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

24 January 2007

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

24 January 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

And the spokesperson for the General Assembly president

 

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, Ashraf Kamal.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General in Brussels

The Secretary-General began his travels to Europe and Africa today by arriving in Brussels, where he has had a series of meetings with key officials of the European Union (EU), NATO and the Belgian Government.

Among his meetings was one with the European Union High Representative for a Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana.  Following that meeting, the Secretary-General said they had discussed the Balkans, Darfur, Somalia and Côte d’Ivoire, as well as issues like climate change and human rights.  He said of those topics, “Our positions are on the same page.”

Later, the Secretary-General met with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and noted afterward that tomorrow, he and Barroso will participate in the Paris conference on Lebanon’s reconstruction, for which he urged international cooperation.  The Secretary-General added that we need to help the Iraqi government and people to restore political, and social and economic stability, and noted the discussions he will hold in the coming days, including at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, on Sudan.

The Secretary-General also met with the Secretary-General of NATO, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, and discussed with him how to increase overall cooperation between the United Nations and NATO at the organizational level.  He told reporters afterward that the two organizations are very committed to working together in the future.  And we have the transcripts of those press encounters upstairs.

** Sudan

Before departing for Brussels, the Secretary-General met yesterday at UN Headquarters with Mutrif Siddig, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sudan.

For those of you interested in a read-out of that meeting, the Secretary-General raised his concerns about developments in Darfur over the last few days.  The Secretary-General is deeply disturbed by the trend in aerial bombardments that the Government of Sudan has conducted in several areas of North Darfur and alarmed by the reports of many civilian casualties.

The Secretary-General is also extremely concerned about the arrest of 20 staff members of the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and the African Union Mission in Sudan in Nyala, South Darfur, on 19 January.  The Secretary-General expects a swift investigation of this incident, particularly as several of the staff were assaulted and seriously injured before they were released.

The UN Mission in Sudan, meanwhile, continues to report incidents of harassments of the people of Darfur and humanitarian workers assisting them.  The Mission also reports that following the harassment of local security forces against UN and humanitarian workers in Nyala on 19 January – as I just mentioned -- the State Attorney of South Darfur ordered on the 22nd of January the arrest of the representative of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who had signed for the staff release.  The OCHA representative was released later on the same day after the intervention of UN Security and the UN Legal Adviser.

We also have upstairs a joint press release issued by the African Union force in Darfur (AMIS) and the UN Mission in Sudan regarding the most recent meeting of the Tripartite Mechanism, which is made up of representatives of the African Union Mission, the UN Mission, and the Government of Sudan.

The UN Mission provided an update on the status of deployment of UN personnel in Darfur in implementation of the Light Support Package to AMIS and indicated that to date, a total of 27 UN military staff officers and 25 UN Police advisors have been deployed in Darfur in support of the African Union Mission.

** Guinea

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, is calling for an independent investigation into reports that security forces have killed dozens of unarmed protestors in Guinea.

Expressing concern over the deterioration of the situation in the country, the High Commissioner today cited reports of excessive use of force by army and police.  Over 40 people are said to have been killed since the start of a nationwide strike on 10 January.

** Haiti

The UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) reports that its military forces undertook an operation early this morning to take control of a house in the Cite Soleil area of Port-au-Prince, which had been repeatedly used by gang members to conduct criminal activities and to attack MINUSTAH troops.

The peacekeepers returned fire after being shot at by gang members who quickly fled the area due to MINUSTAH’s quick and decisive action.  No UN personnel were injured in the operation.

** Somalia

A UN inter-agency mission was able to travel to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, today, to meet with officials from the Transitional Federal Government, discussing humanitarian and other issues.

The mission took place despite a small security incident in which four mortars were fired after the aircraft carrying the UN personnel landed.  There were no UN casualties.  We cannot speculate that the United Nations was deliberately targeted, and the UN staff travelled back to Nairobi after completing their tasks.

**Security Council

The Security Council held a private meeting on Georgia this morning.  It is now holding consultations on Georgia and other matters, with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Georgia, Jean Arnault, briefing.

**Ethiopia-Eritrea

The Secretary-General’s latest report concerning the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea is available on the racks.  In the report the Secretary-General recommends that the Security Council extend the mandate of the Mission by a further six months.

