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

16 October 2007

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

16 October 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

And the spokesperson for the General Assembly president

 

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for Secretary-General

Good afternoon all.

**Guest at Noon Today

Our guest at the noon briefing today is Kemal Derviş, Administrator of UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], who has recently returned from a 10-day trip to Africa.  He’ll discuss Africa’s economic progress and the key elements needed to ensure successful development in the continent.

**SG Statement Concerning Israel/Hizbullah Prisoner Exchange

We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General concerning the exchange between Israel and Hizbullah. 

The Secretary-General welcomes the exchange of humanitarian gestures by Israel and Hizbullah mediated by his facilitator.  He sincerely hopes that this move will create the necessary dynamics on both sides to comply with the central humanitarian demands of Security Council resolution 1701.

The Secretary-General calls again on all sides concerned to move ahead decisively in releasing the two abducted Israeli soldiers without any further delay and to find the necessary solutions for the remaining Lebanese citizens that are still in Israeli detention.  No effort should be spared to comply urgently with the basic humanitarian demands of compassion with the victims.

** Myanmar

On Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General, met today in Kuala Lumpur with the Foreign Minister of Malaysia, Syed Hamid Albar.  They discussed the UN's efforts in Myanmar and the region's support in this regard.

Gambari told journalists afterwards that he will deliver a special message from the Secretary-General to the Malaysian Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, when they meet on Wednesday.  He said that the message would concern the support that the United Nations needs from ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian Nations] and neighbouring countries to address the crisis in Myanmar, and the longer-term issues of peace, stability, democratisation and human rights in the country.

Gambari travelled to Kuala Lumpur from Bangkok this morning.  After meeting the Prime Minister tomorrow, he will go to Jakarta.  The regional tour will also take him to New Delhi, Tokyo and Beijing.  We have copies of his itinerary upstairs.

**Itinerary of Special Adviser Ibrahim Gambari

Here are a few dates:  On the 16-17 October, he’s in Kuala Lumpur; 17-21 October, he should be in Jakarta; 21-23 October, he should be in New Delhi; 24-25 October, he should be in Beijing; 25-27 October, he should be in Tokyo and he should be back on 27 October.  Of course these dates might change as the talks evolve on the ground.

**Security Council

On the Security Council meeting, the Secretary-General is having his monthly luncheon with the members of the Security Council today.

He intends to speak to you at the Security Council stakeout position on the second floor after that luncheon.  UNTV will be showing that stakeout live from 2:15 onward.

**Former Yugoslavia

This morning in The Hague, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia affirmed the acquittal of Sefer Halilovic, a former Deputy Commander of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  He was found not guilty in November 2005 of charges pressed against him for alleged command responsibility in murders committed by troops from Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Jablanica and Prozor areas of Herzegovina in September 1993.

And yesterday, the Tribunal’s Chief Prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, addressed the General Affairs and External Relations Council of the European Union.  Assessing Serbia's cooperation with her Office, the Prosecutor said that, although Serbia has disclosed some required documents and archives, the overall cooperation does not appear to match Serbia’s stated political commitment.  Del Ponte also criticized Serbia’s efforts to secure the arrest and extradition of Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic, Goran Hadzic and other suspects.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

On the DR Congo, a joint statement was adopted yesterday in Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, at the conclusion of a key meeting on the situation in North Kivu.  Attending the meeting were Congolese President Joseph Kabila, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC, William Lacy Swing, the UN Force Commander there, General Boubacar Gueye and the Ambassadors of Belgium, France, South Africa, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom.

Mr. Swing read the joint statement, in which the parties noted that the meeting had also focused on the planned roundtable on security sector reform, disarmament and on the question of the armed Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), whose fighters were urged to return home to Rwanda immediately.

The parties at the meeting also reaffirmed their full support for the Congolese Government.  They appealed to all dissident troops to rejoin the Congolese Army without delay and without conditions.  Expressing concern over the humanitarian situation in North Kivu, they called on all belligerents to ensure total and unrestricted humanitarian access to the civilian population.

Meanwhile, our humanitarian colleagues report that, although the situation in Masisi and Rutshuru districts has been calm in recent days, clashes continue to be reported south of Rutshuru.  The fighting pits the Congolese Army against dissident soldiers led by General Laurent Nkunda.  WFP [World Food Programme] and Caritas distributed yesterday food to some 3,500 displaced families while UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] set up a therapeutic nutritional centre near Masisi, and UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] is probing 38 cases of sexual violence in IDP [internally displaced persons] camps near Goma.

