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

1 December 2006

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

1 December 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 of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

**World AIDS Day

Good afternoon.  It’s Friday.  They can’t take that away from us.  Today is World AIDS Day, and this year’s theme is accountability, and the idea, as the Secretary-General puts it in his message for the occasion, that all world leaders and politicians should realize that “AIDS stops with me”.

Speaking at a ceremony marking World AIDS Day at St. Bartholomew’s Church last night here in New York, the Secretary-General said that, in the quarter-century since the first AIDS case was reported, the epidemic has killed some 25 million people, and infected 40 million more.  It has become the greatest challenge of our generation, he said.

The Secretary-General noted that he would soon be stepping down from his post, but he pledged that, “as long as I have strength, I will keep spreading that message” on the need to fight AIDS.  And we have his statement available upstairs.

And, we also have a number of other AIDS Day-related events, including, at 6:30 today in the Visitors Lobby, the opening of the first International HIV/AIDS Cartoon Exhibit.  And on Monday morning, the New York AIDS Film Festival will hold a closing screening at the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium, starting at 9.  It doesn’t say AM or PM but I assume it is PM.

**Security Council

Back here, after brief consultations this morning, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement on Nepal, welcoming the signing of the peace agreement and noting the request for UN assistance in implementing key aspects of that agreement.  The Council supports the Secretary-General’s intention to send a technical assessment mission and to deploy monitors and electoral personnel in Nepal.

Today’s meeting was the first one under the new presidency, for the month of December, and that is the presidency of Qatar’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser.  And he of course will be here, as per tradition, to brief you on Monday, about 1 PM, on the programme of work for the month of December.

** Sudan

I know all of you have been waiting for some reaction from the Secretary-General on the outcome of the African Union Peace and Security Council meeting in Darfur, but I’m afraid we won’t be able to comment until the final communiqué is made available, and that is not yet the case.

As Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said in Abuja last night, after delivering the Secretary-General’s message, the AU Peace and Security Council now has all the information it needs to determine its position on the way forward in Darfur.  And we are looking forward to receiving and studying that communiqué.

**Other Sudan

Meanwhile, on the ground, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said it has received a $10 million emergency relief grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for a variety of health, education, water and sanitation projects aimed at supporting the return and reintegration of hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people into devastated Southern Sudan.

And the refugee agency has also airlifted some 110 tonnes of emergency relief supplies from regional stockpiles in Ghana into the Chadian capital of N'Djamena, as part of an urgent effort to replace some $1.3 million worth of relief items looted from its main warehouse in the town of Abeche last week, during the fighting.  And, we have more upstairs from the UNHCR’s briefing notes.

** Sierra Leone

Also available today is the Secretary-General’s latest report on Sierra Leone.

In it, the Secretary-General says that Sierra Leone continues to make progress in peacebuilding, including in its poverty reduction and peace consolidation strategies, and that the parliament is improving its oversight functions.  On the security front, the Secretary-General says that the high level of youth unemployment remains a serious threat to the country’s stability.

**Timor-Leste

And, from Timor-Leste, the Mission there today signed an agreement with the Timorese Government, which gives the Mission prime responsibility for police operations throughout the country.  The agreement, known as the Police Supplemental Arrangement, details the operational arrangements and command and control procedures through which the UN Police contingent should discharge its new task as interim law enforcement body for the country.  And we have more upstairs in a press release from the Mission.

** Kenya

On the humanitarian front, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that nearly 700,000 people have now been affected by flooding in Kenya -- which is more than double the initial estimates we first heard.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has an assessed caseload of an estimated 563,000 people.  According to WFP, of that total, about 340,000 are already being assisted under the drought Emergency Operation, as are Somali refugees in camps in Kenya.  Meanwhile, the flooding continues to hamper access to some areas, limiting assistance to affected populations.  And we have more details upstairs if you’re interested.

** Philippines

And from the Philippines, the UN’s Resident Coordinator in that country has offered the UN’s full support to the Philippines National Disaster Coordinating Council, in the wake of Typhoon Durian, which first made landfall in the Philippines yesterday.

The Philippines authorities have informed us that some almost 200 people are confirmed dead and more than 260 missing, and more than 25,000 people affected in ten different provinces.  Floodwaters have reportedly reached 10 feet in some areas.  We have been requested, by the Philippines authorities, to provide satellite imagery of the landslide-affected areas.

**International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

And from The Hague, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia says it is gravely concerned at the actions of the accused suspect Vojislav Šešelj, who, by refusing to accept food, medicine and medical care, while in the custody of the Tribunal’s Detention Unit, is seriously jeopardizing his own health.

The Tribunal says that it moved Šešelj, who agrees to drink water but has refused any solid foods since November 11th, from the Detention Unit to a prison hospital in The Hague.  And we have more upstairs on that.

