16 October 2006


16 October 2006
Spokesman's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


And the spokeswoman for the General Assembly president


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  I have a few statements for you, but I do want to flag that after I brief, and after Gail does the same on behalf of the General Assembly, we will have at around a quarter to one, a press conference by the French cartoonist Jean Plantu of Le Monde who will talk to you about the cartooning for peace seminar, which has been going on downstairs in the basement.  And if a few of you were lucky enough to see the seminar, it was quite interesting and entertaining and I am sure the press conference will be the same.

** Sri Lanka Statement

Couple of statements for you, first on Sri-Lanka.  The Secretary-General is alarmed by the upsurge of violence in Sri Lanka in the past several months, including today’s appalling suicide bombing of a convoy of military buses.  The Secretary-General deplores the escalation of violence.

The Secretary-General stresses once again that a return to civil war will not resolve the conflict.  He calls upon all parties to refrain from the use of force and to return to the negotiation table at the end of this month, as tentatively agreed to between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.  That statement is available upstairs.

**Ethiopia-Eritrea Statement

I now have a statement on the situation in Ethiopia and Eritrea.  This morning, the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea reported that the Eritrean Defence Forces have moved approximately 1,500 troops and 14 tanks into the Temporary Security Zone.  The EDF took over one UNMEE checkpoint in Sector West.

The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the incursion into the Zone, which was established under the 2000 Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities.  This development constitutes a major breach of the ceasefire and the integrity of the Temporary Security Zone, and it could seriously jeopardize the peace process and undermine the Algiers Agreements between Ethiopia and Eritrea, with potential consequences for the wider region.

The Secretary-General urges the Government of Eritrea to withdraw its troops from the Zone immediately and to cooperate with the United Nations in restoring the ceasefire arrangements.

And that statement is available upstairs.

** Sudan Statement

And now, finally one on the Sudan and the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement.

The Secretary-General welcomes the peace agreement signed by the Government of the Sudan and the Eastern Front on 14 October in Asmara, following the mediation by the Government of Eritrea.

The Secretary-General expresses the hope that the agreement will consolidate the settlement of the conflict in eastern Sudan, and contribute to peace and stability throughout the country.  The United Nations stands ready to support the parties in their efforts to implement the agreement.

** Sudan

And while on the topic of the Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Sudan, Jan Pronk, is in North Darfur, where he’s on a three-day visit as part of his efforts to inform the population there about the United Nations support package for the African Union Mission in the Sudan.

Today, he met the state’s governor, as well as senior officials from the local government.  He informed them of the implementation process for the support package to the African Union, and also expressed concern about the fighting that took place near the Chadian border recently between Government forces and rebel groups.

Yesterday, Pronk met with the US President Special Envoy for the Sudan, Andrew Natsios, and briefed him on the current situation.  We do have more upstairs from the Mission’s daily briefing. 

** Lebanon

From Lebanon, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) yesterday began the work of its Maritime Task Force, led by Germany, which took over from the interim task force that had been led by Italy, as you will recall.

The UNIFIL Maritime Task Force will support the Lebanese Navy in monitoring its territorial waters, securing the Lebanese coastline and preventing arms smuggling.  It will include ships and other assets from Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Sweden and Turkey and of course, Germany.  We have a press release upstairs with more details.  Those that are interested would know that the task force is made up of 19 naval ships with more than 1,400 men and women on the ships.

**Security Council

The Security Council on Saturday, as you will recall, unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the nuclear test proclaimed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and demanding that it not conduct any further nuclear tests or launches of ballistic missiles.

The Council also decided to ban the supply to the DPRK of a number of specific items, including tanks, combat aircraft, warships, missiles or missile systems and luxury goods.  The resolution calls on all Member States to report to the Council within 30 days on the steps they have taken.

Just for your information there are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations Mission there says that Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, left Kinshasa yesterday after a three-day visit, satisfied and optimistic of the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law.

