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

12 June 2008

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

12 June 2008
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES 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 President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, all.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is on his way to London after co-chairing the International Conference in support of Afghanistan today at the Kleber Conference Center in Paris.  The Secretary-General this morning addressed the Conference convened by the French Government and where President Hamid Karzai launched a National Development Strategy for his country.  The Secretary-General said that the Strategy “will be tested in the most remote villages” of Afghanistan.  He said that the United Nations supports the Strategy’s concept of “Afghanization”, explaining that such a policy was not only about channelling more international assistance into Afghan institutions but to have all Afghans participate in the rebuilding of their country.  He also called the elections that are to take place in 2009 and 2010 a “crucial test of the institutions that we have created together and of the confidence that Afghans have in them.”  We have the Secretary-General’s statement upstairs, as well as the final Declaration from the Conference itself.

The Secretary-General then held today a number of bilateral meetings on the margins of the Conference.  He first met with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and they discussed the proposals on Kosovo presented today by the Secretary-General to the UN Security Council.  The Secretary-General also discussed Kosovo with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

He met later with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, thanking him for China’s strong assistance to Afghanistan and voicing his support for China’s efforts to deal with the damage caused by the recent earthquake in Sichuan Province.  He invited China’s Prime Minister to attend the 25 September High-Level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals.  They also discussed the Kosovo proposals and Myanmar.  During his series of bilateral meetings, the Secretary-General met also tête-à-tête with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  Before leaving Paris for London, the Secretary-General met with President Hamid Karzai, with EU High Commissioner Javier Salana, and afterwards, with the convenor of the Conference, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, at the Elysée Palace.

**Kosovo

On Kosovo, today the Secretary-General has moved forward with a series of measures on Kosovo.  First, he has sent a special report to the Security Council on the reconfiguration of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).  Second, he has sent letters to both President Boris Tadić in Belgrade and Fatmir Sejdiu in Pristina informing them of his intention to reconfigure the international civil presence in Kosovo, as set out in his special report to the Security Council.  Third, the Secretary-General has indicated his intention to appoint a new special representative in conjunction with the reconfiguration.

Regarding the report, it indicates the Secretary-General’s intention to adjust the structure and profile of UNMIK in a manner that enables the European Union to perform an enhanced operational role in the area of the rule of law under a UN “umbrella” headed by the Special Representative within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999).  As for the letters, they confirm the UN’s position of “status-neutrality” on the question of Kosovo’s status and indicate the UN’s commitment to a dialogue with Belgrade in six issue areas:  police; justice; boundary management; Serbian patrimony; transport and infrastructure; and customs.

The Secretary-General has consulted with all relevant stakeholders, including Member States of the Security Council and Contact Group, the EU, Belgrade and Pristina.  It is anticipated that the Council will meet to discuss the report in the near future.

** Zimbabwe

For those of you who may have missed it, we confirmed yesterday afternoon that Haile Menkerios, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs responsible for African issues, is scheduled to visit Zimbabwe from 16 to 20 June for discussions on the political situation and the upcoming elections.  His visit is in follow-up to the Secretary-General’s recent meeting with the President of Zimbabwe in Rome.  Here at UN headquarters, John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will brief the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe at 3 p.m. closed consultations.  John Holmes will speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout immediately after his briefing.

** Côte d’Ivoire

On Côte d’Ivoire, the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) has confirmed that a security mechanism will be put in place for the upcoming presidential election.  This was one of the key subjects of discussion during the Security Council’s visit to Côte d’Ivoire earlier this week.  The security mechanism will begin next week on June 19th.  It will see the coordinated participation of the Ivorian Army, the former rebel Forces Nouvelles, UN peacekeepers in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire and the Security Council-mandated French force Licorne.  They will secure Ivorian borders and provide security inside the country during the voting period.  The Mission said that the idea was formally disclosed by its Force Commander at a meeting of regional UN Force commanders.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations this morning on the Sudan Sanctions Committee and other matters.  The Italian Ambassador, as chair of the Sudan Sanctions Committee, briefed on the Committee’s work.

