|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
And the spokeswoman for the General Assembly president
The following is a near-verbatim transcript by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General
** Democratic Republic of the Congo -– Statement
Good afternoon. I’m sorry I’m a little late, we were waiting for two statements, attributable to the Spokesman. The first is on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“The Secretary-General congratulates the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on their peaceful participation in the second round of the presidential election and the elections for the provincial assemblies, which were held on 29 October.
“The Secretary-General is pleased that voters were able to cast their ballots in a generally free and calm environment, although he is concerned at the violent incidents that took place in Equateur Province and near Bunia, in Ituri district. He commends the tireless efforts of the Independent Electoral Commission in ensuring that the electoral process continues to be credible and transparent. He notes that voting, which was disrupted in the town of Bumba, in Equateur, will be completed on 31 October.
“The Secretary-General also welcomes the signing, on 29 October, by representatives of President Joseph Kabila and Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, of a Declaration of intent, regarding their conduct following the elections, which is an important step in ensuring that the electoral process is successfully concluded in calm and secure conditions. The Secretary-General calls on the presidential candidates and their supporters to exercise patience and restraint and to take all possible steps to prevent any acts of violence while waiting for the results to be announced, by the Independent Electoral Commission.”
**Democratic Republic of Congo –- Update
And on the ground, as polling stations closed across the country and counting begins, the Mission says that provisional results could be available in some 10 days.
Meanwhile, UN peacekeepers and European Union forces continued to patrol Kinshasa, as security is being strengthened in other parts of the country, including in the region of Western Kasai, where two European Union observers were allegedly stoned by supporters of President Kabila. The Mission deplores the shooting deaths, by Congolese soldiers, of 2 electoral workers in the town of Fataki, an incident which prompted an angry mob to ransack some 37 polling stations, out of an estimated 55,000 polling stations across the country. The Mission says voting in that region will resume tomorrow. And there is more on this from the field upstairs.
** Bangladesh –- Statement
“The Secretary-General is concerned by the violence in Bangladesh, related to the forthcoming national elections and transitional arrangements.
“He hopes that the efforts of President Iajuddin Ahmed, who has assumed additional responsibilities as head of the caretaker Government, to consult with the main political parties to find a way out of the present crisis, will bring about the desired results.
“The Secretary-General appeals to the major political forces in Bangladesh to work together to find a common ground for the elections, acting in the interest of democracy and the welfare of the entire nation.”
Now turning to the Sudan-Chad border, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations will send an assessment mission to Chad and the Central African Republic to look at ways in which the UN can help address security concerns there, as soon as security conditions permit.
The assessment mission comes at the request of the Security Council, and it will pay particular attention to the issue of protection for internally displaced people and refugees.
And as you’ll recall, this announcement was made by Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, following consultations on Sudan, late Friday. He said the UN is very concerned by the deteriorating situation in Chad, with the growing number of refugees and internally displaced people.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Sudan says it has received reports that several villages around Jebel Moon in West Darfur and the Chadian border were allegedly attacked, yesterday, by 1,200 Janjaweed militias, as well as other militias.
It has also received reports of a Government military offensive against a rebel group, also in West Darfur. And there is more information on the situation in the Darfur and the rest of Sudan in the bulletin from the Mission.
**Human Resources Reform
The Secretary-General, this morning, addressed the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee about UN human resources management reform. Speaking about his proposals, which are drawn from his March report, “Investing in the United Nations: for a stronger organization worldwide", the Secretary-General said that the UN’s staff is its greatest asset and must be treated as such.
Pointing out that more than half of the UN’s 30,000 staff now serve in field locations, this is not including the peacekeepers, he noted that UN missions are often handicapped by high vacancy rates and destabilizing levels of staff turnover.
The Secretary-General said his proposals reflect extensive consultations with staff and managers, as well as his own personal experiences, during more than 40 years as a UN staffer. And we have his full remarks upstairs.
