|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.
The Secretary-General this morning briefed the Security Council on his recent trip to the Middle East, on which, he told them, he focused on the Middle East peace process, Lebanon, Iraq, Darfur and Somalia.
He also discussed his recent report to the Council on the implementation of resolution 1701, concerning Lebanon. Afterward, the Secretary-General told reporters that the Lebanese Speaker of the Assembly, Nabih Berri, had invited Saudi Arabia to initiate consultative meetings, and that the Secretary-General was willing to dispatch his Legal Counsel, Nicolas Michel, to those meetings [if the parties are agreeable].
He said it is crucial to establish a tribunal for Lebanon at an early date and asked the Lebanese parties to follow the constitutional procedures.
The Secretary-General also said that the United Nations, the African Union and the Government of Sudan will participate in a technical-level meeting in Addis Ababa on 9 April, to finalize the measures for the heavy-support package for Darfur.
This afternoon, the Security Council expects to hear a briefing on the work of the Council’s sanctions committee on Sudan by its Chair, Italian Ambassador Marcello Spatafora.
And yesterday afternoon, the Council President, Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, read a statement to the press, saying that the members of the Security Council expressed their full support for the holding of the presidential elections in Timor-Leste on 9 April. They called upon all parties in Timor-Leste to adhere to the principles of non-violence and to democratic and legal processes.
The Secretary-General will also put out a video message over the weekend, expressing his hope for Timorese elections that will be free, fair, transparent and credible, and unmarred by violence and intimidation.
** Solomon Islands
Turning to the Solomon Islands, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says UN agencies are warning of potential health concerns following the recent tsunami, due to the shortage of clean drinking water, adequate sanitation facilities and malaria prevention.
The World Health Organization expects the number of malaria cases to rise in the next two months, due to an increase in mosquito breeding sites and the greater vulnerability of displaced persons.
There are also reports of diarrhoea outbreaks in camps where people have sought shelter. UNICEF says there’s a need for water purification tablets, jerry cans and water tanks. UNICEF has already used pre-positioned medical supplies and financial reserves, and is appealing for $500,000 to meet the most urgent needs of women and children in the region.
**WFP –- Afghanistan Floods
As spring floods devastate much of Afghanistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) has delivered one thousand tons of emergency rations to Kabul, enough to feed 60,000 people for 30 days.
The major highways linking Kabul to both the north and south of the country have been cut off by a combination of melting snows and heavy rains, and WFP remains concerned about people who may be beyond the reach of immediate assistance.
Also, in the southern province of Helmand, WFP says its trucks are frequently attacked by anti-government insurgents. We have a press release upstairs.
On Georgia, the Secretary-General’s latest report to the Security Council on the UN Observer Mission in Georgia and the situation in Abkhazia is out on the racks, and in it, he welcomes the recent progress between the two sides, including the continuation of joint patrolling in the Kodori Valley. He hopes that the sides will take further measures to improve the confidence between them.
However, the Secretary-General writes, the firing incidents that took place in the upper Kodori Valley on 11 March were a major setback, although no casualties resulted. He notes with regret that the situation along the ceasefire line has remained tense.
The report recommends the extension of the UN Mission by another six months, until mid-October.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
We also have an update from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
DPKO says that the former guards of Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba and their dependents who are currently under the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) protection have been disarmed. The Mission is in discussions with the Government regarding their handover to Government authorities for disarmament or integration into the armed forces. No handover has yet taken place, however, as a detailed agreement is being negotiated by which the Government would guarantee respect for the human rights of these people, their proper treatment before the law –- should they face legal action, and guarantee MONUC Human Rights officials access to them for follow-up.
On Haiti, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti says that the Haitian National Police and UN peacekeepers earlier today captured wanted gang leader Alain Cadet, the alleged number two in the now dismantled Belony gang, which operated in the Bois Neuf and Drouillard areas of Cité Soleil in the Haitian capital.
The operation involved Haitian police, as well as 30 United Nations soldiers, police and formed police units, and was conducted at a home east of Petionville in the capital.
