Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

19 February 2010

Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

19 February 2010
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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Hello there, good afternoon.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning heard from Under-Secretaries-General John Holmes and Alain Le Roy in an open meeting on Haiti.

John Holmes said that nearly half a million people have left earthquake-affected areas and moved around Haiti.  Help is badly needed for the displaced people and their host communities.  The Emergency Relief Coordinator thanked donors for their generous support so far, adding that an additional $768 million, above what has been already funded will be needed in the months ahead.  He said that there are no instant solutions for Haiti. But we must not waver in helping several million people survive this catastrophe and build better for the future.

Alain Le Roy provided an update on the work of the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, in maintaining order while restoring its capabilities, following the loss of at least 91 staff in the earthquake.  He noted the Mission’s work in assisting the humanitarian effort.  Le Roy said that the current calm is fragile and could suffer if adequate shelter is not provided before the rainy season comes.

And Mr. Le Roy expects to speak to reporters at the Council stakeout once the discussions on Haiti have ended.  The consultations on Haiti, we expect them to wrap up fairly soon.  So they may be coming to the stakeout fairly shortly and we’ll let you know if we get any further information on when he comes to the stakeout.

**Secretary-General on Haiti

Yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy for Haiti, Bill Clinton, issued the revised consolidated appeal for Haiti in the amount of $1.4 billion.  That includes more than $600 million which had already been funded through the first flash appeal, and the Secretary-General noted that it was encouraging that the United Nations has already received more than 100 per cent funding for that initial appeal.

As the rainy season is coming to Haiti, the Secretary-General warned, it will be extremely important to provide, on a priority basis, shelter and sanitation, among other necessary humanitarian assistance.  And he added, in remarks to the press after the appeal was launched, that it is very important for us to help the Haitian people for the longer term, to “build back better”.  The Secretary-General said that is our moral imperative at this time.  And we have his remarks posted online.

** Central African Republic

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said yesterday in Bangui that the conduct of planned elections in the Central African Republic will be an important test for that country’s effort to consolidate peace and democracy.  However, widespread impunity for human rights abuses remains one of the biggest challenges still to be addressed.

Pillay remarked that strengthening the rule of law will help set the country back on the road to credible democracy.  In that regard, she welcomed the recent adoption by the National Assembly of revised penal and criminal procedure codes.  Pillay was on a one-day visit to the Central African Republic.  And we have more in a press release from our Integrated Peacebuilding Office (BINUCA) in that country.

**Cafeteria

I know a number of you have been asking about the substance that was found in the UN cafeteria yesterday, which prompted the closure of the cafeteria in the afternoon.  Initial preliminary results indicate the substance is a non-toxic, non-organic substance, but we still await official lab results.  Host country authorities have removed the suspicious substance for more detailed analysis.  Meanwhile, the cafeteria will remain closed today.

** Nepal

And my colleague Marie [Okabe] was asked yesterday about Nepal and about an article claiming that the UN Mission (UNMIN) had refused to provide the Government with information on discharged Maoists.  We’ve been told by the Mission that the article is incorrect.

Regarding the Government of Nepal’s request for detailed personal data of the disqualified Maoist army personnel discharged from the cantonments, the UN Mission in Nepal has noted to the Government that this population is not subject to monitoring under the peace agreements.  The Government of Nepal has the names of all verified Maoist army personnel, and it has used the information for salary payments.

That’s all I have for you.  Like I said, Mr. Le Roy expects to come to the stakeout, and that will be after they are done with consultations on Haiti.

And we also have here Jean Victor Nkolo, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, and he will speak after me.  Is there anything before we get to Jean Victor?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Farhan, I wanted to… it’s the coup leader in Niger, [Colonel Salou] Djibo.  It’s been reported that he served with the UN peacekeeping forces in Côte d'Ivoire and in the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo, MONUC.  Is it possible to confirm or deny that?

Associate Spokesperson:  We don’t have anything to say on that just yet.  We would need further information.  As you are aware, we did have a brief statement yesterday on the situation in Niger, where the Secretary-General mentioned that he was keeping updated basically through Said Djinnit, the Head of our UN Office for West Africa.  And in any case, we may have a statement possibly later in the day concerning this coup.  But we’re still continuing to gather some details.  And I certainly don’t have any details about the specific identity of the coup leader.

