Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly
Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly
|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 President of the General Assembly
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
So, good afternoon, everybody.
As you can see, I have here as my guest at the Noon Briefing Under-Secretary-General Susana Malcorra, and she will brief you shortly on the Board of Inquiry report into the attack on the Bakhtar guest house.
Before we hand over to Ms. Malcorra, first of all, I have a statement to read out, attributable to the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General, on the Board of Inquiry report into the attack on the Bakhtar guest house in Kabul on 28 October 2009.
The Secretary-General has received the final report of the Board of Inquiry into the 28 October 2009 terrorist attack on the Bakhtar guest house in Kabul, where 34 United Nations staff were residing. The four-member Board of Inquiry, set up in December 2009, was led by Andrew Hughes, a former senior Australian Federal Police official and former United Nations Police Adviser. It began its work in February 2010 and travelled to Kabul the same month. Its report was submitted to the Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support on 21 April 2010. The relevant findings of the report have been shared with the Afghan authorities and other relevant stakeholders have also been informed.
The report details the tragic incident in which three Afghan security personnel and five United Nations staff members lost their lives and several others were injured. The United Nations mourns the loss of these brave individuals who died in the service of peace.
The report describes the confused situation at the Bakhtar guest house, with the attackers and responding security personnel both dressed in Afghan police uniforms and a fire raging through the compound. The report suggests the possibility that a United Nations staff member, Close Protection Officer Louis Maxwell, may have been killed by Afghan security forces who may have mistaken him for an insurgent. Mr. Maxwell died protecting his United Nations colleagues, many of whom are alive today because of his heroic actions. The report was not able to determine who fired the shots that killed the three other United Nations staff members, though it leaves open the possibility that they also may have been killed by friendly fire. The report highlights a number of shortcomings in the United Nations security measures as well as with respect to coordination between the United Nations and both its international partners and the host Government authorities.
In light of the seriousness of the matter, the Secretary-General has instructed that the Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security, Gregory Starr, review the security findings highlighted in the report. He will lead a team to Kabul next week, to discuss next steps and follow-up with the Afghan authorities. The Secretary-General has also instructed Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy and Special Representative Staffan de Mistura to contact relevant North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials in Brussels and Kabul for further consultations on how best to ensure improved coordination in the event of future emergencies of this nature.
The Secretary-General reiterates the United Nations commitment to transparency and the strengthening of security for its personnel serving in dangerous locations. He calls on the Afghan authorities to ensure a thorough investigation into the attack on the guest house and the killing of United Nations staff. He pledges the United Nations continued dedicated work to assist the Afghan Government and the Afghan people to move the peace process forward in Afghanistan.
So that’s the statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General. And with that, I will pass the floor to Ms. Malcorra, who, as you know, is Under-Secretary-General for Field Support.
Question: Just before that, will this information be made available to us?
Spokesperson: This statement that I have just read out is available at the back of the room for you in printed form.
Question: But what about the report on the whole incident?
Spokesperson: This is why we are holding the briefing right now, so I would urge you to listen to Ms. Malcorra. We are having a briefing where Ms. Malcorra will be briefing you on the findings in the report. So please, Ms. Malcorra.
Under-Secretary-General Susana Malcorra: Well, first of all, thank you, Martin, and this is a very difficult issue to handle, as you may well imagine. It is an issue that includes the deaths of five of our colleagues, so we have taken it very seriously. And we have done every -- we have taken every single step to ensure that we understand what it is that happened, and that we are able to get to a conclusion in the whole circumstances.
Let me first start by saying that this was an attack on our guest house in Kabul, in one of our guest houses in Kabul; an attack by insurgents. What we clearly understand from the conclusions of the report is that the house was targeted because it was a place where most, the largest number of the staff belonging to UNDP-ELECT was hosted. So we believe that there is a political connotation to the attack by the Taliban. The three insurgents that attacked were dressed in police uniforms, which added a lot to the confusion of the overall situation.
What happened is that they were able to take over the guards that were external to the house; they killed and injured the guards that were external to the house, and they were able to gain control of the house immediately because once they went in, they were able to also injure the two internal guards at the door. And with that, they started fire, they immediately started fire in the house, threw grenades, which created a total situation of panic in the guest house.
What we know also from the findings is that two of our staff who were security staff -- one was a close protection and the other one was a UN DSS [Department of Safety and Security] security staff -- were able to fire back, particularly the close protection staff, Mr. Maxwell, took a position in one of the roofs of the house and from there he was able to hold the fort and be able to protect our colleagues that by then were trying to go through the house, through a back door, and leave the house behind.
