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

11 January 2008

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

11 January 2008
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.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Kenya

We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the situation in Kenya.

In the face of the deeply troubling situation in Kenya, the Secretary-General calls once again on the political leadership of Kenya to find -- urgently -- an acceptable solution through dialogue so that the political crisis is resolved and the country returns to its peaceful and democratic path.  The Secretary-General wishes to express his continued support for the various efforts being made by regional and international actors to help the Kenyans arrive at a lasting solution.

Two weeks have now passed since violence erupted in Kenya following disputed national elections, the conduct of which prompted serious concerns on the part of national and international observers.  Today, the death toll stands at an appallingly high figure of more than 500 people, while more than 250,000 Kenyans have been forced to flee their homes.  Many of them are living in fear.  That much of the violence appears to have been directed at specific communities is all the more worrisome.  The killings must stop, alleged human rights violations should be investigated and those found responsible for crimes should be held accountable for their actions.  The potential for further bloodshed remains high unless the political crisis is quickly resolved.

** Kenya

On the humanitarian side, on the UN’s relief activities in Kenya, in the northern Rift Valley and Nairobi’s slums, which were both hit by the recent post-election violence, UNICEF has delivered some 11,000 family relief kits -- containing tarpaulins, blankets, cooking utensils, jerry cans and soap -- for some 55,000 internally displaced persons.  UNICEF also sent six trucks loaded with water and sanitation supplies and 1,500 post-HIV-exposure treatment units to the town of Eldoret.  It has also provided basic drug kits to Kenya’s Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency, or UNHCR, reports that some 3,400 Kenyan refugees and asylum-seekers have been registered in Uganda.  UNHCR is providing them with firewood and tents and helping the national authorities with the planned relocation of refugees to a single transit centre.  In addition, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has delivered midwifery kits and other materials.

We have more information upstairs.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on UNIFIL Attack

We also have today a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on UNIFIL.

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the 8 January attack against a UNIFIL vehicle on the coastal highway near the town of Saida ( Sidon), outside UNIFIL’s area of operations.  The attack lightly injured two military members of UNIFIL.

UNIFIL and the Lebanese authorities are cooperating and coordinating closely in the ongoing investigation.  The Secretary-General hopes that the perpetrators will be swiftly identified and brought to justice.

The Secretary-General is deeply disturbed by this latest attack on UNIFIL.  The security and safety of all UN personnel in Lebanon are of paramount importance.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Firing of Rockets against Israel

And we also have another statement that the Secretary-General strongly condemns the firing of rockets against Israel on 8 January.  UNIFIL is continuing its investigation to determine the launch site.  The Secretary-General would like to reiterate that if the rockets were launched from Lebanese territory, as is likely, the incident would constitute a serious violation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).

In addition, the Secretary-General is concerned over the incident near the Blue Line in the area of Halta on 7 January, which highlights the importance of his calls to visibly mark the Blue Line.  He takes this opportunity to remind the parties of their obligation to fully adhere to Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) and to respect the cessation of hostilities agreement.

UNIFIL is continuing its investigations into both incidents, in close cooperation with the parties.  The Secretary-General urges both parties to exercise maximum restraint.

**Security Council

The members of the Security Council yesterday condemned the 8 January attack that wounded two peacekeepers from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), in a press statement read by the Council President, Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi of Libya.

There are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today.

** Algeria

At 4:30 this afternoon, the Secretary-General will receive a report on the bombing that took place one month ago at the UN offices in Algiers from his Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security, David Veness.

The Secretary-General had dispatched Veness and UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis to Algiers immediately after the bombing to assist the surviving country team.

In addition to evaluating the security system in Algiers, Veness, along with Dervis, ensured that those injured in the attack would receive the medical care they needed, and that the families of those killed in the attack were receiving the proper support, both psychological and financial.  The Secretary-General also met with all the survivors and the families of the victims when he visited Algeria days later.

The Secretary-General will study the report from Veness and I expect to be able to tell you more about our response on Monday.

**Secretary-General’s Statement to Regional Groups

The Secretary-General, over the past three days, spoke to all of the regional groups of UN Member States, to discuss his vision on what the United Nations will do over the coming year.

