|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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Ahmad Fawzi, Director, News and Media Division, Department of Public Information, and United Nations Spokesman on the Middle East.
Good afternoon. The Security Council this morning held consultations on Iraq, Lebanon and other matters. On Iraq, Council members received a draft resolution on extending the UN Mission’s mandate. The Secretary-General, in a letter last week to the Council, asked for the mandate to be extended by one year.
On Lebanon, the Council received updates about the situation on the ground from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Margareta Wahlström. Guéhenno mentioned information received recently from UNIFIL, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, concerning a reported air strike in the Hula area of south southern Lebanon, where at least 40 civilians were reported killed. UNIFIL has been allowed by Israel to assist in the recovery effort. [The Lebanese Government later lowered the casualty figures.]
The Security Council on Saturday held consultations on Lebanon and received copies of a draft resolution co-sponsored by France and the United States concerning a cessation of hostilities. The Secretary-General, immediately upon returning to New York from his visit to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, attended those Council consultations. He has been in contact since then with leaders in the region and elsewhere to see how we can move forward and obtain an immediate cessation of hostilities.
Just a few minutes ago, the Council adopted a presidential statement on Côte d’Ivoire strongly condemning the obstructions to the normal functioning of the mobile courts in that country and urging all parties to ensure that the mobile courts function without further hindrance. The Council condemned the acts of violence committed by organized groups, in particular the Young Patriots, which led to the deaths of civilians.
** Sri Lanka
On Sri Lanka, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Country Team for Sri Lanka, which brings together UN and non-governmental aid agencies and is chaired by the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for that country, today condemned in the strongest terms possible the execution-style killings of 15 aid workers of the French organization Action against Hunger in the town of Muttur. The Country Team said the killings were “a totally reprehensible act” and called for an independent investigation. It added that many civilians have been killed since fighting started in the area and called for a cessation of hostilities so that all grieving families can recover their dead and give them a proper burial. We have that press release upstairs.
On Sudan, escalating violence in Darfur has killed more aid workers in the last two weeks than in the past two years and is now seriously jeopardizing the humanitarian mission in the area, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says in a press release today. Humanitarian access is at its lowest level since the Darfur operation began and operational risks for aid workers are increasing by the day. A total of eight humanitarian workers died while on duty in July. The level of violence being faced by humanitarian workers in Darfur is unprecedented, said Manuel da Silva, Humanitarian Coordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan. He says, “This is completely unacceptable. All sides must respect the neutrality of humanitarian workers.”
On Somalia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, said today that he was encouraged by reports from Baidoa that the leaders of the Transitional Federal Institutions have agreed to put aside their differences over future dealings with the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts. Fall praised this weekend’s mediation efforts by the Ethiopian Government and urged all the Somali parties to agree on an early date to resume the dialogue begun in Khartoum on 20 June. Fall added that unity within the Transitional Federal Institutions is crucially important for the whole process.
On Timor-Leste, the three Commissioners of the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste have arrived in Dili for their first visit. During this visit, the Commissioners will meet with the secretariat of the Commission of Inquiry to receive information on the progress of its investigation and direct it for further work. The Commissioners will stay in Timor-Leste until 12 August, and we have more on this upstairs.
Lastly, on Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, the head of the UN Mission in Afghanistan, today gave a press conference in Kabul in which he said that the UN Mission is playing an important coordination role in some of the Afghan efforts to improve the security situation in the south, and consequently will be expanding its presence in the south and south-east. Very shortly, he said, two more offices of the UN Mission will be opening, in the towns of Qalat and Asadabad. Those offices will work with local officials to strengthen good governance and the rule of law, as well as monitor human rights and encourage development. And we have a transcript of that press conference upstairs.
We’ll have further information shortly about the situation in the Middle East from Ahmed Fawzi, who is the Director of the News and Media Division of the Department of Public Information. Are there any questions before that for me?
Questions and Answers
Question: Is there any kind of code for Montenegro here at the UN as a new Member State that could be used later back home for statistical purposes?
Associate Spokesman: You mean, like an area code? I’ll check on what we’d have for you and get back to you on that.