The Tribunal also reports that Stanislav Galic, a former Serb Army Commander, was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the campaign of sniping and shelling against civilians in Sarajevo from September ‘92 to August ‘94.  This is the first time that the Tribunal has sentenced an accused to the maximum penalty under its statute.  And we have a press release on that upstairs.

**Press Conference This Afternoon

And we should have the Week Ahead for you, since it’s Friday.  This afternoon at 1 p.m., Bill Roedy, the President of MTV, and Dali Mpofu, the Chief Executive Officer of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, will be here to talk about the Global Media AIDS Project.

**The Week Ahead at the United Nations

On Monday, at 11, the President of Botswana will be here to brief you on the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which has to do with diamonds, as you may know.  And the President will be presenting a report on that process to the General Assembly earlier in the day.

And at 1 o’clock, as I mentioned, the President of the Security Council will be here.

And later in the afternoon, at 2 p.m., Jane Holl Lute, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations will be here to brief you on the High-level Conference on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and UN and NGO Personnel, which is taking place across the street on Monday, which I mentioned to you yesterday.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Maybe I’ve missed something in the Sudan and Chad coverage, but there was a story out of Chad today, with the Government accepting plans for a UN force on the border, and Sudan rejecting it.  What force on the border?

Spokesman:  Well, I think this is, the Government of Chad has made these types of statements before.  We, as you know, are in the process of looking at options; we still have a team on the ground.  They’ve been to the Central African Republic and Chad.  They come back here, report to the Secretary-General, and that’ll go to the Council.

Question:  Has there been talk about guarding refugees?

Spokesman:  Well, the reason they’re there is to look at all the different options that we can put forward, so we have not yet put any firm options as to an international presence.

Question:  The report didn’t talk about that, among the options.  The report, when it talked about Chad, talked about guards around refugee camps.

Spokesman:  I understand the people we sent there are to look, as mandated by the resolution, to look at a whole variety of options of what we can do.

Question:  Are they there talking to the Chad Government?  Where did this arise?

Spokesman:  They were there in N’Djamena, I think yesterday, but I’ll have to get you an update on their programme, but those statements, as I recall, came after a meeting with the Chadian Government and some French officials, not after a UN meeting.

Question:  Do you have any reaction on this big demonstration in Lebanon to topple the Siniora Government, democratically elected?

Spokesman:  We’re obviously following the situation with a lot of concern.  From where we stand, it’s clear that only a political solution should be able to solve the current challenges facing Lebanon.  The Secretary-General would stress that any demonstrations would remain peaceful, and obviously non-violent.  And, it’s clear that the parties in Lebanon should resume discussions to find a political way forward.

Question:  When was the last time that the Secretary-General spoke to President Bashar of Syria or the President, Iranian?

Spokesman:  I’d have to check back on the phone logs on those discussions.

Question:  I have another question.  The UN is starting to map the disputed Shebaa Farm on the Lebanon border.  Do you have any confirmation on that?

Spokesman:  This is part of the process under 1701; the Secretary-General said he would report on his efforts.  There is a letter that will go to the Security Council, quite likely today, to update the Security Council members on the implementation of 1701.

Question:  Do you have a time, is it before midnight?  It is Friday.

Spokesman:  You and me both, yes.

Question:  Is it a report?

Spokesman:  It is today; it is in lieu of a report; it is a letter that will update the Council.

Question:  There was some report that they are not going to swap prisoners, if they know that the two Israeli soldiers are dead.  Do you have any report on that, on whether they are still alive?

Spokesman:  I have no information whatsoever.

Question:  Any progress on the negotiations?

Spokesman:  The work of the Secretary-General’s facilitator is continuing, that’s all I can say on that.

Question:  On Somalia, it was said today that the US is introducing a resolution to allow an IGAD force to go in and support the Transitional Federal Government.  I wonder if you can say what the role of the Secretariat is and UN-affiliated agencies in working in the areas controlled by the Islamic Courts.  What’s been the relation between the UN Secretariat and the Islamic Courts?

Spokesman:  Well, the UN people have met representatives of the Islamic Courts.  We have encouraged them, as we have encouraged representatives of the Transitional Government to return to the tables, to the discussions which began in Khartoum.  And, obviously, UN humanitarian personnel have been operating within those areas.

Question:  With, in coordination…

Spokesman:  I think UN humanitarian personnel operate under all sorts of conditions; they have to go about their work.  We can try and get you a more detailed update from OCHA.

Question:  I have some written questions in to UNDP, but I have a general question I’m going to ask you.  Since it is all one shop, it’s all one UN, if an individual leaves, after allegations of sexual harassment or corruption, is it the UN’s policy that you say the person had a distinguished career and everything is fine, or is there some duty, does the UN have some sort of policy, particularly in sexual harassment allegations, to not sort of whitewash, cover up?  I don’t know, what’s the policy on terminating someone?