He told them that, in the year ahead, he will proceed on three fronts simultaneously:  he will work to deliver results; create a stronger UN through full accountability of all parties; and emphasize those goods that are the world’s common property.

The Secretary-General urged greater action on the development front, noting that, in passing the midpoint to the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, we face a development emergency.

On peacekeeping, he pointed to the deployment of UNAMID, an unprecedented joint operation with the African Union, and added that, politically, this year promises to be even tougher than the last.  He noted the challenges in the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur and Kosovo, as well as the need to strengthen the overall UN capacity for preventive diplomacy.

We have his statement upstairs.

**Secretary-General’s Statement to Group of 77

The Secretary-General this afternoon will speak at the ceremony to hand over the leadership of the “Group of 77” bloc of developing nations, which is passing from last year’s chair, Pakistan, to Antigua and Barbuda.

He is to tell the Group of 77 representatives that development should not be a privilege of the few, but a right for all.  And he will discuss what needs to be done to advance the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

We’ll have copies of his speech available this afternoon.

** Colombia

We issued the following statement yesterday afternoon, which I will now read into the record:

The Secretary-General welcomes the release of the two hostages that had been held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and hopes that this gesture will lead to the speedy release of the many remaining kidnap victims.

He strongly condemns the practice of kidnapping, which is a blatant violation of international humanitarian law.

We also have upstairs a statement on this topic from High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour.

** Somalia

Turning to Somalia, the World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed monthly food rations to nearly 200,000 people along the Mogadishu/Afgooye corridor.  According to the UN refugee agency, nearly 300,000 people have now been displaced by the fighting in the capital since the end of October, nearly 40,000 of them in the past three weeks alone.

Meanwhile, WFP’s programme in Mogadishu is now fully operational, providing some 50,000 meals a day to people trapped in the city.

** Gaza

In Gaza, 22 per cent more people in Gaza now need food aid following the closure of the Karni border crossing last June, according to a recent study by the World Food Programme.  The number of non-refugees that WFP is helping in Gaza has now risen to more than 300,000, the agency says.

WFP has increased its Gaza funding appeal from $107 million to $141 million.  So far, $45 million has been donated, but the agency says that, without further offers soon, it will be forced to begin cutting back its operations starting in March.

We have more information in the Geneva press briefing notes upstairs.

** Nepal

We have a press release upstairs from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on the appeal for more than $104 million for UN activities in Nepal in 2008.  The money will be used to address urgent needs in the areas of food and nutrition, health, protection, and disaster preparedness and response.

** Guatemala

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe is en route to Guatemala today, where he will participate this afternoon in a high-level ceremony to launch the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, a new independent investigative body which has been established by agreement between the Government of Guatemala and the United Nations.  Also taking part in the launch will be Carlos Castresana Fernández, the commissioner designated by the Secretary-General to head that body.

The Commission is an innovative effort to help Guatemala investigate and dismantle violent criminal organizations believed responsible for widespread crime and the paralysis in the country’s justice system since the end of the armed conflict.

We have more details on the Commission in a press release upstairs.

** Chad

A Training of Trainers programme organized by the UN Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic ended yesterday in N’Djamena with a closing ceremony attended by Chadian and UN officials.  The Training of Trainers programme aims to enhance security officers’ readiness to provide effective police services to refugees, internally displaced persons and humanitarian workers in eastern Chad.

We also have more information upstairs.

**The Week Ahead

And the week ahead at the UN:

On Saturday, the Conference on Peace, Security and Development in the Kivus is expected to continue.  The Conference is supposed to end on 17 January.  As a reminder, it began on 6 January.

And on Monday, in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber, ECOSOC holds its organizational session for 2008, where it will elect the President and members of the Bureau for 2008.  The Secretary-General is also scheduled to address the Council.

And on Tuesday, the Secretary-General attends the first Alliance of Civilizations Forum, which is taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday in Madrid.

Tuesday and Wednesday also, in New Orleans, the World Meteorological Organization convenes a high-level meeting, attended by the world’s space agencies, to discuss an updated space-based Global Observing System that would use dozens of satellites to monitor climate change and weather.