Before he left the DRC, Gambari appealed to Congolese politicians to accept the results of the elections and urged them not to incite their supporters to violence through their statements or through slanted news coverage in the media.  He added that the best way to guarantee peace after the election is to have an inclusive government.

Gambari, who was in the country to reaffirm the United Nations support to the electoral process, met with both President Joseph Kabila and Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, the two contenders in the run-off presidential vote.

And a reminder that today is the official start of the campaign for the run-off presidential election.

**World Food Day

A couple of other items for you today.

Today is World Food Day, and the theme this year is: “Investing in agriculture for food security.”

In a message to mark the day, the Secretary-General says the world has the resources and the know-how to make hunger history.  But what is needed in sufficient quantity is resolve.  On this World Food Day, the Secretary-General says; let us renew our pledge to work together towards a day when no man, woman or child goes to sleep hungry.  We have the full text of that statement upstairs, as well as more information from the Food and Agriculture Organization.


And the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said today that opium cultivation in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Thailand, known as the Golden Triangle fell 29 per cent in 2006, bringing the total decline in the region to 85 percent since 1998.

According to the office of drugs and crime, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Thailand have both reached such low levels of cultivation that they are no longer exporters of opium.  In Myanmar, cultivation fell dramatically by 85 per cent since 1998.  But the country remains the world's second largest opium poppy grower after Afghanistan.  And we have a press release with more information on that upstairs.

**Cartooning For Peace

A couple of events to flag for you today.

Earlier this morning the Secretary-General attended the fifth seminar in the Department of Public Information’s unlearning intolerance series, entitled “Cartooning for Peace:  The Responsibility of Political Cartoonists.”

In remarks to the gathering, the Secretary-General said that cartoons have a special role in forming public opinion.  In that regard, cartoonists need to be aware of their responsibility, and at least to think about how their work may be seen, and felt, by different groups of people.  We have the full text of his remarks upstairs.  And, as I have mentioned, there will be a press conference following Gail’s briefing in this room with a number of those cartoonists and I do encourage all of you to attend.

**Stand Up Against Poverty

Also today, United Nations staff, members of Permanent Missions and staff of NGOs accredited to the United Nations, an of course the media, are all invited to stand up against poverty and for the Millennium Development Goals.  The event, organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information, will take place between 1:00 and 1:30 this afternoon on the North Lawn just outside the Secretariat building.

Deputy-Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, who delivered remarks at a related event in Times Square yesterday, will be leading United Nations staff and delegates in reciting a pledge against poverty.  Copies of which, are available upstairs.  Also attending will be the President of the General Assembly.

Today’s event is part of a worldwide effort by the Millennium Campaign to show support for the MDGs and remind world leaders of the commitments they made at the 2005 G8 and UN Summits.

And tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m., Under-Secretary-General for Public Information Shashi Tharoor will mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty by announcing the results of the Stand-up Campaign at a press conference here in this room.  Also speaking at that event will be the President of the General Assembly and anti-poverty activists.

And if you weren’t busy enough at 1:30 this afternoon, Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact will be here to brief you on the 2006 World Investment Report.  That’s it for me.  Any questions?

Questions and Answers:

Question: Does the new Secretary-General-designate, elected early to the term in order to smooth his transition to the office, does he at this stage have any programmes or schedule of contacts with the Secretary-General and other senior officials?

Spokesman: I think to use a line which I like, which I’ve used before: I only speak for one Secretary-General until December 31st, for Kofi Annan.  So I cannot answer that question for you.  I will put you in touch with the person who is acting as his spokesperson currently.  We will be happy to put you in touch.  On our part, the Secretary-General has told his staff to make the transition as smooth and as effective as possible.  We are in fact happy that this process got underway very quickly and this election was done early to give more than two weeks, which was what Kofi Annan had when he was elected.  So, on our part, we are working closely with Mr. Ban’s staff to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Question: Over the weekend there have been reports of fighting between the Palestinians and the Israelis.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about that?

Spokesman: Yes, the developments are of course a concern, a great concern to the Secretary-General, and he would call on all those to avoid a growth in the violence that we have seen, and push for a return to discussions.