All of this was in a total chaotic situation without a clear understanding of who was fighting against who, particularly again, by the fact that the attackers were dressed in Afghan police uniforms. The next thing we know is that of the five staff members who died, one died caught in the fire; three died as they were escaping in what is led to be believed a “friendly fire”; and a fifth one, who is Mr. Maxwell, he first fell from the roof. It is not totally clear how he fell. Whether he just fell or he was hit by, he was wounded, but he was able to survive that process while the three perpetrators in different moments blew themselves out. What the Board of Inquiry reflects at the very end is that it is not clear how Mr. Maxwell was killed in the middle of that very complicated situation, with some believing that he was an attacker from the roof of the building. And it is not being, as I said, from the proofs that the Board of Inquiry was able to recollect, it is not clear how he was killed, even though there is a strong sense that he may have been killed by some of the Afghan police.
This was all done in circumstances that are of a severe attack, circumstances in which exchange of fire was performed from both sides, neither one of the sides knowing exactly clear who was attacking on the other one, and with a very, very confusing situation. So, what we have done, as the Secretary-General instructed us, is first inform the Afghan authorities of what the findings were.
Just as a reminder, this Board of Inquiry is not an inquiry in the sense of a court inquiry. It is an internal, managerial inquiry. So it doesn’t have all the tools that are required in a full legal inquiry. So now we are asking the Afghan authorities to further pursue the investigation to find out in more detail what they can finalize regarding these cases. We have informed also the families so that they are aware of the circumstances of the deaths of their beloved ones. And we’re now informing you as the press to fully give the transparency that is required with the information we have, which is, of course, as far as the Board of Inquiry could go. Thank you.
Spokesperson: Thank you. We’ll take questions. Yes, Bill.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you. What’s the difference in terms of the evidence for the three that died as they were escaping what is believed to be friendly fire, in other words [inaudible], and with Mr. Maxwell, where there is a strong sense that it was friendly fire. Is there a distinction there? Is it all the same, believed the same way, and is based on the evidence, the forensic evidence, or whatever led you to that conclusion as you have described it?
Under-Secretary-General: Well, it is not my conclusion, it is the Board of Inquiry’s conclusion. First, the three that are described us to believe to be shot under friendly fire, and again this is not foolproof, and I’ll tell you why in a second. The three of them were in the same area inside the house, in sort of a patio or an open area inside the house, and leads to believe that from different positions they were trying to escape and they were caught in that circumstance. So it is without having enough total proof the sense is that it was friendly fire. Friendly fire means that everybody was using AK-47s, so they were all using the same type of equipment to fire, and that’s one of the reasons it’s not clear who was firing at whom. So those three, given the positions that the Board of Inquiry got, leads us to believe that they were escaping and that they were caught in that fire. Mr. Maxwell survived during this process and he was seen outside of the house. So, that’s why the situation is different. It’s a more complicated situation in the case of Mr. Maxwell.
Question: What was he, was he also shot by AK-47?
Under-Secretary-General: Yes, and as you ask, on the forensic information, it’s… the forensic information says that, from afar, he was shot from afar, not from nearby. So…
Question: You said that police mistook Mr. Maxwell to be an insurgent. Was he in uniform when he was shot?
Under-Secretary-General: No, he wasn’t, but there are… Part of the information that the Board of Inquiry was able to recollect shows that they were asking for support from a helicopter to control an insurgent that was on one of the roofs. And the only person who was on the roof was Mr. Maxwell. So, the Board of Inquiry was led to interpret that he was perceived to be one of the insurgents on the roof. Of course, they were not seeing him; this was 5:30 in the morning, so it was not that they were able to see the uniforms.
Question: Just three [inaudible] questions. Can you confirm that, based on the communications that Mr. Maxwell was having, that he thought that a lot of attackers were attacking the guest house? In other words, that when the police came he thought they were part of the attackers? This is one. Secondly, we were hearing reports that amongst the media coverage afterwards one of the Afghan forces talked about having killed an Arab terrorist, and are all three of the attackers…?
Under-Secretary-General: Were blown out, as far as I know.
Question: …shot an Arab terrorist, sorry. So, three of the attackers were blown up, so did the Board of Inquiry think that may have been a suggestion to Mr. Maxwell? And this thing about him being shot from far off -- this is number three, the questions -- there was that video footage, that very shaky video footage, which showed somebody on the ground trying to get up, and then shot at quite close range, actually. So, by that are you, is the Board of Inquiry saying that that probably wasn’t Mr. Maxwell?
Under-Secretary-General: Well, let me go through the three questions. On the first question, how many people Mr. Maxwell though were attacking, that I don’t have an answer from the communications that I have seen. Of course, he saw Afghan police attacking and I am not sure he knew how many. So, I don’t have an answer to that one…
Question: Was there… Sorry to interrupt you, was there any indication at all from, that he might have thought the Afghan police coming to rescue them [inaudible]?
Under-Secretary-General Malcorra: Well, absolutely, because what we see, what the Board of Inquiry saw, is an exchange that had a range of coverage coming from the roof that went outside the house. So, he was probably firing to… shooting at them. But I don’t have an answer from the communications point of view that he confirmed that. Again, very, very chaotic and messy situation in the middle of the night, fire in the building already and people storming in. The second question, will you please remind me?
Correspondent: This, the media report with the Afghan policemen saying they had shot an Arab terrorist.