Question: In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they’ve now moved up the date to start releasing election results because of what the South African representative there calls a “poisoned climate and compilation chaos”. Is the SRSG saying or does the UN have anything to say as reports emerge of problems in vote counting and the international delegations at the same time are leaving?
Associate Spokesman: In terms of problems in vote counting, I do have some information from the UN Mission in the DRC, which says that it remains satisfied with the run of ballot counting throughout the country. The Mission added today that it continues to exercise maximum vigilance to prevent any incidents that would interfere with vote counting. There was an incident over the weekend having to do with a fire in which ballots were lost, but the Mission was able to say that, thanks to pre-existing technical arrangements, any of the ballots that might have been lost in this fire that took place in Kinshasa had actually been recovered electronically, so they asserted that this incident that took place over the weekend didn’t have any impact on the positive run of the ballot counting operation that’s been taking place so far. So, we’re proceeding with that.
Question: Has the Secretary-General responded to the statement from Tehran that uranium enrichment would not be ceased and that it’s within Iran’s rights under international law to continue its uranium enrichment?
Associate Spokesman: He has not done so at this point. He continues his contacts, and the only other thing to say is, of course, that we have been expecting Iran to reply and to respond both to the package that was given to them, but also more recently, to the resolution that was passed by the Security Council on the last day of July. And of course, that resolution does call for the suspension of all uranium-related activities. So, we’ll have to wait and see how Iran responds to that Council resolution that was passed.
Question: The Secretary-General has a Special Envoy, Giandomenico Picco, who’s very active in Dialogue among Civilizations and Alliance of Civilizations, whose contract ends 1 January 2007 and who was very active in the Beirut hostage situation years back and wrote a book, Man without a Gun. Is there any indication he’s being utilized before his term expires in this Lebanon-Iran situation?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t have anything about using Mr. Picco on this, which would be, by the way, outside the mandate of duties having to do with the Dialogue among Civilizations. The only thing to say on this is that the Secretary-General has been hoping to achieve, and has presented to the Security Council a few weeks ago a package of proposals concerning the situation in the Middle East, which would include among other things the release of those people who have been captured in recent days. [The Associate Spokesman later corrected the reporter, noting that Mr. Picco does not have any contract with the UN whatsoever right now.]
Question: Two questions, one on Somalia. You said Lonseny Fall welcomed the mediation by Ethiopia in the new Transitional Government. Has Lonseny Fall asked Ethiopia if it has troops in Somalia?
Associate Spokesman: We can check back with Mr. Fall if there is anything. As you know, we don’t have a peacekeeping presence in Somalia and this is not something we’ve been able to confirm. Obviously, he’s been trying to make sure that all the neighbouring countries help the Government of Somalia resolve its problems rather than hinder the efforts that have been under way, particularly the efforts at dialogue between the Transitional Federal Institutions, on the one hand, and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Courts.
Question: But late last week there was talk of a UN assessment team to Mogadishu on humanitarian grounds.
Associate Spokesman: Yes, that’s a humanitarian Mission.
Question: And what’s the readout? Have they returned?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t know if they’ve returned. I’ll check after this briefing whether they’ve completed their work or not. If they have, maybe we’ll have something for you on that. [He later said that the team had completed its work last Tuesday.]
Question: My final question, on Nepal. I know the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy is coming back. Since he’s left the country and expressed optimism, the Maoist parties have said they’ve broken off talks, and there seem to be a lot of problems. After that optimism, is there an update?
Associate Spokesman: The Mission also identified its own concerns and they’ll be reporting in the next few days to the Secretariat about their findings, which do include some topics of concern. In fact, Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura, the head of that delegation, will be meeting with the Secretary-General later this afternoon so they can discuss these matters further. But you’re right. There are other developments beyond the optimistic statements that we put out last week.
Question: Will he come to the stakeout after he meets with the Secretary-General?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t know whether it’ll be as soon as that but we’re trying to get him to talk to you sometime over the coming days. And with that, Mr. Fawzi.
