|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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
**Guest at Noon Briefing
Our guest today at the briefing is Ms. Alicia Bárcena, the Under-Secretary-General for Management.
The Secretary-General welcomes the successful conclusion of the dialogue on the Ivorian peace process and the signing of an agreement between President Laurent Gbagbo and Mr. Guillaume Soro in Ouagadougou on 4 March 2007, under the facilitation of the Chairman of ECOWAS, President Blaise Compaoré. The Secretary-General commends President Compaoré for his effective facilitation role and assures him and the Ivorian leaders of the commitment and readiness of the United Nations to assist in the implementation of the agreement.
The Secretary-General notes that the Ouagadougou agreement builds upon Security Council resolution 1721 (2006) and previous peace agreements with the aim of resolving the protracted political stalemate. The Secretary-General is especially pleased to note that the agreement addresses the key issues that had blocked progress on identification of the population, disarmament, reform and restructuring of the Armed Forces, restoration of State authority throughout the country, reunification of the country and the preparation of the voters list, in order to ensure credible, free and fair elections.
The Secretary-General stresses that this agreement was drawn up by the Ivorian leaders themselves, which places on them a special responsibility to implement it in full and in good faith. He looks forward to further discussions with President Compaoré and the Ivorian leaders on details of the provisions of the agreement and the role the United Nations is expected to play.
The Deputy Secretary-General spoke this morning at the International Conference on Trafficking in Women and Girls, which the UN Office on Drugs and Crime helped to organize.
She said that trafficking respects no borders and the response, therefore, requires cross-border cooperation. She also encouraged parties to join the Global Initiative to fight Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, which is being launched by the UN this year in Vienna. We have her full remarks upstairs.
The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) reports that on Saturday the International Security Forces (ISF) initiated an operation in Same, targeting the fugitive Major Reinado and his supporters.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, in a press conference yesterday said that UNMIT, in consultation with the Government of Timor-Leste and the ISF has considered all possible options to achieve Reinado’s surrender to justice.
UNMIT expresses regrets that the efforts to ensure a peaceful judicial path have not been successful, stressing that it is Reinado’s disregard for the laws of Timor-Leste and the well-being of its population that have brought us to this point.
There are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council planned for today.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, will be briefing the Security Council in consultations tomorrow morning and then speaking to you at the stakeout microphone afterwards.
Ibrahim Gambari, who travelled to Saudi Arabia over the weekend as a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, had an audience in Riyadh on Sunday with King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud. Gambari delivered a message from the Secretary-General. Their discussion focused on a range of regional issues, as well as on Saudi Arabia’s relations with the UN.
Gambari has since spoken with the Secretary-General by phone and will be able to fully brief him on all of his discussions upon his return to New York. While in Saudi Arabia, he will continue contacts with senior government officials and will travel to Jeddah later in the week to meet with the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met earlier today in Vienna and considered, among other issues, the status of implementation of safeguards in both Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In his address to the Board, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said that the situation in Iran remains a stalemate. He said that, although the Agency has verified the non-diversion of Iran’s declared nuclear material, Iran’s lack of transparency continued to hinder the Agency’s ability to reconstruct the full history of the country’s nuclear programme and some of its components.
On the DPRK, ElBaradei told the Board that he had been invited by the Government to visit the country in the wake of the 13 February Beijing agreement at the six-party talks. We have more on this upstairs.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, is currently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The objective of her mission is to work towards ensuring greater protection for children in the immediate post-conflict phase and peace consolidation process. We have a press release on that.
UNICEF head Ann Veneman today addressed the fifty-first Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which is meeting here at Headquarters. She said that violence against women and girls is one of the most extreme forms of inequality.
She also said that education is key to addressing discrimination and violence against girls and to helping achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Educated girls are better equipped to protect themselves against life-threatening diseases and more likely to give birth to healthy babies, she said. We have a press release on that upstairs.
The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Nepal announced today that it has launched a programme toolkit for Ministries of Education on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
The HIV and AIDS situation in Nepal is categorized as a concentrated epidemic, spreading rapidly amongst its most at-risk groups, and by adapting an advocacy toolkit to the Nepali context, UNESCO hopes the toolkit can be used as additional efforts to limit the spread of HIV.
Divergent trends characterize opium cultivation in Afghanistan this year, with a pronounced divide between the troubled south of the country and the more stable centre-north, according to a survey by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics.
“The trend towards more and more provinces in Afghanistan cultivating opium may be broken,” UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said. “This is a moderately good sign.” We have more on that upstairs.
As you might know, the Minister of Defence of Lebanon, Mr. Elias El-Murr, is meeting the Secretary-General at 12:30 today. Right after the meeting, around 12:45, Minister El-Murr will speak to the press at the 2nd floor stakeout.