The Security Council is currently holding a private meeting on the Central African Republic, with that country’s Prime Minister in attendance. General Lamine Cissé, the Secretary-General’s Representative for that country, briefed the Council on the work of the UN Peacebuilding Office in the country. And he is expected to be at the Security Council stakeout for those that are interested afterwards.
And, this afternoon, Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Implementation of Resolution 1559, concerning the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon, will brief the Security Council on its consultations this afternoon, starting at 3:00 p.m., on the Secretary-General’s latest report on that resolution. That report is out on the racks today.
After consultations end, Roed-Larsen has agreed to speak to you at the stakeout, as well. And that’s this afternoon.
In the report, the Secretary-General says that the implementation of resolution 1559 has made considerable progress over the past two years, although he warns that, in the past six months, Lebanon has suffered a severe setback and confronts challenges of a magnitude unseen since the end of the civil war.
He says that, in the months ahead, Lebanon will have to engage, again, in a truly national and inclusive dialogue. He expressed his deep hope that the opportunities born from conflict will be seized upon and that Lebanon may once again rise from the ashes of destruction and war.
Regarding the Shabaa Farms area, the Secretary-General says he is working expeditiously to establish, in full, the cartographic, legal and political implications of the approach suggested in Lebanon’s recent seven-point plan, adding that he will revert to the Security Council.
Turning to Africa again, on Liberia, the UN Mission there says that it has made a dozen UN-trained prosecutorial assistants available to serve as state prosecutors and help clear a substantial backlog of court cases, including cases of rape and armed robbery. There is a press release on that upstairs.
Also available today is the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN operation in Burundi. In it, the Secretary-General says that the 7 September agreement, between the Government and the last armed group, the FNL, marked a significant milestone, which has contributed to an overall improvement of the security situation. You can pick copies of that upstairs.
From the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Secretariat has released data, which shows that there’s been an upward trend in greenhouse gas emissions of industrialized countries, between 2000 and 2004.
The report, “Greenhouse Gas Data 2006”, is available online and we have a press release with more on it upstairs. As there is a press release on a project between the UN Environment Programme and Yale University regarding this subject.
And a new report, by the Food and Agriculture Organization, says there are 820 million hungry people in developing countries today, which is more than there were in 1996 when the World Food Summit promised to reduce the number of undernourished people.
Another new report, by the International Labour Organization, highlights the rise in the number of unemployed youth aged 15 to 24, over the past decade. The number of young unemployed increased from 74 million in 1995 to 85 million last year, according to the ILO. And there is information on both of these reports upstairs.
**Secretary-General in Washington, DC
And, as you know, the Secretary-General will be in Washington, DC, later today, where, at around 6:00 p.m., he is scheduled to deliver the annual Oliver Tambo lecture, at Georgetown University.
In the morning, that’s tomorrow morning, he will deliver remarks at a two-day conference, which will assess his legacy in Africa, as Secretary-General. The conference, organized by the African Studies Programme at Georgetown University, will bring together academics and Africa specialists.
The Secretary-General is expected to be back in New York tomorrow afternoon.
Questions and Answers
Question: IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei is apparently appearing before the Security Council. Do you have a readout of what he said when he came here? Has he met with the Secretary-General?
Deputy Spokesman: The Secretary-General, as you know, is shortly on his way to Washington, DC, and it is not on his programme today. But, he did, as you know, have his meeting with the CEB, starting on Friday, which includes Mr. El Baradei, so he may have met him in that setting. I can check on that for you.
Question: What official meetings does the SG have while he is in Washington?
Deputy Spokesman: This is not an official visit. It’s strictly for delivering this lecture, receiving an award and he will be back tomorrow.
Question: So he’s not going to meet with anyone in the Administration or Congress?
Deputy Spokesman: No, this is a mission devoted to this specific subject.