Briefing by Middle East Spokesman
Thank you very much, Farhan.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon,David Shearer, has issued a statement which I urge you all to get a copy of. It’s in the Spokesman’s Office and it’s quite detailed. I’m not going to read the whole thing out, but in summary, it’s about the obligation of all parties to avoid targeting civilians and the civilian infrastructure.
Mr. Shearer said that the destruction of civilian infrastructure, including bridges and roads, fuel depots, power stations and hospitals had pushed Lebanon to the brink of a humanitarian disaster and was threatening to paralyse relief efforts.
According to the statement, bombardments by the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) have seriously curtailed vital supply routes, including the road to Tyre, which is now closed.
On Sunday, yesterday, two missile attacks very close to a UN convoy near the Southern Lebanese city of Tyre killed at least two Lebanese people. Since the conflict erupted on 12 July, 958 Lebanese people, most of them civilians, have been killed and about 3,370 injured. I’ll repeat that figure: 958 people killed, most of them civilians, and about 3,370 people injured.
The number of displaced currently stands at more than 915,000 -- 700,000 of those internally; 915,000 -- 700,000 of those internally. That’s about a quarter of the entire Lebanese population.
In Israel, 95 people have been killed -- 95, 38 of them civilians -- as a result of the conflict and rocket attacks from Lebanon by Hizbollah.
The statement is available upstairs, and I urge you to get a copy. It has a wealth of information in it.
According to our humanitarian folk in Lebanon, three UN convoys left today to Sidon and Nabatiyeh in the south and the third is arriving to Beirut from Aarida.
Our UNIFIL people tell us that Israeli air strikes this morning destroyed a provisional bridge, a bridge that had been destroyed and rebuilt, has been destroyed again, over the Litani River, and the coastal road north of Tyre, effectively, as I said earlier, cutting off road links from Tyre to Beirut and vice versa.
In coordination with the Lebanese authorities, UNIFIL is trying with the IDF to have the road re-opened by putting up another provisional bridge in that area, especially for humanitarian purposes.
According to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, intensive Israeli air strikes were reported this morning in the area of the watercourse of the Litani River and in the area between Bayyadah and Tyre, along the Mediterranean Coast. There were two incidents of firing close to a UNIFIL position by Hizbollah, in the area of Hula. There are more details from the mission in the UNIFIL press release available upstairs.
Occupied Palestinian Territory
Very quickly, on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, over the past 72 hours, the IDF withdrew from Al-Shoka area, which is in southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday, yesterday, 6 August, where they had been conducting an incursion since the 1st of August. UNRWA, the relief and works agency of the United Nations, reports that up to 2,000 Palestinians sought shelter in Rafah during this latest incursion. They are still sheltering over 1,400 people in schools, UNRWA schools, from 250 families who have fled intensified IDF artillery shelling in the northern West Bank.
That’s all the information I have for you this morning -- this afternoon. Yes, let’s take some questions.
Question: We learned on Friday that the World Food Programme (WFP) was using the airport in Beirut to get supplies into the country, and I wondered how that’s going. Do you know how many planes have brought in supplies, how many supplies are we talking about here?
Mr. Fawzi: No, I don’t have detailed information on WFP activities in front of me at the moment. So, we will see what we can get from them and make it available later today.
Question: Do you know if the airport remains open for UN aid agencies to bring in supplies?
Mr. Fawzi: I know that the airport has received a minimum amount of traffic in the past few days, but how open is it for supplies, again, we’ll have to verify. Yes, Erol?
Question: Mr. Fawzi, we have an amendment calling Israel to a cessation of all hostilities and to hand over the positions it holds in Lebanon to UNIFIL. I wonder, how do you respond to Israel who is questioning –- putting in question the credibility of UNIFIL? What is the response of the UN in regard to that?
Mr. Fawzi: What are you reading from?
Correspondent: They are calling for a cessation of all hostilities and to withdraw –-
Mr. Fawzi: I mean, what document is that?
Correspondent: It’s an amendment.
Mr. Fawzi: Amendment?
Correspondent: Yes, to the resolution.
