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

5 October 2006

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

5 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:

Good afternoon.  First, I would like to welcome our distinguished guests from Bangladesh, who are here from the State Department.  Welcome to the United Nations.

** C ôte d'Ivoire

[This statement was read at the end of the noon briefing.]

“The Secretary-General deplores the inflammatory remarks made on 2 October by the President of the Front Populaire Ivoirien, Affi Nguessan, which contained threats against citizens of other members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) living in Côte d’Ivoire.”

“The Secretary-General calls on all Ivorian political leaders and their followers to exercise the utmost restraint at this critical juncture and stresses that those instigating or committing violent acts will be held personally responsible by the international community.  He also emphasizes the responsibility of the Ivorian Defence and Security Forces to protect the civilian population including ECOWAS citizens as well as other foreigners residing in Côte d’Ivoire.  The Secretary-General urges the Ivorian leaders to pursue dialogue and work with ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations to break the current impasse and agree on new transitional arrangements that should lead to elections.”

** Sudan

Starting off with Darfur and the situation both here in the Council and in the field.  Just half an hour ago, the Security Council started consultations on the Sudan.

Also, the Secretary-General’s latest report on Darfur, covering the month of August, is out on the racks today.

In the report, the Secretary-General says that Darfur is at a critical stage and, unless security improves, the world is facing the prospect of having to drastically cut back on an acutely needed humanitarian operation.

He also urges the Government of the Sudan to embrace the spirit of recent United Nations and African Union decisions and give consent to the transition to a United Nations operation in Darfur.

Meanwhile, from the field, the UN Mission in the Sudan says it has received reports that in South Darfur, about 10,000 people have established a temporary camp for internally displaced persons near an African Union observer camp as a result of recent fighting in the area.

It has also received reports that armed men abducted three people from the camp for internally displaced persons at Kalma, and that two people were killed and one person injured during the abduction.

In North Darfur, the Mission has received reports that Government troops attacked the village of Malagat, northeast of the town of Kuttum.  We do have more upstairs.

**South Sudan/Uganda

Tomorrow, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) will launch a $4.8 million proposal for the Juba Initiative Fund.

The Fund, along with financing from the Governments of South Sudan and Uganda, will facilitate the basic necessities of the Juba Peace Talks and support the start-up of the Cessation of Hostilities Monitoring Team.

**The Gambia

And relating to the Gambia:  the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Gambia, the former Nigerian President General Abdusalami Abubakar, is in New York today after a visit to the Gambia where he has sent to be the United Nations official observer during the recent presidential elections and he also provided guidance to the Gambian authorities on that electoral process.

General Abubakar is scheduled to brief the Secretary-General on his trip tomorrow and any of you who are interested in speaking with or interviewing General Abubakar may contact Yves Sorokobi my office.

**Drugs

The world’s health authorities should prepare for a significant increase in the number of deaths from heroin overdoses following a dramatic surge in opium production in Afghanistan this year, according to Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

In a letter he sent to nearly 90 Health Ministers this week, Mr. Costa said past experience showed that a sharp rise in the supply of heroin tended to lead to an increase in the purity of the end-product rather than lower street prices.  We have a press release available on that upstairs.

**Air Quality

The World Health Organization (WHO) is today challenging Governments around the world to improve air quality in their cities in order to protect people's health.  The call comes as the World Health Organization unveils its new Air Quality Guidelines, which for the first time, address all regions of the world and provide uniform targets for air quality.

Those targets are far tougher than the national standards currently applied in many parts of the world and in some cities would mean reducing current pollution levels more than three-fold.  We have a press release on that upstairs.

**Global Fund

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria today announced that the independently constituted Technical Review Panel has recommended 85 requests for funding, worth a total of $949 million over two years, to the Board of the Global Fund for its consideration.

The Board is expected to approve the recommended proposals at its upcoming meeting in Guatemala City at the end of this month.

** Pakistan Earthquake

A couple of events to flag for you in the coming days:  former United States President George Herbert Walker Bush, who as many of you know is the UN’s Special Envoy for the South Asia Earthquake, will be here in this room tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. to mark the one year anniversary of the South Asia earthquake.  Former President Bush will be joined by Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s State Minister for Economic Affairs and Statistics.

In related news, UNICEF is today launching an exhibition of children’s photos in the UNICEF house in New York.  The pictures were taken by 160 children from the quake-hit region, and the pictures document their lives following last year’s disaster.

**Other Press Conferences

In addition to the briefing I just mentioned, at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon, the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic will be sponsoring a press conference on the Caribbean Sea in the context of sustainable development.