** Sudan

On Sudan, the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, met today with Sudan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ali Karti.  Zerihoun was briefed on the reaction of the National Congress Party (NCP) on the decision of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) to freeze participation of its Ministers and Advisers in the Government of National Unity.

Zerihoun recommended that the two parties settle pending issues through direct discussions and consultations.  He was encouraged by the assurances given by the two parties that they will pursue high-level consultations on these matters.

He brought to his interlocutor’s attention the recent statement issued by the Secretary-General on Sudan in which he called on the parties to urgently take the necessary steps to address the outstanding issues related to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and expressed the readiness of the United Nations to assist them to accelerate progress on these matters.

**Floods ( Uganda & Haiti)

For the first time in Uganda, the World Food Programme has launched a food airdrop operation as part of its massive effort to reach tens of thousands of flood survivors.  For its part, the International Telecommunication Union has deployed 25 satellite terminals to Uganda, to help restore vital communication links that had been destroyed by the floods.

Meanwhile, regarding the floods in Haiti, UNICEF has distributed hygiene kits, jerry cans and water purification tablets to survivors.  It has also been working to set up schools and health clinics in hard-hit districts.  We have more on these stories in my office.

**UNHCR/Western Sahara

The UN Refugee Agency says it is in urgent need of funding for two vital operations aimed at helping refugees in Africa.

Earlier this year, UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] appealed for more than $3 million to help connect Sahrawi refugees living in the Tindouf camps in Algeria with their relatives in Western Sahara through family visits, telephone services and other measures.  The appeal remains half funded, and family visits may have to be suspended by next month, UNHCR says.  Meanwhile, the Agency also launched a $7 million appeal in August to fund the voluntary repatriation of 24,000 Mauritanian refugees, mainly from Mali and Senegal.  Because less than 10 per cent of that amount has been received, the project -– which was supposed to start this month -– may now face serious delays.

**World Food Day

Today is World Food Day.  This year’s theme is “The Right to Food”.  In a message to mark the Day, the Secretary-General noted that the number of people suffering from chronic hunger stands at 854 million and continues to rise.  “In a world of plenty, this situation is unacceptable,” he said. 

Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, speaking at a ceremony in Rome, said that “a right is not a right if it cannot be claimed”.

UNICEF notes that under-nutrition is still linked to nearly half of all deaths of children under the age of five.  Executive Director Ann Veneman stressed the difference that simple solutions, such as early and exclusive breastfeeding and the timely introduction of nutrient-fortified foods, can make.  We have more information upstairs.

**Tokelau

The UN is sending a five-member team to Tokelau, a Non-Self-Governing Territory administered by New Zealand, to observe a referendum on self-government there.  The referendum will take place from 20 to 24 October. 

You may recall that the first referendum to determine Tokelau’s future status took place in February 2006, when 60 per cent of Tokelauan voters supported the option for self-government in free association with New Zealand.  However, that percentage was not sufficient to meet the two-thirds majority required.  We have more background and information upstairs.

** Antarctica

And on Antarctica, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has said that, even though the ozone hole above Antarctica is relatively small, this should not be taken as a sign of ozone recovery.

The small hole in the ozone layer is due to the fact that the Antarctic atmosphere had been relatively mild during the winter this year.  We have more on this also upstairs

**United Nations Flag

You may have noticed that the UN flag is flying at half-mast today.  This is to mark the death of the Prime Minister of Myanmar.  The UN flag is also flying at half-mast in Geneva and at our office in Myanmar.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

Tomorrow, in commemoration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, there will be a press conference at 11 a.m. by Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert of France; Johan Scholvinck, from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Kanokkarn Nakpassorn from the ATD, Aide à Toute Détresse, Fourth World Volunteer Corps; and Maria Barrerra from the Christian Children's Fund.

And our guests at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict; Ann Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF; and Ishmael Beah, youth activist and the author of Long Way Gone, who will brief you on the 10 years following the Graça Machel report on the impact of armed conflicts on children.  This is all I have for you.  Yes, Benny?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  In your report, in your report on Gambari’s trip, one country I noticed missing from the (inaudible) is Burma.  Is there a planned…

Spokesperson:  Because there was, as we said earlier, it was not part of his scheduled itinerary for this time.  He is returning to Myanmar, as we said, as soon as possible, as early as possible.  But he is right now, on this leg of the trip, he is not going to Myanmar.

