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

11 August 2006

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

11 August 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.


**Secretary-General


Earlier this morning, the Secretary-General spoke to some of you to stress his desire to see a vote on a resolution today regarding the situation inside Lebanon.


“Each day the discussions go on,” he said, “the death, the killing and the destruction continues in the region, and the civilians on both sides continue to suffer”.


He stressed that now is the time for decisions.


And the full transcript, of course, is available upstairs.


**Security Council


Earlier this morning, the Security Council members met in closed consultations to discuss the status of a resolution regarding Lebanon.


Obviously, we may see further meetings of the Council as the day goes on, but nothing is on the official schedule.  But, no doubt, there will be more.


And today is also the day where the President of the Security Council, the Permanent Ambassador of Ghana, hosts the monthly lunch for the Secretary-General and the other Council members.


This month, because of safety issues due to lack of space, there will be no press stakeout outside of the Delegates Dining Room.  However, the second floor stakeout outside the Security Council will be up and running for any of the Ambassadors who wish to speak after the lunch.


** Lebanon


Meanwhile, from the field, at the request of the Government of Lebanon and with the consent of the Israeli Defense Forces, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon -– UNIFIL -- this morning successfully escorted a convoy of some 80 vehicles carrying some 350 Lebanese troops, as well as some 100 vehicles carrying civilians, from the town of Marjayoun.  This comes after the IDF today took over the Lebanese Joint Security Force headquarters in that town.


UNIFIL says that convoy, having received Israeli security clearance, is now proceeding north without UNIFIL escort.


The peacekeeping Force also reports that one Katyusha rocket from the Hizbollah side impacted directly inside its Naqoura headquarters yesterday evening, causing extensive material damage, and lightly wounding one French peacekeeper.  Hizbollah is also responsible for a series of small-arms firing assaults on UNIFIL vehicles and staff, including an attack this morning on a Chinese UN demining team, though no casualties were suffered.


Meanwhile, attempts continue to resupply the UNIFIL forward positions of the Indian battalion in the eastern sector, which are facing critical shortages of fuel.  UNIFIL is continuing those operations.  If UNIFIL is not able to resupply these positions today, it may face the situation where it would be impossible to maintain these positions.


UNIFIL further reports that it sent a medical and rescue team to the village of Haris in the central sector this morning, to provide medical assistance to 25 civilians wounded as a result of intensive shelling.  Seven of these, having sustained serious injuries, were relocated to a UNIFIL position in the area of Tibnin to await further transport to a hospital.


**Lebanon/Humanitarian


Also, from our humanitarian colleagues in Lebanon, they report that the UN began an airlift yesterday, with the first Jordanian Air Force flight from Amman, landing in Beirut with blankets and mattresses, as well as medicines for the World Health Organization.


Meanwhile, in Syria, where an estimated 160,000 displaced Lebanese are sheltering, the UN refugee agency is starting to set up tented camps within summer youth camps in the city of Homs, to help ease overcrowding.


And, regarding the UN’s $154 million humanitarian flash appeal, OCHA says that nearly $77 million –- less than half –- has so far been committed. And we do have more upstairs on that.


**Lebanon/Human Rights


From Geneva, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, today addressed the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, as it held a special session on the situation in Israel and Lebanon.


The High Commissioner said: “It is imperative to devote all efforts to an immediate cessation of hostilities, to save lives, and to ensure justice for the victims and accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law”.  She reminded the parties to the conflict of their legal obligations under international law to protect civilians.


Arbour added that, almost daily, information from the field indicated an alarming pattern in the scale and choice of targets by all sides in the conflict.  The deaths of hundreds of civilians is documented, and corroborated incidents, involving either random or targeted attacks on civilian vehicles or buildings, strongly suggest the indiscriminate use of force, she said.


And her full statement is available upstairs.


** Iraq


From Iraq, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, has condemned in the strongest possible terms the heinous killings of Iraqi civilians yesterday near the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf.  Qazi also condemned the recent increase in sectarian violence, which has claimed hundreds of innocent lives throughout Iraq.


Qazi renewed his call to all Iraqis to refrain from resolving their differences through violence.  He urged them to engage in sustained dialogue, based on mutual respect and tolerance. 


He also reiterated his call to Iraq’s authorities, as well as community leaders, to preserve the sanctity of places of worship, to value cultural and educational institutions and to protect public services.  Qazi also reaffirmed the UN’s readiness to support efforts aimed at restoring peace and security in Iraq.  And that press release is available upstairs.


**Iraq/IAMB


Also on Iraq, the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB) for the Development Fund for Iraq issued a statement yesterday afternoon, in the wake of its meeting in New York in July.