And on Wednesday, at 11 a.m. in Room S-226, Kemal Dervis, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), will brief on the UNDP’s development priorities for 2008.

The guest at the noon briefing is John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, who will launch a flash appeal for Kenya.

That same afternoon, the Security Council is scheduled to hold consultations on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

You can have more details on the week ahead upstairs.  This is all I have for you.  Thank you.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  You just mentioned Kosovo.  Next Wednesday, we will have the discussion in the Security Council.  UNMIK will present its report.  Did the Secretary-General read that report, and what does he think about that report?

Spokesperson:  The only answer you have is the one that the Secretary-General already gave you:  that he is observing the situation; he is assessing it as the situation unfolds.  And I don’t think that he is going to add any more to what he said.  He is certainly assessing the situation, as he said on Monday, when he spoke to you.

Question:  I have to ask you this and repeat the question asked by my distinguished colleague:  does the Secretary-General still support the Martti Ahtisaari plan?  The reason that I am asking is because, watching the press conference -- because I was not here -- I saw that the Secretary-General as everybody else, had some difficulties with the name of Martti Ahtisaari.  Could you explain that?

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t think he had any problem at all with the name of Martti Ahtisaari.  But the name of Mr. Ahtisaari was referred to in two different reports.  One of them was the report on the Canal Hotel, the other one was a report on the Kosovo situation.  That is why he didn’t know which Ahtisaari report he was being asked about. That is all.

Question:  Does he still support the Ahtisaari…

Spokesperson:  I will not say anything more than what I said earlier about Kosovo.

Question:  We didn’t have the answer.  Does he support it still or not?

Spokesperson:  You will know about it later.  At this point you…

Question:  Is he not supporting it?

Spokesperson:  I am not saying this.  I did not say that, Erol.

Question:  On Afghanistan, what is the reason for the delay in the appointment of a new UN Envoy to Afghanistan?

Spokesperson:  Well, they are still, you know, studying different options on this, and this is being worked on right now.

Question:  Is there going to be some change at all in the mandate for the new envoy?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know at this point.

Question:  Do you have any update on Mr. ElBaradei’s visit to Iran?

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t.  But the IAEA certainly does.  You can go on their website and find out, or talk to them.

Question:  The Yonhap News Service reports that the South Korean Defence Ministry has said that it may send peacekeepers to Darfur.  That’s a report that they have today and they tie it to this communication of Mr. Ban with the transition team there.  I want to know, if it can be confirmed, has a contingent of South Korean peacekeepers been run by Sudan, in terms of them approving various contingents?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know at this point.  I cannot confirm that information.

Question:  Okay.  Well, does he have any comment on … today, the EU has agreed to actually deploy now in Chad and the Central African Republic?  Because France has committed five helicopters and Poland has committed two.  Does he view that as positive?  Are these countries -- for example, Poland -- that have been spoken to about Darfur?

Spokesperson:  Well, those are contributions to the European force.

Question:  Exactly.  But I was wondering whether the Secretariat has some…  I’m assuming you’d view it as a positive step.  But is he going to say…?

Spokesperson:  Well, of course, it’s a positive step.

Question:  Right.  Well, okay.  And this is something that I asked you yesterday, but I just sort of wanted to nail it down:  Tony Blair, who is with the UN and other representatives of the Quartet for rebuilding … it was announced yesterday that he has taken a $1 million post with JPMorgan Chase.  So, I’m wondering if the UN thinks there is any possible conflict of interest?  Whether Mr. Blair asked the UN before this announcement was made or whether any safeguards would be in place to make sure that he can handle working for these two masters at once?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, Mr. Blair is an envoy for the Quartet, not an envoy for the United Nations.

Question:  Right, but given the UN’s role in the Quartet, I was wondering if he … if you any view…

Spokesperson:  I have absolutely no comment on it.

Question:  Okay.  Is there any way to know if Blair asked the UN whether it saw any conflicts?

Spokesperson:  He doesn’t have to.  As I said, he is not a UN envoy, He’s a Quartet envoy.

Question:  Okay.  Well, who would he ask in the Quartet, then?  Who would he…  I mean, if he were to…?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know.  You should ask Mr. Blair.  Anything else?  Okay.  Thank you, all, and have a good weekend.

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