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

2 October 2006

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

2 October 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.

Briefing by Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.

**Security Council

Today being the first working day of the month, we have a new Security Council President.  Japan has assumed the Council presidency for the month of October.  Ambassador Kenzo Oshima is holding bilateral meetings today with other Members of the Council.

As is customary, the Council President is scheduled to brief you on the programme of work for the month at a press briefing tomorrow after the first consultations.  And, we will let you know exactly what time that is scheduled to take place.  But, it will be in here.

Meanwhile, at 4 p.m., the Council, under the Japanese presidency, has scheduled a straw poll in connection with the selection of the next Secretary-General, and Ambassador Oshima has told us that he will speak to you at the stakeout microphone outside of the Security Council once that procedure is over and done with.

** Lebanon

Turning now to the situation in Lebanon, this morning the Lebanese Armed Forces started deploying along the Blue Line after the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) withdrew yesterday from south Lebanon, except from the general area of Ghajar, north of the Blue Line, which is still under IDF control.  The Lebanese deployment continued throughout the day.

After conducting extensive patrolling over the past two days, UN troops from the Ghanaian, French, Spanish and Indian battalions confirmed that there were no IDF troops present in southern Lebanon, except for the northern part of the village of Ghajar.

UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] is also in close contact with the IDF to facilitate a speedy withdrawal from the area of Ghajar.  Major General Alain Pellegrini, who as you know is the Force Commander for UNIFIL, said he expects that Israeli forces will leave the area in the course of this week.

Also today, senior UNIFIL and Lebanese officials met in Naqoura to discuss enhancing cooperation between them in light of the Israeli withdrawal.  UNIFIL also informed the Lebanese Army that it is in the process of finalizing a plan for Ghajar that should be acceptable to all sides.

And we do have a press release available upstairs with more information.

Meanwhile, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is leading an international team of experts that will begin an assessment tomorrow of the environmental damage in Lebanon caused by the recent conflict.

The UN Environmental Programme will lead the team and it will work closely with the Lebanese authorities.

The team will visit and take samples from sites thought to present potential risks to human health, wildlife and the wider environment.  These include the Jiyyeh thermal power plant which, as you will recall, discharged up to 30,000 tons of fuel oil into the sea after being hit in mid-July during the conflict.  And the Beirut international airport, where fuel tanks were set alight as a result of repeated bombing.

And we have a press release available upstairs.

** Sudan

Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) says it has received reports that the security situation is getting worse in the town of Gereida, in South Darfur, as a result of tribal differences.

The Mission has also received reports that a Government policeman was killed in the town of Thur, late last week, in a shoot-out with members of the Sudan Liberation Army.

Meanwhile, in West Darfur, the Mission says it has received reports that five people have died from cholera in the town of Um Kher.

And we have more in a press release upstairs.

** Iraq

Ashraf Qazi, who as you know is the Special Representative for the Secretary-General in Iraq, today met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and briefed him on his recent travels, including the high-level meetings convened by the Secretary-General last month on the International Compact with Iraq.  The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for the UN’s partnership with Iraq on the Compact and looks forward to an even closer engagement with it.

They also discussed the latest political and security developments in Iraq, and the Prime Minister informed Mr. Qazi about various initiatives that he hopes would combat terrorism and bring down the level of sectarian violence.

And we have more upstairs in a detailed press release.

**Human Rights Council

From Geneva today, the Human Rights Council held discussions on the universal periodic review mechanism, which, when established, will offer the Council the opportunity to examine the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States.

The Council has until June next year to agree on the modalities of this mechanism.  We do have more information on that upstairs as well.

**Refugees

The High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, today called for concerted international action to preserve the institution of asylum while finding better ways of dealing with irregular migration, post-conflict recovery and the plight of millions of people displaced within their own countries.

He said that one of the challenges for the refugee agencies was redressing one of the international community's “greatest failures”:  the neglect of tens of millions of internally displaced persons, who –- because they remain within the borders of their own country -– lack the safeguards and assistance afforded to refugees outside of their homeland.