The Secretary-General says that the ongoing stalemate in the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea remains a source of very deep concern.  The potential for this situation to deteriorate further or even to lead to renewed hostilities is real, especially if it is allowed to continue indefinitely.

Furthermore, the current impasse is a serious source of instability for the two countries as well as the wider region, taking into account, in particular, the recent developments in Somalia.

** Iraq

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is extremely concerned about reports of terrified Palestinian men, women and children fleeing Baghdad a day after some 30 Palestinian men were taken from their apartments by unidentified uniformed men.

UNHCR has taken up the issue with the Iraqi authorities.  In the meantime, it is helping to prepare the delivery of relief supplies to the Syria-Iraq border, in preparation for the new arrivals.  And we have a press release on that upstairs.

** Philippines

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that an appeal issued last December for typhoon survivors in the Philippines remains critically underfunded.

OCHA adds that, after nearly two months, around half a million people are still in need of emergency shelter kits so that they can leave crowded evacuation centres and overburdened host families, in order to repair their homes.  And we have a press release on that upstairs.

**New Spokesman for General Assembly President

And after I’m done with your questions, we have the new Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly, who will come up here to brief you.  He is sitting in the front right now -- Mr. Ashraf Kamal.  Ashraf was most recently Spokesman for the UN International Independent Investigation Commission on the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and he will speak once you’re done with me.

Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Has the Secretary-General finalized his talking points before he meets with Carla Del Ponte, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)?  And, once again, please, what is his position on the ICTY’s “exit strategy”?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, this is an exit strategy that has been devised by the officials of the ICTY and something on which they have repeatedly briefed the Security Council, which has, of course, been pressing them on when they can conclude their investigations.  So that is their exit strategy and the Secretary-General supports the work that they’re doing to have all their trials completed in a timely manner.

As for his discussions with Carla Del Ponte, that meeting is still a while away.  He doesn’t go to The Hague until next week, so presumably his talking points will develop as the situation on the ground develops as well.

Question:  Is there any readout on the proposals the Secretary-General will make at the conference on Lebanon?

Associate Spokesperson:  He is urging international support for the reconstruction of Lebanon.  That is the main focus.  Of course he will also have a number of bilateral meetings on the margins of the Paris conference in which they could discuss a wide range of issues concerning support for the Government.  And as you know we also expressed our views about the current situation in Lebanon in the statement we issued yesterday.

Question:  I wanted to ask if you could explain what happened to change the scope of Ban Ki-moon’s announced inquiry into the funds and programmes. Friday you said it would be an urgent inquiry into all the activities of all the funds and programmes worldwide.  And then Monday I heard that it would be limited to three issues and focused only on North Korea.  So, one, I’m wondering if you could explain the difference, and two, who did he speak with on this topic between Friday and Monday?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t think you have necessarily understood the statement we issued on Monday.  The entire point of the proceedings since we made our declaration on Friday was to see how this system-wide inquiry could be carried out.  As a first step, the initial focus over the coming three months will be on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Beyond that, there are efforts to deal with a wider range of issues in an effort that would involve the External Board of Auditors.

And by the way, in terms of further questions about the particulars, Warren Sach, who is the UN Controller will be here to talk to you on Friday.  So we can deal with some more of the detailed questions then.  But the idea is how, in nuts-and-bolts terms, to carry out the broader goals that we announced on Friday.

Question:  Is Mr. Ban Ki-moon going to discuss with [Prime Minister Fouad] Siniora the killing and injury of about 150 Lebanese by pro-Government militias, which have been released specifically to kill people?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t necessarily agree with the characterization in your question, but obviously the situation on the ground, including the recent violence, is a matter of concern, as the Secretary-General pointed out yesterday.  And he would certainly discuss that among the topics that he deals with when he meets with the Prime Minister.

Question:  Yesterday, Mr. Abbadi asked about the procedure for which the 22 journalists were put on the list to accompany the Secretary-General on his trip.  For the sake of transparency, I have two specific questions:  One, could you provide us with the list of the 22 people and the organizations, which they represent; and two, I asked about how the Spokesman’s Office went about this and Jane told me…

Associate Spokesperson:  Mr. Jawetz, this is not the place for a lengthy discussion on this…

Question:  For the sake of transparency, I insist that you follow up on this…

Associate Spokesperson:  I know I discussed this with you yesterday, and my basic point was that…

Question:  Let me ask my second question.

Associate Spokesperson:  Go ahead.

