DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESWOMAN FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

31 October 2006

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESWOMAN FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

31 October 2006
Spokesman's Noon Briefing
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.

** Korean Peninsula -- Statement

Good afternoon.  I’ll start with a statement, attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the Korean peninsula.

“The Secretary-General welcomes today’s announcement that China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States have agreed to a resumption of the six-party talks.

“He hopes the talks can be reconvened soon, and that they will yield positive results, leading to lower tensions in the region.”

And, we have copies of that statement upstairs.

**Secretary-General/ Uruguay Trip

In another announcement, the Secretary-General will leave tomorrow for Montevideo, Uruguay, where he’ll attend the Ibero-American Summit.

On the sidelines of the Summit, he’ll be holding bilateral meetings with various leaders, including the President of Uruguay, Dr. Tabaré Vázquez.

The Secretary-General is expected back in New York over the weekend.  And, if you have any questions please get in touch with our Office for the program.

**Secretary-General/ Timor-Leste Appointment

We have one more announcement.  It is an appointment.  The Secretary-General has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Mr. Atul Khare of India as his Special Representative for Timor-Leste and Head of the United Nations Mission of Support in Timor-Leste.  Mr. Khare succeeds Mr. Sukehiro Hasegawa of Japan who completed his assignment at the end of September.

Mr. Khare served as the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Timor-Leste from June 2004 until May of last year.  He has had a career in the Indian diplomatic service covering two decades and has been closely involved in the work of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes during that period.  And, we have more on his bio upstairs.

**Security Council

The Security Council began its work today with consultations on Burundi, during which it heard a briefing on the Secretary-General’s latest report on that country, which was out on the racks yesterday, from the Secretary-General’s acting Special Representative, Nureldin Satti.

Also this morning, the Council held a formal meeting to adopt a resolution extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Western Sahara by six months.

And today is the last day of the Japanese presidency of the Security Council.  Tomorrow, Peru will assume the rotating Presidency of the Council for the month of November.  And, the President of the Council, the Peruvian Ambassador, will speak in this room immediately following the consultations on the first day, after it adopts its programme of work on the second.

**Security Council Yesterday

And, just to recap, the Security Council, yesterday afternoon, heard from Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of resolution 1559 [2004], about recent developments in Lebanon.

Afterward, the Council, in a presidential statement, noted that important progress had been made towards the implementation of that resolution, and commended the Lebanese Government for extending its authority throughout its territory, particularly in the south.  It reiterated its call for the resolution’s full implementation.

** Lebanon

And today, Geir Pedersen, the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Lebanon, expressed his serious concern at the continuing overflights by Israel, which constitute a breach of Lebanese sovereignty and, specifically, of Security Council resolution 1701 [2006].

Pedersen is particularly disturbed by the intensive mock air raids that took place over Beirut this morning.  The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon has reported some eight air violations over the past two days, which they have observed over their area of operation.

The United Nations commends the efforts of all sides in implementing resolution 1701 [2006] over the 10 weeks since its adoption.  It renews its call on Israel to cease its violations of Lebanese sovereignty and calls on all parties to respect and implement resolution 1701 [2006].  And, we have that statement from Lebanon upstairs.

**Secretary-General in Washington

The Secretary-General is back in New York.

In Washington, DC, this morning, he opened the Conference on the Kofi Annan Legacy for Africa, which took place at Georgetown University.

Yesterday, at Georgetown, the Secretary-General received an honorary degree and delivered the Oliver Tambo Lecture, in which he said that, although he is proud that his fellow Africans have ended many of the continent’s conflicts, far too much killing and rape goes on.

He said that a peaceful Africa requires more than the mere absence of war.  It is sustainable only if accompanied by democratic transformation and good governance.

We have that speech upstairs.

Asked about the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia at a question and answer session afterwards, the Secretary-General said that that situation was “a classic example of the tragedy of our continent”, in which two poor countries desperately in need of development went to war.  He said the United Nations is doing whatever it can to bring the two parties together, but it has not been easy.

** Sudan

The United Nations Mission in the Sudan says that it has received reports that a United Nations agency convoy travelling in South Darfur was fired upon yesterday.

