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

18 July 2007

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

18 July 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
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.

Good afternoon, all.

**Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson

The Secretary-General takes note of the resumption today of Myanmar’s National Convention for its final session, as announced by the Government of Myanmar, and is closely following developments.  The Secretary-General wishes to encourage the Government of Myanmar to seize this opportunity to ensure that this and subsequent steps in Myanmar’s political roadmap are as inclusive, participatory and transparent as possible, with a view to allowing all the relevant parties to Myanmar’s national reconciliation process to fully contribute to defining their country’s future.

**Secretary-General’s Trip to Washington

As you know, the Secretary-General is back from Washington where he met yesterday for an hour with US President George W. Bush at the White House.  It was a very positive meeting where a number of issues were raised.

They discussed the progress made in Darfur, with the acceptance by the Government of Sudan of a joint United Nations-African-Union force.  The Secretary-General appealed for US assistance to help build safe and secure facilities in Darfur for the initial 3,000 personnel being deployed in support of the AU-UN force.  On Iraq, the Secretary-General stressed that military efforts need to be complemented by an active political engagement.  The Secretary-General and President Bush also exchanged views on the Middle East and a new US initiative that would include other regional actors in the peace process.  The Secretary-General stressed the need to strengthen the Government of Palestinian President Abbas and expressed his concerns about the humanitarian needs of the population in Gaza.  He had argued, he said, for the opening of the crossings into Gaza to alleviate the situation.

On climate change, the Secretary General welcomed the US initiative in Heiligendamm on addressing the threat of climate change.  The US, he said, could play a leadership role with innovative technologies.  The Secretary General and President Bush also discussed disarmament issues, Kosovo, the establishment of the International Tribunal for Lebanon, Afghanistan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

During a press statement in the Oval Office at the end of the meeting with President Bush, the Secretary-General once more spoke of Iraq, saying: “We are going to help them with political facilitation, as well as economic and social reconstruction.”  On Darfur, he said: “We are going to step up the political process.  We have made a positive development yesterday in Tripoli through the meeting chaired by the United Nations and the African Union.  We are going to have pre-negotiations in Arusha, Tanzania, in early August.  We are also going to facilitate humanitarian assistance.  I'm going to step up efforts to deploy hybrid operations as soon as possible,” he said.  On climate change, he confirmed that he had extended an official invitation to President Bush to participate in a high-level UN debate on climate change, which will be held on 24 September in New York.

The Secretary-General earlier had a working breakfast that day with members of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee under the chairmanship of Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California) and later met with the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, hosted by Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida).  In both meetings, the Secretary-General discussed United Nations reform, stressing his efforts towards greater transparency and accountability.  He also raised the UN reform agenda on peacekeeping, disarmament and political affairs.  He expressed his determination to increase the United Nations role in Iraq, but also noted the need that UN staff in Iraq receive proper protection.  On the Hill, the Secretary-General also discussed issues of border monitoring between Syria and Lebanon, unity of command for the joint UN-AU force to be deployed in Darfur, the Human Rights Council, perspectives on Kosovo, the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the situation of Iraqi refugees, among other subjects.

The Secretary-General thanked the House voting to lift the cap on peacekeeping funding from 25 per cent to the assessed 26.1 per cent, a bill submitted by the House appropriations Committee and passed by the full House.  A similar bill was passed by the Senate appropriation committee and is now subject to a vote in the full Senate before it goes to President Bush.

As you know, the Secretary-General is expected tomorrow in Lisbon for the Quartet meeting.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations this morning to discuss two reports on Lebanon that they received last week, which we have already flagged for you: the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 1701, and the report of the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team.  Council members received a briefing on those reports from the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Michael Williams.  Mr. Williams just spoke to you at the stakeout following consultations.  Also, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean Marie Guéhenno provided information on the work being done by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Also on Lebanon, the latest report by the International Independent Investigation Commission is out on the racks, and the head of that Commission, Serge Brammertz, will brief the Council on it tomorrow.  That report notes the consolidation of the Commission’s information and analysis, which has produced 2,400 pages of reports.  That consolidation effort has helped to identify a number of persons of particular interest, who may have been involved in some aspect of the preparation and execution of the attack on Rafik Hariri or the other cases under investigation, or who could have had prior knowledge that plans to carry out these attacks were under way.

** Pakistan Appeal

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs launched this morning in Geneva a $38 million Flash Appeal to assist flood victims in Pakistan.  This Flash Appeal will cover the immediate needs of the estimated 2.5 million people who have been affected by the flooding.  Projects will focus on shelter, water and sanitation, health, food security and early recovery activities.

