DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
|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. It’s definitely afternoon. Pardon the delay. First of all, I have a delegation of journalists from Latin America with us and I’d like to welcome all of you. After the noon briefing our guest will be Mr. Thomas Schindlmayr from the Secretariat for the Disability Convention who will give a short update on the progress of the negotiations on the convention, which as you know, have been going on since last Monday.
Turning to events in Lebanon and in Israel, the delegation that the Secretary-General dispatched to the Middle East to deal with the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 is in Israel today, where the team met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Following that meeting, one of the delegation’s members, Terje Roed-Larsen, said that the delegation discussed with Livni all matters related to the full implementation of all provisions of resolution 1701. Among the topics discussed, he said, were the issues of the release of prisoners, the necessity of implementing the Security Council resolution’s call for an arms embargo and the lifting of the blockade in Lebanon.
The delegation also met this morning with a number of other senior Israeli officials and they are currently now meeting with Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz and are expected to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres later this afternoon.
Over the weekend, the delegation, which, as you know, also includes Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and other senior officials in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, on the ground closer to the Blue Line, as you may know, we put out a STATEMENT on Saturday expressing the Secretary-General’s deep concern about a violation by the Israeli side of the cessation of hostilities. The incident involved an Israeli raid in eastern Lebanon on Saturday. The Secretary-General spoke on Saturday to the Israeli and Lebanese Prime Ministers on the matter.
According to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, there have also been several air violations by Israeli military aircraft.
All such violations, the Secretary-General said in the statement, endanger the fragile calm that was reached after much negotiation and undermine the authority of the Government of Lebanon. The Secretary-General further calls on all parties to respect strictly the arms embargo, exercise maximum restraint, avoid provocative actions and display responsibility in implementing resolution 1701.
And UNIFIL meanwhile also reports that the Israeli Army withdrawal and the deployment of the Lebanese Army continue in accordance with the plan and timeline agreed during a trilateral meeting that the UN Force Commander, General Alain Pellegrini, had yesterday with senior representatives of the Lebanese and Israeli Army.
UNIFIL had moved into areas vacated by the Israeli Defense Forces early yesterday afternoon. And today, the Lebanese Army shall take control over those areas. The UN peacekeeping mission also distributed 35,000 litres of drinking water to several villages in southern Lebanon, where water distribution systems are no longer functioning.
And we do have a press release for that available upstairs.
** Lebanon -- Humanitarian Update
Turning to more focus on the humanitarian situation in Lebanon, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that three convoys were dispatched from Beirut today, bringing the number of convoys sent since 26 July to 52. Since the current crisis started, the World Food Programme has helped feed 460,000 people, and UNICEF has provided essential drugs for 70,000 people and carried out vaccination campaigns against measles for 13,000 children and polio for 9,000 children in the area. UNICEF has also provided water for 135,000 people, in addition to a number of water kits throughout the country.
OCHA also reports that the entire Sidon region, with the exception of Marjayoun, is heavily contaminated by unexploded ordnance; demining will take up to six months in the region of Nabatiye alone. UN agencies have worked with the Government of Lebanon on a public awareness campaign on the dangers posed by the ordnance.
And on the fuel front -- which some of you have asked about a number of times -- the UN facilitated the entry of 135,000 tons of fuel for the Government of Lebanon and aid agencies into Lebanon between 2 and 17 August. And we do have more details upstairs.
Meanwhile, the Security Council is today holding consultations this morning on Lebanon and other matters. They are being briefed by Hédi Annabi, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and he is presenting to them the report submitted by the Secretary-General on Friday on the implementation of resolution 1701.
That report, which is now out on the Web and available upstairs, provides an update on the cessation of hostilities as of Friday night, and on ways to reinforce the UN Interim Force in Lebanon.
The Secretary-General cautions that the situation is still very fragile. He calls on all parties to do their utmost to ensure that the cessation of hostilities holds and to transform it into a durable ceasefire.
He says that a reinforced UNIFIL is not going to wage war on any of the actors in the theatre, nor can it be a substitute for a political process. But that political process will need the kind of help, assistance and confidence that only a robust peacekeeping presence can provide.