A driver and two passengers received superficial gunshot wounds, which are reportedly not to be life-threatening, and they’re being treated in El Geneina hospital.

Also in South Darfur, there are reports that a convoy of three United Nations trucks en route to Nyala were ambushed this past weekend by a group of armed men.

Meanwhile, in west Darfur, the Mission says it’s received reports that the African Union Mission in the Sudan will investigate reports that around 500 Arab militia members, riding horses and camels and supported with machine-guns, mounted on land cruiser vehicles, [and] carried out attacks in several areas there.  There is more on these incidents in the bulletin available upstairs.

**Senegal/Gambia

Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency, or UNHCR, reports that refugees from Senegal’s southern Casamance region are continuing to arrive in Gambian villages along the border.  The current number of Senegalese refugees in Gambia stands at more than 6,200.  UNHCR has been providing emergency assistance to them.

And, there is more in the UNHCR briefing notes from Geneva.

**WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that huge amounts of money -— up to $50 billion -— is spent every year on pharmaceutical products, a market so large that it is extremely vulnerable to corruption.  In fact, recent estimates have shown that as much as 25 per cent of medicines which is procured can be lost to fraud, bribery and other corrupt practices.

WHO has therefore launched a new initiative to help Governments fight corruption by promoting greater transparency in medicines’ regulation and procurement.

And, there is a press release on that subject upstairs.

**Tsunami

The United Nations Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, former US President Bill Clinton, will be at two meetings in New York today.

In the first, to be held this afternoon, leading US-based non-governmental organizations will present President Clinton with a series of major reports on lessons learned from their work on tsunami recovery.

At the second meeting, President Clinton is expected to address a key initiative to conserve coastal ecosystems in the Asian region impacted by the 2004 tsunami.

And, there is a press release on that as well.

**Press Conference

There is one press conference to flag.  At 1 p.m., Djibril Diallo, Director of the New York Office of Sport for Development and Peace and Chair of the United Nations Global Youth Leadership Summit, will be here to brief you on the outcome of the Summit.  He will be joined by the Summit’s regional chairs and sponsors.  That should be after Gail briefs you on the General Assembly.

**UNICEF

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that its fundraising project, “Trick or Treat for UNICEF”, has become one of the most successful fundraising campaigns run by agencies over the years, with more than some $210 million raised by schoolchildren in the United States and Canada.

You can read more about that upstairs, and Happy Halloween.  That’s it for me and before I turn it to Gail…

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Any update on the International Tribunal?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t have anything new for you, but we can check upstairs.

[The correspondent was later informed that, regarding the tribunal of an international character for Lebanon, the UN was still engaged in discussions aimed at its establishment. When those discussions were complete and the Government of Lebanon said that it agreed in principle to the agreement and statute, it would be possible to submit the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council.]

Question:  Considering that the Secretary-General is the moral authority of this building, what is his response to the fact that there was no text regarding human rights in the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) resolution that was passed unanimously in the Security Council today?

Deputy Spokesman:  I am not familiar with that issue right now, so, I would have to look into it, to get back to you.

Question:  I didn’t see his speech yet, but do you know if the Secretary-General mentioned Western Sahara when he spoke about the problems in Africa today?

Deputy Spokesman:  His lecture was on Africa in general when he spoke last night at the Oliver Tambo Lecture and he received the award.  It was his views on the continent as a whole.  He did not single out a particular issue.  He did do a Q & A afterwards, which is why the issue of Eritrea and Ethiopia had come up.

Question:  And one last question.  Do you know if the Secretary-General is working on any socio-economic programmes for the Saharan people in Western Sahara?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, there are always programmes undertaken by agencies working in the area.  We can certainly talk with UNDP or with agencies that are in the region.  But, we can try to find out for you as well.

Question:  On Saturday, the Senegalese President expressed his frustration with the oil crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, and he also discussed how electricity has been shut off in his country.  Are there any efforts by the United Nations to aid the people in that situation?

Deputy Spokesman:  I’m sorry -- I missed that question.

Question:  The Senegalese President.  Electricity was shut off in that country.  Are there any efforts by the United Nations to aid the people in that situation?

Deputy Spokesman:  I would have to check with Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to see what efforts are under way.  The update we got today regarding Senegal was the UNHCR update.  So, that’s the latest we’ve gotten from that region.  But, we can look into that as well.

