|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. I was just trying to get you the press encounters the Secretary-General had in Vienna today.
**Secretary-General in Vienna
As you know, he is wrapping up his official visit to Austria today.
A short while ago, he had the first of two press encounters. The first was a joint one with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei after meeting with him. Mr. ElBaradei announced that he would visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) after receiving an invitation from the Government to work toward normalization of relations between his Agency and the DPRK.
Mr. ElBaradei went on to say that he believes this is very much a step in the right direction toward implementation of the normalization and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
And the Secretary-General, who joined him at that press encounter, welcomed the development. And he said that he is confident that the IAEA chief’s visit to Pyongyang will make a great contribution to implement the joint statement, which was adopted among Six Parties, as you know, earlier this month.
He said he hoped that he and his delegation -- that is Mr. ElBaradei’s -- will be able to discuss with the authorities there on detailed matters, on first freezing nuclear facilities and including the eventual dismantlement of all nuclear weapons and facilities.
He added that he is confident that through this process, the Korean Peninsula will be able to realize the ultimate denuclearization, which has been a long commitment and a wish of the international community, as well as both South and North Korea’s.
We are awaiting a transcript of that press encounter, and we are also waiting for a transcript of another press conference that he held right after the joint press encounter with Mr. ElBaradei.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General did meet with Martti Ahtisaari, his Special Envoy for the Future Status Process for Kosovo. And he noted the critical juncture in this effort, and the importance that momentum is not lost or allowed to be derailed.
The Secretary-General is scheduled to meet this evening with several dozen Austrian CEOs and other business leaders before ending his visit and returning to New York tomorrow.
**Chad/Central African Republic/ Sudan
Here at Headquarters, the Secretary-General’s report on Chad and the Central African Republic based on the findings of a technical assessment mission is now out as a document, and the Security Council is now scheduled to discuss the report next Tuesday.
The report details proposals for the size, structure and mandate of a UN multidimensional presence in the two countries. For those of you who have not seen the report yet, I would like to draw your attention to the section on observations and recommendations. In it, the Secretary-General outlines the challenging environment in eastern Chad, which he says is facing a multi-faceted security and humanitarian crisis, which includes ongoing clashes.
On the Central African Republic, he describes the situation as less acute, but there is continued risk that violence may erupt again. He says the UN force would be clearly focused on two principal objectives, that is, protecting civilians at risk, particularly internally displaced persons and refugees, and deterring cross-border attacks through its presence.
He recommends so-called option “B” be selected, and that is outlined in more detail in that report, and which is a total force numbering some 10,900. And, as I said, the Security Council is scheduled to take up this issue next Tuesday.
The Security Council today is holding an open debate on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
In remarks to the meeting this morning, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Nobuaki Tanaka said that, while the dangers from the global proliferation or terrorist acquisition of weapons of mass destruction are now widely recognized, much work remains to be done to reduce such threats.
Also addressing the meeting was Gustavo Zlauvinen of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He spoke of ways to strengthen cooperation between his Agency and the Security Council’s so-called 1540 Committee, which deals with the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
And we have both statements in the office. Mr. Zlauvinen is the New York Director of the IAEA.
Turning to Nepal, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, Ian Martin, announced today that the UN Mission in Nepal has completed the first stage of registration of combatants and weapons at the Maoist army cantonment sites on 17 February, and that all activities in support of the peace process are progressing well.
So far, the total number of Maoist army combatants registered at the seven main cantonment sites, is a little over 30,000. The total number of weapons registered so far is nearly 3,500.
The UN Mission is also in the process of registering members of the Maoist army currently engaged in leadership security arrangements or undergoing medical treatment outside the cantonment sites. And there’s a press statement upstairs that was issued earlier in Nepal.
** Iraq –- UNHCR
Turning to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees: Antonio Guterres announced during his recent mission to the Middle East that his agency will be convening an international conference in Geneva on the humanitarian needs of refugees and displaced people in Iraq and the surrounding region.
The dates for that ministerial-level conference have now been set for 17 and 18 April. And that was announced by UNCHR in Geneva earlier today. The conference will bring together representatives of the UN, Iraq, Iraq’s neighbouring countries, donor and refugee-hosting countries, regional organizations and non-governmental organizations, among others.
While not a pledging conference, the gathering will seek commitments to address humanitarian problems, including through more international burden-sharing to ease the strain on current refugee-hosting countries. And we have more on that upstairs as well.