** Greece and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

On Greece, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Matthew Nimetz, met with the parties today at Headquarters.  He said both parties have resolved to get back to work and see if they can move towards a breakthrough on the “name issue”.  He confirmed that he would go to the region relatively soon and reiterated that the negotiation process does not have any deadline.  And most of you probably spoke to him at the stakeout earlier.

** Somalia

On Somalia, the World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed to naval powers to help protect its ships, which carry lifesaving food aid, from pirate attacks.  WFP stressed that as many as 2 million Somalis could go hungry without this essential help.  Some 80 per cent of WFP food for Somalia arrives by sea.  We have more on that upstairs.

Meanwhile, today just after dawn, a WFP-contracted truck driver was shot and killed by gunmen in southern Somalia.  He was part of a convoy of WFP-contracted trucks carrying more than 300 tons of food aid to the areas hit hardest by drought in central Somalia.

**IAEA on China Quake Radiation

In the wake of the earthquake that ravaged China’s Sichuan Province last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has joined hands with Chinese emergency teams to recover stray radioactive materials buried in the rubble that could complicate relief efforts or cause contamination.  Immediately after the earthquake, Chinese experts were sent to examine the safety status of nuclear facilities and radioactive sources within the quake zone.  Utilizing IAEA’s training and donated equipment, a team of radioactive source search-and-recovery experts fanned out across all disaster-stricken areas using radiation detection equipment to pinpoint the location of 50 sources and safely recover all of them.  IAEA experts believe that this is the first time that training has been used for source recovery after an earthquake.

** Afghanistan Drug Seizure

The Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today congratulated the Minister of the Interior of Afghanistan for finding and destroying, with support from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) there, what is believed to be the world’s largest seizure of drugs.  The 236.8 metric tons of hashish would have had a wholesale value of $400 million, according to the NATO operation in Afghanistan.  “This is a massive seizure, and a major success for counter-narcotics in Afghanistan,” said the Executive Director.  He also said that drugs are financing terrorism and insurgency in Afghanistan and urged Governments to come forward with the names and evidence needed to bring the most wanted drug traffickers to justice.  We have a press release on that upstairs.

** Nepal in Peacekeeping

On the fiftieth anniversary of Nepal’s continuous participation in the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, the Secretary-General in a message today expressed special thanks and congratulations to the Government and people of Nepal, a top-five contributor of peacekeepers around the world.  Highlighting that Nepal has contributed 60,000 peacekeepers in some 40 peacekeeping missions over the past five decades, the Secretary-General commended Nepal’s and all peacekeeper-contributing nations’ participation to foster global peace.

Since the first operations began 60 years ago, peacekeeping has developed into a flagship enterprise of the United Nations.  Today, there are more than 110,000 men and women from nearly 120 countries deployed in conflict zones around the world.  Nepal and four other nations of the south together contribute nearly half of the UN’s peacekeepers.

**Timor-Leste

On Timor-Leste, the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste is looking to increase its local financial expenditure in the coming years in an effort to support the “Buy Local:  Build Timor-Leste” campaign.  The campaign is an initiative of the Peace Dividend Trust following a study by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in 2005 that found that increasing peacekeeping and partners’ expenditure in post conflict States has a positive effect on local economies by creating employment and building the private sector capacity.  The Peace Dividend Trust is now working in two countries where peacekeeping missions operate, Timor-Leste and Afghanistan.  It will also look to increase its presence in other countries where there are UN peacekeeping operations.

**Iraqi Refugees

On Iraqi refugees, small groups of long-time Iraqi exiles in Iran seeking repatriation are being delayed by complicated clearance procedures and sporadic border closures.  That’s what UNHCR is reporting and you can read more about it on the UN refugee agency’s website.

** Lebanon

On Lebanon, farmers in south Lebanon have received 200 cows and 1,600 goats from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  The gift is the first direct UN contribution to a compensation programme set up by the FAO to help them recover from losses in south Lebanon’s agricultural sector caused by the summer 2006 war.  Some 450 families of farmers and cattle-breeders in some 40 villages in south Lebanon are expected to benefit from the programme, which will cost around $1.9 million in total.  FAO estimates that the region lost some 1,600 cows and 20,000 goats during the 2006 war.  We have more in a press release upstairs.