Question:  And my second question is that you ask my people if they received an e-mail from your Office or from UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association] on this subject?

Associate Spokesperson:  Mr. Jawetz, the United Nations and the Spokesman’s Office are not the same thing as the UN Correspondents Association.  We did, in your case and the case of George Baumgarten, raise the issue of telling UNCA that you should receive their communications.  We’ve raised that matter with them, but we do not control what the UN Correspondents Association does -- nor, frankly, do I think the journalists would like it if we tried.

Question:  Could you please ask people…

Associate Spokesperson:  Please take this up with your colleagues in the UN Correspondents Association.  I am aware that they did send out an e-mail to UNCA members.

Question:  But who are these people?  Could you ask who received it?  We have to know.  This is a matter of transparency and this is a UN forum…

Associate Spokesperson:  Please, Mr. Jawetz, I won’t entertain these questions.  I beg to differ.  This is a matter for the UN Correspondents Association and I would urge you to deal with them.

Question:  It has been traditional for the Secretary-General to travel to Davos to meet with Heads of State, CEOs and leaders of NGOs.  Apparently, the Secretary-General is not going there.  Is that correct?

Associate Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is unable to go to Davos for this particular World Economic Forum because of his very lengthy travel schedule.  As you know, he is travelling not just to Brussels and Paris, but in the coming days to the African Union Summit, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with various other stops in Africa.  So he is unable to make it on this particular occasion.

Question:  There’s a report today about the delivery of a Russian air defence missile system to Iran and I was wondering if the Secretary-General’s Office was concerned about whether this violates the sanctions that were imposed against Iran last month?

Associate Spokesperson:  In terms of follow-up on the sanctions that were imposed against Iran, the Security Council, and in particular its sanctions committee dealing with that, is the one that would deal with any questions as to how the sanctions are being implemented and whether those measures were being violated.  I would ask you to deal with them.

Question:  I confess, I’ve missed your full statement on Darfur, but, with regard to the arrest of the UN workers, can you tell me what kind of démarche has been made by the Secretary-General on the Khartoum Government, whether or not it’s acceptable? And why wasn’t there a statement by the UN Secretary-General on the day of or the day after the arrest of the UN workers?

Associate Spokesperson:  In terms of not having a statement, I just read out a statement on this which I can provide to you afterwards.  The basic point is that yes, there was a démarche.  The Secretary-General did raise this issue yesterday with Mutrif Siddig, who is the Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who is here in New York.  Certainly, we do not find this acceptable, and so there has been a démarche at this level and also on the ground level.  As I said earlier, we made efforts to secure the release of those who had been held.

Question:  The first impression we got from the announcement on the audit was that it was going to be external, at least I did, I don’t know about others.  However, what we learned later on was that this was, in fact, going to be the existing External Auditors of UNDP…

Associate Spokesperson:  Who are in fact external auditors…?

Question:  So, is that a new thing? Is this a novel approach?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, this is a new approach.  This is an effort to look at a wide range of issues in a wide range of nations.  You’re right that we are trying to draw on some of the resources we already have, including the External Board of Auditors, which, as Michéle pointed out to you in recent days, does in fact comprise leading audit institutions of other countries.  It’s not an internal body by any means.  In terms of the particulars, like I said, there will be some more details when Mr. Sach comes to talk to you, but the basic point is simply being able to put into operational terms the very broad goals we announced.

Question:  I’m not going into details, but, in the broad picture, is this a vote of “no confidence” in previous external auditing done by the existing external audit body?

Associate Spokesperson:  No, it’s not.  This is directing them to deal with certain issues of concern, including the issues of concern that have arisen concerning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Question:  Why haven’t they done this before?  Is this a vote of no confidence?

Associate Spokesperson:  They deal with a number of issues that are brought to them, which is appropriate for an audit board.

Question:  This is follow-up on that about the authorities of the Secretary-General here.  Does the current Secretary-General believe that he has the authority to order audits now into the funds and agencies?

Associate Spokesperson:  Not to order them.  You’re aware that all the agencies, funds and programmes have their own funding mechanisms, their own boards to which they respond.  This is a call that he made, and we said on Friday that he calls for this.  And what he has done since then, including on Monday morning when he met via teleconference with the officials of all of the agencies, funds and programmes, is to find ways in which all of them can in fact work together to get this implemented.  And like I said, well have some more details on the specifics.

