afghanistan could rise again this year, despite a welcome decline in 2005.
The World Drug Report showed that global opium production fell 5 per cent in 2005, while cocaine production was broadly stable. Seizures of both drugs, especially cocaine, reached record highs. That report is available online.
The inaugural meeting of the Global Compact Board, which was appointed by the Secretary-General in April, will take place on Wednesday at UN Headquarters. Any of you who are interested in speaking to members of the board should contact the Global Compact office and we have their contacts upstairs.
Press conferences, tomorrow at 1, Nureldin Satti, the Acting Special Representative for Burundi, will be here to brief you on the Security Council’s consultations on Burundi. Our guest at noon will be Kjell Magne Bondevik, the Secretary General’s Special Humanitarian Envoy for the Horn of Africa, to talk to you about the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa.
That is it from me, so I will now take your questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I was wondering if you have any further details on why the United Nations operations in Darfur were partially suspended? I understand that they have just been reversed. But why were they suspended and what happened?
Spokesman: It has been reversed. We were told that this morning at a meeting in Khartoum. The crux of the matter was related to flight manifests and the regulation by which the United Nations needs to communicate to the Sudanese authorities the manifest on its flights within Sudan, and I think there were some issues with a particular flight and we are looking into it. But, as far as we’re concerned, all these restrictions that had been called for by the Government have now been removed.
Question: Could you elaborate first on exactly what the restrictions were, and the Sudanese news agency said that the reason it was done was that the Government believed that the United Nations was transporting a rebel leader.
Spokesman: The order related to the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), in Darfur, not to the greater humanitarian activities, but, again, this was raised yesterday. I don’t think it had any specific effect on the operations, due to the short time lag between the announcement and the fact that the situation has now been reversed. So, that’s where we stand now.
Question: There’s something not quite right there, because, when we were in North Darfur, UNMIS and some of the United Nations agencies couldn’t go into the camps either, just the NGOs, and they were giving the NGOs the aid to go in. So, this didn’t just start with an announcement, I’m not sure why now, because, in the rush, we couldn’t ask. But it would be nice to know how this is going to continue, because it didn’t just start with this weekend’s suspension.
Spokesman: Alright, well, we can check in more details about the access to camps.
Question: So just to follow up on that, did you transport a rebel or not?
Spokesman: As I said, UNMIS is now looking into specifics.
Question: The United Nations knows whether it did it or not.
Spokesman: I’m saying, UNMIS said they would look into this issue of the flight manifest.
Question: But the United Nations will know whether they transported this rebel or not.
Spokesman: Mark, I’m telling you, what I have is that UNMIS said they would look into this issue.
Question: That’s not a proper answer.
Spokesman: Well it’s the answer I can give you. I’m sorry if it’s not pleasing. We can see if we can get you more information later.
Question: The Secretary-General has been promoting the policy of openness and transparency in the Organization. Are there any specific reasons why the meeting of the board and Global Compact is closed to the press?
Spokesman: I can find out. We can talk to the Global Compact Office.
Question: Speaking of transparency and openness, at the Human Rights Council, Jean Ziegler is up for re-election. Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about the fact, about the latest revelations about Mr. Ziegler’s involvement with the Qaddafi prize and receiving the same prize that he helped set up?
Spokesman: I don’t have any information on that, but I can look into it after the briefing.
Question: We were told last Friday thatJean-Marie Guéhenno would be coming in to brief the Security Council today or tomorrow. Do you know yet if he will be coming to brief us as well?
Spokesman: That is likely to be tomorrow in the afternoon, and we’ve asked him to stop at the stakeout on the way out.
Thank you very much. I will now turn to my guest.
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