**Secretary-General Lecture Series

Next week the Secretary-General’s Lecture Series will be held on Wednesday, 11 October, from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m., in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium.

Stephen Schlesinger, Director of the New School University’s World Policy Institute (the New School is a university here in New York), will speak on the topic:  “Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations”.  And as usual these lecture series are open to all delegations, members of the media and United Nations staff members of course.

**General Assembly

My colleagues in the General Assembly have asked me to tell you that in view of the many detailed questions posed by journalists yesterday on the General Assembly procedures for the appointment of the next Secretary-General, we will have a note on the subject available later in the afternoon in the office of the Spokeswoman for the Assembly President.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  A few questions.  First of all, can we get a reaction from the Secretary-General on the letter that the Sudanese Government sent to troop contributing countries, Arab States, and African States on not contributing forces to UNMIS?  Second of all, can we also get a readout on the Secretary-General’s meeting with Andrew Natsios and also with the Sudanese ambassador?

Spokesman:  Not in that order.  On the meeting with Andrew Natsios that may just have finished so I do not have a readout on that, as of yet.  On the meeting with the ambassador of the Sudan, during the meeting the Secretary-General was given a copy of a letter from President Bashir, which was a response to the letter sent jointly by the Secretary-General as well as the head of the African Union, Mr. Konare, and it had to do with the intention of the United Nations to put forward a 22 million dollar package in support of the African Union mission in the Sudan.  The letter was just received.  The letter was a positive one.  We’re obviously studying its detail, but it was positive in that the Government of the Sudan expressed its support of the UN’s effort to supporting AMIS.  The other letter, which was addressed to delegations we are taking a look at.  That was the note verbale.  Obviously we are continuing our planning with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations for an eventual transfer of the African Union Mission to a United Nations mission.  But as the Security Council’s resolution clearly states, any deployment of a UN mission would have to be done with the consent of the Sudanese Government, which has not yet been forthcoming, which the Secretary-General is working on and he expects Member States are also working on.  So we may have a more detailed answer to that note verbale a bit later on.

Question:  Can you describe the security issue threat in Geneva?

Spokesman:  No, the only thing I will say is that security assessments and threat assessments are made on a daily basis, and security precautions are taken accordingly.  But beyond that, I will not have anything to add.

Question:  But there was a security e-mail that was put out?

Spokesman:  There were a lot of notices and things that have gone out in the public domain, which is not helpful when it comes to security, and that’s why I won’t say anything more.

Question:  But was there an evacuation, or what precautions have been done?

Spokesman:  There was no evacuation.  Colleagues in the Department of Safety and Security take a look at security issues daily and make whatever adjustments they need to make to ensure the safety of staff and anyone else who’s in the building.

Question:  I understand the policy and concern, but people have been talking to UN people there.

Spokesman:  I understand what people have been saying there.  What I’m telling you from here is I have nothing further to add.

Question:  Sometimes there is perceived threat, but that necessitated action.

Spokesman:  Richard, I understand where you’re getting at, but I’m not going there with you.  I really have nothing else to add.

Question:  Are ex-President Bush and his colleague going to be available to the media at any point in press conference, stakeout, etc, etc.?

Spokesman:  That’s what I said, that it’s at 11 a.m. in this room for a press briefing.

Question:  Is there any sign of cooperation from North Korea with the request of the Security Council President about 1695?

Spokesman:  I think you would be best to ask the Security Council members at this point.  The Secretary-General yesterday did express his concern at the situation there.

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on Gabon not showing up for this meeting about the island that it has a dispute over, with Equatorial Guinea?

Spokesman:  This is an issue the Secretary-General has been working on for quite some time, the territorial dispute between Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.  The meeting I think that you are referring to had not been officially announced by us.  Here it is obviously something he will continue to work on and encourage both parties to reach an agreement on.

Question:  There are reports, including on BBC, that China has shot people trying to flee Tibet into Nepal?  I don’t know if either the Secretariat or UNHCR can confirm it, perhaps later today, and also what UNHCR’s position is on Nepal’s treatment of people fleeing Tibet, whether they are in fact…

Spokesman:  I have not seen these reports, but we can put you in touch with UNHCR and see what they have to say on that.

Question:  Two questions.  First, can we see the note verbale that was referred to in the Sudanese letter (inaudible)?

Spokesman:  I think the note verbale has gone out to a number of Member States.  You would have to ask them for a copy.  I do not believe it is a public document.

Question:  All right, and then the second question, yesterday we had Guéhenno here essentially saying that the issue of bringing peace to the Sudan would not be a UN Peacekeeping Department job and it would be more peace enforcement.  Meanwhile, Member States have agreed to this sort of notion of responsibility to protect that so far has been failing its main first test case.  So what do you do?  What happens now?  The Secretary-General report makes pretty clear the situation in the Sudan.  What can he do besides urging, expressing concern, demanding, all that sort of thing?