Question:  I’m going to ask this now, since the UNDP Executive Board meetings are going on this week.  Does Ban Ki-moon’s call include a call on the Board to require that future internal audits be made available to them or to the public? This would be the week to call for it because if not, it’s going to be what, six more months..?

Associate Spokesperson:  He encourages the entire system to be transparent.  What the Executive Board does is a matter for the members of the Board.  We don’t command the members of the Executive Board any more than we command the Member States of the General Assembly.  These are Member States.  I would like to let you know, however, that the UNDP Executive Board session on Thursday, the 25th of January, which will deal with UNDP country programmes and related matters, is open to accredited journalists, and is scheduled from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm in Conference Room 2.

Question:  Shouldn’t the United Nations be supporting more transparency and more democratic processes in Lebanon? What happened yesterday is very serious for the future of the country.

Associate Spokesperson:  Part of what we affirmed yesterday was the support for the democratically elected Government of Lebanon, and our support for the democratic process in that country.  One of the things we are trying to emphasize is that it is important to remember that, in Lebanon, all have agreed, several times, that all Lebanese communities need to be represented, and need to feel represented, in the Government.  And we continue to call on all parties to return to the table of national dialogue and to work towards national reconciliation.

Question:  I’m asking whether you will [stress] the issue of transparency, because previous aid to Lebanon was totally misused? Will you attach any transparency measures to any future aid?

Associate Spokesperson:  The discussion on how aid will be provided is one of the topics that would arise at the donors’ conference as it takes place, so you can get more details as that happens.

Question:  In the statement Monday, it said that the Secretary-General has asked the Administrator of UNDP to provide information about corrective actions taken on the three audits, but it doesn’t say when he has asked for that by or whether that response will be made public.  Do you know when that’s going to take place?

Associate Spokesperson:  I’ll try and get some more information for you on that.

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any opinion on the Holocaust denial resolution currently being discussed by the General Assembly?

Associate Spokesperson:  As you know, all resolutions before the General Assembly are matters for Member States and the Secretary-General is keenly interested in finding out how Member States will deal with this.  On the larger question of Holocaust denial, as you know, the Secretary-General has said on record that denial of the Holocaust is unacceptable.

Question:  Farhan, is the Secretary-General concerned about anxiety among the senior staff -- ASGs [Assistant Secretaries-General] or USGs [Under-Secretaries-General] -- may feel as a result of the delay in announcing new appointments?

Associate Spokesperson:  He is trying to have these appointments made as soon as possible.  But as you know, part of what he is also doing is trying to see ways to restructure the UN departments and make them more efficient.  That is part of a continuing dialogue with the Member States.  Until that’s resolved, we won’t expect a large number of appointments to be announced.  But certainly he is aware of people’s feelings and we do try to get this done as quickly as we can.

I’ve just been passed a note, by the way.  Tomorrow on the Middle East, the Security Council will have an open meeting in the formal Chamber on the Middle East, including a briefing by Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.  Countries directly involved in the Middle East will be allowed to speak and consultations on the Middle East will follow.  So that’s the Security Council’s agenda for tomorrow.

Question:  On the resignation letters, first of all did the Secretary-General receive all the resignation letters he ordered people to voluntarily provide, and secondly, did he accept any of those letters, i.e., have any resignations been accepted?

Associate Spokesperson:  At this stage, we won’t have any announcements to make of either resignations or new appointments, until we are able to get together a large number of letters.  As I mentioned to Mr. Abbadi, first there will be the discussion with Member States on the restructuring.  Once that is done, we expect to have some appointments to announce in short order after that.  But in terms of resignations, those issues would be dealt with and announced at that point.

Question:  With all these discussions going on about restructuring and moving people around from one place to another, what is the Secretariat’s understanding of the authority of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) in all this?  What does the Secretary-General have leeway to do on his own without the Fifth Committee’s authority and what does he have to go to Fifth Committee to obtain General Assembly approval of?

Associate Spokesperson:  Right now, the basic point is that the Secretary-General is in discussions with the Member States.  Obviously, there are budgetary implications of a number of moves being contemplated.  For anything with budgetary implications, you need the Fifth Committee’s approval.  There are other matters which he could undertake on his own authority, but at this stage, there are no measures to announce -- one way or the other -- until we have had this discussion carried out.