**Child Labour

The World Day against Child Labour is marked today and calls the world’s attention to the plight of millions of girls and boys around the world who are victims of child labour.  In 2008, the message of the World Day is that education is the right response to child labour.  According to estimates of the International Labour Organization (ILO), there are 218 million child labourers, of whom the vast majority is denied educational opportunities.  In his message on the occasion of the World Day, the Director-General of the ILO, Juan Somavia, says meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals, in particular Goal 2 related to universal primary education, also means tackling child labour.  The Director-General calls for action to ensure education for all children at least to the minimum age of employment and for education programmes that reach out to child labourers.

UNICEF also sees education as the best weapon in the global fight against child labour and says recent data has provided hope.  The number of children out of school has dropped from 115 million in 2002 to 93 million in 2006.  We have press releases from several UN agencies on that World Day upstairs.

**UNESCO and Literacy

Then from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, today welcomed the announcement by Mrs. Laura Bush that she will host a second literacy meeting in New York on 22 September in her capacity as Honorary Ambassador for the UN Literacy Decade.  The symposium will draw together the conclusions of the six regional literacy conferences organized by UNESCO during 2007 and 2008.  We have the full statement upstairs.

And this is all I have for you.  Janos will be here in just a few minutes to talk to you.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  What exactly is Menkerios hoping to achieve in his visiting Zimbabwe?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have the details right now of what he’s planning to discuss and what he’s planning to do.  All we can confirm is that he’s going and that’s all I can say at this point.  But I will let you know, of course, when we get more details on his schedule and who he wants to meet and what he wants to push.

Question:  One of the things being talked about is outside observers for the election.  Is that going to be on his agenda at all?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know at this point.  We will surely find out soon what will be discussed.

Question:  One more question.  What is Menkerios’ citizenship now?

Spokesperson:  I can check that for you.  I think he’s South African.

Question:  Michèle, I don’t know if at the beginning you gave an update on Pakistan, the US attack on the Pakistani troops, which ended up killing 11 troops.  Did you give a statement at the outset?

Spokesperson:  No, I just talked about the conference on Afghanistan.  I don’t have a statement on the attack yet.

Question:  It was an action that happened yesterday and you said they were still gathering information to make a statement.

Spokesperson:  But we still don’t have enough.  I tried to get the information for you but I could not get more.  We have no one there to give us independent confirmation of what happened.

Question:  Pakistan called it aggression.  Do you understand aggression to mean that if it is aggression, a Security Council meeting can be called?

Spokesperson:  Actually, this is for the Security Council to decide and it is for Pakistan to call upon the Security Council on that matter.

Question:  Michèle, there’s a report that a man by the name of Alain Le Roy is going to become the new head of Peacekeeping Operations, that his name has been forwarded by France as their candidate.  Is that something you can comment on?

Spokesperson:  Not at this point.  I’ve read the reports, like you have, but I don’t have any response.

Question:  Do you have any idea when the switchover is going to happen between Mr. Guéhenno and whoever his successor is?

Spokesperson:  I think it’s sometime at the end of July but I’ll check that for you.

Question:  Also, there’s a report put out yesterday by the ACABQ that responded to the Secretary-General’s report on the DPKO/DFS (Department of Field Services) split.  Their report is pretty critical.  They said they expected more transparency, that the roles between DPKO and DFS are still not well defined.  What’s the response of the Secretariat to that?

Spokesperson:  We have to wait.  ACABQ has sent that report and, of course, there will be formal answers to the States.

Question:  Also, there’s a report today, that the procurement task force report on the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and Mr. Bertucci has become public.  And supposedly it says the DESA Thessalonica Centre is a long-standing controversy.  And it states that, as reported, Mr. Bertucci was grossly negligent and had big problems in the hiring of contractors.  He then was quoted in the newspapers as saying he’s been entirely exonerated.  What’s the status of that report and is something going to be decided before he retires in six weeks in terms of either discipline or no discipline?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check on that for you.

Question:  On Kosovo, you said the Italian Foreign Minister took up Kosovo with the Secretary-General.  Do you have a readout?