Turning now to Iran, in a STATEMENT issued yesterday, the Secretary-General said he was pleased that the Islamic Republic of Iran has indicated it will respond to the proposal given to it by the European 3 -– that is Germany, United Kingdom and France plus the three other permanent members of the Security Council, China, Russia and the United States -- for a comprehensive solution to the nuclear issue on Tuesday, 22 August. That is tomorrow.
He appealed to the Government of Iran to seize this historic opportunity. The Secretary-General trusts that Iran’s reply will be positive and that this will be the foundation for a final negotiated settlement.
In a time of acute crisis in the Middle East, the Secretary-General believes that progress on the nuclear issue is essential for the stability, not only of the region, but the international system as a whole. It is time to take steps in the right direction, he said. He is convinced that a way is now open for setting a milestone for international non-proliferation efforts.
The “EU3 plus 3” have reaffirmed Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It is important that Iran now assures the world that its intentions are peaceful, and that it rebuilds confidence in its nuclear programme, as both the IAEA and the Security Council have called for.
And that statement is upstairs.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
Turning now to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN Mission in that country says that it has taken note of the polls results for the presidential election and commends the massive participation of the Congolese people.
However, the Mission also reports that the situation in the capital, Kinshasa, remains volatile and tense following clashes yesterday between armed guards for the two leading candidates for the presidency –- that is sitting President Joseph Kabila and his Vice-President, Jean-Pierre Bemba. And the two are scheduled for a run-off on 29 October.
The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General, William Lacy Swing, is currently negotiating a dialogue between President Kabila and Jean-Pierre Bemba, and we will update you on that as we get more information.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General, in a STATEMENT released yesterday, urged the Congolese parties and candidates to abide by the electoral law in the resolution of any dispute related to the electoral process. He also urged them to accept and respect the final results of the elections, in a spirit of peace and reconciliation.
He said that it should be noted that the elections are a vital step in the long process of peace consolidation, with many major challenges ahead. He added that the UN remains deeply committed to supporting the people of Congo in their efforts to achieve lasting stability and democracy throughout the country, as well as sustained economic development.
**Secretary-General Statement on Togo
I also have a STATEMENT on the situation in Togo:
“The Secretary-General welcomes the signing yesterday by Togolese political parties, the Government and civil society, of an agreement aimed at promoting lasting political reforms in the country. He sees this as an important undertaking by Togolese as a whole to put the past behind them and to build a brighter future based on reconciliation, transparency and the rule of law.
“The Secretary-General commends President [Blaise] Compaoré [of Burkina Faso] for facilitating the process that led to the successful conclusion of the inter-Togolese dialogue. He is encouraged by the spirit of conciliation and compromise demonstrated by Togolese political leaders throughout the process and welcomes President Fauré Gnassingbé’s commitment to ensure the agreement is implemented fully and rapidly.
“The Secretary-General calls upon the international community to help Togo consolidate the new chapter in the country’s process of democratic reform through renewed and increased cooperation and support, in particular to revitalize the economy.”
And that statement is also available in French upstairs.
From Sudan, the UN Mission in Sudan, in a statement issued over the weekend, strongly condemned the attack on the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and the killing of two of its soldiers on Saturday by an unidentified group of armed men. That attack took place in the Kuma area in North Darfur.
The UN Mission called on all parties to the Darfur conflict to respect the neutral and impartial status of the African Union Mission and recalled that any attack against the African Union personnel deployed in Darfur is a serious violation of international law.
The UN Mission supported the AMIS decision to carry out a thorough investigation to identify the perpetrators of the attack and urged all parties to fully cooperate to ensure that those responsible for this attack are held accountable and brought to justice.
And we have a full press release available upstairs.
A couple more notes here:
**Conflict Prevention Report
Available today is the Secretary-General’s report on conflict prevention, in which the Secretary-General says that conflict prevention can be achieved through greater efforts on three different fronts: addressing the sources of tension within and between societies, States and regions; strengthening norms and institutions for peace; and strengthening mechanisms for resolving inter-State disputes.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for States to dedicate an amount equal to a percentage of peacekeeping budget to conflict prevention; to strengthen the UN Department of Political Affairs and its capacity for analysis, early warning and conflict mediation; as well as increased support for development assistance through the UN Development Programme.
And the report and its recommendations will be formally discussed on 7 September in the General Assembly in an open debate, with the Secretary-General presenting the report.
And lastly, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today said that the bird flu virus continues to threaten 55 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. Among them, the Caucasus and southern Balkans are considered high-risk areas.