Question: Is the Secretary-General very concerned about the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and there is a summit, taking place as we speak, in order to have youth contribute to the achievement of those goals? Now we hear these negative reports from FAO that famine has increased by some 200 million, which is very significant. Has the Secretary-General expressed any concern, has he had time to look into this report?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t have any direct reaction from the Secretary-General on this report. You were mentioning the Youth Summit? Is that the Summit you were talking about? Well he, as you know, came in yesterday morning to address the Summit and I would like to draw your attention to his remarks there.
Question: Does the Secretariat have any comments on the protests in Haiti, on the UN presence there? Last week, I asked a question, there have actually been people shot, by the blue helmets, whether it was rightfully or wrongfully. It was answered to me that they didn’t shoot anyone and it was a non-incident. So what, so between Headquarters and the Mission in Haiti, what are the communications?
Deputy Spokesman: Let me get you an answer on that. I don’t have any information from the Mission itself and, today, I haven’t had an update, but after the briefing I will look into it for you.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about last week’s finding in a Buenos Aires court about Iranian involvement in the bombing of the [inaudible] Centre in Buenos Aires?
Deputy Spokesman: No.
Question: Iran’s nuclear programme, any talk going on this morning?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, you would probably have to ask Security Council members if they are speaking outside the formal consultations process on any action. As of now, I don’t when the item has been scheduled for the Council.
Question: So, did they get together this morning?
Deputy Spokesman: You’ll have to ask them, because this is not something that would be organized by the Secretariat.
Question: Does the Secretary-General plan to issue a statement of some sort, or make some sort of remark in relation to that bombing in Buenos Aires?
Deputy Spokesman: I can look into it for you.
Question: Has there been any word or decision as to when OIOS will talk to us? We’ve had a standing request in for a long time.
Deputy Spokesman: We know of your request. We’ve asked them. You’ve asked them. We have not heard anything. We can check into that again.
Question: Do you have information on when Ban Ki-moon will arrive here, in New York, in November, and when he sets up his transition team?
Deputy Spokesman: No, I only am reading press reports like you, on the day that he will step down as Foreign Minister, but I am just reading that through press reports. When we know, as you know, he still needs to be sworn in, that part of that ceremony did not take place last time he was here, so that should be done between now and the time he takes up duties.
Question: Do you know anything about the Shabaa Farms or the new delineations, or anything on the 1559?
Deputy Spokesman: I think you can save your questions for Terje Roed-Larsen. I did announce that he would be available for you to speak to him, after the consultations at the stakeout.
Question: At what time?
Deputy Spokesman: It starts at 3:00 p.m. and you know how these things go. We will try to keep you as informed as possible as when that time will be.
Question: On the incident in the Congo, Fataki, that you mentioned there are reports saying that they were killed by a soldier who appeared drunk. Is it clear if it’s a blue helmet or a Congolese Army soldier? Is there any more on this?
Deputy Spokesman: I think what I read to you is all I have here, but, after the briefing, I can look into that as well, and give you the specifics. But, I think the information that we got was that the disturbances did affect the destruction of 37 polling stations, but just to keep that in perspective, we were told that there were 55,000 polling stations across this huge country.
Question: There was a report today, in the Independent, about a UN investigation into uranium use, by Israel, in Lebanon. Does the UN confirm, deny it, or?
Deputy Spokesman: There is no such report of an investigation as reported in that way in the Independent. We asked the UN Environment Programme about this. They have, as we announced here a few weeks ago, been conducting a standard post-conflict assessment of the environment in Lebanon, which includes looking into effects of exploded ordinances, and routinely as part of that assessment, UNEP will check for depleted uranium use. The agency said it has completed its work on the ground and the samples, taken from Lebanon, are now undergoing laboratory testing and we don’t have any results yet. They are expected to report on its finding sometime in December.
Question: So there are no such reports?
Deputy Spokesman: I just read to you what they told us.
Question: What, if anything, have you heard about their efforts to investigate this oil spill from the power station? I know that was supposed to be a UNEP project, the last anybody told us about it, they were about to head there. I mean I am going back a month and a half.
Deputy Spokesman: I think they had gone. We will look into that for you.