Question:  Is there any news, in, in… if he’s going to Burma?

Spokesperson:  Well he is definitely hoping to go to Myanmar.  I don’t have an exact date for you yet.  I don’t have any information.

Question:  Will he report to the Council or the SG or to the GA before going to Burma on this leg of the trip at all?

Spokesperson:  I will let you know.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Michèle, does the Secretary-General have an appeal to the Hizbullah, to release those two Israeli prisoners, and Israel to release prisoners held in Palestine in the Occupied Territories?  Israel proposed delivery of six people yesterday, one which (inaudible).  There were 12,000 Palestinians and Israelis (inaudible) has the (inaudible) tried to reach them also?

Spokesperson:  Well, at this point, I’ve said it before, you know?  And at this point, at this specific statement he does not have this.  But, of course he has appealed for this before.

Question:  This is about Afghanistan.  The Heritage Foundation’s statement this morning on Afghanistan, a former UNAMA official said that staffing in Afghanistan, not adequate staff, UNAMA’s having in Afghanistan.  Is this true?  And second question said mostly implies, locally implied by the UN Mission there are Dari speakers not being the fastest speakers and there’s an ethnic bias in employing people there? 

Spokesperson:  We will get more information for you from the Mission.  I don’t have it at this point with me, but we will get it for you on what type of equipment they have in the language divisions and all that.  Yes, Jonathan?

[The Spokesperson later noted that the Secretary-General himself, during last month's high-level meeting on Afghanistan, told delegates, “This morning, I was briefed by my Special Representative that we are still suffering from the vacancy of staff; the vacancy level is at 30 per cent.  We are trying to make up that difference.”  She also noted that local staff does include some people who speak Dari and some who speak Pashto.]

Question:  What is your understanding of the situation now with Mr. Toh in the procurement department and what’s happening with the task force.  There’s a lot of confusion in the air.  Perhaps you can set it straight and where things are going from here.  And also, I’m just wondering, Mr. Toh has apparently threatened to try to sue Mr. Burnham and I’m just curious to know whether the legal fees that would be associated with such an attempt.  Would that be covered by the United Nations?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, you’re getting into a hypothetical question and I do not answer hypothetical questions.  At this point, you know, there has been no suit that we know of.  There has been an announcement that there might be a suit.  We don’t have anything on that.  What I can say about Mr. Toh’s case, is that it is still within the UN Internal Justice System.  And I think I said it yesterday, it’s very important for the integrity of this process that it be allowed to continue without interference.  So that’s our position on the Toh case.  And, you know, in terms of a possible lawsuit –- a civil suit against any UN former official -– we don’t have anything on that at this point.  This is a hypothetical question.

Question:  I understand, Mr. Toh has actually been rather vociferous about his proclaimed innocence in this whole ordeal and is talking about lawsuits and whatnot, so I understand it’s hypothetical about whether it’s going to happen or not, but what exactly are the rules if someone should choose to do that path?  Just, just technically, what are the rules?  And also, if the idea is that, while an investigation is going on -- and certainly there were some findings made by the task force that did not look favourably upon Mr. Toh -- why all the hush-hush and why is he allowed to speak out so candidly about things?

Spokesperson:  Well, there is no gag rule against Mr. Toh.  Mr. Toh is speaking on his personal capacity.  What I can say is that, any applicable privileges and immunities of UN staff members, whether past or present, are regulated by international treaties.  Okay.  The procedure for the consideration of requests for waivers of immunity, it’s a well-established process within the UN, so of course, if your hypothetical questions would turn to be true, then those would apply.

Correspondent:  In terms of…

Spokesperson:  In terms of this case itself, it’s still, until it goes to court, I cannot answer that question.

Question:  I want to ask about what you announced yesterday, this $250 million sole-source contract.  We’ve now got a document, I guess there was some presentation made which says that, as a result of negotiations, the price was reduced from $700 million to $250 million.  So I’m wondering, since to some people that seems like… it calls into question how credible the bid was.  Is this contract, one, is this contract going to be made public?  Can somebody see the contract and I’m wondering who signed it for the UN, whether it allows for subcontracting out to other parties and if the actual bid… I mean to, to understand this claim to have reduced the price by more than half.  Is any of this going to be made public, is my question.