Question:  On Lebanon and the conference that is going to be held tomorrow, would it not be more appropriate to have such a donors conference in a place that is not the former colonial power that was in charge of that country?  Couldn’t this be considered to create a conflict of interest?

Associate Spokesperson:  This is a conference that France undertook to host, so you can take up that matter with the French Government.  Certainly all the Member States and donors wishing to deal with Lebanon have accepted the idea of travelling to Paris for this conference and we certainly hope that it will be successful.

Question:  New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clarke has said that she has again explicitly requested that the UN stop using Fijian peacekeepers because of the coup, and that that request had been rejected.  She has given the quote that the “new Secretary-General is different than the old Secretary-General”, or maybe that something has changed in Iraq.  So I‘m wondering if you can confirm that the new Ban Ki-moon administration has been asked to actually implement what Mr. Annan had said previously, and if there has been a change in policy?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll check and see what was discussed with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, but in terms of the Fijians, all of our previous statements stand.

Question:  Has there been any reduction of Fijian peacekeepers?  Has there been any reduction of…

Associate Spokesperson:  I believe, as Stéphane told you at the time, this didn’t affect people who were already in the pipeline, particularly the Fijian guard unit that is deployed in Baghdad.  But this would affect the future consideration of Fijians in future operations.  We made that clear a month ago.

Question:  Can you point to any deployment that they have sought to be in?  I mean, what you’ve said is that there’s a difference…

Associate Spokesperson:  But our point, even at the time, was that what has happened with the coup and afterwards, affects Fiji’s perception in the international community and therefore affects any future plans that could involve Fijian peacekeepers.

Question:  Just as a matter of curiosity, Farhan, is the Secretary-General pleased with President Bush’s mention of the serious challenges of climate change last night in his State of the Union address?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as the Secretary-General told you in his own press conference a little over a week ago, he does take climate change very seriously.  It is a fact and he has been trying to see ways that he can get all Member States to look at this matter and take it seriously.  So anything that helps that process is welcome.

Question:  Since NATO has its own political agenda on international affairs, does the fact that Ban Ki-moon is supporting the role NATO is playing mean that he is taking sides against non-NATO countries? What we see is that he is praising NATO’s peacemaking and peacebuilding.  But in Afghanistan they are “war-making” more than peacemaking.  Is this an aberration of the United Nations’ role?

Associate Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is continuing with a trend that the UN system has instituted in the past few years of working more closely with a variety of regional organizations.  We’ve also been doing this with the African Union, and as you know, he’ll go to the African Union Summit next week, with the European Union -- he met with several European Union officials today, and as I pointed out just a few minutes ago, he is trying to see whether at the operational level, we can have greater cooperation with NATO.  That doesn’t imply anything beyond the desire for greater cooperation with a wide range of regional actors.

Question:  Will the question of climate change come up in Addis Ababa and Nairobi?  Because that is why I would have wanted to go to those two places.  Is the Spokesman’s Office considering looking into those topics in a more in-depth manner?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t know if climate change will be a focus at the African Union Summit.  Certainly among the meetings that the Secretary-General will have in Nairobi will be with the head of the UN Environment Programme.

[The Spokesperson’s Office later added that the climate change would indeed be addressed at the African Union Summit.]

Question:  As you know the Deputy Secretary-General has been chosen from the United Republic of Tanzania.  Does that preclude an African from holding the post of Under-Secretary-General of Political Affairs?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t think you can infer that.

Question:  On the reforms announced by the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), can we expect more press briefings on the work of ECOSOC, which would include, indigenous issues, human rights and sustainable development?

Associate Spokesperson:  We’ll get in touch with ECOSOC and see if we can get some more regular briefings.

And with that, once again I would like to introduce Mr. Ashraf Kamal, the new Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.  Welcome.

Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President

Good afternoon, everybody.

The President of the General Assembly Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday afternoon.  This was their first official meeting since the Secretary-General assumed his functions.  The meeting focused on issues on the agenda of the General Assembly, more specifically system-wide coherence in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and environment; the Secretary-General’s report on the rule of law as part of the follow-up to the 2005 Summit outcome document; and the General Assembly’s thematic debate on gender equality and empowerment of women to be held on 6 to 7 March.

The President expressed her support to the Secretary-General.  And the Secretary-General shared with her his ideas for structural changes and asked for a meeting with the General Assembly to address Member States on the issue.