In Timor-Leste today, the UN Police there is investigating this morning’s incident in which a Timorese national was killed and two others were injured, at an internally displaced persons’ camp near the Dili airport.
The situation is now reported to be calm and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Atul Khare has reassured the people of Dili that the security situation at that camp is under control.
While thanking the people of Timor-Leste for having maintained peace in Dili over the past 36 hours, the Special Representative urged them to cooperate with UN and local police officers as well as soldiers who are working to provide security across Dili.
And today, this is now on Bolivia, the United Nations launched a six-month flash appeal for more than $9 million, to help flood survivors there.
A UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team has been dispatched to help with the relief effort. In addition, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has made a $50,000 emergency cash grant available, and the UN Development Programme has released $100,000.
For its part, the World Food Programme has already provided food to more than 12,000 families. And UNICEF will clean contaminated wells, build temporary latrines, and help rehabilitate schools. There is a press release with more details of the work of the various agencies on the ground helping the victims there.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund has made more than $7.6 million available for life-saving activities in Mozambique, where severe flooding has displaced some 142,000 people there. And you can read more about that in a press release upstairs.
And UNICEF reports that its programmes to help orphaned and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe got a major financial boost from Germany. Thanks to the new funding, UNICEF will be able to strengthen its efforts to increase school enrolment for orphans, protect children from abuse, violence and exploitation, and bolster school nutrition programmes. And UNICEF has a press release on that upstairs.
In response to questions we had on UN efforts to help solve the crisis in Guinea, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa says Special Envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah has just completed a series of regional consultations.
He met with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Envoy to Guinea, and the Chairman of the ECOWAS Commission. And he discussed the crisis with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana, who is the current Chair of the African Union. Meanwhile, a UN human rights delegation continues it assessment mission in the capital Conakry and will also provide help to the UN country team there.
In response to another question yesterday, we can now confirm that the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Lord’s Resistance Army-affected regions, former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, is currently in the DRC capital of Kinshasa.
He will travel further to Kampala, Uganda and to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he is scheduled to meet with the African Union and officials from the Government of Sudan, which is the facilitator of the peace negotiation between the LRA and the Government of Uganda. The objective of the mission is to explore ways of getting the parties back to the negotiations. He is expected in New York at the end of the month and if there are plans to him to do any briefings we will let you know.
This is now looking to the week ahead; the fifty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women will begin on Monday and run for two weeks. The main theme is “Eliminating discrimination and violence against the girl child”.
Approximately 15 to 20 Ministers are expected to attend and participate in high-level roundtable discussions on the first day. Over 2,000 representatives of non-governmental organizations are also expected to attend. Hundreds of girls under the age of 18 will also be present, both as members of delegations and to participate in some of the dozens of parallel events.
A special observance will be held for International Women's Day on 8 March. Press materials are expected to be distributed on Monday. And there is an on-line sight, which you can get upstairs to look at schedules and further information about next week.
And two more things.
**Guest at Noon Briefing
On Monday again, looking ahead, Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Nepal, will be our guest at the noon briefing.
**The Week Ahead
And we have the Week Ahead so you can plan your coverage for next week, which will include the presidency of the Security Council changing for the month of March, and the Security Council President will be briefing you as usual on the month’s programme.
And finally, I have some good news. The Spokesperson’s Office would like to be amongst the first to welcome Sara Haq to the world. Born to Farhan and Ethel at 9:50 this morning, mother and baby are doing very well. Congratulations to all, including to their daughter Charlotte on the arrival of her new baby sister.
So that’s what I have for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: On Iran, after the IAEA report and the Secretary-General’s statement and so forth, does the Secretary-General still believe, in the case of Iran, that the way forward is more diplomatic talks along with strengthened sanctions, or does he have another formula? Is he working on something else to avoid this conflict, which seems to be imminent?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think his position, as was articulated yesterday and again –- I don’t have the final transcript of his remarks at his two press conferences earlier today, but again, he repeats his concern that the Iranian authorities have not been able to meet and fully comply with the Security Council resolution. He hopes that the Iranian authorities will continue their dialogue with the international community. And that is the best way to resolve the issue, he says. And I believe he also refers to the fact that he hopes that the Iranian authorities should learn from the DPRK nuclear issue. They should think about a better future for their country and people through dialogue.