Question:  Actually, one follow-up and then a question on the Congo.  The President of Senegal was here yesterday, sitting where you are, on the Casamance update that you gave.  The Preisdent of Senegal was here yesterday and said that there is peace in Casamance, or no problems.  I am wondering, what the basis of these refugee flows out of Casamance into the Gambia are?

Deputy Spokesman:  Generally, UNHCR updates do contain some indication of violence or what kind of violence they are fleeing, when they flow out from one country to another.  I have not had a chance to read their briefing in full so, I would direct you to that.  It is being treated as emergency, as UNHCR and other agencies are out there trying to provide emergency aid, and they are concerned about the housing capacity running low.

[The correspondent was later informed that, according to UNHCR, the latest wave of displacement started in mid-August this year, and was prompted by the renewed rise in tensions between the Senegal Armed Forces and the Casamance separatists.]

Question:  And on the shooting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the incident that you mentioned yesterday, of people, poll workers, or electoral workers being shot outside of Bunya.  The soldier who did it has already now been given a death sentence.  This is widely reported.  I am wondering if the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) or the Secretary-General thinks that a one-day process is a legitimate judicial process, to award the death penalty in one day.

Deputy Spokesman:  I have not seen anything.  First of all, this is involving not a United Nations peacekeeper, but a Congolese soldier, I believe.  If that is something that has been done locally, it has not been brought to our attention yet, so I do not have any immediate reaction on that.

Question:  If you get a response from MONUC and also find out whether the soldier at issue is one that was recently put into the army along with these militias that they’ve…the United Nations works hand-in-hand with the Congolese army and there have been positive announcements from right where you are sitting, about the incorporation of militias into the army.

Deputy Spokesman:  We would certainly try to get more from you from the Mission.

Question:  I have a question about the Special Rapporteur, Rodolfo Stevenage and his monitoring of the Oaxaca issue.  Have you had any response to his report, because the situation does seem at a crisis point?

Deputy Spokesman: Is that a recent press release you are reading?

Question:  It was yesterday.  I just saw it today.  HR06134?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Special Rapporteurs are independent rapporteurs, and they make their reports, they report to the new Human Rights Council.  So, if you want to get an update, go to him directly, or we can try to put you in touch with the Rapporteur.

Question:  You may have already answered this, sorry, I apologize, but what about this Kosovo report, what is going to be happening to that?

Deputy Spokesman:  There were some reports…

Question:  Antisaari delivered a report to the Secretary-General?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, Mr. Antisaari is here in New York for consultations with senior United Nations officials, and on the latest developments on the future status of Kosovo.  He did meet with the Secretary-General yesterday afternoon and they discussed some preliminary ideas in this regard.  But, my understanding is there was no draft proposal handed at that time.

Question:  So, basically you are saying there is no draft proposal?

Deputy Spokesman:  My understanding is that there were some preliminary ideas at this stage.

Question:  So, what were the preliminary ideas please?

Deputy Spokesman:  Since they are preliminary, I don’t think, at the moment, they ready to be made public.  As you know, Mr. Atassari has been working to complete his proposal by the end of the year.

Question:  What is the current date for this proposal to be made?

Deputy Spokesman:  The end of the year.

Question:  What is that?  The 31st of December?

Deputy Spokesman:  That would be my understanding of the end of the year.

Question:  Could you possibly check just to get more details on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Sure.

Question:  I am not quite sure from your description, when the programme of work briefing of Ambassador Bernales is.  You mentioned that he is going to brief the Council on the programme of work tomorrow and then speak to us immediately thereafter, and then, you said something about the second, and I know it is normally the second working day of the month?

Deputy Spokesman:  I probably wasn’t very clear because I wasn’t reading from a text and I was speaking from the top of my head.  But yes, Peru takes over the Security Council presidency tomorrow.  The following day, in the morning, they will have the first consultations, they will adopt a programme of work, and following that, the Ambassador will be here in room 226, to brief you on the month’s programme.