Question: The Secretary-General in one his remarks just recently lamented that he was not able to move the peace process forward.  Now, in the time that he has left, what is he going to do to push this Middle East peace process forward?

Spokesman: He will continue his contacts as he has either as Secretary-General, or through the Quartet to advance the process as much as he can until he leaves office.

Question: Two questions.  In the Ivory Coast, the Secretary General’s envoy has been quoted as saying the elections will be put off for a full year until the end of October.  I want to know who he is speaking for there.

Spokesman: Gerard Stoudmann is not the Secretary-General’s representative.  He is there on behalf of the international community to assist with the elections.  Pierre Schori is the Secretary General’s Special Representative.  Obviously, the timing of the elections has been one of great debate.  It is something that the Security Council itself will take up in the coming weeks.  There’s been a process whereby both the AU and ECOWAS were discussing these things.  And it will come up in the Council.  Gerard Stoudmann does not report directly to the Secretary-General.

Question: Not to get on his case, did he misspeak?

Spokesman: I don’t know.  We would have to call his office.

Question: In the Democratic Republic of the Congo there is a report, out by Human Rights Watch, saying that the Congolese Army has forced labour by civilians to mine gold and carry their equipment.  Before you say it’s a sovereign government, since the UN and MONUC work so closely with the FARDC, what response…

Spokesman: Thank you for pre-empting my answer, but in fact, the United Nations Mission and its Human Rights Office have been at the forefront of flagging human rights violations by the Congolese Armed Forces when they occurred.  I think we had a report out last week on this issue.  So we have spoken up.  MONUC is working with a number of units in the Congolese Armed Forces to ensure that they adhere to strict standards of human rights, and we’ve been working with the Government in general to assist them to make sure the armed forces conduct themselves properly.  But the United Nations system in the DRC has been speaking out on these issues.

Question: Beyond speaking out…

Spokesman: As I’ve said there have been programmes of MONUC working with certain units of the Congolese Armed Forces in order to ensure that they do follow human rights standards.  So there have been programmes where the UN has been working with certain parts of the Congolese Armed Forces.

Question: Do you have any written statements from the Secretary General on his meeting with Stephen Lewis.

Spokesman: I do not, but we can see what we can get on that meeting.  Thank you very much.  We will leave you in Gail’s hands and the cartoonists at 12:45 or so.

Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly

The General Assembly, of course, is the main action today.  The Assembly is meeting this morning to elect five non-permanent members to the Security Council.  At the moment, the first round of balloting has taken place and we are awaiting the results of the second round to determine who gets the seat for Latin America and the Caribbean.

This is a restricted ballot, as required by the rules of procedure.  We have given you a hand out on the procedure of the vote.  What I can add is that the first round of voting for all five vacant seats took place simultaneously.  On ballot A were the candidates for the Africa and Asian seats.  One seat is designated for Africa, which had a declared candidate, South Africa, endorsed by the regional groups.  The other seat designated for Asian States had two declared candidates: Indonesia and Nepal--neither endorsed by the regional grouping.

On ballot B were the declared candidates for the Latin American and Caribbean States competing for one seat: Guatemala and Venezuela.  Neither is endorsed by the regional group.

On Ballot C were the two candidates designated for Western European and Other States, namely Belgium and Italy.  Both are endorsed by their regional group.

At 11:40 a.m., the first round results were announced as follows:

192 states were eligible to vote in the elections.  Both South Africa and Indonesia, in the Africa and Asia group, were elected, with 186 votes going to South Africa, 158 to Indonesia and 28 to Nepal.  There were no abstentions and the required two-thirds majority was 128.  South Africa and Indonesia as a result are the new members of the Council representing the Africa and Asia groups.

On the Group B Ballot, 192 were again eligible to vote.  There were 7 abstentions and a required two-thirds majority vote of 124.  Guatemala obtained 109 votes and Venezuela 76.  Since neither obtained a majority, there has been a second round of voting.