Spokesperson:  Well, I think there is a pretty transparent process about this.  What was evoked was something that is, something that is part of the procedures.  In an emergency case, it is the decision for the Secretary-General to take.  In this specific case, they happened to be the people who had been dealing with establishing camps on the ground, in Sudan, in Darfur in particular for the African Union and they were the people able to do the most the quickest.

Correspondent:  How is it an emergency if we’ve been hearing about the hybrid force all the way back to Kofi Annan?  Like, how, isn’t there a team of 50 people who have been planning for the force?  I don’t understand.  That’s why…

Spokesperson:  Between the time when you decide politically on having a hybrid force, the time when you have an agreement from the Security Council on the hybrid force and the time when you actually do have the money to actually proceed, as you know there is always a gap, you know?  As soon as the decision was taken that the hybrid force could be deployed, then the decision was taken to establish those camps.  And the decision was taken in light of that one company that was most able to do it and the quickest.

Correspondent:  But where is the money coming… like you said the money’s available?  Is the money coming from UNMIS?  Where is the money coming from to actually pay, cause this has not…

Spokesperson:  There is a budget for the hybrid force.  You have it.  You know about it.  It’s public.  It’s a public thing.

Correspondent:  And is the contract going to be made public, I guess is… Is this contract for the UN?

Spokesperson:  Sure, yes, yes.

Correspondent:  Okay, you know when?

Spokesperson:  I cannot tell you at this point, you know.  I don’t have the detail.

Correspondent:  Can I just… This is the last… Somebody, I don’t know if it’s…

Spokesperson:  You can have further questions for DPKO or you can address them at…

Correspondent:  Okay, DPKO signed the contract?

Spokesperson:  The DPKO is in charge of the mission.

Question:  Michèle, is the Under-Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari carrying any specific message from the Secretary-General to the ASEAN members or to the individual countries he’s visiting?

Spokesperson:  Well, he certainly has messages that the Secretary-General has for the different leaders he’s meeting.

Question:  Two questions:  One on Mr. Toh, has he filled out adequately the financial disclosure form and, second, follow-up on that, yesterday you said that one of the reasons why Lockheed Martin was picked was because it was the one that supplied AMIS forces with similar services.  My question is, since that was the reason cited, I asked it yesterday and you said it had nothing to do with the UN, but this is the reason that you cited it as the original AMIS contract being a no-bid.

Spokesperson:  Well, no, I think, what I said is that they were the ones with the most experience in building this type of camps on the ground.

Correspondent:  I thought you said that one of the reasons was that it had already…

Spokesperson:  Yes, it had already worked with AMIS.

Correspondent:  So when it worked with AMIS, was that a bid or no-bid?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know what the history of the company was with AMIS.  We can try to get all of this for you and I’m sure DPKO will tell you all about that bid.  You can have more details there.  Your first question about Mr. Toh, concerning whether… You asked me the questions yesterday whether he has filed his financial disclosure form.  And I don’t have the answer for you.  I asked and I expect to get an answer for you later today.

Yes, thank you very much.  Janos?

Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President

Good Afternoon.  Good to see you all.

**General Assembly Plenary

Let me start with the real news, which is that it is now definite that Burkina Faso, Viet Nam and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya will be members of the Security Council as of 1 January of next year.  To give the background on that -- and what I heard latest out of the Assembly -- is that, apparently, the Dominican Republic and Croatia (this was corrected to be the Czech Republic) had withdrawn their candidacy.  So, it looks as though the Czech Republic (this was corrected to be Croatia) and Costa Rica will be assuming the seats as of 1 January next year.  But we will double check exactly on the procedures and how that works, because there might still be a vote according to the rules and regulations, in spite of the fact that a candidate withdraws.

A couple of very quick backgrounders:  on Burkina Faso, just so that you know, this will be their second time on the Council.  They were already there in ’84 and ’85.  Libya also had one term with the Council in ’76 and ’77.  For Viet Nam, this will be the first.  If the Czech Republic is the one that takes the Council seat as of the first of January, then it will be their second time.  They had been there in ’94-’95, and if it’s Costa Rica, then this will be their third time, because they have been members of the Council in ’74-75 and ‘97-’98.

