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

11 July 2006

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

11 July 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Guest at Noon

Good afternoon.  Joining us shortly will be François Lonseny Fall, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, who will brief you on the latest developments in that country.  And as you know, he briefed the Security Council in consultations yesterday afternoon.

**Secretary-General in Germany

The Secretary-General, meanwhile, continues his travels.  He was in Bonn earlier today, where he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and discussed a range of issues, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, the Middle East and UN reform.

In a joint press encounter with the Chancellor following that meeting, the Secretary-General said he believed that no reform of the United Nations would be complete without the reform of the Security Council.  And we have the transcript of that encounter upstairs.

The Secretary-General and the Chancellor then took part in the opening of a campus that will now house all the UN agencies working in Bonn.  In comments at that opening, the Secretary-General pointed to the remarkable breadth of the work the United Nations is doing in Bonn, from dealing with climate change and protecting endangered species to organizing the dispatch of thousands of volunteers around the world.

The Secretary-General later met with Germany’s Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development and also met with the UN staff working in that city.  And this evening, he leaves for Italy.  I think he’s on his way.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

And in connection with his travels, I have another addition.

The Secretary-General plans to attend the pledging conference for the African Union force in Darfur, known as AMIS, scheduled to take place now in Brussels on the 18th of July, and that’s a week from today.

As you know, the Secretary-General has been talking about the importance of the strengthening the African Union force on the ground and consolidating the Darfur Peace Agreement.

**Security Council

Here at UN Headquarters, the Security Council today had a private meeting on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, and then followed it with consultations on the same subject.

Council members received a briefing on the Secretary-General’s recent report by Special Representative Heidi Tagliavini, who reviewed the UN Mission in Georgia’s work over the past four years.  She will also be the guest at tomorrow’s noon briefing and can provide some more details about the discussions there.

**World Economic Situation and Prospects 2006

And available today is the mid-term edition of the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2006, the annual report of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs presented to UN Economic and Social Council in Geneva, where it’s meeting.

In it, UN experts say the United States current account deficit increases the chances of a sudden devaluation of the US dollar, with collateral damage to the international economy.

The experts also warn that high inflation caused by high oil prices may move Governments to implement monetary policies likely to bring about a sharp global downturn.  They suggest greater international cooperation in order to consolidate the stable global economic growth of recent years.  And that report is available on the website of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

**UNICEF

And turning to Pakistan, there is a press release saying that UNICEF has announced a $150 million earthquake recovery plan for that country.

**UNHCR

And UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reports that the number of Afghans returning home from Pakistan this year has crossed the 100,000 mark.  While that number is less than normal when compared to previous years, UNHCR notes that, this time, more professionals, including engineers, doctors and teachers, are returning home.

And there is also a UNHCR item about their increasing concern about the health and well-being of a group of 200 Iranian Kurds who have been stranded at the Iraq-Jordan border since earlier last year.  And we have more information about both of these items upstairs.

**World Population Day

And today is World Population Day, and we have upstairs the Secretary-General’s message for the Day on this theme, which is “Young People”.  And I said there is a copy of that which is upstairs.

**Press Conferences

And on press conferences tomorrow, we will have the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Georgia here at the noon briefing.

And today, joining us here already is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Mr. Fall who is here to brief you.

Before I turn over to him, do you have any questions for me?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Do you have anything further on Qazi’s remarks in Tehran?  And also, anything further about the OIOS investigation?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, nothing new on the OIOS investigation.  As soon as I do get something on that I will let you know.

As I mentioned yesterday, in terms of the conference that Mr. Qazi, the SRSG for Iraq, was attending in Iran, he was attending a regional conference, bringing together the Foreign Minister of Iraq and the neighbouring countries and it is, I am told, one in a series of meetings convened in the region involving regional support to Iraq.

Question:  Was that the sole topic of the regional meeting [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t have further information other than that.  [She later told the reporter that, according to Mr. Qazi’s spokesman, the Special Representative only spoke about Iraq-related issues.]

Question:  Two questions about UNDP and human rights.  The question that I provided you as well is that UNDP is participating in and funding a human rights council in Zimbabwe organized by the Robert Mugabe Government.  Many civil society groups there have criticized it.  UN-HABITAT is on record talking about the mass evictions.  So I’m wondering, what’s the explanation for UNDP supporting Governments alleged to be abusing their own people?

And this is a follow-up to the Uzbekistan question that’s now been outstanding –- they haven’t answered for weeks –- which is why they’re helping Uzbekistan collect taxes, given again that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has found that they are killing their own people?

On the first question, did you get anything back from UNDP?

Deputy Spokesman:  UNDP is looking into the matter for you.  That’s all I can say.  I don’t speak on behalf of UNDP, but we certainly, when you send them a question and then you copy it to us, we try to follow-up for you, and they’re looking into it for you.  But we can’t answer the question on their behalf.

Question:  I guess I just want to ask one thing.  Within the UN system, does it expect –- UNDP questions actually about their own programme –- there’s nothing for them to investigate, it’s just a question for them to explain what standards they have before helping a Government collect taxes.

Deputy Spokesman:  Matthew, I can’t speak for UNDP, so if they’re looking into it, all we can do is try to facilitate an answer for you, otherwise...

Question:  I understand that you are in the middle.  I guess I’m just saying that maybe there’s some ... if the Secretariat has provided guidance to UN agencies in terms of just responding to questions to explain their own activity, not other people’s activity.

Deputy Spokesman:  UN agencies have ... many of them have their own boards, their own programmes.  We work as a system.  As you know, the UN, in most of the countries that we operate in now, we work as a country team and there’s a lot of on-the-ground cooperation amongst different agencies and the UN.  So there is a lot of cross-agency cooperation on the ground.  That’s all I can tell you.  We cannot, as the Secretariat, we do not dictate to them what they can’t say or say to you.

Question:  Is it possible to have the UNDP Administrator come at some time, at one of these noon briefings?

Deputy Spokesman:  We can certainly invite the UNDP Administrator to come and speak to you, to the press at some time.  And you’re free to also request that.

Correspondent:  I have.

Deputy Spokesman:  Okay.  Yes, Massoud?

Question:  Yesterday I had asked you about this ongoing Israeli investigation in Gaza and the Secretary-General has expressed so much concern about it.  Now Jan Egeland gave a press conference about the humanitarian situation over there, which was corroborated by eight or nine UN agencies.  The situation is so horrible.  Has the Secretary-General, at any point in time, decided to call the Israeli Prime Minister, as I asked you yesterday, and ask the Security Council -- which already has a resolution but is not acting -- to act on it.  Has there been...?

Deputy Spokesman:  I’d like to refer you to the Secretary-General’s statements over the last few days.  I think he made it pretty clear how he felt both in terms of the humanitarian situation on the ground and his call for the Governments, both Governments, on that.

I mentioned to you, he is in touch with all the parties.  During this trip, he has constantly been on the phone with all the parties in the region and around the world that he feels can bring some pressure to bear to improve the situation of the people on the ground.

Question:  [Inaudible] from ANSA, the Italian News Agency.  I would like to have some details about the official visit of the Secretary-General in Italy.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, instead of my going over the programme here, if it’s ok, right after the briefing we can go over the programme.

If there are no other questions, I’d like to invite the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Mr. François Lonseny Fall.

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