|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.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later during the briefing read the following statement on Myanmar:
The Secretary-General, deeply concerned about the welfare of the people of Myanmar at this time of national tragedy, has taken note of the Government’s decision to proceed with the constitutional referendum on 10 May, while postponing it in some of the areas most affected by the cyclone. Due to the scope of the disaster facing Myanmar today, however, the Secretary-General believes that it may be prudent to focus instead on mobilizing all available resources and capacity for the emergency response efforts.]
I have one statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Bolivia:
The Secretary-General is closely following political developments in that country. He welcomes the intense diplomatic work carried out by the Organization of American States (OAS), as well as by countries of the Group of Friends of Bolivia ( Argentina, Brazil and Colombia) and other members of the international community.
The Secretary-General welcomes the call for dialogue made by OAS in its resolution of 3 May and urges all political and social actors to seek a consensus on the pressing issues affecting the Bolivian people.
The Security Council today heard in an open meeting from Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of resolution 1559, about the latest developments in Lebanon and the Secretary-General’s recent report on it.
He said that Lebanon has continued to experience a severe political crisis, centred particularly on the failure to elect a President. He noted recent incidents of unrest, including the blocking yesterday of roads leading to Beirut’s international airport by Hizbullah and scuffles between supporters of the Government and the opposition. So far, two people were reported killed from the clashes and 10 injured. Today, he said, a very tense calm has returned to the capital, but several roads remain closed.
The Special Envoy stressed that the full disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias is in the best interest of regional stability. He reiterated the Secretary-General’s deep concern that a presidential election still has not taken place.
The Council then went into consultations on Lebanon. Mr. Roed-Larsen is coming to the stakeout to brief reporters now.
**Secretary-General in Atlanta, Georgia
The Secretary-General is in Atlanta today. He is currently at the Governor’s Mansion with the Governor. He should be addressing the press there in a few minutes, and we’ll have the transcript of that encounter later this afternoon.
This morning he joined Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin in viewing the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Collection. He viewed documents underlining the deep relationship between the civil rights leader and the United Nations -– including correspondence between Dr. King and former UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ralph Bunche.
He said Dr. King remains an unsurpassed advocate of all the UN stands for: peace, economic and social justice, and human rights. He said we can be inspired by him as we pursue our overriding mission today to build a better world in the twenty-first century. We should have his full remarks upstairs shortly.
Since global health is one of the Secretary-General’s key priorities for 2008 and beyond, he will visit this afternoon the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which works with the World Health Organization on many issues. He will also meet former President Jimmy Carter at the Carter Center tonight, in advance of his meeting there tomorrow on global health.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has condemned in the strongest terms the killing of a WFP-contracted truck driver who was shot yesterday at a checkpoint in central Somalia. The driver was part of a WFP food convoy, which was stopped by militiamen who demanded money before opening fire, gravely injuring the driver who later succumbed to his wounds at a local hospital. He was the second WFP-contracted driver to be killed on the job this year in Somalia.
WFP says the convoy’s load of 275 tons of food was not stolen during the incident.
While road banditry remains a serious concern in southern Chad, the UN Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT) says that it is satisfied that a good level of security is prevailing there amid an influx of refugees from the neighbouring Central African Republic.
The refugees are arriving from the border town of Gore where local officials welcomed a UN delegation led by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Victor Angelo. The delegation included WFP, UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), which estimates the total number of refugees in Chad at some 296,000, of whom some 53,000 are Central Africans while the rest are Sudanese.
** Afghanistan -– Drugs
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says that a meeting involving officials from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan has concluded with an agreement on ways to strengthen border cooperation among those three countries in order to stem the flow of drugs from Afghanistan. The meeting is part of the Triangular Initiative brokered by the Office on Drugs and Crime to improve trans-border cooperation to fight drugs and crime.
The Office’s Executive Director, Antonio Maria Costa, was in Tehran, where he met with senior officials. He stressed the need to ensure that ways to facilitate trade are not exploited by smugglers of drugs and weapons. There is a press release on that upstairs.
The global carbon market more than doubled last year –- to $64 billion, according to a new report from the World Bank.
However, there was a levelling off of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects in developing countries. The report warns of a “demand gap” sometime this year -– when buyers realize that there is not enough time to fulfil their Kyoto Protocol commitments with new projects, but demand from a still to be concluded climate change agreement won’t have kicked in yet. The report also warns of procedural delays in the project approval cycle. There is more on this upstairs.
And there is a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) press release warning about an alarming decline in the number of migratory birds along the world’s major flyways. You can read more about that upstairs.
**Guest at Noon Tomorrow
And tomorrow, as just mentioned to you, John Holmes will be giving you a briefing again. Whether that is before the launch of the flash appeal or after, we will let you know later today.
[It was later announced that Mr. Holmes would brief the press after the flash appeal launch scheduled for 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.]
That is what I have for you today.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yesterday, the Foreign Minister of France said that there was a possibility that the “responsibility to protect” should be applied in Myanmar. Is that Mr. Ban’s understanding of the “responsibility to protect”?
Deputy Spokesperson: I understand that this is a matter that was raised in the Security Council, and they are discussing ways for Mr. Holmes to brief Member States of the United Nations.
Question: Since Ban Ki-moon appointed Ed Luck as his Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, can either Mr. Luck or Ban Ki-moon… what is their understanding of what… because they are not using in the Council… they are not voting on the responsibility to protect, just a…
Deputy Spokesperson: There is a “responsibility to protect” definition from the 2005 Summit, that is what I will refer you to. The request yesterday was made to the Security Council.
Question: Can we have Mr. Luck, since he is the Special Adviser on this very topic…
Deputy Spokesperson: He is the Special Adviser, but the definition of the “responsibility to protect” is outlined at the 2005 World Summit, it is a well-known document.
Question: Mr. Holmes just said that the Secretary-General was urging Than Shwe to accept international assistance. I know that he sent a letter on Tuesday. Do you know… did he send another letter? What kind of contact does he have?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, what Mr. Holmes just told you was that the Secretary-General is trying to reach him now by phone. Yesterday, we mentioned to you that he had sent a letter to the General. He is trying to call him now, and I also now have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Myanmar. I think this answers some of the questions that were raised on this subject yesterday and today.
Question: In the account that Mr. Holmes has given in the aid that arrived, this morning the Ambassador of China said that they have flown in a plane, and it is understood that India has sent two ships. Is OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] including in its account aid from the neighbours and do they have any contact with the two countries?
Deputy Spokesperson: As he mentioned to you yesterday -– I really can’t speak on behalf of Mr. Holmes -– but I think he said that he is working with all partners. And when humanitarian agencies in times of crisis do work with partners, with NGOs [non-governmental organizations], with local partners, with Governments, that is a very natural part of their work.
Question: But is it included in the statistics he has given us of things arriving?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think he was referring to the UN assistance. There is frequently also bilateral aid going in to emergencies, and that is a very normal process as well.
With that, thank you very much and have a good afternoon.
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