Question:  I assume you read a statement, which I missed, on the overflights over Lebanon.  My question is more general, since yesterday, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for implementation of 1559 [2004] reported that there are violations of the arms embargo, and that weapons do continue to flow over the border.  Do you think that resolution 1701 [2006] can be fully implemented by Israel by stopping these flights, while the violations of that part of the resolution continue?

Deputy Spokesman:  First of all, they are two different resolutions, and you probably want to pose that question to the Security Council, which is the body that came up with these resolutions.

Question:  The Secretary-General is charged with implementing parts of these resolutions.

Deputy Spokesman:  For the moment, the Secretary-General himself has not pronounced on this, and both his Representatives, Terje Roed-Larsen, here yesterday, and today, Geir Pedersen, have commented separately, and that is all I have to say from here.

Question:  Does he see the equation, the relations, the correlations, the linkage between those two parts of the resolution?  Because that is the explanation.  The Israelis say we are not going to stop flying over until…

Deputy Spokesman:  I understood your question; I can’t go further than what these two Representatives have said on the two subjects as of today.

Question:  Do you have anything you could tell us on what is happening in Greece and the Secretary-General’s response?  It is the Internet Governance Forum.

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe, if you looked at our briefing notes from Geneva -- on Tuesdays and Fridays, the United Nations has briefings in Geneva, and they produce briefing notes.  And sometimes, there are issues of concern in the region that are highlighted more, so let’s take a look at that

Question:  There is a lot of controversy at that conference that large, Google, Sun Microsystems and others that have gone into countries like China and agreed to limit search engines and limit what can be read.  I guess I am wondering, we will read the notes, but if the Secretary-General has any position on freedom of information in that sense?

Deputy Spokesman:  I think the best thing is we will try to put you in touch with somebody who is related to the meeting going on, and they can probably give you a better idea.

Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly

Thank you very much, good afternoon, everyone.  This morning, the Assembly, after taking up and approving the Fifth Committee’s recommendation on Financing of the UN Operation in Burundi, resumed balloting for the Security Council seat that remains to be filled by a Latin American or Caribbean State for the years 2007-2008.  The result of the last round of balloting, as of noon, which was the forty-fourth round (and twenty-second restricted), was 106 votes for Guatemala, 76 for Venezuela.

On Monday, the Assembly adopted a resolution by a recorded vote of 114 in favour to 1 against, with 1 abstention, reaffirming its strong support for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the area of technology transfer to developing countries and in nuclear safety, verification and security.  The press release GA/10524 gives a very informative and comprehensive background to the IAEA report.

In news of work in the Committees:  as mentioned yesterday, the First Committee completed its work one day ahead of schedule, taking action on the last seven draft resolutions before it.

Meanwhile, the Second Committee heard from a representative of IFAD -- the International Fund for Agricultural Development -- as it discussed the desertification aspects of sustainable development.  The representative informed the Committee that the goals of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification should be “wrapped into national and regional development and poverty reduction strategies”, as the international community accelerated its efforts to slow the spread of deserts.  She said, as the Convention entered its second decade, Africa was especially susceptible to land degradation, which impacted at least 485 million people and 65 per cent of the continent’s entire population.  IFAD offered several recommendations that could help countries slow the spread of desertification, which affects more than 100 countries worldwide.

In the Third Committee, discussions continued on human rights issues.  One representative noted, in the debate yesterday, that innovative approaches were needed to deal with the challenges faced by the new Human Rights Council.  Others, meanwhile, continued to express concern about overlap and duplication of work between the Third Committee and the Human Rights Council, while several expressed the view point that human rights continued to be addressed in a selective and politicized manner.  Yet, others noted that the establishment of the Council represented a significant step forward, though its performance so far may not have met expectation[s].  Debate continues today.

That’s my report for today, there were a couple of questions yesterday; one was on Mr. El Baradei, whether he would be here to brief journalists.  I was told by his office that it has told several of you, no, he will not be coming to speak with the press, and he is in fact leaving New York tomorrow.  There was another question that I have to follow up.  I don’t see the journalist here today, but he was asking about Security Council reform, when is it going to be taken up.  It is going to be discussed in the General Assembly on 11 December?  At the moment, there have been no informal talks as yet.  Usually, informal talks on that issue begin somewhere in January.