The Assembly is scheduled to hold a plenary meeting on Friday morning at 10:00 to consider a draft resolution on Holocaust denial.

The President of the Assembly will travel next week to address an International Conference on the Environment, organized by the Government of France and being held in Paris on 2 to 3 February.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On the Holocaust denial, is there a vote scheduled?  Do you have the time line?

Spokesperson:  Well, the meeting is at 10.  There is a draft resolution that is being circulated.

Question:  Will there be a vote?  Last time there was a Holocaust resolution it was passed by consensus.

Spokesperson:  I had no information about whether there’s going to be a vote or whether it’s going to be adopted by consensus.

Question:  But the meeting is scheduled for Friday?

Spokesperson:  Yes, Friday at 10.

Question:  It’s been said that the results of the urgent audit of UN funds and programmes would go to the sixty-second session of the General Assembly.  Has the Secretary-General or any of the heads of the funds and programmes spoken with the President of the General Assembly?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think that’s been discussed.

Question:  Is there any update on progress, if any, on the resolution on the Rights of Indigenous People that was one of the outstanding issues? Has there been any discussion among the various groups?

Spokesperson:  Not yet.

Question:  The General Assembly took a decision in early December asking the Secretary-General to send a fact finding mission to Beit Hanoun to investigate the circumstances of the killings that took place there.  We haven’t heard anything else and I was wondering if you had any information on it?

Spokesperson:  I don’t, but I will check, and if there’s anything on it I’ll let you know.

Question:  We were just told by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General that that organizational changes would have to go to the Fifth Committee if they had budgetary implications.  Is that the only reason? Are there other reasons why the Secretary-General would have to go through the Fifth Committee to approve his structural changes?

Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t know of any, but anything that involves budgetary implications has to go through the Fifth Committee.

Question:  But what about non-budgetary issues? Like for instance, and I’m just pulling this out of a hat, what if he wanted to move the Peacebuilding Commission out of the Secretariat’s purview and put it under DPA perhaps…

Spokesperson:  But DPA is part of the Secretariat.

Question:  Would he have to go to the GA on that?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t want to speak on behalf of the Secretary-General, but my understanding, as far as the General Assembly is concerned, is the following:  if a proposal has anything to do with a previous resolution passed by the General Assembly and requiring additional financial implications, it would have to go to the Fifth Committee.  If it had to do with a matter on which the Assembly had already spoken in the form of a resolution, then the Secretary-General would have to go back if he wanted to change that.

So, to answer your hypothetical question about moving an office from one place to another or from one ambit to another, if it involved either financial implications or something that Member States had already decided, then yes, he would have to go back to the General Assembly.  If not, then no.

Question:  And if it’s a nominal difference, like say abolishing a USG position, or…

Spokesperson:  That has a lot of financial implications…

Question:  Or how about moving a USG for, I don’t know Disarmament to another, to say DPKO or…

Spokesperson:  That has a lot of financial implications.  In order to move anything from one section of the budget into another, you have to go back to the General Assembly.

Question:  Regarding the February 2 to 3 meeting on climate change, can you give us some more information? What does the President hope to achieve there?

Spokesperson:  She has a statement to deliver to the conference and she has, of course, expressed her commitment to the environment.  This, as you know, was an invitation by President Chirac, so she may have some meetings with French officials later on.

Question:  Regarding the holocaust denial resolution, what’s the latest on the number of co-sponsors?

Spokesperson:  The last I checked, yesterday, it was about 36.  I’m not exactly sure this is the final number.  But I think I saw Reuters story that said that there were over 65 or something like that.  But that’s a Reuter’s story, not ours.  And of course you have to wait until the actual time of the meeting because anybody can raise their flag and ask to be a co-sponsor of the resolution.

Question:  This is not hypothetical, it’s nitty-gritty.  The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) has raised issues about United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the reorganization proposal.  Some people are saying that the proposal is going to be withdrawn based on those concerns.  Is this on your radar?

Spokesperson:  Well, the ACABQ makes recommendations that then go to the Fifth Committee.  The Fifth Committee then makes the final decision as to whether or not it accepts the concern in the recommendations by the ACABQ.  So, eventually it would be up to the General Assembly to decide.

Question:  So if someone wanted to ask if the ACABQ was satisfied with the changes made by the UNFPA, who would one ask, you or the ACABQ?

Spokesperson:  The ACABQ.

Thank you.

* *** *

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