**WFP –- Bhutanese Refugees
The United Nations World Food Programme has welcomed a 1.5 million euro donation to its Bhutanese refugee operation in Nepal from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO).
WFP aims to provide food aid to more than 108,000 Bhutanese refugees over the next two years, at a cost of nearly 18.5 million euros.
**UNICEF -– Palestinian Child’s Day
Hundreds of children are marking Palestinian Child’s Day by gathering today in Gaza and Ramallah to speak out against violence. It’s the culmination of months of children-led campaigns, during which UNICEF has been training children on their rights and how to protect themselves.
UNICEF says the ongoing conflict is partly to blame for the violence, but cultural practices and the acceptance of violence as a fact of life also play a role.
We have more in a press release upstairs.
On outer space, the Secretary-General has sent a letter to the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs encouraging greater participation in the five UN-sponsored outer space treaties. That letter went out to the Outer Space Office’s legal subcommittee, which just completed its forty-sixth session in Geneva.
This year is of particular importance in outer space affairs as it marks the 50th anniversary of the launching of the first artificial satellite and the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Outer Space Treaty.
And you can consult a list of satellites and other objects launched into space under the UN Registration Convention in the searchable online database of the Outer Space Office.
**Climate Change Report
We just want to flag tomorrow’s launch of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which will be released in Brussels.
After the report comes out, the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization will have additional information on their websites.
We also have an embargoed press release from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change upstairs.
I'd like to remind you that UN Headquarters will be closed tomorrow, during the Good Friday holiday, and there will be no noon briefing on that day. The regular noon briefing will resume next Monday.
This is all I have for you. Thank you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Now that the Iranians have released the British soldiers, and yesterday the British Ambassador also acknowledged that the Secretary-General also helped in a way. So now, what about the fate of these five Iranians who are in custody of the coalition forces? Requests have been made by the Iranian Government to see them. The United States authorities are saying that they will consider the request. Can the Secretary-General played any role in this issue to ease the tension in the area?
Spokesperson: Well, we could ask that question, but we don’t have any comment on this at this point.
Question: Did the Secretary-General get the letter from Talat, from [Northern Cyprus] Cyprus [leader]?
Spokesperson: That I don’t have confirmation of, but I can check on that.
[The Spokesperson later characterized it as private correspondence.]
Question: Some time ago, in response to a question, I believe you had indicated that some senior level appointment would be made in April and announced. Are there any in sight?
Spokesperson: We don’t have any at this point. I will make sure to let you know as soon as I get them.
Question: I missed the beginning of the briefing, but the Secretary-General referred to this proposal by Nabih Berri to arrange some meeting on Lebanon. Can you give us some more detail about this?
Spokesperson: Well, the Lebanese Speaker of the assembly had invited Saudi Arabia to initiate consultative meetings, and the Secretary-General was willing to dispatch his Legal Counsel, Nicolas Michel, to those meetings. It is about the tribunal.
Question: Where would the meeting be held and when …?
Spokesperson: We don’t have that information yet.
Question: What’s happened to the audit of the Thessaloniki training centre directed by Guido Bertucci’s people? It was supposed to be released in December, so we were told last year. What’s happened to that?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t have that information. We’ll ask for you whether the audit is completed and whether it is available.
Question: I just want to ask you one follow-up on that, on Guido Bertucci. I’ve heard that he had been suspended, and then the suspension was taken off. Is there some way we can confirm that? It’s been an ongoing controversy and from what I’m told, he was suspended and then the suspension was somehow revoked. I don’t expect you to say it from here, but if there’s a way you could nail that down.
Spokesperson: We can check on that.
Question: Later on this afternoon, the Secretary-General is expected to receive a group of three ambassadors. What is the subject of their discussion?
Spokesperson: You’re talking about the G-77 and Non-Aligned Movement group?
Question: The Ambassador of Mali and others.
Spokesperson: I can check for you, what the subject was.
[The Spokesperson later said that the meeting had been requested by Mali on behalf of land-locked countries.]
Thank you very much.
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