To efficiently contain the spread of the virus, weak veterinary services must be improved and long-term funding is needed, says FAO.
And we have a press release available on that. And on that note I will turn to your questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: When you came in I didn’t get to hear whether you already spoke about the mission of Nambiar and Larsen in Lebanon. How do you characterize this mission?
Spokesman: Yes, I did read out a whole note. I can give you the note afterwards. But basically, their talks are progressing and they will, of course, report back to the Secretary-General when they return, probably mid-week.
Question: Mid-week they will be returning? Another question, do you have any update on the troops, the troops multinational? Are there any new points added or elaborated on the rules of operation and concept?
Spokesman: The rules of engagement -- first of all, the discussions are continuing at all levels on troop generation. The Secretary-General spent most of his weekend on the phone with a number of leaders from Europe and other parts of the world to discuss this issue. He remains confident that we will get the necessary vanguard force within about 10 days, which is urgently needed to shore up the fragile cessation of hostilities that we have on the ground.
As for the rules of engagement, they were -- the draft rules of engagement were -- given to Member States at the end of last week. All the ones that have asked for them have received them. We have not heard back any comments from any of the Member States, or any questions on the rules of engagement. We are actively seeking them. We will contact Member States to see if they do have any queries. But, the rules of engagement are as clear as they were explained to you by a number of senior officials over the last few days that while UNIFIL -- the enhanced UNIFIL -- will not go in as an offensive force, it will go in to police a political accord. It will have, in its very clearly stated rules of engagement -- the authority to use force where combatants forcefully resist demands from UNIFIL to disarm. It will have the authority to use force in its duties in the implementation of the resolution. And, I think those details are spelled out in the resolution itself.
Question: Do you know if this force will be deployed in all of Lebanon, including on the frontier with Syria?
Spokesman: The issue of support of the Lebanese Government’s efforts to seal its border will be a subject of discussion. The resolution is clear on that, that we will help the Government of Lebanon on its request on those issues. But, the bulk of the force will remain in the south.
Question: In that reference, I wanted to ask you -- Israel has been saying for the last two days that, now it has been asking the Italian Government to have its troops lead this so called international troop corps that is going to be part of UNIFIL. It has been saying it over and over. Also, what is the United Nations position on that? And the other thing is, also Israel has said, again and again, it will not accept troops -- at least suggesting that it will not be happy with the composition of troops, which are from countries unfriendly to it. So, does it have the veto power over this process, as to which nations can be part of this UNIFIL or not?
Spokesman: On your first question, who leads the Force, is a decision of the Secretary-General. He appoints the Force Commander. We have currently serving as Force Commander General Alain Pellegrini, who has done an outstanding job, especially in the last month. Plus, he continues to have the full confidence of the Secretary-General and continues to serve as the Force Commander. We may see, as you do with a lot of other peacekeeping missions, that the staff officers who work in the headquarters of the Force will of course reflect the membership of the force and its larger members. As for the composition of the Force itself, that is also the decision of the United Nations, of the Secretary-General. We’re obviously talking to a lot of countries about serving on that Force. It is clear that the force will need to have military legitimacy and political legitimacy. It would not come as a surprise to us to see, once the Force is in place, a Force made up of Europeans, non-Europeans, Muslims and non-Muslims. But, I think first we have to assemble the Force and obviously we would want to deploy a force that is workable, politically and militarily.
Question: Now that the French have basically abdicated their lead role that they were having, I think, if Israel is asking for other European countries it should be valid. The other thing I wanted to ask you about -- what kind of talks did the Secretary-General have with the Israeli Prime Minister over the ceasefire?
Spokesman: Clearly, the discussions with the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister of Israel focused on the fragility of the cessation of hostilities and the need for everyone to exercise restraint. And, once again, on the leadership of the Force, the decision as to who leads the Force belongs to the Secretary-General alone.
Question: Stéphane, when the Secretary-General says that he believes that this eventual appealing to Iran to take, to accept this “historic opportunity” and accept conditions of the EU 3 + 3, and when he says that he believes that it could be the milestone for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, does he think that, does he have in mind a some-years-ago proclaimed vision of a nuclear-free Middle East? And if he has, how he thinks to proceed with that by the end of his mandate? And, does he believe, and think, that he is going to talk regarding that with his successor?