Spokesman:  First, they would have to do something wrong.  And I’m not going to hypothesize on cases I’m not familiar with.  Obviously, cases of sexual harassment and misconduct are followed up on, and followed up on aggressively, and the measures are taken.  But, I’m not going to, I know you have all these questions in to UNDP and I will let them answer.

Question:  But I asked you two days ago about this guy Kalman Mizsei who, they said, was left under very distinguished things, and I have heard extremely different things from a variety of places in UNDP…

Spokesman:  He is a UNDP staff member, I will not comment on UNDP’s internal staff movements from here.

Question:  Is it the UN’s position that an agency is supposed to, and the last one I’ll ask you for the day, no, I hate to say this, but the UNDP office does a corruption investigation, and finds corruption, is that ever told to the public, or does it just disappear?  And I’m asking you this as a representative of the Secretariat for, like, UN reform and rooting things out.  It seems like on this side of the street, those things are announced, but…

Spokesman:  We do announce them.  I would ask you to get your answers from UNDP.  I think we have been updating you regularly on the investigations that have been going on here, but you have very detailed questions to UNDP and I would ask you to get your answers from them.

Question:  I just want to ask you, very simply, if the Special Interlocutor, appointed by the Secretary-General to get the release of the Israeli prisoners from Lebanon, or Hezbollah?  Will you only be commenting if he is successful in completing his mission, or is there any update in this area?

Spokesman:  There is no interim update I have for you.  When I’m given something to announce I will share it with you.

Question:  I’m assuming there will be?

Spokesman:  I’m just saying I have no interim update for you.

Question:  The other thing I want to ask you about is Mr. Qazi.  Will he be here anytime soon?

Spokesman:  I’m very happy to check for you when he’s next scheduled to be in New York and make sure he comes to talk to you.

Question:  On the Secretary-General’s public proposal of an international conference at some stage for Iraq, has there been any actual work done on this proposal?

Spokesman:  In what way do you mean actual work, Mark?

Question:  Preparations, talking to people…

Spokesman:  This is obviously something that we are, this is an idea the Secretary-General very much favours, it is an ongoing discussion, but there is nothing yet that we’re able to announce.

Question:  Who has spoken to whom on that?

Spokesman:  We are talking to our contacts, obviously, it’s something that it would have to involve all the parties, whether it’s inside Iraq, and with the neighbouring states, but the discussions are going on, but I have nothing to add to what the Secretary-General has said.

Question:  Ségolène Royal, the French candidate, suggested today to have an international conference on Lebanon.  Do you think it will be possible?

Spokesman:  I will be happy not to comment on statements made by a presidential candidate of a Member State, if you will allow me that.  Thank you very much.

Question:  Back on international conferences, and the two-track, I just wondered, with Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, in the Darfur region, as well southern Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, all facing various levels of meltdown at the moment in their peace processes and so forth, is there any kind of UN regional approach to this vast weight of Africa that seems to be quickly unravelling before everybody’s eyes, anything you’re hoping to do about it?

Spokesman:  We continue to, if you’re asking me if there’s an international conference planned, that I’m not aware of.  We continue to work actively as we’re doing now, on the ground, with our mission in Chad and Central Africa to look at what we can do to stabilize the area.  And you’re well aware of our continued efforts to move the peace process forward in Darfur, including trying to get some kind of hybrid force in there.  It’s clear that the situation in Darfur has vast regional implications and by trying to stabilize the situation in Darfur, we would very much hope that it would have positive effects on the region as a whole.

Question:  And, by the way, could you characterize the Bashir letter to Secretary-General Annan yet?

Spokesman:  Nope.

Question:  But, I mean, can you give any sort of…

Spokesman:  I understand Mark.  I said, I mentioned that before you came in, we do not have any comment on this report.  We’re waiting for the final communiqué from the African Union.

Question:  On Côte d’Ivoire, do you have any update?  Earlier in the week you said they were trying to mediate with Gbagbo and Benny.

Spokesman:  I have nothing for you on that.  Gail, all yours.

Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon everyone.

