|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
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by Deputy Spokesman for Secretary-General
Sorry I’m a little late. Our guest is already with us, as is the General Assembly Spokeswoman, who are here to brief you.
Our guest today is Patricia Lewis, Director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), who will present a new report on the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms. And we’ll turn to her shortly.
**Secretary-General in Banjul
The Secretary-General is on his way to Banjul, Gambia, where he will be taking part in the African Union Summit this weekend.
Turning to the Security Council here, they have scheduled a meeting on the Middle East this afternoon at 3 p.m. Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane is expected to brief on the latest developments.
This morning, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolutions concerning two peacekeeping missions in Africa.
The Council extended the mandate of the UN Operation in Burundi until the end of December, and also extended until 30 September the authorization allowing some of the troops and military observers in that mission to be redeployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Then, in a separate resolution, the Security Council extended until 30 September the increase in the military and civilian police strength of the UN Mission in the DRC, on which I’ll have an item a short while later.
The Security Council did postpone a meeting on the recent Security Council mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
And today, as you know, is the last day of the Danish presidency, and starting tomorrow France will assume the presidency for the month of July. The briefing to you on that month’s programme is expected to take place on the 5th. As you know, the 4th is a holiday here.
** Middle East
On the Middle East, UN agencies are expressing their concern at the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, at a time when more than half of Gaza’s power supply has been knocked out, and roads and water pipes have also been damaged by Israeli air strikes. Approximately 130,000 people have been without water for the past few days.
The top priority for the UN agencies is the restoration of the supply of fuel for sanitation pumps in Gaza, at a time when there are only a few days of fuel left if supplies are not resumed.
The agencies say they are also worried about supplies of essential medicines and food, with some medicines already being rationed because of shortages.
The World Food Programme (WFP) today said that, because of the random closure of border crossings, it has not been able to get enough food into Gaza. The current supply of wheat flour, the agency says, would only be enough to cover the current caseload of 160,000 people for about 10 days.
There are more details on this in today’s briefing from Geneva.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, today is the official start of the electoral campaign in that country and the UN Mission there is reminding all involved that everything must be done to ensure that the Congolese people cast their votes in a calm, serene and constructive atmosphere.
The UN Mission commends the work of the Independent Electoral Commission, and calls for free and fair media access to voting facilities.
And we are expecting a message on these elections a short while later, and we’ll make that available to you.
The UN Office in Timor-Leste says that some 3,000 demonstrators supporting former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri descended on Dili Thursday night in 150 trucks and camped overnight in front of the government house.
Alkatiri and President Xanana Gusmao both addressed the demonstrators during a rally today and asked them to remain calm.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Timor-Leste, Sukehiro Hasegawa, said that the demonstration should be regarded as an “exercise of the freedom of assembly and speech”.
Meanwhile, Hasegawa and UN Special Envoy Ian Martin continued today with their rounds of meetings with government officials in an effort to help find a solution to the violence and political crisis.
Hasegawa and Martin met with Senior Minister Jose Ramos-Horta today and were briefed on a plan designed to replace the Prime Minister without dissolving Parliament.
On the humanitarian front, WFP says that it reduced rations of supplementary food it delivers to camps for internally displaced persons, and warns that vital food supplies will be exhausted within two weeks.
The food agency had asked for $5.2 million in the recent flash appeal, but has received only $2.2 million so far.
There’s a press release with more details upstairs.
**Human Rights Council
In Geneva, the Human Rights Council is expected to conclude its inaugural session this afternoon. During its two-week session, the Council took a number of decisions on building the new institution, addressing procedural issues inherited from its predecessor -- the Commission on Human Rights -- and considering substantive human rights issues.
The Council labelled the following topics as "pressing human rights issues": the incitement to hatred and violence for reasons of religion or race; the human rights of migrants; the role of human rights defenders; support for the Abuja Agreement on Darfur; and the human rights situation in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. The Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement by consensus drawing attention to each of those issues.
The Council also adopted a resolution requesting the relevant special rapporteurs to report to the next session on Israeli violations in occupied Palestine. And that session will be held in Geneva from 18 September to 6 October.
We expect to have more on this from Geneva following the briefing, including a round-up of today’s proceedings.
**International Criminal Court
On the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Chief Prosecutor there, Luis Moreno Ocampo, today invited Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and four other LRA commanders to appear before the Court to respond to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity levied against the LRA leadership by the Court.
This is in response to recent media statements by Joseph Kony denying the charges, says the Court.
Just in case you think World Cup interest in the UN system has subsided following Ghana’s elimination -- think again.
The UN refugee agency is auctioning over the Internet a soccer ball signed by the England squad, with the aim of raising funds to care for refugees and displaced people around the world.
The ball is certified by the Football Association, and includes autographs from David Beckham and Wayne Rooney amongst others.
And we have more on that upstairs.