Spokesman: I don’t think I’m going to go into the successor issue. The Secretary-General, I think as you read in his past statements since last year’s General Assembly, has again and again expressed disappointment that the Member States were not able to come to some agreement to strengthen the non-proliferation treaties, and to deal with the issue of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And, he strongly believes that this, the peaceful settlement of this issue, would send the right signal in terms of nuclear non-proliferation.
Question: You didn’t answer…
Spokesman: That’s as far as I’ll go in answering that question.
Question: Excuse me, you didn’t answer whether he thinks that this is part of the vision of a nuclear-free…
Spokesman: The issue of nuclear non-proliferation is one that he’s addressed numerous times and he believes it’s one that Member States should address forcefully.
Question: Stéphane, Kofi Annan is going now to the area. Could you tell us precisely, if you have the information, which countries in the Middle East Kofi Annan is going to? And, why does he feel the need to go there and talk again? What is really the untold thing here? There was so much thrust in the beginning for 1701. Once it’s there, there’s a lot of hesitation. And, now it seems that more than ever, Kofi Annan has to play again this role. Why is he going to the Middle East? To bring new ideas? To listen to other parties?
Spokesman: First of all, we have absolutely nothing to announce on any eventual trip by the Secretary-General to the Middle East. The resolution 1701 calls for him to report on a whole host of issues, including political development and political agreements by the end of the month. I think before any trip can be considered, it is important that he hears back from Messrs. Nambiar and Roed-Larsen, who we expect to have back towards the middle of the week.
Question: Why this level of difficulty at the level of the United Nations to get the acceptance of countries? What we see is France, which carried all the weight in the beginning, they are, sort of, coming back on their word. Other countries are being asked too, but the response is not there yet. The draft has been circulated -- no comment, you just said. Why suddenly the world community is, you know, kind of, going back. The thrust that you see in the beginning seems to be losing its own…
Spokesman: I think the Secretary-General remains confident that he will get the troops that he needs at some point in the next 10 days for deployment. Obviously in any peacekeeping mission, once we receive a mandate from the Security Council, we then have to go knock on doors. Each country has its own constitutional, political, military realities, but we are working hard in our contacts at every level to get the troops needed. And, we’re confident that we will get them.
Question: While here it sounds very logical to talk about rules of engagement, I read the PowerPoint presentation, I heard Mark Malloch Brown, I heard you today, and I still don’t understand how you square this circle here. You say, on the one hand, there is not going to be mass disarmament -- that’s Mark Malloch Brown. On the other, we will use force on anyone refusing to disarm. I think the troops on the ground have no idea how to act, according to this rule. I mean, it’s kind of an inner contradiction there.
Spokesman: I don’t think so. The issue of disarmament of the militias is to create a weapons-free zone, except for that of the Lebanese Government, in southern Lebanon, and is the responsibility of the Government of Lebanon. UNIFIL is mandated to support that work, and the rules of engagement state that in implementing and discharging its duties, it has the authority to use force.
Question: But to use force to what? You say there’s not going to be disarmament, or mass disarmament as Mark Malloch Brown said. To use force for what?
Spokesman: I think what he said is that not mass disarmament performed by UNIFIL. UNIFIL will be there to police an accord reached by the Lebanese Government. And Mark, I think, was clear when he said, if combatants forcefully resist a demand from UNIFIL to disarm, if UNIFIL comes across a patrol… What I’m saying is, if UNIFIL comes across, in its patrolling, across armed men who refuse to disarm, they will have the option to use force. A lot of those decisions are obviously tactical decisions that will be left up to the commanders on the ground. But, the authority to use force in the discharge of its mandate is there.
Question: So, is UNIFIL under the command of the Lebanese Government?
Spokesman: No. UNIFIL is under…
Question: He says that there will be only disarmament, according to the political agreement by the Government of Lebanon. So, I mean, it seems to me like UNIFIL, it seems to me from what you’re saying, UNIFIL will be allowed to use force only to enforce something that the Government of Lebanon agrees to. So basically, UNIFIL is under the command of the Lebanese Government.
Spokesman: I think, Benny, you and I will never square the same circles. But basically, I understand the…
Question: I have a little more trouble than that of me and you. I have to know when to shoot and when not to.