On the background, the five outgoing members of the Council -- meaning outgoing at the end of this year -- are:  Congo, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and Slovakia.  The five that remain in the Council for one more year are:  Belgium, Indonesia, Italy, Panama and South Africa.

As regards the details on the way the voting procedures went in the General Assembly, first and foremost, what you have to know is that, according to rule 92 of the rules and regulations of the General Assembly, votes are taken by secret ballot, and there is no nomination.  So, that means that there are no officially nominated candidates.  That means anybody can be put on the ballot papers.  However, the President of the General Assembly, and he was and is chairing the meeting, mentioned that he was informed by the chairs of the regional groups as regards declared and endorsed candidates for the various seats.  There were two seats up for the African Group, and according to the chair of the African Group, two countries were endorsed for that: Burkina Faso and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.  For Asia, there was one seat, and one candidate was endorsed and put forward by the regional group.  That was Viet Nam.

As regards Eastern Europe, there was one seat available and the regional chair informed the President that two candidates were competing for that seat:  Croatia and the Czech Republic.  There was one seat available for the Latin America Caribbean Group.  The chair of that group informed the President of the Assembly that two countries, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, were eyeing and contending that seat.

In the first round of voting, what happened was that three ballot papers were given to the Members States in the General Assembly:  ballot papers A, B and C.  On Ballot Paper A, the Member States were supposed to put the candidates, or their choice of candidates, for the African and Asian seats.  On Ballot Paper B, for the Eastern European, and on Ballot Paper C, for the Latin American/Caribbean.

Very quickly, how things went as regards Ballot Paper A, the African and Asian seats:  this had 190 valid votes, which meant that 127 votes were needed for a 2/3 majority.  Burkina Faso received 185 votes; Viet Nam received 183 votes; and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya received 178 votes.  There were also two votes cast for Mauritania and one for Senegal.  As I mentioned to you, basically, any country can be put on that piece of paper.  So in that procedure, what happened then was that Burkina Faso, Viet Nam and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya became members of the Council.  They received the necessary votes.

As regards Ballot Paper B for Eastern Europe, there were 190 ballots cast.  There were 4 abstentions, so that meant that for the 2/3 majority, you needed 124 votes.  Croatia received 95; the Czech Republic, 91.  This went, then, for a second round.  I will explain exactly what that was.

For Ballot Paper C for the Latin American and Caribbean seat, you had again 190 ballots, 2 abstentions, so that meant for the 2/3 majority there, you needed 126 votes.  Costa Rica received 116 votes; Dominican Republic, 72.

After this, on Ballot Papers B and C -- so for the Eastern European Group and for the Latin American Caribbean -- there was another round of voting, which was the first round of restricted voting.

Restricted voting, in this sense, means that Member States are supposed to vote on the first two countries that got the most votes in that list in the first round.  In this case, this is pretty easy because there are only two countries on the list, but, theoretically, you could have had more.  The two that received the most votes are in a restricted round of voting.  In this case, this was the second round, but it actually meant the first round of restricted voting.  In theory, what could happen is that you could have three rounds of restricted voting if there is no decision.  So, three rounds of consecutive voting on the two countries that received the most votes, and if still nothing happens, then you would have another round of voting, which is an open voting, whereby any country, again, could be put on the ballot paper, from that regional group.

So there was, actually, a second round of voting.  As regards Group B, Eastern Europe, again for one seat: 191 ballot papers; one invalid vote; 190 valid papers; 3 abstentions.  That meant you needed 125 votes for the 2/3 majority.  Croatia got 106; Czech Republic, 85.  In Latin America and the Caribbean case, again, you had 191 votes cast; 1 invalid vote; 190 valid votes and 1 abstention.  That meant you needed, for the 2/3 majority, 126 votes.  Costa Rica got 119 votes; Dominican Republic got 70.

As I was informed, after this, Croatia (corrected to be the Czech Republic) and the Dominican Republic took the floor and withdrew their candidacies.  However, there is still a need to vote for both countries according to the rules.

Basically, this is how it looks.  That’s just about all I have.  I don’t want to go into the Committees, because those are pretty well covered in the various press releases.  The only Committee that might be of interest to you is the Fourth Committee, because that took action on nine draft resolutions yesterday on various issues related to decolonization.  It postponed actions on a draft on Tokelau and also on Gibraltar.  But it did take an action, with consensus, not with recorded vote, on Western Sahara following Algeria and Morocco working out a compromise draft resolution.  A draft resolution, for those of you who are not familiar with all the procedures, is a draft resolution until approved by the General Assembly.  That’s where I’ll stop.