Question: Is there any possibility that Larsen might come to 226 and give us a full briefing?
Deputy Spokesman: The general practice and what he’s agreed to is that he will speak at the stakeout. I mean, if there is an overwhelming desire for him to be pulled into this room, we could entertain it. But, I think that most people, at that hour, are probably against a deadline and would want to speak to him as quickly as possible.
Question: What is the precedent, going back to Iran’s possible implication in the bombing of the Buenos Aires Cultural Centre? What is the Protocol with the Secretary-General when news like that comes along, about a State being assumed to be responsible…?
Deputy Spokesman: I am not actually familiar with this case, so I am going to have to look into it after the briefing, on whatever you are asking me about it right now.
Question: Does the Office have any information, there are reports the UNEP team in visiting Ogoniland in Nigeria? I don’t know if you have any reports on that.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we could certainly put you in contact with United Nations Environment Programme. We haven’t seen anything today, but we could put you in contact with them, and we can place a call, ourselves, to follow up.
Question: Regarding the transition from the Annan administrations to the Ban Ki-moon administration, I presume, are continuing. Are there any subjects that are being approached, currently?
Deputy Spokesman: I have no other information, other than contacts are being made.
We now have Gail for you, the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly
Today, the Assembly is considering the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] and will take action on draft resolution (A/61/L.9). There are some 26 speakers inscribed. We have already heard from most of the regional groups and are now listening to the views of some of the other countries interested in this issue. Opening the meeting, the acting President of the Assembly and Permanent Representative of Kuwait, Ambassador Abdullah Ahmed Mohamed Al-Murad, stated that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize, last year, to the IAEA and its Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, was an affirmation of their efforts to ensure that nuclear energy is used only for peaceful purposes. The latest developments, in the area of nuclear proliferation, that have attracted international attention, Ambassador Al-Murad added, are an indication of why all Member States must continue to support the work of the IAEA.
In his opening statement, the Director General of the IAEA, Mohammed El Baradei, noted that next year would mark the 50th anniversary of his organization. In this connection, he expressed the hope that, as the IAEA commemorated this anniversary, its goal would be to “broaden awareness of the scope of the IAEA’s mission and activities and to provide forums to review the challenges and opportunities.” In a wide ranging statement, the Director-General touched on many issues, from the growing global expectations for nuclear power, and the important role of energy for development; the evolution of the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme; its assistance in mitigating cancer, through work in the field of radio therapy; to maintaining the safety and security of nuclear activities, around the world. As expected, he spoke of the challenges posed by the nuclear non-proliferation and arms control regime and appealed to the 36 non-nuclear weapon States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), who have not yet fulfilled their obligation to bring into force safeguard agreements with the Agency, to do so.
He spoke candidly about the implementation of safeguards in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, stressing that the organization remained ready to work with the DPRK and with all others, towards a solution that “addressed the needs of the international community to ensure that all nuclear activities in the DPRK are exclusively for peaceful purposes; while addressing the security and other concerns of the DPRK.” On Iran, he expressed the hope that through dialogue between Iran, its European and other partners, “long overdue negotiations” would be conducted to achieve a comprehensive settlement that, on one hand, would “supplement IAEA verification efforts in addressing international concerns about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme,” while on the other hand, addressing Iran’s security and other concerns.
The First Committee will, today, complete its work, one day ahead of schedule, for the main session of the General Assembly. The Committee will take action on the last seven remaining draft resolutions. The First Committee’s resolutions are grouped under seven clusters. The Committee has completed consideration of all the issues under cluster 2, which looks at matters that fall under the title “Other weapons of Mass Destruction”; and cluster 3, which addresses matters of “Outer Space” disarmament aspects, in particular. The remaining resolutions fall under the clusters 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Under cluster 1, which deals with nuclear weapons -- there are two remaining draft resolutions, which will be considered today; the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the draft resolution on the establishment of nuclear free zones in Central Asia. There remains one draft resolution on cluster 4 matters on conventional Weapons on assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and collecting them; and a second resolution, which deals with the surplus of conventional stockpiles and ammunition. In cluster 5 there remains one resolution, under the title “Regional disarmament and security” and that is the item on the maintenance of international security, good neighbourliness, stability and development in South-East Asia. Under cluster 6, which reads at “Other disarmament measures and international security”, one draft resolution remains on the Declaration of a Disarmament Decade (2008-2018).