Spokesman: You and I are not yet at the shooting stage. The resolution, is clear. UNIFIL is there in support of the Government of Lebanon. It will assist the Government of Lebanon. It will police by the political agreement reached by Lebanon. In the discharge of its mandate, UNIFIL has the authority to use force.
Question: So, President Bush also needs greater clarification of the rules of engagement. Will there be any effort by the Department of Peacekeeping to, I guess, maybe further define the rules of engagement?
Spokesman: You may not have heard my answer to the first question. The rules of engagement were sent to all the Member States who had attended the meeting. We were looking for comments from them, as of a few hours ago we had not received any comment back, requests for clarification. We will then be seeking, we are now actively seeking comments from those Member States. So, as always, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations is available at all times to provide for the clarification.
Question: Ambassador Bolton mentioned a little while ago at the stakeout that the United States is looking into pushing through a resolution, a debate on a resolution that will call for a disarming of the Hizbollah. What is the Secretary-General’s position on that? Would that be productive or would that be counterproductive?
Spokesman: Not having heard Ambassador Bolton’s comment in full, I’d rather not comment on that.
Question: Steph, I just wanted to ask you about Alain Pellegrini, who’s leading the Force now. Is there any sort of option -- since the Secretary-General would be the one to say who leads the Force -- if the Italians stepped in and he decided that they would lead the Force, that he would switch out Pellegrini, not based on his performance, but based on the fact that now there would be battalions? I mean…
Spokesman: As I said, as you rightfully pointed out, that decision belongs to the Secretary-General. General Pellegrini has done an outstanding job. He has the full confidence of the Secretary-General. He continues to serve. What you may see is, in fact, within the headquarters staff of that mission, officers from some of the countries that have the most -- sort of, the largest contributors to the Force. But, as of now, General Pellegrini continues to serve with the full support of the Secretary-General.
Question: When is his contract out?
Spokesman: I think the beginning of February.
Question: Quick follow-up to that question. The whole talk this morning about the new... Are we really now facing, behind the scenes there, a new resolution different than 1701, calling on… deciding exactly the rules of engagement? President Bush openly spoke about it today, in Washington. Are you hearing about it here, at the level of the United Nations?
Spokesman: You’d have to ask the ambassadors. As far as the rules of engagement are concerned, they are detailed and they’ve been given out to Member States. We’re waiting for their comments and we’re calling them up to see if they have any additional comments.
Question: So, just a couple of questions. As you’ve said, obviously the United Nations makes the determination, ultimately, on what forces will contribute. Would part of the United Nations’ requirement for contributing countries be to recognize the State of Israel and its right to exist? And, just another couple with regard to disarmament, the deal basically seems to be that Hizbollah -- and, sort of, Ambassador Bolton’s suggestion, I guess -- is that, it doesn’t have, visibly, weapons… doesn’t wander around with weapons visibly on the streets, but basically, dumps them in arms caches under their mattresses and so forth. Is that acceptable as far as the United Nations’ concept of operations is concerned?
Spokesman: On the first question, the first step is to put the Force together. We are still in that process. Second of all, the resolution is fairly detailed in its call for the implementation of 1559, and refers to… as well to accords, political agreements reached by the Government of Lebanon. Again, the aim of this resolution is to shore up, and to support, the State of Lebanon and the Government of Lebanon, to assert its full authority in southern Lebanon and, create an area where it has the sole authority and the only guns.
Question: So, to follow-up on that. The Government of Lebanon agrees with Hizbollah that they can put their weapons under their mattresses -- that’s okay with the United Nations?
Spokesman: I’m not going to go into what may or may not agree.
Question: But, back to the original one that you skipped and I’ll have just one last try. Would the United Nations require that a contributing country recognize the State of Israel or not?
Spokesman: As I said, the decision to put the force together belongs to the Secretary-General and we’re in the process of putting together the force.
Question: There are reports of a gun battle in Kinshasa pinning down United Nations officials. Do you have any more details?
Spokesman: We’re looking into those details. The situation is currently extremely tense in the Congolese capital. Whether it’s the Secretary-General here or the local United Nations Mission, we’ve been appealing urgently for calm, and Mr. Swing is currently in discussions with both… with all those that are doing the shooting. We’re trying to figure out exactly who is doing the shooting in Kinshasa, and we’re trying to work towards restoring the calm as urgently as possible.