Question: My question is also, is he or the Secretariat working on a kind of a formula to overcome this crisis, which is absolutely –- that is what I’m asking.
Deputy Spokesperson: I think this is his position now. He realizes that the next step in this process is with the Security Council.
Question: Two quick questions. One is this report on Chad and Central African Republic. Do you know if there’s any consideration given of either sending a force or assessing the problems in the north-west of Central African Republic? There’s been a report of the Government burning down villages and there had been a UNICEF-led fact-finding mission there, but in at least speed-reading this thing, it seems like it’s only focused on the side next to the Sudan. Is that the case, and if so, why?
Deputy Spokesperson: This report is based on the Security Council’s presidential statement, which did request the Secretary-General to send a technical assessment mission to look into the situation along the two countries’ borders. And, as I mentioned, the Secretary-General mentions the two principle objectives of this mission, which is the protection of civilians and the prevention of cross-border attacks. So this mission was clearly aimed into looking into that situation. And then an advance mission should be going soon, because that’s also been mandated by the Council.
Question: And then just a quick one on the Pension Fund and OIOS. There’s an OIOS report that told the Pension Fund to take action on three individuals: Bahel, Dooley, Bull. Yesterday, I’m told by some people in the Pension Fund that Mr. Cocheme, the CEO, now says that OIOS has either withdrawn or that he’s spoken with them and there’s no need for him to take action on Dooley or Bull, Mr. Bahel having been indicted. Previously, Farhan had said that OIOS was going to take this to the GA. What is the status of that and whether Mr. Cocheme could either come and brief, or at least take questions himself and answer some of these question?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll see what I can find out for you on that. I have no further information today on any of this. And we will present your request for a briefing. But you can also try and…
Question: I sent questions by email and by phone. That’s why if your office… it manages $30-some billion. It seems like a press conference would be a nice…?
Deputy Spokesperson: OK. We’ll pass that request on.
Question: I would also be interested in a press conference by the Pension Fund just to explain a little bit about the outsourcing thing.
Deputy Spokesperson: On the Pension Fund, we did have, as you know, Warren Sach did come down to give you a briefing earlier on this matter.
Question: He did a briefing on the North Korean audits. Then he did a town hall for staff. But a lot has changed since then.
Deputy Spokesperson: OK. We’ll pass on that request.
Question: I mean, if nothing else just to get information sheets on the outsourcing process and the tenders put out.
Deputy Spokesperson: OK.
Question: OK. Question. I’m not sure if it was announced, but I understand that the Secretary-General had a meeting with Kurt Waldheim from Austria. What were they discussing? And was it considered appropriate for the Secretary-General to meet Kurt Waldheim considering his past?
Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General, yes, I can confirm that the Secretary-General had a private meeting with Mr. Waldheim. And my understanding is that the Secretary-General personally knew Mr. Waldheim and his daughter during his tenure as his country’s ambassador to Austria. So it was a private and personal visit.
Question: Right, but was there any consideration given to the appropriateness of the meeting with him considering the lies that he told while he was Secretary-General and then the subsequent revelations about his ties to the Nazi party and atrocities committed by the Nazi party?
Deputy Spokesperson: Mark, I just explained what I know about the meeting. It was a private meeting. It was a private meeting and he met with someone he knew on a personal basis. And I have nothing further.
Question: So this wasn’t an official meeting…?
Deputy Spokesperson: No.
Correspondent: …it was just a personal, friendly meeting with his friend, Kurt Waldheim?
Deputy Spokesperson: It was a private meeting with someone he knew well from his previous tenure as ambassador to Vienna.
Question: I wanted to ask you about the UNESCO announcement that they’re going to send a mission to Jerusalem to look at the excavations there by the Israelis. They called it a technical assessment mission. Is there going to be any dialogue between the parties? Because they are the educational and social arm of the UN. Number one. And number two –- is there going to be any report publicly available after they make this assessment?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, this is UNESCO, a specialized agency. I did see the press report and I saw that it was in the context of their assessing world heritage sites or something like that. So it’s probably best to go directly to them and ask them what their plans are. And if anybody from UNESCO happens to be in town we’ll try to get them to brief you, because I think it’s been a while since somebody from UNESCO was here.