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have any more on this.  This is what we got from our Assistant Spokesperson, Farhan, who is on the ground.  But if you want more on that meeting, I’ll try to get more for you.  But it was essentially Kosovo.  That was the main subject.

[The Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General’s last meeting in Paris was with European Union High Commissioner Javier Solana, with whom he discussed Afghanistan, Georgia, Kosovo and Iran.  The Secretary-General and his spouse have since departed Paris for London.]

Question:  You indicated the Secretary-General met with Condoleezza Rice.  What were the subjects discussed?

Spokesperson:  It was a tête-à-tête meeting, as you heard me say, and a tête-à-tête meeting we have no report on.

Question:  The US military tribunal in Guantanamo is moving ahead and there’s a Canadian citizen named Omar Qadr there who was 15 years old when he was detained.  Surprisingly, Canada hasn’t asked for his return, but certainly this falls into a situation where a 15-year-old who was detained could face the death penalty.  There’s been some comments made by Louise Arbour.  I’m wondering if you can comment on what the UN system will be doing in terms of these prisoners and related to that, the death penalty, especially for the detained who are under the age of 18.

Spokesperson:  The person who can do the follow-up is Mrs. Arbour, as you said.  She has already spoken about the case and I’m sure this is something she’s going to refer to the Human Rights Council.

Question:  I have a question on the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  There’s been some movement on establishing a complaint mechanism.  It seems that a number of countries are trying to stall or slow down the process at the Human Rights Council.  I’m wondering, from the Secretary-General’s Office and other areas of the UN, how quickly we’d be able to see a formal complaint mechanism set up under that Covenant.

Spokesperson:  This is a matter for Member States, not the Secretariat.  And as you said yourself, it is for the Human Rights Council to discuss.

Question:  You indicated that Mrs. Laura Bush will be holding a meeting in New York.  Where in New York?  At the United Nations or somewhere else?

Spokesperson:  I will find out for you.  You can certainly have information in the UNESCO press release upstairs.  It’s a UNESCO matter.

Question:  One last question.  Some of us heard through diplomatic channels that Victor Angelo is planning on meeting this week with members of the Justice and Equality Movement in Chad, which is considered a terrorist organization by a number of countries.  Can you confirm that or is this an unofficial thing the Secretariat would not be able to confirm?

Spokesperson:  He is with the Mission and we can get an answer for you.

Question:  That’s the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA), he’s the head.  Would he check with Sudan before conducting such a meeting or is he authorized to meet with entities that are considered enemies or even a terrorist group?

Spokesperson:  He’s authorized to meet whoever he thinks is necessary for the peace process to move forward.

Question:  I don’t understand.  The Secretariat works for the Member States.  How does that work out?  Does he have to check with the Member States?  What does that mean?

Spokesperson:  They don’t have to check with the Member States.  There are special missions that are entrusted to special envoys and they do whatever it takes to carry out their mission and they have their mandates to do so.  Thank you.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon, good to see you, as always.  Let me give you an update on what the General Assembly has been up to, what the President has been up to and what is coming up in the next couple of days.  Let me start with the HIV/AIDS review meeting that is going on.

**Conclusion of HIV/AIDS Review Meeting

The General Assembly is expected to conclude the high-level meeting on a comprehensive review of the progress achieved in realizing the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS which began on Tuesday.  It is expected that about 160 Member States and observers will have taken the floor by the end of the debate.  The President of the Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, is expected to make concluding remarks and will also at a later stage issue a comprehensive summary of the event.  This summary will include a summary of the plenary meetings, the panel discussions and the civil society hearings.  And it is also envisaged that the Assembly may hold another high-level review in 2011, so 10 years after adopting the Declaration of Commitment in 2001.

The President, in his closing statement, is expected to emphasize the need to sustain and scale up progress that had so far been achieved by calling on Member States not to lose momentum in the global response to fight HIV/AIDS.  He will stress that renewed determination must be matched with accelerated implementation of commitments to achieve universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and support by 2010.  

The President will also emphasize that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a public health as well as a development issue; that an effective response to the pandemic must have human rights and gender equality at its core; that there must be better access to prevention, treatment and support services, especially for those populations at most risk; and that leadership and political accountability are the most important part of the solution.