The President of the General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa is on an official mission, combined with a personal visit, for a week. Yesterday evening, she addressed the Sixth International Conference on New or Restored Democracies, in Doha, Qatar, noting that democracy is widely supported, because it provides a framework to promote human development and human rights. She also called on the Conference to recognize that democracy was a process which took time and this was why, she noted, continued support for emerging democracies was important. She added, “all of us recognize that there is no single model for democracy -- it cannot be imported. Each country has its own unique path, based in history, and its political system.”
She stressed that any democracy should include the following key principles: a system where Government decisions on policy are vested in elected representatives; free, fair and frequent elections of these representatives; freedom of expression; access to alternative sources of information from Government; having the right to form and join independent associations; and inclusive citizenship where no one is excluded or discriminated against. She urged States to support good governance, by, among other things, ratifying the United Nations Convention against Corruption. That’s my report for today. If there are any questions, I’ll take them.
Questions and Answers
Question: What’s the latest on Venezuela and Guatemala? The Latin Group?
Spokeswoman: We haven’t heard anything except that they did have a meeting. Their foreign ministers were here, but we haven’t heard anything about their discussions. We haven’t heard anything that will tell us what will happen tomorrow.
Question: So, at the moment we still have a vote scheduled in the morning?
Spokeswoman: We have a vote scheduled for Tuesday, and Wednesday, if there is no solution. But we do know they are talking.
Question: Do you know how much it is costing the General Assembly to be tied up each day?
Spokeswoman: Ah, that was your question. We did check. I’ve asked Stéphane to check as well, because it is not just the Department of General Assembly Affairs. In trying to find out, we’ve discovered there are many areas involved. It’s more than what you suggested and, I think, that amount you gave us was $20,000. We do know that its more than that. But, it involves security, facilities management, interpretation and other conference services. It’s a wide range of services and it crosses departments, not just General Assembly Affairs, but you have DPI and other departments which are involved. So, I’ve asked Steph to check on that for you.
Question: But it’s more than 20,000 a day?
Question: On the issue about the right of the NPT, did Mr. ElBaradei talk about the issue?
Spokeswoman: He talked about Iran and Korea in the context, specifically, of the question of safeguards. His statement is upstairs and you can look at it in detail. I tried to give you a synopsis of what he said. The emphasis is what I mentioned. His hope was that on Iran there could be further negotiations that would meet the needs of both the international community and Iran, and expressed similar views on the situation of Korea.
Question: Where did you say the President of the General Assembly was travelling to and when is she expected back?
Spokeswoman: She addressed the Conference on New and Restored Democracies in Qatar. She is going on a personal visit to Paris after that, and she should be back in the office next Monday.
Question: How long is ElBaradei going to be in town for?
Spokeswoman: That I will have to double check for you. Usually, they stay for just one or two days.
Question: And he has no schedule, does he intend to give a briefing at all?
Spokeswoman: I do not know about a briefing. Usually he does, but I did not hear, this time, about a briefing. We can check.
Question: When the President of the GA is away -- this is kind of a protocol question. I know there are a couple of dozen Vice-Presidents. Do they have a new one each day, or does one person serve as President for that week, or what is the Protocol?
Spokeswoman: It depends on the availability of the Vice-Presidents. We have the Ambassador of Kuwait, who is serving for this week.
Question: Are there any informal discussions in the corridors or among members of the Assembly taking place, regarding the reforms of the Security Council?
[The Spokeswoman misinterpreted the question, and will provide a response to the question tomorrow.]
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