And we have a press release available upstairs with more details on the High Commissioner’s remarks to the annual meeting of the 70-nation governing body of his Office -- the High Commissioner for Refugees.

**World Habitat Day

A couple of more items to flag for you for today.

Today is World Habitat Day and cities around the world are marking it.  The theme for this year is “Cities:  magnets of hope”.

To mark the day, the Head of UN-HABITAT, Anna Tibaijuka, delivered a message from the Secretary-General in Naples, Italy where the launch of today’s observance took place.  The closing ceremony will be held on Wednesday in the Russian city of Kazan.

In his message, the Secretary-General said UN Member States, along with non-governmental organizations, the private sector and citizens all over the world need to galvanize their strength as never before in the quest for sustainable urbanization and inclusive cities.

And we have the full text upstairs.

**Day of Older Persons

And yesterday was the International Day of Older Persons and this year’s theme was “Improving the Quality of Life for Older Persons:  Advancing UN Global Strategies.”

In a message to mark the day, the Secretary-General said he had a personal stake in the fate of older persons and the fulfilment of their aspirations.  As people across the globe come to live increasingly longer lives, our entire human family will encourage a productive and healthy aging process, he said in the message.  And we have the full text of that upstairs.

**Press Conferences on Tuesday

Tomorrow at 10:15 a.m., in this room, the Permanent Representatives of Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Palau will be joined by actress Sigourney Weaver and ocean experts to discuss the destruction caused to our oceans by high seas bottom trawling.

And at 11 a.m., the UN Millennium Campaign, the International Advertising Association, and Dentsu will launch their partnership to promote a global student competition to create an advertising campaign for the promotion of the Millennium Development Goals.

And finally, at 2 p.m., Ambassador Irakli Alasania of Georgia will be here to talk to you about recent developments in that country.

And, of course, in between those three things, we will fit in a briefing by Ambassador Oshima on the programme of work for the month.

Enough talking for me.  I will take some of your questions.  Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Is Mr. Oshima giving a press conference today?

Spokesman:  Yes.  After the straw poll, which is scheduled I believe for 4 p.m., he will go to the Security Council stakeout.  And then, tomorrow, he will do a longer briefing on the programme of work.

Question:  I just wanted to ask about the situation in the Occupied Territories, which is going from bad to worse because of the infighting of the Palestinians and the shortage of money.  I wanted to know, has Israel, which has been collecting all these levies and taxes on behalf of the Palestinians, decided to return or give the money back to the Palestinian Authority or not?

Spokesman:  As far as I know, I don’t believe there has been a large-scale transfer of funds of the tax levies.  This was something that the Quartet had called upon the Israelis to do in their last statement.

Question:  Do you know the sum?

Spokesman:  We have an approximation.  I can get you that upstairs.

Question:  What about this power plant that they had destroyed and that, at one point in time, had given assurances to the United Nations that they were rebuilding.  Has any work been done on it?

Spokesman:  I will have to get you an update on the power plant.

[The Spokesman later added that the first shipment of electricity transformers needed to report the Gaza power plant had entered the Gaza strip.  However, the 28 June air strike by Israeli Air Force on that plant continued to affect the entire population of Gaza, who were now receiving on average 6 to 8 hours of electricity per day.]

Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  General Pellegrini stated that he expects the IDF to leave the region of Ghajar within the week.  Did he receive any assurances to that effect?

Spokesman:  First of all, I would have to take General Pellegrini at his word.  If he says he expects it, I am sure he has the assurances that he needs.  The UN is working with the Israelis on finalizing that last little piece of territory from which they will withdraw.  But, he believes it will be done this week.

Matthew?

Question:  On Ivory Coast, Prime Minister Banny was quoted as saying that the presidential election will come after various other steps to unify the country.  What is the UN’s current position on Mr. Gbagbo remaining in power?  What are the next steps on Ivory Coast?

Spokesman:  Those are some of the issues the Security Council and the international community will have to take up.  But, beyond that, I don’t have any further guidance for you.

Question:  And on the WFP [World Food Programme], it came up last week and the US has confirmed that they’ve put forward a candidate to be the next WFP Executive Director.  Other countries have as well.  Is it the Secretary-General’s intention to consider making an appointment for a five-year term before the end of his term?