At 1 p.m. today, there will be a press briefing with Natalya Petkevich, the Deputy Head of Administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus and Vladimir Naumov, Minister of Interior of the Republic of Belarus. They will brief you on the International Conference on Trafficking in Women and Girls.
At 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press briefing with Mr. Nasir el-Rufai, Minister of Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria who will brief you on issues related to anti-corruption policy and Nigeria’s presidential election, which is scheduled to take place in April 2007.
Then at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, there will be a press briefing with Ms. Mary Robinson, the President of Realizing Rights and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; and with Ms. Beatriz Paredes, President of Mexico’s political party PRI. They will brief you on gender equality and the empowerment of women. This is all I have for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Is the Secretary-General planning on attending the Iraq-Government sponsored governance conference in Baghdad this weekend?
Spokesperson: No, he is not.
Question: Was he invited? Or will there be any UN-related involvement in that conference?
Spokesperson: The conference, I’m sure there will be but I don’t know. I can check for you, but I know the Secretary-General will not be going.
[The Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, would attend as an observer.]
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any comments on the incident in Afghanistan in which American troops fired at Afghan civilians killing 16 of them? And since the UN has an extensive (inaudible) in Afghanistan, what was the UN version of that incident?
Spokesperson: We don’t have a separate version of this incident. The UN is not being involved in any way. However, I will try to get some answers for you on the first part of your question. You are not the first one to ask, so the UNCA seat does not hold.
Question: It only appears to be the case when we have a guest, not for the press briefings. Anyhow, thank you for this. But I was going to ask… one can assume that the Secretary-General has already started giving interviews to the press and my question is: is there any waiting list for that? How long is the waiting list and what are the priorities, if any, of the Secretary-General? To whom is he granting interviews?
Spokesperson: Okay, in this specific case, when we have, and that’s what we did last time, we had some interviews on his trip, there were some pre-trip interviews and post-trip interviews. This was the case also for his Quartet meetings. However, if you have filed, in my office, a request for an interview, we are considering all requests, and as we find the time for the Secretary-General to give these interviews, they are given.
Question: Only time?
Spokesperson: Only. Time schedule is the only criterion. Yes, indeed.
Question: The new UN humanitarian chief seemed to indicate today that the inquiry into the programmes in North Korea was focusing almost solely on UNDP. I had thought that the Secretary-General had ordered a much broader investigation of the operations. And I wonder if you could check and confirm whether it is just limited primarily to UNDP, or whether UNICEF and WFP were also being looked into.
Spokesperson: The only thing I can tell you is that, for the time being, it is being concentrated, because that was one of the issues, it is being concentrated on the UNDP programmes in North Korea. However, I’ll ask for whether, when there will be other agencies touched by that investigation. Just a second, okay, a follow-up.
Question: It’s exactly on that. We’ve heard that the suspension operations of the UNDP programme in North Korea may also undermine the audits that are supposed to be taking place. I wonder if you can say whether the auditors still have full access to all the papers they need and if the clock that you said has started will continue to run before the release of the audits.
Spokesperson: As far as I know, this will not affect the investigation.
Question: I’d like to know on whose initiative is the proposed press conference to be addressed by the Nigerian Minister tomorrow? Is it the UN that has invited the Minster to come and make this address? Or whose idea it is for the Nigerian minister to address the press conference regarding the elections that are coming next month?
Spokesperson: I can’t tell you who asked for it, but it was probably the Nigerian mission.
Question: I just wanted to follow up. As I understand it, the UNDP’s statement was posted on their website but I don’t think that we got any announcement. I would like to put in a request that on announcements, such as this, those announcements should be made to us, not just posted. We don’t go and read the UNDP website all the time.
Spokesperson: Well, I think we have someone from the UNDP here. I’m not sure. Yes, we do have Jim back there and he will be glad to answer your questions right after the briefing.
Question: Brammertz is in Saudi Arabia for the first time and Mr. Gambari is going to Saudi Arabia. Will they meet? Do you know if they are going to meet there? And the second question is, when will Mr. Secretary-General be leaving, going to the Middle East and in which capital will he be stopping before going to Riyadh for the Summit?
Spokesperson: Your first question, I cannot confirm that Mr. Brammertz was in Saudi Arabia. I cannot confirm that and, as you know, we do not comment on people doing investigations and where they go and when they go, okay? That’s a question of security for the people doing investigations. Second question, when is the Secretary-General going on his trip? We don’t know yet. I don’t have an exact date for that yet. And I will give it to you as soon as I have it, okay?
Spokesperson: We don’t know yet either.