John Holmes, the United Nations Emergency Coordinator, urged the world to respond generously to this appeal.  He noted that it was still early in the monsoon season and said that, without quick action, the situation could deteriorate further.  We have a press release, as well as highlights from John Holmes’ briefing in Geneva today.

**Disarmament

The Secretary-General just met his Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, which, as you know, is an 18-member panel of experts, who advise on disarmament, non-proliferation and security matters.  All members of the Board are appointed by the Secretary-General, and this is Ban Ki-moon’s first meeting with them since he became Secretary-General.  It is also the first meeting of the Board, at which the newly appointed High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Mr. Sergio Duarte, is participating.  And the Secretary-General delivered prepared remarks, in which he calls for new ideas and initiatives to revive the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda, especially with regard to nuclear issues.  “The existing stalemate on these life and death matters is simply unacceptable,” he said.

During this session, Board members will discuss the Secretary-General’s reform proposals on ways to advance the disarmament agenda, and the issue of emerging weapons technologies, including implications for the use of outer space.

** Sudan

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, left Khartoum today for Nyala, in Darfur, where he will be meeting with representatives of internally displaced persons and civil society groups, UN Agencies and NGOs, as well as the local authorities.

Meanwhile, the UN mission in Sudan reports that militia harassment continues to cause large new displacements throughout Darfur.  Details are contained in the transcript of the weekly press briefing conducted by the Mission in Khartoum.

And a UNICEF-led study in different locations of Darfur showed a significant reduction of groundwater in one camp housing displaced persons in North Darfur, increasing malnutrition rates posing further serious challenge to humanitarian aid efforts, as well as an alarming mortality rate at one Therapeutic Feeding Centre.

** Sudan - Refugees

We have a humanitarian update on Sudan.  This week the UN Refugee Agency assisted the return of 150 refugees from Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.  In all, more than 150,000 refugees have now been repatriated to Southern Sudan and the Blue Nile State.  Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are also being helped back by the use of air operations.  According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs , some 300 individuals have already been flown back to Western Equatoria, and 1,300 additional IDPs are expected to benefit from air operations.

**Secretary-General’s Response to the Letter from G-77

In response to questions about the reported letter of the G-77, regarding the substance of this matter, please refer to the Secretary-General’s announcement of 6 July regarding the appointment of the High Representative for Least Developed, Landlocked Developing and Small Island States.  I have nothing to add to what is contained in that announcement.  Please note, however, that it is the intention of the Secretary-General to consult Member States, and the Secretariat has been in communication with the ACABQ (Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions) on this matter.  The Secretary-General obviously respects the views of Member States, and decisions to be made in due course will take these fully into account.  Having said this, I am surprised to see that a letter on this matter, purportedly from Ambassador Akram to the Secretary-General, was shared with the press even before it had reached the Secretary-General. 

**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Following the recent understanding reached between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), an IAEA team arrived at Yongbyon on 14 July to verify the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facility.  The IAEA team has been able to confirm that five nuclear facilities have been shut down.  The team applied the necessary seals and other measures, as appropriate.  The installation of the necessary surveillance and monitoring equipment by the IAEA team is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.

“The IAEA's verification activities are going smoothly with good cooperation from the DPRK,” said IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei.  “This is an important step in the right direction, but only the first in a long journey.”

** Cambodia

On Cambodia, today, the Co-Prosecutors of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) filed their first Introductory Submission.  An Introductory Submission contains facts that may constitute crimes, identifies people suspected to be responsible for those crimes and requests the Co-Investigating Judges to investigate those crimes and suspects.

Pursuant to their preliminary investigations, the Co-Prosecutors have identified and submitted for investigation 25 distinct factual situations of murder, torture, forcible transfer, unlawful detention, forced labour and religious, political and ethnic persecution, as evidence of the crimes committed during the period of Democratic Kampuchea.  In support of their factual submissions, the Co-Prosecutors have transmitted more than 1,000 documents constituting more than 14,000 pages.

**Asia-Pacific Climate Change Meeting

A UN-sponsored two-day meeting on response to climate change in the Asia-Pacific region opened in Seoul today.  Participants from government, business, NGOs and academia are discussing ways to promote clean energy.  Han Seung-soo, one of the Secretary-General’s three Special Envoys on Climate Change, said the Asia and Pacific region must urgently identify an effective strategy to pursue economic growth while controlling its carbon dioxide emissions.  We have more information upstairs.

**Press Conferences

Today at 1:15 p.m., Les Malezer, Chairperson of the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, will brief you on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard University, and Susan Brandwayn from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Office in New York, will hold a press conference to launch the latest least developed countries report titled “Knowledge, Technological Learning and Innovation".  Copies of the report are available upstairs.

Tomorrow at 12:45 p.m., there will be a press conference by the UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry; Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); and Actress Julia Ormond, UNODC’s Goodwill Ambassador for human trafficking.