**Statement on Meeting with the Foreign Minister of Argentina

Let me go back to something that happened yesterday in the afternoon.  The President of the Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, met with Jorge Enrique Taiana, the Minister of External Relations of Argentina.  We had issued a short statement on that meeting, which was attributable to the Spokesman for the General Assembly President.  According to the statement, the meeting focused on current reform initiatives aimed at strengthening the role of the United Nations in world affairs.  The two also discussed the most recent developments concerning Security Council reform, including the upcoming meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group, which is set for 17 June. 

As I go into giving you some highlights of upcoming events, let me start, in fact, with that upcoming 17 June meeting, which is a full-day meeting.

**Security Council Reform

The Open-Ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other matters related to the Security Council will hold its third meeting during the sixty-second session.  The second meeting was on 10 April, the first on 14 December.

General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim sent out a letter yesterday to Member States with the report of the four Vice-Chairs of his Task Force.  These are the Permanent Representatives of Bangladesh, Chile, Djibouti and Portugal.  The letter and the report are available on the website of the President (www.un.org/ga/president/62).  In this letter, the President asks Member States for their comments, especially with a view to discuss the next steps on Security Council reform when the Open-Ended Working Group meets on 17 June, next Tuesday.

The Task Force members note that their Report comes after extensive consultation with the membership.  The purpose was to reach out to all Member States, through their regional groups, in major interest groups or individually, and to listen to their recommendations on how to move forward at this stage of the process of Security Council reform.

The Report notes that many Member States have reaffirmed their original positions, while some have evolved or refined their stands.  All have expressed their disposition to enter intergovernmental negotiations, some expressing that their preferred positions could lead to compromise options, but as an outcome of the eventual negotiations.  The Report further notes that, in general terms, there continues to be a common understanding that the Security Council in its current composition does not reflect international reality and thus needs to be adequately rebalanced.  Status quo on present Security Council composition is judged as unrealistic.  Both the expansion of the Security Council and the reform of its working methods are seen as important to the wide membership of the Organization.  Also, reform of the Security Council is considered as an integral part of the overall UN reform process.

The Report of the Task Force gives a good overview of the current state of affairs, including the various proposals and options on the table.  These also include, and this is noted in the report, the option of no reform.

**System-Wide Coherence

A couple of other things coming up that are carried forward by the Assembly and that have corresponding meetings next week.  One of them is the System-Wide Coherence process.  This, as some of you may remember, is carried forward by two Co-Chairs, two facilitators, the Permanent Representatives of Ireland and Tanzania.  They are continuing their consultations with Member States.  They will have a meeting tomorrow, Friday, in the morning, on harmonization of business practices.  Then on Monday morning, they will hold informal consultations on gender issues and this will feature the presence of the Deputy Secretary-General, who will introduce a note on the United Nations system support to Member States on gender equality and women’s empowerment, which was prepared by the Secretariat.  This was a note that was circulated by the Assembly President on 6 June, available on his website.

The co-chairs are expected to hand in a report on their efforts with regards to System-Wide Coherence to the General Assembly President by the end of June.  And based on this report, Member States will decide what their next step will be.

**Counter-Terrorism Strategy Review

Also tomorrow, Friday, Member States will hold informal consultations on the preparations for the two-year formal review of the United Nations global counter-terrorism strategy.  That formal review, as I have mentioned before, is set for 4 September.  The interesting part of this informal consultation tomorrow is that it will be chaired by the newly appointed facilitator for this process, Ambassador Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala.

**Preparations for Financing for Development Review Conference

And one other thing, the Financing for Development Review Conference preparations.  This will happen next week, Monday, 16 June.  The Permanent Representatives of Egypt and Norway are the facilitators for the preparations for the International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus.  This is set for the end of November in Doha, Qatar.  The facilitators will hold another round of informal consultations focusing on the content of the draft outcome document for the Doha meeting.  You may remember that, at the end of December, the General Assembly adopted a resolution, A/62/187, which spelled out the organizational aspects of the Review Conference, and it requested the President of the General Assembly to present the first draft of this outcome document to Member States by the end of July.  So this is what the two facilitators are working on.  As I said, the first consultation on that is on 16 June. 