Mr. Fawzi: Oh, I see. Okay. Let me just make it very clear. I’m not going to get into the resolution and the draft resolution. Member States are dealing with that. As you know, they have been intensively talking about the draft that is before them since Saturday, so I really don’t want to get into the resolution and the details of the resolution.
But what I will say on the question of UNIFIL is that whoever tries to cast any doubts on the efficiency and bravery of our people in UNIFIL should take a second look at what they’re doing. They have been fulfilling their mandate in full under very difficult conditions. In fact, they’re doing it while a war is going on. Rebuilding bridges, helping people in the south, civilians who need assistance, monitoring what’s going across the Blue Line. So, UNIFIL has been performing admirably in the fulfilment of its mandate.
Now, its mandate was written 28 years ago. If it is going to take on new tasks, then the Security Council will have to decide: a) what those tasks are and b) what kind of a mandate it wants to give UNIFIL and c) give it the resources to fulfil that mandate.
Question: So you are refuting the questioning of the credibility of --
Mr. Fawzi: I just answered your question, Erol. Yes?
Question: Okay. Thank you for allowing me to ask you a question.
Mr. Fawzi: It’s always a pleasure, Masood.
Question: Yes, I know, I know. I just wanted to get an update on the oil leak that you said had spread out to Syria. What is being done about it, how far is it leaking and who is affected?
The other thing I wanted to know, these people -- 915,000 people that have been displaced. Where are they being relocated, where are they seeking refuge? Do you have any idea?
Mr. Fawzi: Yes, indeed. Is that it?
Correspondent: The other question is on Palestine.
Mr. Fawzi: I’ll take your last question first. The displaced people -- and the exact figure is in the UN Humanitarian Coordinator’s statement, which, again, please get a copy -- is 915,000. Of these, around 700,000 are displaced internally and they have gone to –- they are in Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, the Aleya Valley and the Shouf mountains. And, the UN is looking after them there through its various agencies.
On your first question on the oil spill –-
Question: Any of the Lebanese going into Syria also?
Mr. Fawzi: Yes, yes. I did say that of the 915,000, 700,000 are internally displaced. The rest are outside the country, some in Syria and some in other countries -- Cyprus, for example.
On the oil spill that we spoke about a few days ago, I don’t have an update. So we’ll talk to UNEP and try and get an update for you. But we do know that they’re monitoring it very, very closely as it has, as you know, seeped into the Syrian coastline, as we reported a few days ago.
Question: There’s no effort for clean-up or anything like that?
Mr. Fawzi: There is an appeal to the international community to take notice. And, I am sure that they will be coordinating for a clean-up very soon.
But I can’t speak for UNEP. So, a) please contact UNEP and b) I will talk to them after this briefing and see if we can get you an update.
Question: As far as the Palestinians are concerned, do you have any update? You said you would give us an update on their financial situation besides –- you gave us the numbers who were afflicted or impacted.
Mr. Fawzi: Yes, I remember that question. We were discussing this a few days ago. Have we got an update on the financial situation of the Palestinian Authority?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t have the budgetary numbers, but certainly what’s happened, as you know, there is a funding mechanism that’s been put in place. The Quartet, in a statement about a month or so ago, endorsed the establishment of this funding mechanism. It is now up and running and money is actually going to various Palestinian facilities, including the health institutions.
I don’t have the precise figures on how much money has been transferred so far though.
Mr. Fawzi: Okay. I see Barish and then the young lady.
Question: Well, with such destruction, the UN can do so much. How can it solve the problem [inaudible] with all the tremendous problems?
Mr. Fawzi: I’m sorry Barish. Can you repeat that question?
Question: I said, the situation is so bad that the UN doesn’t have enough power or supplies -- how can they solve the problem?
Mr. Fawzi: Well, you’re quite right. The situation is bad all over the area of operations, and we are doing our very best to help people in need. All the agencies of the United Nations have been mobilized on the ground, and we’re doing what we can. Yes, please?