The Board said it reviewed the latest audit reports, approved the reappointment of the auditors of the Development Fund and reviewed progress on the special audits of the single-sourced contracts, using resources of the Development Fund.  And we have the full press release upstairs for those of you who are interested.


**Gaza/Humanitarian


Turning now to the situation in Gaza, regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reports that its field offices in Gaza is running critically low on food supplies, as a result of the Karni crossing being closed for containers.  The World Food Programme (WFP) currently only has around one month’s supply for some 220,000 needy people in Gaza.


For its part, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is providing drugs and medical equipment, and rehabilitating maternity wards in hospitals.  It is also helping the Palestinian Ministry of Health manage its ambulances, and supporting NGOs that are handing out female hygiene kits.


Meanwhile, UNICEF says it’s supporting 125 psychosocial counsellors assisting children in distress.


** Darfur


Turning now to Darfur, the Secretary-General has written to the Security Council, providing it with an update on major developments in Darfur since his last report in July.


In his letter, he says there has been some progress in the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement –- although some deadlines relating to the Agreement’s key aspects have been missed.


In regard to the African Union force in Darfur, the Secretary-General notes that its ability to function is in jeopardy, despite a relatively positive response at the Brussels Pledging Conference in July.  The African Union says it may not have enough money to keep its Darfur operation going until the end of September, when its mandate expires.


The Secretary-General also says that a preliminary review of the Sudanese Government’s plan for restoring stability to Darfur does not indicate a willingness on its part to agree to a transition to a UN operation in Darfur.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


And, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN representative there, William Lacy Swing, this morning invited candidates in the presidential election to issue a joint statement affirming their determination to accept the results of the polls and not seek to undermine the credibility of the process.


Swing said that it is crucial that the institutions of the Congolese State be allowed to function in the spirit of the Global and Inclusive Accord, signed by the Congolese parties in 2003.  He urged the Transitional Government to reunite and save itself from collapse, by all means.


Meanwhile, the UN Mission in the DRC says the compilation of election results continues, with 9 per cent of the votes counted.  And the Mission says that results from the capital Kinshasa, which is home to about 12 per cent of the registered voters, may be expected to be published soon.


**Cameroon-Nigeria


And I have also a press release from the UN Office for West Africa, which focuses on the withdrawal of the Nigerian troops from the Bakassi peninsula and the transfer of authority.


And there will be a ceremony on Monday, I believe, chaired by the Chairman of the follow-up committee, Kieran Prendergast, who you know well.  And that will be attended by representatives of the witness States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.  And we do have more from a press release upstairs.


**Timor-Leste


From East Timor, the three commissioners of the UN Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste have completed the first of two visits aimed at looking into the violent incidents of April and May.


Speaking to the press earlier today in Dili, the Chairman of the Commission, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, said the Commission’s aim was to “to provide an honest and truthful narrative of the establishment of the facts” of the shootings of April and May, and their causes.


Pinheiro said the three Commissioners would return in September and complete their report to the Secretary-General by the first week of October.


**UNHCR/Sri Lanka


Just a couple more items.


We have upstairs an update from UNHCR on its activities in Sri Lanka and the jump in reported displaced people in Sri Lanka.


**Disability Convention


And, a two-week session that starts on Monday on the Disability Convention.  Delegates and other international leaders will work on finalizing the text of the first ever draft convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.


And we have a press kit upstairs on that.


**Week Ahead


I know it doesn’t feel like Friday.  It actually is Friday, and we do have the Week Ahead for you.  And, hopefully, we will not be here tomorrow.


**Press Conference


And last, but not least, a reminder that, at 1 o’clock this afternoon, on this very podium, will be Ronaldinho, for those of you who support the Brazilian soccer team.  He will be here to be unveiled as a new UN Spokesperson for Sport and Development.


That is it for me.


**Question and Answers


Question:  The US Secretary of State just came upstairs to see the Secretary-General saying “we are looking for a vote today”.  Is the Secretary-General now more involved than ever in pushing the Member States for…?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General, his efforts have been the same over the last weeks, and that is to push the Member States to agree on a resolution that will end the hostilities and allow for the humanitarian work to start.  But, as he said this morning, he emphasized his desire to see a resolution today.  The situation on the ground is tragic.  We very much hope the Member States will come to an agreement today.


Question:  Do you have a readout after…?


Spokesman:  We’ll see if we can get you something.  But, I think you can expect quite a few meetings today between the Secretary-General and other members of the Council and permanent representatives.  And, of course, they will all be seeing each other over lunch.


Question:  [Inaudible].