If there are any questions, I’ll take them.  Yes, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  With regard to Croatia, can you tell us first, has Croatia ever been a member of the Council?  As much as you can answer, I realize this is a political question, why would a country that’s ahead pull out?

GA Spokesperson:  Well, that is very easy to answer.  You should ask Croatia why they felt that they would need to pull out once they were, so to speak, ahead.  As regards the first question, no, this would have been their first time. 

Question:  (inaudible)

GA Spokesperson:  I am sorry, I was just informed, since I was with you, it turned out -- and that makes your question irrelevant and just simply underlines my misinforming you here -- it was not Croatia, but the Czech Republic that withdrew, so I apologize for this.  I was misinformed, I was not following the last rounds because these were just taking place as I was sitting here with you.  So we had a miscommunication here.  I thoroughly apologize for that.  I am not saying that it will never happen again, but at least I’m able to correct it.  Yes, and that would then absolutely put the question in a different context.  So basically, what we’re having is the Czech Republic withdrawing and Croatia remaining, and most likely, will be getting the seat with Costa Rica.  I go back and say that this will be the first time for Croatia on the Security Council as of next year.  Benny?

Question:  The Yankees can still go to the World Series.  Do you know, off the top of your head, how many rounds it took last year in the ... Venezuela?

GA Spokesperson: It took 48 rounds.

Question:  48?

GA Spokesperson:  Yes, which, as you may remember as some of you who took some background info on this, that was not necessarily the longest.  There was 155 sometime long ago.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  How closely was the support monitored by the P-5, and were they represented in the Assembly by their ambassadors?

GA Spokesperson:  I do not know that.  As far as I know, the Secretariat does not really keep track of whether a country is represented in the General Assembly and on what level.  So, I have no idea to what extent they were following this.  My gut reaction would be, of course, they would be following it because these would be the countries they would be working with for the next two years.

Question: (inaudible)

GA Spokesperson:  Okay, last question then.

Question:  With regard to, I know this is quite moot, with regard to the somewhat late-coming, aborted candidacy of the Mauritanians:  have they ever been a member, do you recall?  Mauritania?

GA Spokesperson:  I can’t, I have to look at my notes.  I don’t seem to have anything on that because they withdrew, actually, on 10 September.  They had a letter in which they withdrew, so since then ...

Question:  They came in very late too, as I recall.  I have the briefing bulletin on this.  Thank you.

GA Spokesperson:  Sorry, we can look at that.

Question:  This is an actual question.  Do you know when this $250 million contract with Lockheed Martin, when the Fifth Committee and/or ACABQ will have an opportunity to consider that letter and, I guess, take action, either accept or not accept it, as I said yesterday?

GA Spokesperson:  Matthew, if I understand correctly, it is not the letter itself -- that you refer to, which you mentioned yesterday in your question, which was A/62/379 -- it’s not that letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the General Assembly that is, in itself, being considered.  It’s more a question of the whole UNAMID budget that is going to be considered and is being considered.  Currently, the ACABQ is looking at it.  It is going to make its recommendations.  It will go to the Fifth Committee.  If you look at the calendar of the Fifth Committee, I think there is already a consultation on that on 8 November.  That is when the Fifth Committee, so that means all Member States, are going to look at this.  They will look at what the ACABQ has advised on this.  Whether they will heed to that advice, that’s, again, something different, but it is from that day onward that the Fifth Committee is going to look at all the aspects as regards the UNAMID budget, including this contract issue.

Question:  There is this one briefing paper ... this is, I guarantee the last question, there is a briefing paper, that I’m just wondering, was dated October 8th, but I’m told it was shown yesterday, and I’m just wondering if there is a way to know whether it was shown to the Fifth Committee or ACABQ.  It’s an eight-page summary of this sole source contract.

SG Spokesperson:  May I ask you to pursue this line of questioning a little later, if you don’t mind, because our guest has been waiting for 10 minutes now.

Question:  Thank you. Sorry.

SG Spokesperson:  As I said earlier, our guest at the noon briefing today is Kemal Derviş, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, who has recently returned from a 10-day trip to Africa.  He will discuss Africa’s economic progress and the key elements needed to ensure successful development in the continent.  Welcome.

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