*Death of UN Correspondent

And we have some sad news.  Ted Morello passed away Sunday afternoon, 15th of July, at the Jewish Home in Manhattan.  He had over 40 years of dedicated service as a UN Correspondent at United Nations Headquarters and as a member and former President of the United Nations Correspondents Association.  And we extend our condolences to his family.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  About this meeting between President Bush and Mr. Ban Ki-moon, was it for the first time that the Secretary-General and the American President discussed the establishment of an international tribunal for Lebanon?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t know whether they discussed it at other meetings like the one in Heiligendamm -- I don’t think so.  I think it was the first time they discussed the tribunal. 

Question:  So now, are there any moves on that –- for the establishment of the tribunal?

Spokesperson:  No, it was an exchange of views on the tribunal, and the Secretary-General did speak about some of the difficulties they do have in establishing the tribunal, in particular in finding a venue for the tribunal.  And they also discussed some security issues for judges and for the performance of the tribunal.

Question:  Did President Bush indicate to the Secretary-General whether he would be attending the Summit on Global Warming on 24 September?

Spokesperson:  From what I gather, it was officially announced by the White House today.

Question:  I asked yesterday about the policy regarding whistle-blower protection and reimbursement of legal fees.

Spokesperson:  Yes, we are trying to get that information for you.  I checked right before I came –- we didn’t have it yet.

Question:  Before I put my question, I just wish to record my deepest condolences on Ted Morello’s death, whom I had known since 1971. 

Now, with regard to the Secretary-General’s meeting with President Bush, what advice did the Secretary-General give to the President on Iraq?  Did he call for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq?

Spokesperson:  No, the Secretary-General did not give any advice or any opinion.  He talked about the role that the United Nations is playing.  He talked about security issues for the UN personnel in Iraq.  He did not discuss specifically the debate that is going on right now in the U.S. between the Administration and Congress.

Question:  On the Middle East, did President Bush brief him on the summit he is convening?

Spokesperson:  They did discuss that, as well as the implications…

Question:  Who is to attend this meeting, and what is the objective?

Spokesperson:  I cannot speak for President Bush.  I think you should direct that question to the American Administration.  The Secretary-General welcomed it, because, as you know, implicating regional actors into the peace process has been one issue that the Secretary-General has been pushing all along.

Question:  My question is about the key actors –- will they include the key players in the Middle East Process?

Spokesperson:  I cannot answer for the US Administration.  They are the one organizing that conference.

Question:  Just follow-up on Iraq.  There was this interview with the American Ambassador Khalilzad in Stern Magazine, where he says that Ban Ki-moon supports the US idea of having the UN being the mediator in Iraq to keep the country from splitting apart.  I guess, I am wondering…

Spokesperson:  Well, this is being discussed.  There is no doubt that the issue is going to come up in August, with Mr. Qazi’s mandate ending and the actual mandate ending.  We will probably be discussing, and the Ambassador was probably referring to what they will be introducing in the Security Council in terms of the mandate, envisaging a new mandate, a larger mandate for the Special Representative for Iraq.  And I think it was specified that it would be a regional mandate.

Question:  With reference to -- for want of a better phrase -- the grand Middle East Peace conference, which is proposed for here, in New York, at the time of the general debate in September, do you have any details on that?  And if not, do you expect that you will have them in advance?  The conference is supposed to be chaired by Secretary [Condoleezza] Rice.

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any information on that.  As soon as I do, I will let you know.

Question:  I also would like to add the expression of my deep sympathy on the passing of our friend and colleague, Ted Morello, and especially to his daughter.  I have known Ted Morello for 40 years, since 1967, and he was a very close friend.  My question is: The group of independent and former private leaders will announce tomorrow the establishment of an alliance of diplomats to tackle what they call the world’s biggest problems.  Is the Secretary-General in principle in favour of this initiative?

Spokesperson:  Definitely, yes.

Question:  And just a clarification regarding the summit on climate change on 24 September:  You indicated that it would take place in New York.  Is that at Headquarters or outside in the city?

Spokesperson:  At Headquarters.

Question:  About President Bush’s meeting: Did the Secretary-General come back from the meeting thinking that President Bush is now more committed to the issue of climate change than he was before?  Because the Kyoto Protocol is not signed by the United States and so forth –- does he feel that, at this point in time, President Bush has some change of heart?

Spokesperson:  Well, I cannot prejudge the frame of mind.  I can just say that the Secretary-General was encouraged by that aspect of the meeting, as well as other aspects of the meeting.  I have to say also that he discussed climate change a day before with a number of business leaders, religious leaders, NGOs and senior Government officials, and that, too, came out as a very positive meeting on climate change, which was one of the major points of his trip to Washington.