Question:  But how long… it’s pretty…  Salou Djibo, that’s clear.  It was announced on Niger television that he is the new leader of the country.  I am just wondering, how long does it take to check DPKO [Department for Peacekeeping Operations] database…?

Associate Spokesperson:  We’ll try to check with DPKO whether he had any previous experience with peacekeeping.  We’ll follow up on that.  But in terms of establishing who is in the leadership of the coup at this stage, we’re also trying to get some information on that.

Question:  Farhan, what is the significance, why did Mr. Michael Williams today visit Samir Geagea?

Associate Spokesperson:  Mr. Williams actually spoke to the press after he met with Samir Geagea, and we have his remarks to the press out, available at the counter.  He has been meeting with a range of leaders across the political spectrum in Lebanon, and essentially trying to deal with them to make sure that all sides continue to support the process that has been under way in Lebanon, including, of course, continued support for the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006).

Question:  One question, probably you may have seen this, it’s been reported that the UN turned down a peacekeeper from Fiji to go and serve with a battalion in Iraq.  His name is Pita Driti, and it’s said that he was turned down, but it doesn’t really explain why.  Can you confirm that?  And can you state why, if he was turned down, why he was turned down?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, I can do actually both things for you.  First of all, I’d like to point out that Fiji has been and continues to be an active participant in UN peacekeeping and other operations.  However, since the December 2006 coup, there has been no increase in the number of Fijian troops participating in existing operations or any participation of Fijian troops in new UN operations established since that time.  This position is consistent with the stance of the Security Council on Fiji, which has called for the prompt return to democratically elected Government there.

In November 2009, the UN was informed by the Mission of Fiji to the UN of the Republic of Fiji’s intention to appoint Colonel Pita Driti as the next Commander of Fiji’s contingent to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).  In light of allegations of serious human rights violations against Colonel Driti, the UN advised the Fijian authorities through the appropriate channels that the Organization would not accept any personnel alleged to have committed human rights abuses or other illegal activities, and that Colonel Driti therefore would not be accepted as the head of the UNAMI Fijian contingent.  And that decision was taken in accordance with standing UN rules and regulations that apply to all troop-contributing countries.

Question:  Just one last question.  I just want to ask, there are these reports in northern Iraq of violence breaking out between supporters of Taliban and others.  I’m wondering, does UNAMI, do they have any comment?  There has been some shooting of…

Associate Spokesperson:  Just a general comment.  We don’t have a specific comment on today’s incidents.  But as you know, the UN Mission in Iraq has been warning against any violence as we approach the 7 March elections.  As you are aware, Ad Melkert was here earlier this week, and he briefed the Security Council about the need to make sure that you have peaceful elections that are respected by all on 7 March, and we have been making that call out to all of the communities within Iraq.

Question:  When do you expect to hear about this substance, if the host country is now testing it?  I know that you read out earlier about the substance.

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, it’s going through host-country testing.  I believe some of the testing is from the Department of Environmental Protection.  It depends on when the lab results come around.  Once they do, we’ll let you know.

[The Associate Spokesperson later added that preliminary results of the tests are negative, but testing continues.  The tests will most likely be completed by Monday.]

And with that, Jean Victor.  Have a good weekend, everyone.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thanks, Farhan.  Good afternoon.

The President of the General Assembly HE Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki arrived in Cairo today.  He is visiting Egypt at the invitation of the Egyptian Government.  He will meet with senior officials of the Egyptian Government, including the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Minister for International Cooperation.  On Sunday, President Treki will address the Council of the League of Arab States at the Permanent Representative level.  Before leaving New York, President Treki met with Mr. Marwan Al-Muasher, Senior Vice-President for External Affairs at the World Bank.  They discussed important issues on the agenda of the General Assembly, including the preparations for the review of progress on the Millennium Development Goals at the high-level meeting in September 2010, and post-conflict peacebuilding issues.

That’s what I have for you today.  Questions?  No?  Thank you.  Have a pleasant weekend.

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