Spokesman:  We have not reached a dead end.  We are at a critical stage.  I think everyone has a lot of work to do on this, including us, including the Secretary-General.  He will continue in his contacts with the Sudanese Government and try to get them to alter their position on a United Nations deployment and to convince them that a solution to this issue in Darfur is not a military one.  The Member States also have their work cut out, including countries in the region, for the members of the Arab League and members of the African Union try to encourage the Government of the Sudan to change its positions.  Also, the rebel groups in Darfur, which have not signed on to the Abuja Peace Agreement, should be encouraged to do so.  We are seeing some movement in the positive response of the Government of the Sudan to the United Nations and African Union aid package to AMIS.  But obviously there is still a lot of diplomatic work that needs to be done. 

Question:  Was this causing the Secretary-General to consider whether “responsibility to protect” was just an empty promise?

Spokesman:  I think it is one that the Member States have to live up to, and have to live up to their own commitments.

Question:  When you say it hasn’t reached a dead end yet, actually it has become progressively worse, the announcements in the Sudan to the press and now an official letter.  What, other than an official letter saying, “Get the hell out of my country”, do you need to call it a dead end?

Spokesman:  I think our work continues in terms of planning for an eventual transfer led by DPKO.  On the political front, the Secretary-General is pushing in his contacts with the Sudanese authorities to get them to alter their positions and, in the meantime, we are going ahead with the approval of the Government of the Sudan with the implementation of this 22 million dollar package in support of AMIS.

Question:  Does the Secretary-General plan to meet anytime soon, or immediately after the election process will be finalized with the new Secretary-General-elect?  Does he plan any kind of lunches, informal exchanges or so on?  And what does the Secretary-General think is the most acute and least-solved problem that he is leaving to his successor?

Spokesman:  First of all, I think that assessment would have to be made closer to the time of his departure.  The selection process has not yet been finalized.  The Security Council needs to make a decision.  The General Assembly needs to make a formal decision on that as well.  The Secretary-General is pleased that in fact the selection process is moving at a quick pace; it is moving rapidly.  And obviously once the person is officially chosen as the next Secretary-General, he will ensure that everything is done to ensure a smooth and effective transition to the next person.

Question:  But does the Secretary-General in general prepare some kind of notes or something like that?

Spokesman:  Of course.  The Secretary-General’s Office, the Executive Office, is already planning to see how best we can transfer all the know-how, if you need, on running the Secretary-General’s office.  It is in everyone’s interest that the transition be smooth and effective and it’s clear that the Secretary-General will obviously meet with his successor prior to the handover.

Question:  Any change for next Monday’s deadline for picking the new Secretary-General?

Spokesman:  No, I think there’s no change in the Security Council’s schedule, his schedule on that.

Question:  I am not aware of the conversation between you and Richard, but what security matter was this being discussed?

Spokesman:  I think since I refused to discuss it a few minutes ago with Richard, in this podium, I am not going to go into it.  My answer to him was he raised issues that were in the press.  Yes, exactly.  All I said is that we take security issues very seriously, threat assessments are made on a regular basis and action is taken accordingly.

Question:  I asked this question yesterday of the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.  Would the Secretary-General like to see the election of the new SG by acclamation, by consensus in the Assembly?

Spokesman:  That is a decision to be taken by the Member States and you know fully well we would not comment on that.  What I said, what we are pleased with, is that this process is moving rapidly, which will give us time for a good transition.

Question:  As you understand, the situation in the Sudan is just a black mark in this civilized world.  So does the Security Council have any plans to start a campaign, a worldwide campaign, to stop murder in the Sudan?  Stop deterioration in the Sudan?

Spokesman:  The Security Council, I would not want to speak for them, and the Secretary-General are fully seized and aware of the tragic situation going on in Darfur.  UN officials, including the Secretary-General and Jan Egeland and others, I think have raised the alarm on a number of occasions to make sure people worldwide are aware of what is going on.

Question:  Mr. Andrew Natsios is supposed to meet with the Secretary-General on the Sudan.  Can you report anything?

Spokesman:  Your colleague just asked that question a few minutes ago.  The meeting was just ending as I came down here, so I was not briefed, but obviously it is on the situation in the Sudan, as Mr. Natsios is the American special envoy.  But I don’t have a readout of the meeting yet.

Question:  There’s a new GAO report about the progress of UN reform and it’s not flattering.  Any comment?

Spokesman:  I have not been briefed and have not seen the GAO report, so I will not comment on it.

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