Question: On that, there’s a Reuters story quoting United Nations sources that the forces of Kabila are firing tanks at Bemba’s house with the foreign donors inside. There’s also a quote on Congo from Ross Mountain saying, as to the run-off, that the United Nations system does not have funds in place, full funds, to do the run-off. Do you have any? Is there?
Spokesman: That I would have to check.
Question: On Somalia and Ethiopia, over the weekend, BBC, Reuters and various countries reported again Ethiopian troops increasing inside Somalia. You were cc’d on this response by Fall’s office that, quote, “they don’t have a monitoring mandate inside Somalia”. Is… who in the United Nations system can, as this takes place, say anything about Ethiopian, or other, incursions into Somalia, and has Kofi Annan made any phone calls or enquiries? Who is in charge?
Spokesman: The Somali file is being kept by the Department of Political Affairs. I will check on any calls that may have been made in that regard.
Question: Two things. Firstly, what is the latest on that big oil spill in the Lebanese-Syrian coastal region? And also, with reference to the Secretary-General’s statement that, regarding Israeli incursion over the weekend into Baalbek or into the Bekaa Valley, does he not consider that an effort at preventative interdiction, that is, keeping weapons from coming over the Syrian border, is in fact a defensive exercise and hence allowable under the terms of 1701?
Spokesman: On the oil spill, we understand that the aerial surveys of the Lebanese coast will be getting under way very quickly, which will help us figure out exactly what the extent of the damage was. The Secretary-General clearly saw the actions of Israel as a violation of the agreement of the cessation of hostilities. I think the issue of interdiction -- it is clear that all countries in the region have a duty to implement the arms embargo going into Lebanon as called for by the resolution.
Question: Do you know if, during the weekend, the Secretary-General had contact, phone contact, with President Assad?
Spokesman: He did not have any contact with President Assad over the weekend.
Question: Is it that the Force Commander’s decisions in Bosnia led to failures in Srebrenica?
Spokesman: The issue of Srebrenica has been debated and looked at in various reports, both here and in other places. I think our focus is on how to make UNIFIL as useful and work as well as it can, and that is why these rules of engagement were devised.
Question: Resolution 1701 talks extensively about implementation of resolution 1559 in order to bring peace to the region. But before that, the Secretary-General has said that there are other resolutions, which remain unimplemented, which are at the root cause of all that is happening in the Middle East, namely resolution (inaudible) on Palestine. Has he ever discussed that? Because the peace process as it is, is now dead. What is going to happen now?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General would like to see successful implementation of 1701 as a step towards finding a global solution to the issues in the Middle East and finding political solutions.
Question: You were unable to answer what the Secretary-General’s sentiments were about having a second resolution that would call for the disarmament of the Hizbollah. Is there any way that we might get some sort of a response tomorrow on that?
Spokesman: Whatever issues are being discussed among the Member States in possible resolution are best left to the Member States. Resolution 1701 gives the Secretary-General quite a lot of work to do. He is focused on doing that work, on reporting back to the Council within about three or four weeks now, on its implementation.
Question: I’m not quite clear. Is the Secretary-General now cancelling his trip to Syria and Iran or…?
Spokesman: As I said earlier, we are not in a position to announce any eventual trip or possible trip. He would go to the region when it would be best for him to go or if it would be good for him to go. Obviously, the first step before any such trip would happen would be for him to hear back from his envoys, Mr. Nambiar and Mr. Roed-Larsen.
Question: If he intends to go to Iran anyhow…?
Spokesman: As I said, I have nothing to announce on eventual travels.
Question: Does the DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) have any plans regarding sending anybody in UNIFIL near the Syrian border in order to enforce the embargo?
Spokesman: I’d like to use a response which you suggested I use, which is: “asked and answered”. I think I answered that question earlier, which is: the resolution clearly states that the UN would, at the request of the Government of Lebanon, support its efforts to secure its borders. These are parts of the issues that the Secretariat would be discussing with the Government of Lebanon. I think you can look forward to suggestions in the Secretary-General’s next report. These are issues that would be looked at and I think the resolution in that regard is very clear.