**Economic and Social Council
And just to flag something for you for next week. The UN Economic and Social Council will begin its annual meeting in Geneva on Monday with its high-level segment dedicated to the issue of employment and how countries can generate jobs that will help people work their way out of poverty.
And we have the Week Ahead that will help you plan your coverage next week.
And just a reminder that here in 226, starting at 1:00, we’ll have a briefing -- and this is not a news briefing -- a briefing by officials from the Department of Safety and Security. They’ll be here to talk to you about the new badges and turnstiles system at Headquarters. And that’s at 1, here.
That’s all I have for you. We have our guest and we have Pragati. Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: On the Middle East, the Iranian Foreign Minister yesterday wrote a letter to the Secretary-General asking for a special session of the Security Council to deal with Israeli attacks on Gaza. What became of that request?
Deputy Spokesman: After hearing of that news, we checked to see if there was indeed such a letter, and I was unable to confirm that such a letter had been received. But as you know, I don’t know if you heard, the Security Council has decided to meet at 3 p.m. today. And the Secretary-General, who, as you know, has been following the developments very, very closely, will be following that meeting, and has been in contact with both Council Presidents, outgoing and incoming, on this issue.
Question: Who requested today’s meeting?
Deputy Spokesman: You’d have to ask the Council, but I believe it was the Arab League. But please confirm with the Council on that.
Question: First, a follow-up to your announcement about Joseph Kony. The ICC has invited him to fly to The Hague to answer charges. The LRA has responded; Vincent Otti has invited the Court to come and hear their testimony in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I guess that pretty much confirms that that is where they are.
So I’m wondering, I know that the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) is otherwise occupied, but will there be, not so much by the ICC, but by the Department of Peacekeeping or MONUC some ... there have always been rumours of where they are ... but they’ve called and invited Mr. Ocampo and others to visit them in the Congo. Will MONUC check out their location? What is the response to that?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t have an immediate response. We just have the announcement from the International Criminal Court. I think we have been responding to your questions on this subject earlier, and I don’t think we have any change in guidance on that.
Question: I was hoping this was sort of closed out. Yesterday, you said that UNDP provided you with a statement saying that they don’t support abuses by the Government of Uganda in eastern Uganda, and its halt in programme. After the briefing, they put out a statement in Kampala that was quite different than what you said here, that said “pending clarifications from the Government of Uganda on the current disarmament approach in Karamoja, UNDP has suspended its support of activities related to disarmament”. Following that, the Minister of Defence of Uganda has said that they have not suspended (inaudible). What I want to ask, I guess it’s a request to the Spokesman’s Office ... if UNDP starts funding again, will they announce it or will you be sure to announce it here?
Deputy Spokesman: I have nothing beyond what I got from UNDP yesterday, but we’ll follow up for you and get back to you.
Question: If an agency gives you a statement that’s different than what they actually released themselves in the country at issue, don’t you have an issue with that? I’ll give this to you, but I’d ask you to ensure that they do what you said yesterday they were doing.
Deputy Spokesman: I’m a Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, I’m not sure I have enforcement powers over UNDP, but I will certainly look into what you’re saying and we will get back to you after the briefing. I have nothing further than the guidance I gave you yesterday on this subject.
If we have nothing further, we’d like to turn over to Pragati Pascale first and then we’ll go to our guest.
Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President
Good afternoon. Yesterday afternoon, the General Assembly President issued a letter stating that the resolution on development issues in follow-up to the World Summit had been informally agreed. We have circulated his letter and the text of that draft resolution. There will be a background briefing at 3 p.m. here in 226, where diplomats who have been active in the negotiations can tell you what is significant in that resolution. Action is scheduled in the plenary on that resolution at 4 today.
The conclusion of the development resolution wraps up a major area of work for the sixtieth session. Along with the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council, action has thus been taken concerning each of the three main pillars of the UN, as set out in the Summit Outcome --development, security and human rights.
On management reform, the Assembly’s Fifth Committee worked all through the night until 6 this morning in informal informals on finalizing a draft resolution, and they are continuing this morning. The General Assembly President has been also intensively engaged in assisting by convening meetings at the ambassador level in his office. The Committee is scheduled to hold an open meeting at 3 today to take action on the management reform resolution, and then that resolution would go to the plenary later today.
The President is hopeful that the resolution on management reform can be adopted by consensus.
**Questions and Answers
Question: On the management reform, I wanted to ask you Pragati, some of the developing countries are saying that they particularly have a problem with giving the Secretary-General powers that he is demanding because it will be a usurpation of their powers ... (inaudible) an agreement, a framework as to how and when the process will proceed. Do you have any idea about that particular negotiating point?
Spokesperson: I know the question of the flexibility being given to the Secretary-General is one of the contentious issues that are being discussed, but I don’t have the details on what has been promised.
Question: Do you have any idea about the GA special session being asked for by the Arab League on Palestine?
Spokesperson: No, I haven’t heard that. I’ll check on that.
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