Question: On the question of the oil spill, is there monitoring of this spill going on in Lebanon or is that monitoring only being -–
Mr. Fawzi: As far as I know, it’s outside Lebanon. Athens and Bahrain, Manama, where we have a monitoring centre. Yes, Matthew?
Question: On Gaza, maybe I missed it in reports –- there have been reports of missing or civilian deaths. I’m not sure if that’s been part of your report. In Rafah, there was a 12-year-old kid killed by this incursion. So, I guess I’m wondering, is the report you gave on displaced people –- I guess I’m just wondering if you could either incorporate reports of, as you’ve been doing in Lebanon, of continued civilian death where it exists in the Gaza Strip. And also, whether the UN has any response to the, I guess “arrest” would be the word, of Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament?
Mr. Fawzi: No, I didn’t give any figures of casualties in the Occupied Palestinian Territory today. But I take note of your request and we’ll try to be a little more comprehensive. I do have an overall figure of the last week, between 1 and 6 August, 17 Palestinians, including five children, were killed and 34 injured. And, of course, there’s been a lot of civilian infrastructure that has been damaged.
And the abduction -– I don’t have a statement for you. But it’s the sort of thing that does not help the eventual two-State solution. Abductions and targeted extrajudicial killings will only lead to a further escalation of current tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Question: One factual follow up that maybe you can answer now or later is, some report -- Amnesty International has a report of depleted uranium missiles having come into Israel for use. So I wonder if the UN has any information on the use of such weapons and how the UN system would monitor for such use. It’s in an Amnesty International report --
Mr. Fawzi: I’d have to look at the report before giving a reaction.
Correspondent: I’ll send it to you afterwards.
Mr. Fawzi: Okay. Any other questions? Yes, here and then I’ll take James.
Question: Actually, there are four planeloads of DU (depleted uranium) weapons that came through Ypsilanti, Michigan, in the last week or so. And they’ve just landed in Israel. So –-
Mr. Fawzi: Four plane loads of what?
Question: GBU 28 Bunker Busters (Guided Bomb Unit-28 Bunker Busters) that are depleted uranium tipped. And, to follow-up on Matthew’s question, what can be done about this as far as the UN goes? Is this a violation of the Charter and could this be an action taken by the Security Council on this issue?
Mr. Fawzi: Well, as I said to Matthew, I haven’t seen the reports and I would have to look into them and consult before reacting. So, I have no reaction on that.
As for Security Council action, of course, the Security Council is the master of its own actions. It will have to decide whether it wants to take any action. But I’m sure it will only do so after it has studied the situation very carefully. You obviously have reports that we haven’t seen yet.
Question: [Inaudible] from the Israelis as well, confirming it, if you’d like to –-
Mr. Fawzi: Thank you. James?
Question: Obviously, the Lebanese Government now has tried to link immediate cessation of hostilities to an immediate Israeli withdrawal. The Secretary-General, in his repeated calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities, hasn’t made that link. What is the Secretary-General’s position? Does the Secretary-General want just an immediate freeze or does he now change his position and is tying it to an immediate withdrawal as well?
Mr. Fawzi: Before you joined us I had, in response to an earlier question, said that I don’t want to get into the resolution. At the moment, as you know, Security Council members are discussing it intensively. And I don’t want to get into the details of the resolution.
On the Secretary-General’s position, he has, you’re quite right, repeatedly called for a cessation of hostilities. That would allow us the space for the humanitarians to do their work and for the politicians to do their work. And that’s precisely what’s going on now. So I do know that the end result should be one that is acceptable to both parties. And for that to be acceptable to both parties, there has to be a minimum of actions taken on the ground, including a withdrawal. So, I’m not going to go into the details now, if you’ll allow me to say so, of the discussion that Security Council members are undertaking.
Question: I wasn’t asking you to go into details of the resolution. My question was, is the Secretary-General backing away from his repeated earlier calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities?
Mr. Fawzi: No, he’s not backing away. On the contrary, he has been working the phones over the weekend, stressing the need for us to get to a position where both parties will cease fire, and the term he continues to use is cessation of hostilities, as soon as possible. In other words, immediately, not even as soon as possible, but immediately a cessation of hostilities has to take place.