Spokesman:  No, that’s why I said, before you came in, because of the space safety issue, the stakeout on the second floor will remain open after lunch, and we’ve told the delegations that, should they wish to speak, that stakeout is available.


Question:  On Iraq, besides condemning this latest violence, has the UN SRSG made any other reflection on the increasing violence in Iraq in the last few months?


Spokesman:  Well, you’ve had this statement, and I think you’ve seen the human rights report that the Mission put out a couple of weeks ago, which details that.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  You read out the statement of SRSG Swing in the Congo.  It wasn’t clear to me.  There have now been reports of election officials being arrested there for fraud.  I don’t know where in the news cycle he stands.  Because it seems strange to say…


Spokesman:  You know what, I’ll stop you, because I don’t know anything about these arrests, so I will look into these arrests.  I think the message from Mr. Swing was fairly clear, to make sure that all the candidates stand together in the support of the process.  Of course, until the results are published, it’s a very tense time on the ground, and it is key that all the major actors on the political scene support the process and not do anything to undermine its credibility.


Question:  Again, I don’t mean -– obviously things develop, but, at some point, to continue to say –- there’s a group of candidates that have put out a statement saying the international community, including the UN, are complicit in, by silence, with some kind of irregularities.  So, is Mr. Swing saying that anyone that questions the process is not being helpful?


Spokesman:  No, I think we need… like in any election, there are mechanisms through which people can appeal what they see as irregularities through election commissions.  We’ve seen that in all the elections the UN has helped organize, from Iraq to the Congo and other places.  There are legal mechanisms in place.  And what is important is that, if people have issues with the way the election is being run, that they use those legal mechanisms and not the street to protest. 


In the back.


Question:  Can you just give us, as much as you know it, an idea of the schedule and timetable for this luncheon.  And, do you know, are there going to be consultations with a view to a formal meeting, or at what time is the luncheon expected to go?


Spokesman:  The lunch starts usually at about 1:15.  I think you can expect it to end, if it starts on time, to end around 2:30, 2:45.  And, then, I think, you know, we’re all in the same boat as to what happens this afternoon, in terms of scheduling and logistics.  But, we are, obviously, very keen to see a resolution by the end of today.


Question:  There’s another resolution on the table, it’s a Russian resolution.  Which one are they discussing?


Spokesman:  I can’t speak for the Council members.  The Russian resolution was put in blue last night, but obviously there’s another resolution out there.  But you know, these discussions are extremely fluid and I think you’d do best to address those questions to the Council members.  Sylvaine.


Question:  We came late, but do you know, is the Secretary-General meeting with Condoleezza Rice?


Spokesman:  He met with her at 11:30 and we were in the briefing.  It may have already ended.  I don’t know.  But he was meeting with her this morning.


Question:  No readout?


Spokesman:  No, but I think, as I told one of your colleagues, there will be a lot of these meetings today, focusing on Lebanon, and the Secretary-General will reiterate his message, which is his desire to see a vote on a resolution today.


Question:  Another question.  When will the Secretary-General take the issue of the Shebaa Farms under his control?


Spokesman:  I think we have to see what the resolution looks like.  The broad message from the Secretary-General is that he wants to see a resolution, one that leads to a cessation of hostilities.  You know, as he said earlier, each day that the discussions go on, the death and the killing and the destruction continues in the region, and civilians on both sides continue to suffer.  So, it is important for the Secretary-General to see Council members come to an agreement today.


Question:  What about the ceasefire?  Will it be another resolution?


Spokesman:  I’m not going to go into the details of what will or may not be in the resolution, but we would like to see an immediate cessation of hostilities.


Question:  This is on the International Advisory and Monitoring Board press release you have upstairs.  It’s long, but there’s an issue that’s arisen in this room before that it doesn’t address at all, which is whether oil is now being metered in Iraq.  Do you know if Mr. Halbwachs -– can he tell your Office whether it is or not?


Spokesman:  I will try -– he’s not in the building, but I’ll see if I can get you an answer.


Question:  There’s a speech, or interview, published today in the Nigerian paper with Ibrahim Gambari.  It’s called the Daily Trust, and it’s an extensive interview that he gave.  I’m not sure when he gave it, but it was published today.  In it, he calls the veto system a necessary evil and says, specifically –-you know, the veto in the Security Council –- and says that the veto shouldn’t have been used to block Boutros-Ghali’s second term.  So, I’m kind of wondering, is it a Secretariat view, is it an Ibrahim Gambari view?


Spokesman:  I’d have to see the… I don’t want to comment.  I haven’t seen the interview.


Question:  Did you see the new text?


Spokesman:  You know as well as I do that, all these new things, you see before I do.  Thank you.


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