Questions and Answers

Question:  I have a request regarding these briefings that you give us.  When you have phrases such as “other countries suggested a more selective approach” —- it is meaningless.  So, I was wondering if, as part of the evolution of the Assembly, could these reports be written in a language that is understandable, makes some kind of sense, and actually refers to what countries are actually saying and who is saying them.  I know this is the way these reports have been written for decades, and no one ever listen[s] to them because they don’t mean anything.  So, if there is a way of giving reports saying “this group” or “this country said something specific, made a proposal” it would be much easier to understand what was going on in the Assembly.  This is kind of gobble-di-gook.  Thank you.

Spokeswoman:  Thank you very much.

Question:  Which country voted against the [resolution on the] International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [report]?

Spokeswoman:  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Question:  It makes it a much more interesting story.

Spokeswoman:  Matthew?

Question:  One more question about desertification.  Last year, there was a big issue -- that several countries wanted to exclude one country, Israel, which has a lot of experience in combating desertification.  I wondered if this issue came back this year, because several countries were Arab countries.

Spokeswoman:  There was nothing on that in what I read on the meeting.  They were just talking about the issue in general and what could be done specifically on land degradation.  They were specifically focusing on the situation in Africa, which is the most affected.  But, I did not see anything related to what you’re asking.

Question:   Israel wanted to contribute its expertise; a country that has a large desert, and was excluded because…

Spokeswoman:  I will certainly look to see if there is another reference.  I think they are finished with it and have moved to other things, but I will check.

Question:  It is reported that, yesterday, in the Third Committee, the Representative of Moldova made a call for the Assembly to clarify who enforces human rights law in these frozen conflict zones, for example Transdnistrian.  The other one would be Abkhazia.  Supposedly, the Moldovan press today is making a lot of this call, but I am wondering what the Third Committee’s [view on this is], whether there is actually an Assembly item to get to the bottom of that question?

Spokeswoman:  That, I will have to check.  I know that, in general, the Third Committee discussing a large number of human rights questions.  They have been talking on human rights since last week when the Rapporteurs first gave their reports

Question:  What percentages of the things that are actually discussed result in some sort of resolution, or decision by the Assembly?  Like, on this one, it seems it is a pretty clear call to clarify the existing procedure.

Spokeswoman:  And, you are asking what percentage of the issues that they discuss become…are reflected in the resolutions?

Question:  I guess that is a ballpark.  Because, otherwise, it is they said it and?

The other question for which hopefully there is a solid answer, in the World Food Program (WFP), there is a race on to appoint a new head.  It is my understanding that half of the executive board of WFP is made up of people from [the Economic and Social Council] ECOSOC, and the other half by people from FAO.  Inner City Press has been given a brochure by one of the candidates, the official US candidate for the post; and, it is unclear to us whether this is a lobbying campaign directed at ECOSOC.  Here is my question.  It is a yes or no question.  Were the members of ECOSOC given a document by Josette Sheeran the official US candidate to head WFP?

Spokeswoman:  I have no idea.  I would have to check for you.

Question:  I can show it to you.  It is like a four-page brochure.  It doesn’t seem like it was made for one or two people.  My question is whether they got it, and whether that is the process to lobby to become the Head?

Spokeswoman:  Normally, if anyone is lobbying for these positions and has presented a brochure.  They would want to distribute their brochures as widely as possible.  I think, in that context, it wouldn’t be unusual.

Question:  The other question would be, if any of the other three finalists had given a similar brochure, and what they would say if there are factual inaccuracies in the brochure they were given.  But, I’d follow up on that.

Spokeswoman:  I will check it for you.

Correspondent:  I would like to get this today please.

[The Spokeswoman later referred the journalist to the office of the President of the Economic and Social Council.]

Spokeswoman:  If there was a meeting last night.  There was no official announcement of what the results were from that meeting, because the voting continued this morning.  The last official communication came last week, when the ministers were here and held a meeting.  They agreed that they would continue with voting because there was no conclusion.  They couldn’t resolve the issue at the time.  And so, they wrote to the President of the Assembly.  The representative of Ecuador, who is the chairman of the group, wrote to the President of the Assembly, letting her know what the state of play was, and that they would continue this morning.  So, I think, until they have a resolution, they will continue to vote.  Anything else?  Thank you.

* *** *

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