Question: Fifteen Israelis were killed yesterday by Hizbollah shelling. Would there be any investigation into whether Hizbollah has violated any international law by targeting civilians?
Mr. Fawzi: We definitely condemn the killing of civilians by both sides, including this latest incident that you refer to. Will there be an investigation? I don’t know. We’ll have to –- sorry?
Question: There is one on Qana?
Associate Spokesman: The Qana investigation was requested of us by the Security Council in a presidential statement last week.
Question: I have another question, and that is, I know you don’t want to refer directly to the resolution proposal, but it does envision a role for the Secretary-General in advising how to delineate the Syrian-Lebanese border. My question is, whether ... hasn’t the Secretary-General already made a determination of that?
Mr. Fawzi: The UN has made a determination, but whatever the Security Council wants to call for, it will call for in the end. I don’t know what it will call for. You don’t know, nobody really knows what the end resolution will look like. But, all the parties are involved at the moment, trying to get their side in.
Question: But is there any precedent for the Secretary-General to go back on a question he already has determined at the request of the Security Council and change it?
Mr. Fawzi: Not to my knowledge in recent history, but one would have to look at the history to see if there are any precedents.
Question: But since he, himself, has called to reopen the question of Shaba’a.
Mr. Fawzi: In the draft resolution?
Question: The Secretary-General, in statements to the press, among other things, called to [talkover] --
Mr. Fawzi: On Shaba’a, yes –-
Question: -- on the question of Shaba’a. That is the part I don’t understand, because his determination was that Israel did withdraw from all of Lebanon. So, why now reopen it?
Mr. Fawzi: I think the Secretary-General, at the end of the day wants to see a comprehensive solution to all the problems in the Middle East. So, whether that happens gradually, whether there’s going to be a link between things, we have yet to see. So, that’s why I don’t want to get into a hypothetical discussion of what’s going to happen after this draft resolution is adopted.
Correspondent: But he, himself, called for it for [talkover] an issue that he seemingly has closed already.
Mr. Fawzi: Well, I did explain that I think he wants to see a comprehensive solution to all the problems down the road, eventually.
Question: I’m not sure if this was discussed before but do you have any information on the fuel crisis in Lebanon? Because the medical centre at AUB ( American University of Beirut) is running out of fuel and they only have enough reserves to last them a week. So, if you have any updates on that?
Mr. Fawzi: No, we didn’t touch upon it. As far as I know, there is still a problem with the scarcity of fuel in Lebanon. And there are efforts by all concerned, including the Lebanese Government and WFP and others, to try and resolve it. James?
[The Spokesman’s Office later announced that the World Health Organization (WHO) warned today that if fuel was not delivered this week, 60 per cent of all hospitals in Lebanon would cease to function.]
Question: Just explain to me. There is an investigation and a report coming today on the Qana attack. Why is that so much quicker than the report into the peacekeepers who were killed at Khiyam?
Mr. Fawzi: Because it’s not an investigation as such. It’s a report on the circumstances as called for in the presidential statement by the Security Council last Sunday when Qana happened. They asked the Secretary-General to report back on the circumstances surrounding the incident. And what he has done is gather facts and put them together in a letter that’s going to the Council later today.
Question: Okay, and what is the current status of the Khiyam investigation? How long, when can we expect to see that?
Mr. Fawzi: I don’t have a date of when we can expect to see it. I know that they have formed the Board of Inquiry and finalized its terms of reference, and it should be heading to the area very soon.
Question: And, if I may, there have been a number of other UNIFIL personnel injured. One Italian, who was apparently shot by Hizbollah fire and also three Chinese peacekeepers who, I believe, were injured yesterday by Hizbollah shells. What is the status of the UN investigation into those incidents?
Mr. Fawzi: There’s a statement out today by UNIFIL. I don’t think it mentions those injuries, so I’ll have to contact UNIFIL and see if there’s any information about that.
Yes, the gentleman in the back?