Question: Just maybe have to get a reaction here. The Lebanese Defence Minister announced in the last hour that Lebanon now is warning every armed faction in that southern area between the Litani and the Blue Line that they will be prosecuted if caught. The same goes for Hizbollah. To what extent does this statement from Beirut today really help Kofi Annan? I may be a little pushing here, but also, do you see any relation between what is coming up in Iran at the end of the month and what is going on on the ground, the tactical issues? Many countries, I understand, are fearful to send their troops while the Iranian resolution, the one on the 31st, is coming up.
Spokesman: I think the second part of your question was referred to in what the Secretary-General said yesterday, which is, in a time of acute crisis in the Middle East, progress on the nuclear issue is essential for the stability of the region. As for the motivation of the Member States, I think you’ll have to ask them. Obviously, the comments by the Defence Minister of Lebanon are his to make. The Secretary-General’s position is extremely clear, that people should exercise maximum restraint and avoid any provocative action that would endanger the cessation of hostilities.
Question: You addressed the Israeli operation in Lebanon in terms of the ceasefire, but is there any specific point in international law regarding wearing a uniform of another country’s army, and has the UN been addressing these reports that the Israelis were using Lebanese army uniforms?
Spokesman: We do not have any details further than what some of us have read in the press.
Question: Regarding the trip or “not trip” to Syria and Iran, is Kofi Annan consulting his friends in Congress as to the advisability of the move? The last time, he was going to go and then he didn’t go at the urging of Tom Lantos. Is there any similar consideration?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General’s decision to travel is his and his alone, and he’ll make that one.
Question: The Iranian response that we are expecting tomorrow, do you know what kind of form that will come in and to whom it will go?
Spokesman: We assume that it will first go, most likely, to Javier Solana, who had been the point person for the European Union.
Question: Over the weekend, in Ramallah, the Palestinian Minister of Education and other officials were seized by Israel. So, I am wondering whether the Secretary-General or his envoys to the region have any comment on the legality or advisability of that? And also, Mr. Annabi has been doing these briefings, so I am wondering where Jean-Marie Guéhenno is and what he has been up to.
Spokesman: Jean-Marie Guéhenno was in France on personal business, and he continues to be in France. He is having a number of meetings with French officials. As for the number of arrests that we have seen of officials of the Palestinian Authority it is cause of particular concern for us. The Secretary-General very much believes that it undermines the Palestinian institutions, which must be preserved if a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to be achieved.
Question: Is there going to be fund-raising for the Palestinians after the Lebanese fund-raising meeting? And secondly, are there going to be other rules of engagement?
Spokesman: The idea behind sending draft rules of engagement out was to elicit comments from potential troop contributors, so that everyone who contributed troops would be happy with them. We would not want to dictate them to the Member States. We are still waiting for comments back.
Question: What did the Secretary-General refer to when he said major challenges lay ahead in the Congo just before the announcement of the results of the elections?
Spokesman: I think the challenges are there for all to see in the Congo. The major challenge will be to make sure that all the political parties accept the democratic process, and that they accept the results of the election, and that if they have complaints about the election results that they go through the established constitutional appeals process and not take to the streets. The other challenge is, obviously, rebuilding the Congo, which is quite a major challenge.
Question: Do you have a correct count of the Lebanese prisoners and Israeli detainees?
Spokesman: No, we do not have a count.
Question: Again on the UNIFIL issue. What happened suddenly that many countries in this beautiful institution here are not responding to Kofi Annan’s call for 3,500 people to go into southern Lebanon? What was the one issue of concern that pushed so many countries to suddenly change their views?
Spokesman: I cannot speak for them, but, as I said, we are actively engaged with a number of troop contributors, and the Secretary-General is confident that we will get those troops, the vanguard troops for the next 10 days. He is confident that he will get them. Obviously, a lot of countries have to work out their own internal issues, but we remain confident that we will get them. One last question and then we’ll go to our guest who’s been patiently waiting.
Question: What’s the date of the deployment of the vanguard force? Is it 2 September or 28 August?
Spokesman: We are looking for the next 10 days; the earlier the better. One really last question, go ahead.
Question: The Prime Minster of Lebanon had a meting with the Foreign Minister of Turkey and, I believe, four other ministers and they said that they all wanted Turkey to be there…
Spokesman: We would very much welcome Turkey’s participation in this force.
Question: …Because they said they wanted a moderate Muslim nation and that is…you know…only Turkey (inaudible),and they begged the Foreign Minister to send Turkish…
Spokesman: As I said, we would very much welcome Turkey’s participation.
* *** *