24 July 2007


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


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of the noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

**Guest at Noon Today

Good afternoon.  Our guest today is going to be John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator.  He will brief you on the humanitarian crises in southern Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere, and take your questions.

** Sudan Peace Process

Following several rounds of extensive and inclusive consultations, the African Union and the United Nations Special Envoys for Darfur, Salim Ahmed Salim and Jan Eliasson, have today issued invitations to leading personalities of the non-signatory movements to the Darfur Peace Agreement to participate in a meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, from 3 to 5 August 2007.

The meeting, as you’ll recall, was endorsed at the recent meeting in Tripoli, also under the co-chairmanship of the AU and UN Special Envoys.

The objective of the upcoming Arusha meeting is to take stock of the progress made in the road-map on the political process and for the Special Envoys to consult with the movements on the preparations for the upcoming final negotiations.

Discussions will focus on the key role to be played by the Sudanese parties concerned in ensuring a speedy, negotiated and sustainable settlement of the Darfur conflict, including the format and venue of, and participation in, the negotiations.

** Sudan –- Secretary-General

And also on Darfur today, the Secretary-General is meeting with the Boston University professor who led the research into the reported underground water supplies in Darfur.  Dr. Farouk El-Baz is expected to travel next month to Sudan and join the UN Mission there and Sudanese geologists to conduct a survey of Darfur.

Dr. El-Baz has agreed to speak to you at the Security Council stakeout following his meeting with the Secretary-General.  And we expect that to be around 4:50.  The stakeout will be up starting from about 4:30 this afternoon at the Security Council stakeout.

The Secretary-General is also meeting today with Andrew Natsios, the US Envoy for Darfur.  And our understanding is that he will also be at the Security Council stakeout.  I was told that that would be around 1 p.m.

**Security Council

Meanwhile, the Security Council is holding consultations today on the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).  And Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi briefed Council members on the Secretary-General’s latest report on that Mission, which recommends a six-month extension of it.

** Nepal

Also today, the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Mission in Nepal is out, and it says that, although he remains optimistic about that country’s peace process, it is clear that the national political scene has become more complex and challenging in the past few months.

He warns that failure to ensure a credible election within a realistic and well planned period could have a much more serious impact on the unity of the eight parties and their ability to act and function in unison within the existing coalition.

The Secretary-General says that the UN Mission continues to advise that if the Constituent Assembly election is to be held this November, considerable work needs to be done to meet that objective, including improvements by the parties to the peace process in implementing their commitments.  As I said, the report is out today, and it is available on the racks.

**UN High Commissioner for Refugees -- Somalia

The UN refugee agency, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has launched a $48 million appeal to help Somali refugees and internally displaced persons who have fled the renewed conflict there.  The money will be used to provide assistance through the end of next year to nearly 500,000 people, including tens of thousands of Somalis who have sought refuge in neighbouring Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Djibouti.

UNHCR also expects to gain greater access to internally displaced persons within Somalia, especially in the southern and central areas of the country.  And there’s more information in UNHCR’s briefing notes from Geneva upstairs.

**UN High Commissioner for Human Rights -- Ethiopia

And today, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, welcomed the pardon and release -– last Friday —- of 38 political leaders and activists in Ethiopia.  Arbour said the pardons were “significant for what they represent in terms of the expansion of the democratic space in Ethiopia”.

The High Commissioner also urged fair proceedings for the 67 defendants still on trial and who face similar charges.  Some of these trials are set to resume tomorrow.  And there’s a press release upstairs on this.

**IAEA and Nuclear Power Plant in Japan

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei welcomed an invitation by the Japanese Government to send specialists to jointly examine the current condition of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant.  He said the invitation is important for identifying lessons learned that might have implications for the international nuclear safety regime.

The IAEA intends to send a team of its experts and international experts together in the coming weeks.  The exact timing will be decided in consultation with Japanese authorities.

**Press Conference Today

And then also today at 2 p.m. there will be a press conference by artist Laurie Blum, who will brief you on her ongoing art exhibit at the UN entitled, “Shiraz:  the City of Paradise”.  And the press conference is sponsored by the Mission of Iran.

And tomorrow, the guest at noon will be Assistant Secretary-General and Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Field Support Jane Holl Lute, who will brief you on a number of outstanding conduct and disciplinary issues, including the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, as we mentioned to you yesterday.

And that’s what we have for you today.  And before Mr. Holmes joins us -- yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Any reaction from the Secretary-General on the release of the Bulgarians in Libya and their return home [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General welcomes the development, but beyond that I don’t really have much to say.

Question:  Has the Secretary-General received any action from the Government about hosting the tribunal on Rafik Hariri?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As you know, the Secretary-General’s official letter to the Dutch Government just went out yesterday and we’ve outlined to you what was in that letter and we’re waiting to hear from the Dutch authorities.

Question:  On Shab’a Farms.  Do you have anything on the cartographer?  When will he be finishing his work?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing new.  No, I do not.

Question:  Anything further about the Koreans who were in Afghanistan, being held in Afghanistan, what is being done?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General remains very concerned about the plight of this very large group of kidnappees, as well as the German hostages and other hostages held there, and is in very close touch with the UN Mission there on this issue.

If there are no other questions for me today, we’ll try to get John Holmes down here as soon as possible.  Thanks.

* *** *

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