Question: With reference to this alleged delivery of depleted uranium shells from Ypsilanti to Israel, it seems to me that, if they’re coming from Ypsilanti, they’re American-made shells. And, give or take an upgrade or two, they are the same depleted uranium shells about which we heard such a brouhaha during the 1991 Gulf War, possibly during the 2003 Iraq War and perhaps some other subsequent conflicts. Hasn’t this all been gone over as to whether this is a violation of international law -- the laws of war, whatever -- and been determined that, however much we may not like them, that these are acceptable forms of munitions?
Mr. Fawzi: Thank you. We had a few questions about that earlier before you joined us, and I did say that I have no information at all about this story. And, therefore, I couldn’t comment. Thank you. Any other questions? If not...
Question: I asked last week whether the UN had a number of how many Hizbollah fighters there are. I mean, the UN force has been monitoring this area for 28 years. Did you come up with a number for me?
Mr. Fawzi: No.
Question: Is that because it doesn’t exist, the number?
Mr. Fawzi: It’s a very difficult question to answer in that we don’t have exact figures of how many Hizbollah fighters there are. And I don’t think they publicize it either. So, it’s difficult to ascertain an exact figure.
Question: Even a range would be good enough. Three figures, four figures, five figures?
Mr. Fawzi: I’ll see if I can get you a range.
Question: Just to follow up, you have repeated, sometimes with attribution and sometimes without, the Lebanese assertion that the majority of the causalities on the Lebanese side have been civilians. If you can’t determine how many Hizbollah fighters there are, how can you determine how many casualties are Hizbollah and how many are not?
Mr. Fawzi: You know, I don’t want to get into a guessing game with you, Benny. But, I’m sure that there is an answer to that question. I’m sure there’s an answer to the question in looking at the remains of human beings that have been killed, whether they are fighters or not fighters. To a certain extent, you know how many children there are, you know how many women there are. So again, I’m not going to get into a debate on this.
Question: It’s easier to count remains than to count live people?
Associate Spokesman: Benny, with all due respect, those are actually questions that are better asked to the Lebanese authorities. We get these casualty figures from the relevant Lebanese authorities, just as we do from the relevant Israeli authorities. So you can ask them.
Question: But the Israeli sources base their numbers on recruitment numbers, which I don’t [think] Hizbollah have?
Mr. Fawzi: Thank you for that comment. Yes?
Question: There’s some speculation that we would get a draft resolution by today or tomorrow. It seems like that’s not going to happen. What’s the earliest that one could come out?
Mr. Fawzi: You’d have to ask the Member States. Yes?
Question: Yes, this is another question concerning the environment. The oil spill that was caused by the bombing of the fuel tank. There have been media reports that it’s gone from the Lebanese coast to the Syrian coast and now it’s edging near Turkey. Is the UN doing anything to help this situation?
Mr. Fawzi: Somebody just asked that question a few minutes ago, and I did respond. So, if you don’t mind, just look at the notes and we can talk about it later if you like. Masood.
Question: Due to the fact that the situation on the ground in Lebanon is so horrible and it continues to be so, I also believe that there should be some sort of an update as to what the Secretary-General is doing about it, although we know that he’s helpless without the Member States being behind him. Can you give us an update as to who he’s contacting, what he’s -– I mean, this is a follow-up basically to James’ question -– what he is doing so as to appease people that the Secretary-General is doing something, although he may [inaudible]?
Mr. Fawzi: As Farhan said in his opening statement, the Secretary-General has been monitoring the situation very closely. He came back straight from his very brief trip to the Dominican Republic on Saturday and went straight from the airport to Security Council consultations, where he had a chance to listen to Security Council members discussing their first draft of that –- or the draft that was before them -– presented by France and agreed to by France and the United States.
Since then, since his arrival back, and even when he was travelling, he was contacting world leaders and those engaged in the conflict. I know that over the weekend he spoke to Prime Minister Siniora and President Assad and to the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amre Moussa, to Condoleezza Rice and others. There’s a full list that’s available with the Spokesman’s Office.
And he continues to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for an adoption (of a resolution) that would lead to the immediate cessation of hostilities...
Thank you very much.
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