Question: In February 2002, UNDP had a rather comprehensive –- an investigation was going on -- how to help the area of Srebrenica there, according to the United Nations report, genocide has happened. Later that year, in May 2002, UNDP led the effort here in New York to collect some money -- $12.5 billion for the rehabilitation of Srebrenica. So my question is: what has happened to that programme and whether this programme was going to be part of the comprehensive investigation that is ongoing on national programmes within UNDP.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll look into it with UNDP. I have no information on that.
Question: OK. Another question again. Is the Secretary-General planning to address the issue of the return of the Cold War to world stage?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing further than what we discussed yesterday on this matter.
Question: I have three questions. The first is…
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, let’s do one then.
Question: OK. I thought they were related, though. The Secretary-General has met with ElBaradei and I thought that ElBaradei has said that the issue with Iran has to do with whether there are negotiations over the issue of whether a country can do enrichment, or not. And I wonder if the Secretary-General spoke with ElBaradei on the issue that’s in dispute with Iran and if he did, if you can report on that discussion?
Deputy Spokesperson: Actually, right now, we were just focusing on the announcement by Mr. ElBaradei, so I don’t have a detailed readout of the meeting he had with the head of the IAEA.
Question: So you could report to us on that?
Deputy Spokesperson: If there is readout further than the fact that – the issues that were discussed, I think, the Secretary-General and Mr. ElBaradei will have mentioned in their press encounter. So please look forward to that. That should be coming out shortly.
Question: Just related to that, the issue that Iran says is the issue, is that it feels it has the right to do enrichment for peaceful purposes under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Security Council is saying that they have to suspend the enrichment to be able to negotiate over this. Is there a way that you could give us some briefing on the issue of enrichment? The dispute seems to be, can a nation do enrichment for peaceful purposes? Or is that nation learning then how to do something which in the long run could give them weapons-grade capability?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think if you have specific, very technical questions like that, I would address them to the IAEA, which is the body, as you know, that wrote the report yesterday. Can I move on now?
Question: Just want to put in, it would be great if we could have that briefing on the pension plan. And also, Mark’s question sort of raised the question as to what Waldheim’s relation is with the UN and pensions. Do we know how much he’s receiving from the UN in terms of the pension?
Deputy Spokesperson: As you know, staff members and Secretaries-General are entitled to pensions, but I don’t have any details on that. So, if I have any, I’ll come back to you.
Question: That would be great. And just a quick question, follow-up on the Bashir situation. There’s that issue with the visas for the UN envoys. Where does all that stand now and where are we in terms of Bashir getting that letter to the Secretary-General?
Deputy Spokesperson: We are still hopeful for a positive response from Mr. Bashir, President Bashir, on the Secretary-General’s letter on the heavy package, which we hope will enable the eventual deployment of the hybrid operation, which is very much needed on the ground.
I think what you’re talking about with the visas, the reference to the visas, you were probably referring to the Human Rights Council mission. That mission did announce last week that because of the visa issues they were having, they were not going to go inside the country and that they were completing their mission outside, and that they travelled to Chad to interview refugees from Darfur. And they are completing their report now.
Question: Did they finally complain, or was it just sort of well, “bummer, we didn’t get our visas and off we go to do something else just to make good of this trip”?
Deputy Spokesperson: You’d have to address that to the Human Rights Council itself. The Secretary-General expressed his strong disappointment over this issue.
Question: Can I follow-up on that please? Any readout on the visit by Mr. Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim on the possibility of critical talks amongst the [inaudible]? And also, I’ve read reports that the Sudanese have only denied one person in the Human Rights Commission. These were because of his stands on the Darfur situation. How true are these reports?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, first of all, it’s the Human Rights Council, which used to be called the Human Rights Commission. About the details of the visa issue, again, I would refer you to the Council itself. The Council President, the Head of the Mission, Jody Williams announced in a press release that because of these issues, they decided to continue their work outside the country.
Question: And Eliasson?
Deputy Spokesperson: Mr. Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Envoy for Darfur, and Mr. Salim, the AU’s envoy, they did compete their mission. I believe it was now last weekend. They did meet with the President. That was one of the last meetings they had. You should look at the transcript of their press conference that they had towards the end of the visit, which answered a lot of questions in detail. But, their mandate to re-energize the political process in Darfur and to get the non-signatories involved to try to stop the violence on the ground is very much continuing. As for what their next steps are, I haven’t gotten an update yet.