On Ballot C: of the possible 192 votes, there were 3 abstentions and 126 two-thirds majority required by the successful candidates.  Italy obtained 186 votes and Belgium 180, respectively.  Therefore will be the new candidates from the European and other States on the Council, from 1 January 2007.  The five newly-elected members will replace the members retiring from the Council at the end of 2006; Japan; the United Republic of Tanzania; Argentina; Denmark and Greece.

At lunch time, the President of the GA, Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa, will participate in the “Stand Up Against Poverty” event taking place in the North Lawn.  The event, as you’ve heard from Stéphane, organized by Department of Public Information and the Millennium Campaign, is one of hundreds of events taking place worldwide on 15 and 16 October, at which millions of people will, together, we hope, set a new Guinness World Record for the greatest number of people to stand up against poverty in a 24-hour period.  Of course you are all invited to come and participate.

Questions and Answers

Question: In the ballot between the Latin American countries, there is no other candidate waiting as an alternate candidate?

Spokeswoman: At this stage, remember ballots 2, 3 and 4 are restricted to the two States that have the highest number of votes.  Past ballot four -- meaning five, six and seven -- you then can open it up to the rest of the group.  So in the event that we don’t have a winner between now and the fourth ballot, it is possible that we can have another candidate on the slate.

Question: How does such a candidate throw their name into the ring? Do they just tell the President of the Assembly? If we got to that, what would be the procedure?

Spokeswoman: What will happen is that, as happens at the end of each round, the President will say to the Assembly if neither candidate gets two thirds of the required majority, that its now open to the entire group for another round of balloting and it will now be open to the entire group.

Question: Nobody writes down a name, nobody says formally?

Spokeswoman: Well, I guess from the floor, they will formally put forward themselves.

Question: Also, on Venezuela and their complaint to the host country committee, do you have anything back on that?

Spokeswoman: I don’t, but I have asked and I am waiting for an answer on that.  I haven’t forgotten.

Question:  Isn’t it in the Charter that there is just a need for a single majority and not two-thirds?

Spokeswoman: For this one it is a two-thirds majority, definitely.

Question: For all these voting?

Spokeswoman: For Security Council memberships.

Question: And in the second round results?

Spokeswoman: I’m waiting for them, actually.  I had asked Frein to check whether the results have been announced, because they took a break of 30 minutes.  They usually take a break to count the secret ballots The President said in about 30 minutes, and it’s been about 30 minutes now.  If something happens, I know Frein will come and let us know.

Question: If there is nothing conclusive after the second ballot, just a timing question, is there a break? Or what happens?

Spokeswoman: Well it’s possible that if we can’t conclude today, voting will have to resume another day we can pre-determine.  It depends on what happens with the voting, so we will have to see.  They will go for the next three rounds, at least, on the restricted ballot, to see whether one of them comes out with a majority vote.  They will just continue until we have a final winner.

Question: Are there any indications that if two candidates -- Guatemala and Venezuela -- do not get the required two-thirds majority, that Costa Rica will jump in? Have they at any point talked to the General Assembly President?

Spokeswoman: Not that I know of, no.  Not at this stage.  But I am sure we will hear something later today if that is in fact the case.

[At this point in the briefing the Spokeswoman for the General Assembly announced that voting was going to go to a third round.]

Spokeswoman: [The results on the second round of voting are Guatemala 114, Venezuela 74, there were 4 abstentions and there was 126 two-thirds required.  So the vote has gone up a little bit in number.  However, neither country has the required two-thirds majority, so it will now go to a third round.]

What we will do, is that we will squawk it for you.  So that you will be kept abreast of what is happening.  Not to worry.

Question: How will you be keeping us informed?

Spokeswoman: Usually we will squawk it for you.  You will hear it on the squawk box.  It will let you know what is happening.

Question: Just to recap.  We have elected Indonesia, South Africa, Belgium, Italy and a Latin American candidate soon to be determined?

Spokeswoman: Absolutely.  That is correct.  Thank you.

* *** *

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