Then two days later, on 18 June, also part of this process and part of the preparations of the outcome document, is an informal interactive hearing with representatives of civil society and the business sector.  And that’s all I have.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  This report by the Task Force, India has reportedly circulated a draft resolution which is calling for the General Assembly to first approve some elements, such as expansion of the permanent seats and non-permanent seats, and then leave the question of who should get the permanent seat and the non-permanent seat to the working groups later on.  Have you seen that draft resolution, has the President seen it?  Are you able to comment on that?

Spokesperson:  I am not commenting on that draft resolution because that has been circulated, as far as I know, in an informal manner amongst Member States.  The President’s Office has not been formally approached on this draft.  What we do know is that the Open-Ended Working Group meeting is on 17 June at 10 a.m.  Then it is up to Member States what they want to do with the information.  That may be where, in fact, if there is such a draft resolution being circulated, where this may or may not come up. 

Question:  Can they also at some point call on the General Assembly to hold a meeting where they can discuss this resolution?

Spokesperson:  The Open-Ended Working Group is the forum where this proposal can also come up.  The Working Group can also take an action on this and propose further action by the Assembly.  For example, if Member States so wish, they can decide that then they want the General Assembly to take action on whatever they put forward as a proposal, whether it’s a resolution or some kind of decision or something else.  So, something can emanate from that, but again, that’s up to Member States to propose something for action, and then for the Working Group to do something with it.

Question:  There’s a quote out by Srgjan Kerim about the selection process for the High Commission for Human Rights, that he said that “at some point, I believe that Member States should have input”.  At what point should they be consulted, according to him?  He was quoted to this effect.

Spokesperson:  Yes, the quote came after we had a press briefing here and I believe it was Betsy from the Washington Times who approached him on this issue and this was his comment.  That’s all I have to say on this.  This is what he said when he was asked about consultations.

Question:  I just want to understand, because he says there often are informal consultations, especially on delicate issues.  So, how many?  Are the regional groups supposed to be consulted?  Is he saying the process should be other than it is?

Spokesperson:  I believe the quote speaks for itself, in the sense that he feels, as the President of the General Assembly, that the Assembly should be consulted on this process.

Question:  Formally or informally?

Spokesperson:  Either way, but it should be consulted.

Question:  And has it been?

Spokesperson:  I’m not aware.  I’ll follow up with the President and see what happens.

Question:  One other thing.  Yesterday, there was a press release put out by UNIFIL about Lebanon.  There is sort of a controversy there about whether the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) review the financial implications of UNIFIL opening an office in Tel Aviv, whether this involves the questioning of that opening.  UNIFIL put out a press release saying the Committee had no prerogative to take decisions on any political matters related to the mandate of UNIFIL.  I’m wondering if that’s true.

Spokesperson:  I’ll be honest with you.  I’m not aware of the UNIFIL press release, but I’ll certainly take it up with colleagues that deal with this.  As you know, one of the things I have not talked about is the work of the Fifth Committee.  It is still continuing.  Member States are still in consultations and one of the issues for this segment of the Fifth Committee is the approval of peacekeeping budgets.  So in that sense, it’s on the agenda of the Fifth Committee.  So I don’t know if at this time, before a decision has been reached, we can comment on it.  But I’ll follow up with colleagues for you what the take of the Committee is on this press release by UNIFIL.

Question:  You referred several times to the Open-Ended Working Group.  What happened to the phrase “ad hoc”?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out.  Under the sixty-second session, it was always referred to as the Open-Ended Working Group. 

Question:  It has always been referred to as the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group.

Spokesperson:  I’ll look into it.

Question:  You mentioned earlier, would you specify the Member States who had refined their previous position on HIV/AIDS?

Spokesperson:  Where I mentioned refined position, I quoted from the Report of the Vice-Chairs of the Task Force on Security Council reform and, for that, I ask you to read the whole Report yourself because it does give the specifics on the positions of Member States.  So the reference to refined positions in my briefing was as regards Security Council reform, not HIV/AIDS. 

If no more questions, then thank you very much for your questions.

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