Question:  As regards this Flash Appeal for Pakistan, which is very poor: people in that particular area are very happy that the United Nations is helping them out, but one of the things that have been pointed out is that lots of relief goods are finding themselves in the open market and people other than the “affectees” are becoming beneficiaries of them.  So can the United Nations distribute through the Government, and does it distribute directly, also?

Spokesperson:  This is a larger question, which I’ll give to the agencies and ask them how they proceed usually with the assistance.

[The Spokesperson later informed the Correspondent that, according to Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations agencies and NGO partners all have their own monitoring mechanisms to make sure aid is provided to those who need it.  The United Nations Flash Appeal of $38 million launched this morning is only part of the aid being provided, most of it being provided by Pakistan itself or also through bilateral donations.  In addition, some of the aid being provided is not necessarily material, such as technical assistance.]

Correspondent:  Yes, there was this report yesterday about the goods finding themselves in the market.  Thank you.

Question:  In the Secretary-General’s meetings with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, did the issues of the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) audit or the whistle-blower arise?

Spokesperson:  It came up once, in the House, in the meeting with the House Committee, and the Secretary-General simply answered what I told you about: that the Ethics Office is examining the request of the [complainant] to be considered as a whistle-blower.

Question:  On Somalia, I know that he met, when he was in Europe, with the head of the International Maritime Organization about this piracy issue.  They had asked that the Security Council consider it, or the Secretary-General present it to the Council.  So where does it stand?

Spokesperson:  I know that the Secretary-General discussed that issue and I think it is on the front burner right now.  And I’ll let you know what comes out of the discussions around the issue.

Question:  Regarding the conference on the Middle East, my understanding is that it will not be an international conference.  It will be a regional conference.  And also it will not take place in New York, but in Washington.  Is that correct?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know.  I cannot answer for… We are not organizing the conference.

Correspondent:  I would like to join others in remembering Ted and the warmth with which he welcomed new journalists, and the guidance he gave us.

Spokesperson:  Thank you.

Question:  On the message from the Pakistani Ambassador, when did Mr. Ban receive that letter?

Spokesperson:  After it was published.

Question:  I think it was published [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  I can get the exact time for you, but I know it was received afterwards.  I’ll checked upstairs.

Question:  And does he have any more meetings scheduled with representatives of the G-77 or the African Group to go over some of their concerns?

Spokesperson:  Yes, definitely.  The African Group met this morning, they met at 10 o’clock -- I don’t know if the meeting is still on -- to discuss that issue and I am not sure at this point, whether the letter reflected the views of the African Group, who had not met yet, when the letter came out. 

Question:  Does the Secretary-General expect to meet with members of the African Group?

Spokesperson:  Definitely.  He is going to meet with individual members of the Group.  I don’t know whether he is going to meet them as a group, but definitely, he expressed his intention about the whole issue, and he is, of course, consulting Member States.  It is going to depend on Member States.

Question:  Can you tell us, who will he be talking to, and when?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am going to find out for you.

Question:  Just one follow-up on that.  I appreciate what you are saying.  I think the report that we are referring to said that it is also being presented to the ACABQ.  So I am just trying to understand the status of the proposed change: would it only take place with ACABQ recommending it, or is that just a consultation?

Spokesperson:  Just a consultation.

Question:  But the change is taking place?

Spokesperson:  It is going to be a decision that anyway has to be taken by the General Assembly.

Question:  So they could override.

Spokesperson:  Sure.  And, you know, there is going to be a number of consultations, discussions and further elaboration of what the Secretary-General has in mind.  Which is not at all to diminish the place that Africa should occupy in terms of UN concerns.

Question:  It seems as though the Secretary-General has done this before and now it’s [inaudible] major change that requires the approval of the General Assembly membership.  Did he not actually talk to [inaudible] first?

Spokesperson:  Well, he talked to some of them beforehand, and what he said was that he intended to, when he announced the nomination of the person in charge of the least developed countries.  And he said that his intention was to extend that mandate, and he explained what the mandate was.  You can refer to that announcement.

Question:  You indicated that the Secretary-General tomorrow would be travelling to that meeting of the Quartet?

Spokesperson:  He is going to be at the meeting tomorrow afternoon, yes.

Question:  Who is accompanying him from the Secretariat and are there any correspondents going with him?

Spokesperson:  No, this is going to be a very short trip, and there are going to be no journalists travelling with the Secretary-General.

Question:  And no other UN officials?

Spokesperson:  I will check for you who is going to be with him.  I am sure his Middle East advisors will be with him.  You spoke to Michael Williams today.

[The Spokesperson later said that Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Michael Williams and Chef de Cabinet Vijay Nambiar would be travelling with the Secretary-General.]

Thank you very much.

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