Spokesman:  That selection process is ongoing.  And we do expect an appointment to be made.  But, beyond that, I have nothing else to add.

Question:  This question has arisen that whether before he leaves office, the Secretary-General should be giving out five-year terms or not.  Is it his position that he can and should?

Spokesman:  His position is that he can and that the appointment of WFP would be done in conjunction with the Head of the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] and the normal procedures would be followed.

Yes, Sylviane?

Question:  I have several questions related to the implementation of resolution 1701.  Syrian President Assad said that Syria is adding more troops throughout the Lebanese border, and also, he said in another interview with El Pais that peacekeepers would be unable to stop illegal arms from reaching Hizbollah.  How do you react to this interview and this statement?

Spokesman:  I am not going to react in detail to interviews being given.  What I will restate is two things.  One is that during his visit to Damascus, President Assad had told the Secretary-General that he would deploy more troops along the border.  And that the implementation of 1701 is obviously the business of the Lebanese people, but, it is also the duty of all those countries in the greater region who have an influence to bring to bear to make sure that it is implemented and implemented in full.  And, all the countries have a responsibility to do what they can to stop the flow of illegal arms into Lebanon.

Question:  I have another question.  For the United Nations, is the withdrawal of IDF troops from Lebanon complete or incomplete?

Spokesman:  At this point it is not yet complete.

Yes, ma’am?

Question:  On the subject of “Aid for Trade”, has the Secretary-General released any recent statements on the commitment of developing nations to aid least developed countries in reaching the Millennium Development Goal of poverty reduction?

Spokesman:  Not specifically to that effect.  But, it remains that one of his concerns is that these goals obviously be reached.

Question:  Do you know if the Secretariat has put together any kind of transition team or anything for the successor of your boss?

Spokesman:  The first step is getting a successor and obviously this current team will do whatever it can to ensure that a smooth transition is taking place.  But first, obviously before we put together a transition team, we need to have someone to transition to.  There are a lot of steps that need to be taken.  Obviously, one is at 4 p.m. this afternoon.

Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  During the procedural straw poll this afternoon, in the Council, at 4 p.m., will there be any member of the Secretariat present at this informal meeting?

Spokesman:  This is the business of the Member States.

Yes, sir?

Question:  What is the procedure for electing the next Secretary-General?  What happens, for example, if the person recommended to the General Assembly doesn’t get enough votes?

Spokesman:  On behalf of the Secretary-General all I can say is that this is a process which is clearly in the hands of the Member States.  The issue between the Security Council and the General Assembly as to selection of the next Secretary-General and the mechanics of that is one you can address later to the Spokesman for the General Assembly, and you should talk to the Member States.  But, we do not have a position on this.

Question:  On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the candidate Bemba has said that the EU [European Union] should not pull its troops on 30 November.  Does the Secretariat have any position on that?

Spokesman:  We’ve been aware of the date for their pull-out.  I’m not aware that we’ve asked for an extension.  Obviously, we would want to see sustained engagement by the international community in keeping the peace in Kinshasa and in the greater DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo].  The help that we have received from the European Union has been a key factor in defusing the crisis we’ve seen after the presidential election.  Obviously, everyone has their own constraints.  But, I’ll check if there have been any formal requests for you.

Question:  On financial disclosure, I think it was 17 days ago that it was said that the Secretary-General would file his financial disclosure form that others did in March and April.  Now, with the general debate over, has he filed?  If not, why not?  And, when might he be filing?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General has filed.  The form was delivered to the Ethics Office, about 11 days ago but, I’ll check for you and give you the exact date.  The form will now be handled by the Ethics Office.

[The Spokesman later announced that the Financial Disclosure Form of the Secretary-General was delivered to the Ethics Office on 22 September 2006.]

Question:  So, Stéphane, what is your gut feeling [about the next Secretary-General]…Will this work today in the Security Council?  Be conclusive.

Spokesman:  I’d like to keep my job until 31 December so, I won’t comment.

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