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

26 July 2007

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

26 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 the noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

**Press Conference Today

Just to let you know, the 12:30 press conference, sponsored by the Mission of Georgia has been cancelled, but we will have Ian Martin, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Nepal, who will brief you on the activities of the UN Mission in Nepal immediately following his briefing to the Security Council.  That’s happening in closed consultations.

**Statement on Timor-Leste

And we have two statements attributable to the Spokesperson.  I have one of them with me.

We have a statement detailing our position on the Commission of Truth and Friendship for Indonesia and Timor-Leste, which reiterates the policy that the United Nations cannot endorse or condone amnesties for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or gross violations of human rights, nor should it do anything that might foster them.  It is the firm intention of the Secretary-General to uphold this position of principle.

Unless the terms of reference of the Commission of Truth and Friendship are revised to comply with international standards, officials of the United Nations will, therefore, not testify at its proceedings or take any other steps that would support the work of the Commission and thereby further the possible grant of amnesties in respect of such acts.

There’s a full statement on this subject available upstairs.  We expect a statement on the latest attacks in Iraq shortly.

** Iraq

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency, that’s the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is deeply concerned at reports that the Turkish authorities forcibly returned 135 Iraqis to their home country earlier this week.  Some individuals among the group reportedly expressed their wish to apply for asylum in Turkey.

Given the current situation in Iraq, UNHCR is extremely concerned for the safety of these people.  No information is currently available on their whereabouts.

UNHCR understands some of those deported had made an asylum claim.  If this is confirmed, the deportations would be a clear violation of the principle of non-refoulement, under which no refugee or asylum seeker whose case has not yet been properly assessed can be forcibly returned to a country where their life or liberty may be at risk.

We have more details in a UNHCR press release available in the Spokesperson’s Office.

**Secretary-General’s Travel Today

And as you know, the Secretary-General is on his way to San Francisco today and tomorrow for an official visit to commemorate the sixty-second anniversary of the founding in that city of the United Nations.  Later today, he will visit the site of the signing of the UN Charter and other local landmarks, accompanied by the city’s Mayor.

In the afternoon, he will take questions from the public and the press on the work of the United Nations at a town hall meeting organized by the World Affairs Council, where he will also deliver an address, which we will have available for you this afternoon.

And tomorrow, the Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with the Governor of the State of California.  After a working meeting, they will together tour local companies that are using innovative approaches to combat climate change.  And the official visit ends tomorrow afternoon.

And also today, as the Secretary-General has already mentioned to you in his press conference last week, he will visit the host mother who opened her home to him when he was a young foreign exchange student in the Bay area in 1962.

**Statement on Iraq

And then this is the statement I was just referring to on Iraq.

The Secretary-General was shocked and saddened to learn about the two bomb attacks that reportedly killed more than 50 innocent civilians who were celebrating an inspiring victory by the Iraq national football team in the Asian Games.  The Secretary-General condemns this particularly reprehensible act, which came at a moment when all of Iraq had joined together to celebrate the success of their nation.

The Secretary-General hopes that the people of Iraq will be undeterred by this despicable act and will come together in the spirit of national unity symbolized by their national football team.

And of course, there was also a bomb attack in Baghdad earlier today, with some 20 people reportedly dead, which we also condemn.

**Secretary-General Travels Next Week

I have one more announcement, which is of the Secretary-General’s travels for next week.  The Secretary-General is scheduled to make official visits to Haiti and Barbados next week.

While in Haiti, he plans to meet with President Rene Préval and visit the UN Mission, MINUSTAH’s headquarters in Port-au-Prince.  He also is expected to travel to Cite Soleil, where he is scheduled to visit a water tower repaired by the UN Mission and meet with the Mayor there.  And also on his agenda are meetings with the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, as well as leaders from civil society, political parties and the private sector, and the Commission of Justice reform.

In Barbados, which holds the current chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Secretary-General is expected to meet with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Governor General, as well as with the UN country team.

**Security Council

And here at UN Headquarters, the Security Council this morning began its work with a private meeting on Georgia, in which Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi briefed on the work of the UN Mission in that country, and on the Secretary-General’s latest report.