Question: As you know, we had a briefing held by the Georgian Mission today. Has the Secretary-General issued any statements or comments with regards to the parliamentary elections held yesterday in Abkhazia? Or is he planning to issue any statements?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of.
Question: Since you couldn’t comment on whether somebody else was there, we know that Ahmadinejad was in Riyadh at the same time that Gambari was there. Did he have any plans to meet with him or with any of his delegation? And also, since Ban Ki-moon said early on that he wants to impose a term limit of five years, how come he rehired Gambari after a little over five years?
Spokesperson: He means five years in the same post. That’s what mobility means. It’s five years in the same post.
Question: As far as that is concerned, the only one now is Guéhenno, who’s more than five years, right?
Spokesperson: Well, I can check on that but as far as I know, Mr. Gambari changed jobs.
Question: Does he plan to meet with any of the Iranian mission?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of. But if such a meeting takes place, I’ll let you know.
Question: Will the Secretary-General be attending the upcoming Human Rights Council conference mid-month, this month? And also, is the Secretary-General having any dialogue with the North Korean delegation that’s in town now? Or has he had some conversation over the last couple days?
Spokesperson: Okay, first question, the Human Rights Council -- no, he’s not going to that session. However, he will most probably take another trip to Geneva in the near future. Your second question was about the North Korean -- as far as I know, there has been no contact between the Secretary-General and the North Korean Mission here for the six-party talks. And the Secretary-General has not, as far as I know, any plans to meet with them.
Question: Do you know if the Secretary-General knows anything about the nine women from Iran, the delegation, that was supposed to come to the Commission, the current conference and was supposedly refused visas by the US? Do you have some information about that?
Spokesperson: No, we don’t, but I think you should address your questions to the Spokesperson for the President of the Assembly and you will probably get a chance to ask those questions later on with him.
Question: The Secretary-General noted the good progress on the discussions on the Ivory Coast, dispute or tension there. There are other positive developments in other lands. For example, there has been progress towards formation of unity Government in Palestine. There are indications that there will be a good unity Government very soon in Lebanon. And finally, there are indications that Iraq will have a new Government. Does the Secretary-General see progress on all these fronts and is he satisfied?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know, he has already welcomed the agreement among the Palestinians, between the Palestinians. And we are waiting to see what it is going to result into. This is the same thing for the Lebanese Unity Government. We are waiting to see when it comes into being fully.
Question: Have you got any more information on this reported letter from Sudan? Has the Secretary-General asked for an explanation as to why this letter of his got lost in the mail?
Spokesperson: Well, we have not received a letter yet as far as I know. And we don’t have the explanations yet. The Mission said -- ask the Mission about the letter.
Question: Have you asked the Mission?
Spokesperson: I can, no, not personally, no. I don’t know whether the Secretary-General has.
Question: Will the UN ask the mission for an explanation? Because it’s rather curious that there have been all these messages … the letter was signed and sent and it’s still not here. So I was just wondering whether the Secretary-General or anybody on the 38th floor had asked the Mission for an explanation, whether an explanation was given?
Spokesperson: Okay, we’ll ask, we’ll ask.
Question: A follow-up on Jonathan’s question. Has the SG had any contact with North Korean officials outside the Mission here, meaning the Foreign Minister in Pyongyang or somewhere else?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of.
Question: Just a follow-up, in terms of the upcoming Iraqi conference, can you clarify whether the Secretary-General was indeed invited to participate or indeed, was he not invited?
Spokesperson: I’ll check on that for you, I said I would check.
Question: Is Gambari going to be there?
Spokesperson: I can find out for you.
Question: In terms of this afternoon, Nicholas Burns is scheduled to meet with the Secretary-General. Do you have any details about that -- if it was initiated by the US? What’s on the agenda?
Spokesperson: It was initiated by the US. It will most probably be about North Korea and other issues. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other issues.
Question: As I understand, Dr. ElBaradei was in touch with the Iranian authorities concerning the arrangement. What is the nature of the meeting of the Security Council concerning Iran?
Spokesperson: Well, I think you should ask that question to the Security Council. You had Ambassador Kumalo on Friday and I’m sure you can get a chance to ask the Security Council. As you know, and as Mr. Kumalo said, in the next three days, you can expect to discuss that issue. If you don’t mind, I’m going to stop here because I would like to give Alicia a chance to present her briefing and we can have more later.
Question: We’re going to have a lot of questions for Mrs. Bárcena. Is there a possibility that we can at least have a briefing longer than normal because I do see that a lot…
Spokesperson: Yes, what happens here is that at 1, I have to give the room to another press conference which is taking place in the same room. It’s at 1 p.m. today and they informed me that we might have to cut it up exactly at 1. Anyway, I’ll invite Alicia Bárcena to come up.
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