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

7 May 2008

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

7 May 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

I have two statements that I will read out and a couple of other announcements before we call it a day here.  In addition to the statement on Myanmar read out by John Holmes, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

**Statement on Darfur

The Secretary-General is deeply troubled by the recent bombings of civilian locations in north Darfur.  In particular, the bombing of a school, water installations and a market in three villages in north Darfur are entirely unacceptable.  The United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur, UNAMID, has assisted in the evacuation of casualties following the attacks.  The Secretary-General strongly deplores these acts which targeted civilian areas, including locations where children congregate. 

The Secretary-General is also concerned about the increasing acts of banditry which complicate humanitarian operations and impede UNAMID’s ability to carry out its mandate.  The Secretary-General reiterates his call for all parties to urgently cease hostilities, ensure the protection of civilians, and to work with UNAMID to promote security and commit to the political process being led by the Special Envoys of the United Nations and the African Union. 

And this statement is available upstairs.

**Statement on Zimbabwe

The second statement I have is on Zimbabwe. 

The Secretary-General is closely following the evolving situation in Zimbabwe and has remained in contact with leaders in the region.  He continues to be concerned by reports of politically motivated violence and intimidation in the country as the current impasse continues.  He reiterates his strong belief that future stages of the electoral process must be conducted in a peaceful, credible and transparent manner in the presence of international observers.

**Security Council

And here at UN Headquarters, today at the Security Council, they had an open meeting and heard from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Dmitry Titov about the work of the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL).

Titov noted that the new Sierra Leone Government has taken major steps to implement its reform agenda as well as policies that promote transparency and accountability.  In July, he said the country will take another major step towards enhancing its democratic process by holding local council elections, for which the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is providing technical support.  However, he said there has been regrettably very little improvement in Sierra Leone’s socio-economic conditions. 

The Council followed its meetings with consultations, also on Sierra Leone. 

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

And turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Pooled Fund has announced its first allocation of 2008 for humanitarian projects in that country.  Sixty million dollars will fund more than 160 projects.  Additional allocations are expected to be announced by the end of the year.

The Pooled Fund was established by the international community in 2006 to support humanitarian activities in DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo].  So far, it has funded more than $200 million worth of projects benefiting roughly 200 million people.  And there’s a press release upstairs.

** Nepal

And the UN Mission in Nepal’s Electoral Assistance Office is wrapping up its operations, having successfully provided technical assistance and advice to Nepal’s Election Commission in the holding of the historic Constituent Assembly election there.  The Chief Electoral Adviser will deliver a final report in June based on the written reports of all electoral advisers.

**Disarmament

And the Office for Disarmament Affairs announced that Austria this week has committed to contribute 100,000 euros to fund its project on combating illicit brokering in small arms and light weapons in Asia and the Pacific.  Since the beginning of 2008, several other Member States have made financial contributions to the regional centre, which will be relocated to Kathmandu, Nepal, this July.  The centre needs a total of $1.2 million to implement its two disarmament projects and about $1 million to build its institutional capacity.  There’s more information on this in the Spokesperson’s Office.

** Atlanta Trip

The Secretary-General is scheduled to leave this afternoon for Atlanta, Georgia.  This is part of his ongoing tour of major U.S. cities.  Tomorrow morning, he will join Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin in viewing the Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Collection.  And he is expected to see documents underlining the deep relationship between the civil rights leader and the UN.  The Secretary-General’s tribute to Dr. King will coincide with the year-long commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Also tomorrow, the Secretary-General plans to:  meet with Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue; tour the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; visit a not-for-profit organization affiliated with the UN Institute for Training and Research; and discuss global health issues at a dinner at the Carter Centre.

**Guest Tomorrow

And as I mentioned to you earlier, we will have a guest at tomorrow’s briefing, again, to give a further update on the humanitarian situation in Myanmar.  And on Friday, again, we will have a guest to discuss the flash appeal for Myanmar.

So that’s what I have for you.  I think you’ve probably exhausted your questions.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Quick question, because that came up during the previous briefing.  Yesterday, I asked if the Secretary-General has anything to say about the commencing with a referendum on Saturday.  Do you think that’s possible?  Do you think that’s probable?  Do you think that’s desirable?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As you know, what I read yesterday is what I read on that subject.  I have no new language on that.  But I think the message from this podium was very loud and clear today, which is that all efforts need to be focused right now on trying to get the urgently needed assistance to the thousands and thousands of people on the ground in Myanmar in desperate need.  That’s what I have for you.

Question:  Is Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari talking to the Burmese authorities about the possibility of postponing the referendum? 

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing on that today.  As I said, I think the message today is very clear.  We need to focus on saving as many lives as possible.

Question:  In an announcement, Serbs in Kosovo said that they are going to want to form their own parliament after the May election.  In the run up to these elections, what steps has UNMIK [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] taken to either allow or disallow voting and what’s its position on this?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything on that today, so I’ll follow up with you.

Question:  With yesterday’s ceremony for DFS [Department of Field Services], what now is Jane Holl Lute’s position?

Deputy Spokesperson:  She is in the same position as she’s always been.  She is the number two.  She is the Assistant Secretary-General in the Department.

Question:  Did she go back to DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  She was the acting head of the Department of Field Services and now she goes back to her previous post.

Question:  There seems to be rising tension between Abkhazia and Georgia.  Do you know what’s being done in the context of preventive diplomacy in this case?

Deputy Spokesperson:  If you’re talking about Georgia and Russia, I don’t have anything beyond the statement I read to you last week.

On that note, good afternoon and we’ll see you tomorrow.

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