After the private meeting, Council members continued their discussions on Georgia in closed consultations.

Then, the Security Council held consultations on Nepal, with Ian Martin -- the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there -- briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s recent report on that country, which we flagged for you a few days ago.

Mr. Martin is scheduled to speak to you here, as soon as his briefing in the Council is over.  And we’ll let you know when that will be.

** Nepal – food security

And also on Nepal, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) say a series of natural disasters in 2006 and this year have severely hindered crop production throughout Nepal, heightening the risk of food shortages for the Nepalese people.

According to a joint report by the two UN bodies, prolonged drought combined with hailstorms and flooding in traditionally agriculturally productive areas have resulted in a 225,000-ton food shortage for these two years.  Food shortages last year were only 23,000 tons.  There’s a press release with more information from these two agencies upstairs.

**OCHA – Darfur

And we also have an update from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Southern Sudan, where heavy rainfalls in recent days have affected some 10,000 people, some of whom have sought shelter in public buildings.  UNICEF has so far distributed 1,500 kits of non-food items, along with 15-day rations from the World Food Programme.  An additional 600 survival kits are on their way to the area by barge.

UNICEF has also provided drugs for distribution by mobile clinics, and OCHA, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is preparing a flash appeal, which it expects to launch next week.

**Guest at Noon Tomorrow

And to flag for you, tomorrow’s briefing guest will be Under-Secretary-General for Management Alicia Bárcena, who will update you on the Capital Master Plan.  And she will be accompanied by Mr. Michael Adlerstein, the incoming Capital Master Plan Executive Director, which we announced a short while ago, who will officially begin his duties on 30 July.  That’s next Monday.

So that’s what we have for you.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  When does the Secretary-General plan to announce the new rep for Iraq, and who are the names under consideration?

Deputy Spokesperson:  My understanding is the current mandate still goes until sometime in August.  So, as soon as we have it we’ll let you know.

Question:  Yesterday, the Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Jordan travelled to Jerusalem to speak to the Israeli leaders about the Arab League’s peace plan, and the Foreign Ministry of Israel termed this as a “historic” visit.  Is there a reaction from the Secretary-General?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t think we had a specific reaction on the visit, but the Secretary-General has said in the past, and as part of the Quartet, that he encourages the Arab Peace Initiative for the region as well.

Question:  Unless I missed it, has the Secretary-General said anything about the killing of the South Korean workers in Afghanistan and what has he done in the past few days?  Has he talked to President Karzai?  Has he really tried to stop the Taliban from carrying out the threat?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think I’ll stick with what we’ve said in the past on this subject, given that it is a very serious and sensitive issue at the moment.

Question:  Has he talked to Karzai at all?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As I said, I’ll stick to what we’ve already said in the past on this subject.

Question:  It’s reported that Ibrahim Gambari wrote to the Vice-President of Nigeria saying that the UN offers its support for some kind of -– to solve the problems of the Niger delta.  So I’m wondering -- one, what that means?  One, if you can confirm that the letter went out.  Two, what assistance the UN would be offering and in what capacity Mr. Gambari is writing that letter, whether it’s Iraq or Myanmar.  And I guess, given that he’s from Nigeria, if you could explain what the sort of safeguards or policies are of the UN in terms of UN officials dealing in their own country.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, before we start speculating anything about policy let’s find out whether such a letter exists.  Right now… [talk over]

Correspondent:  [Inaudible] quotes from it.

Deputy Spokesperson:  …and as you know, Mr. Gambari right now is on a mission in Europe dealing with Myanmar, and his title does include, as you know, the Iraq Compact, Myanmar and other issues.  So, I suppose any number of issues can be added to his mandate.  So let me find out about that for you.

Question:  Any readout about the meeting with troop contributors?  The one Madame Lute announced yesterday?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything yet, but we certainly will try to get you an update from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. 

If there are no other questions, we’ll try to get Ian Martin in here as soon as possible, and we’ll let you know.  Thank you.

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