Question: Does the Secretary-General plan to attend Tuesday’s Security Council consultations on Chad-Sudan, just to [inaudible] public?
Deputy Spokesperson: Not that I know of as of now, but we don’t have his programme for next Tuesday yet.
Question: When the Secretary-General says that he would like to see momentum not to be lost on Kosovo, what does it mean by that?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think that’s it -– I could only refer to his words.
Question: The reason I’m asking, besides from semantics… is he maybe developing some sort of contingency planning if the talks really fail? He’s not addressing the issue of the cold war, but we are witnessing the further deterioration between Russia and the United States, especially in Central Europe over the rocket installations. And could Kosovo become a collateral damage or victim of that?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I think it’s a little too early to start predicting. Mr. Ahtisaari has just begun these very delicate negotiations in Vienna just a couple of days ago. So let’s not prejudge the outcome. The Secretary-General met with Mr. Ahtisaari today, and he does make known his views on answers to questions on this issue.
Question: But my question was really, does the Secretary-General have any alternative thinking if the Kosovo talks fail?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t think we want to get into the “if they fail”… they’ve just begun. He is encouraging the process and would like Mr. Ahtisaari, he would like to encourage Mr. Ahtisaari in this process right now.
Question: There were reports from Fiji that 92 more of their peacekeepers are going to Sinai and Sudan. So it wasn’t clear if this was a deployment or a decision made after in December when Kofi Annan had said, that after the coup, this would somehow put into question their status as a peacekeeper, as a troop-contributor.
Deputy Spokesperson: We’ll check for you. I don’t know whether they were already in the pipeline or not.
[The reporter was later informed that no new deployment has taken place since the coup last year.]
Question: And also, on the same topic, there was an article in the Economist, saying that the UN reached out to the military in Bangladesh to say, if you provide military support to the elections that were upcoming, you could no longer contribute troops. And this led the military to actually hold the coup. Are you aware of that article?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think the article has been brought to my attention. And the only thing I can say initially is we checked with DPKO and they were not aware of anything that they sent.
Question: And lastly, on communications, there’s a Sudanese Government website, which says that the Deputy Secretary-General -– they summarized it this way -- that she says she has appreciated Sudan’s support and hopes that the UN and Sudan work closely on issues of mutual concern. There’s some kind of a message that sent to Sudan. I don’t know if exists, but if it does, can we see that message?
Deputy Spokesperson: In her capacity as Deputy Secretary-General?
Deputy Spokesperson: OK. Sure. We’ll look into that.
[She later told the reporter that the Deputy Secretary-General had been responding to letters in response to congratulatory letters on her appointment. Sudan was one of the Governments that received a response letter.]
Question: There was some discussion about the possibility of a Ban trip to the Middle East in March. Do we have any update on that?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing more on any trips, but as soon as we know, and if there’s space on a plane, we’ll let you know.
Question: OK. And any word on when the OIOS briefing will happen that was scheduled for December?
Deputy Spokesperson: I just mentioned to Matthew that we’ll follow up.
Question: Just to follow up, is he planning to attend the Arab Summit due to be held in Saudi Arabia, the Secretary-General?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have no further trip announcements of the Secretary-General at this point.
Question: Just quickly, because the British Minister in charge of this sort of stuff called for the UN to get a move on in appointing a Special Representative for Sudan. Where are we in that process now?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think that this is an issue that the Secretary-General very much wants to move ahead on in consultation with the African Union.
Question: Does the African Union have a say in the appointment of the UN Special Representative?
Deputy Spokesperson: As you know, since the Addis agreement, the AU and the UN are working very closely together. It is an AU force that is on the ground now, and this is an issue that they want to do in consultation. And as I mentioned, there will be an AU mission coming to New York next week.
Question: Just to understand a bit more, what has been the delay, because it’s been a while since we’ve had a Special Representative there? Can you explain exactly what the delay is, why it has not been possible to name a Special Representative [inaudible]?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t know if it is a delay. The Secretary-General realizes –
Question: There’s clearly a delay because there’s been a period of no Special Representative, so [inaudible] delay?
Deputy Spokesperson: But we do have an acting Special Representative. The Secretary-General in the meantime has named, in consultation with the previous Secretary-General, a Special Envoy for Darfur. So both on the Darfur front and on the ground dealing with north-south, he does have competent people that he trusts working on these issues.
If there are no questions, have a good afternoon and a good weekend.
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