The General Assembly on Thursday concluded its annual debate on the question of Palestine and the situation in the wider Middle East, with Member States stressing, above all, that achieving a final and peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine was the key to stability in the Middle East.  The Assembly heard calls urging the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to resume long-stalled peace talks and to support and even extend a fragile truce, as the ceasefire between the two sides entered its fifth day.  The Assembly also heard appeals for sustained international involvement in supporting both the Palestinian and Israel sides to revitalize peace efforts and to use the momentum generated by last Sunday’s truce, “to breathe new life” into faltering negotiations on the other tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the issues of Syrian Golan and Lebanon.  Nearly 70 delegations participated in the two-day debate.  This morning, the Assembly met to take action on the draft resolutions.  The results are as follows:

On resolution A/61/L.31 on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the vote was 101 in favour to 7 against, with 62 abstentions.  This resolution, among other things, asks the Assembly to reaffirmthat the United Nations has a permanent responsibility toward the question of Palestine, until the question is resolved in all its aspects in a satisfactory manner, in accordance with “international legitimacy”.  Resolution A/61/L.32, a draft resolution on the work of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat, was adopted by a vote of 101 in favour to 7 against with 62 abstentions.  Resolution A/61/L.33 on the Department of Public Information’s special information programme on the question of Palestine was adopted by a vote of 157 in favour to 7 against, with 9 abstentions.  Resolution A/61/L.34 on the peaceful settlement of Palestine was adopted by a vote of 157 in favour to 7 against, with 10 abstentions.  The resolution A/61/L.35 on Jerusalem; the vote was 157 in favour to 6 against, with 10 abstentions; and the final resolution on the Syrian Golan was adopted by a vote of 107 in favour to 6 against, with 60 abstentions.

Meanwhile, the Third Committee on Thursday took note of the report of the Human Rights Council, after a draft resolution, by the African group, was withdrawn.  On the issue of programme planning, the Chairman of the Committee proposed that consideration of this item be resumed on the 6th of December, in order to allow consultations in the Committee on this item to be concluded.

The Fifth Committee on Thursday discussed the latest reports on the Capital Master Plan to refurbish the United Nations Headquarters complex.  Several speakers addressing the Committee emphasized the need to take an early decision on the financing of the Plan, so that the project could move forward quickly.  Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the matter, Acting Under-Secretary-General Warren Sach updated the Committee on the status of the project, which is now expected to be finished in 2014.  He told the Committee that every month of delay was estimated to cause a cost increase of some $9-10 million.

In a message to mark World AIDS Day 2006, the President of the General Assembly says “we are all accountable to act now to protect the health and well-being of young people.”  She expresses the view that, to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, we need a culture change in health service provision, equitable relations between the sexes and a comprehensive approach to tackling the disease.  “No single intervention,” she stresses, “will influence the behaviour of young people or improve their sexual health.”  A key ingredient to reaching young people, she says, is a good education:  “When our children are in school, they are much less likely to be infected by HIV than those who opt out or have no choice.”

The President will also today address the 9th Student Conference on Human Rights.  This year, the focus is on Migration and Development Challenges for Human Rights.

On another note, the President of the Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, is pleased that the Human Rights Council has taken a consensus decision to hold a meeting on Darfur.  Since the Human Rights Council is a subsidiary of the Assembly, the President has been following, closely, the work of the Council and has maintained contact with the Chairman on its work.

The President, Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa, will be away for one week from Headquarters from tomorrow.  She will be in Dubai, attending the Fourth Arab Strategic Forum —- a meeting which deals with the MDGS, focusing particularly on the role of women and education in the Arab world.

That’s my report for today.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I just attended something in the ECOSOC Chamber, it’s, I guess, a resolution, submitted by the President of the GA on strengthening ECOSOC.  Have you spoken about this?  Is this a major initiative of hers?

Spokeswoman:  This is the resolution addressing the question of ECOSOC reform that you’re talking about, and that’s a major initiative, this year, on the Assembly’s agenda, a carry over from the 60th session.  So, I don’t know what to…

[This was a commitment by world leaders to strengthen ECOSOC, so that it could fulfil its Charter mandate.  The negotiations started last year and went on for some fourteen months.  It is only this year, through the facilitation of the current President of the Assembly and assisted by her two Co-Chairs, the Ambassadors of Belgium and Mali, supported by Mr. Carlos Ruiz from the delegation of Mexico, that this resolution was finalized.  This agreement will enable ECOSOC to implement new functions, as mandated by world leaders at the 2005 World Summit.]

Question:  I guess here’s my question.  In this proposal, is there any… we’ve discussed this, the difficulty of actually getting any answer from ECOSOC.  It’s like, who speaks for ECOSOC?  Is any part of this reform sort of making it so it’s clear; is it only the President of ECOSOC who answers questions for ECOSOC?  Do you answer for ECOSOC?

Spokeswoman:  Well, I wouldn’t speak on behalf of ECOSOC, the President of the ECOSOC will speak on its behalf.  Is it that you wanted to, perhaps, have that person come to brief?

Question:  Yeah, that would actually be great.

Spokeswoman:  I could certainly put forward that request.

Question:  You would like to have a background brief on ECOSOC reform?

Spokeswoman:  Sure, and other ECOSOC questions.

Question:  OK, I will certainly forward that request.  Thank you, have a good weekend.

* *** *

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