Under-Secretary-General: There was a media report saying exactly what you said, and that’s part of what we would like to be further investigated. You’re right, there was, there is a media report in that regard. And the third question was on the footage and the range. The footage shows clearly a person surrounded by Afghan police and, if I recall correctly, two shots and the person falling. It’s not clear from the footage that the two shots were made from close range. What is clear is that the forensic studies that were performed proved that they were done from a long range. So we need to fully connect how is it that he was surrounded by people and he was eventually shot by somebody from farther away. That’s part of the…
Question: That person in the video footage is believed to be him? There is no question about that?
Under-Secretary-General: It’s believed to be him, yes. Yes, yes. Absolutely.
Question: Sure, Ms. Malcorra, when this first happened, the Secretariat complained that it took 90 minutes for the Afghan national forces to show up on the scene. That was big part of the UN’s response. I am wondering how that squares with the way that you are laying things out now, and the fact that if the person in the film you are acknowledging is Louis Maxwell, it doesn’t seem that the person is fighting at all. There’s nothing, the gun is not raised. I wanted to also know whether the Board of Inquiry was able to determine where Mr. Maxwell’s gun is at present, whether it is still in UN hands or not. And I also wanted to ask you about the Board of Inquiry itself. It was described to us as external. When did Mr. Hughes leave his position as Police Adviser? Was he paid during this process? Is he in New York and why isn’t he the one briefing us as, for example, Mr. [Heraldo] Muñoz briefed us as the actual investigator? And also, was Mr. [Anthony] Banbury in New York, given that he said, he was quoted in an interview when it was said here that nothing…
Under-Secretary-General: Can you go slower, because I can’t even write the questions?
Correspondent: Okay, okay. On Mr. Banbury…
Under-Secretary-General: Wait, wait, wait, I haven’t finished yet with Mr. Hughes! When did he leave? Was he paid? Is he in New York?
Question: Sure. Who are the other members of the Board of Inquiry?
Under-Secretary-General: That wasn’t there before!
Correspondent: Sorry? No, I’m sorry.
Under-Secretary-General: Okay, okay, okay! And, Tony, yes.
Question: Sure, because he was quoted as saying “murder”, that Mr. Louis Maxwell was murdered. And I wanted to know if that’s, what you are saying here makes it all kind of murky. I mean, is that something that you stand behind, and if there is some discrepancy, why isn’t Mr. Banbury here, given that he was sort of the public face of the UN on this last week?
Under-Secretary-General: Okay. Let me start with the 90 minutes. If I recall correctly, what the Secretary-General said is that it took some time for the Afghan security people to be there. I do not recall him saying 90 minutes in particular, but you may be right. It took time for the police to get there. The different waves of different types of security forces came in and the coordination was a bit complicated. So that you have a sense all of this started at 5:30 and it finished close to 7, if I recall correctly. So we are talking here about some amount of time, and it was quite a long process. So trying to find exactly what the timeline was was one of the biggest challenges the Board of Inquiry had. And, in fact, there were some pieces of the puzzle that they were not able to fully put together.
On the gun, the gun was recovered. It is in the hands of the United Nations.
On it being external or not external, the Board of Inquiry was established as per procedure. It was not necessarily [that] the Board of Inquiry requires external people. Given the specificity of the concerns we had with this case, we decided to seek for the support and the lead of the Board of Inquiry somebody who had broad investigation background and experience. That is why we went for Andrew Hughes. Andrew Hughes is an Australian citizen. He lives in Australia. He left the United Nations back in September, if I recall correctly, last year. He is not a staff member any longer. He was hired as a consultant for the period when he was working for the Board of Inquiry. He is not a staff member or consultant any longer. He is now back in Australia.
And who are the other members? At this point in time, what we are trying to do is preserve the identity of the other members for the sake of their own future involvement with other matters related to this or equivalent situations. Just to mention to you, one of them is a former staff member also. The other two -- one is from the DPKO/DFS [Department of Peacekeeping Operations/Department of Field Support] family, and the other one is from UN Funds and Programmes. So they go beyond the DPKO, DFS and DSS [Department of Safety and Security] group. What we tried to do was put a balanced team there that had a strong technical background on investigation, but also had knowledge on the culture and the understanding of that part of the world. And we tried to combine that so that it came out very balanced.
Question: The two current staff members, without giving their name, can you say like P-3 or P-4? Were they released?
Under-Secretary-General: No, no, no. None of them were P-3 or P‑4. We were talking about a group of middle to senior managers.
Question: P-5? D-1? What are we talking about?
Under-Secretary-General: Yes. On Tony Banbury, first of all, I was not around last week. I was on duty travel. I am sure you know that because you might have gotten the response from my automatic mail. I was on duty travel, so Tony Banbury was Officer-in-Charge for DFS. He was representing DFS last week as I am representing DFS this week. It is nothing personal. Tony, in one of his interventions, used the word “murder”. I think one is to be aware that this situation raises a lot of emotion among our staff and that probably was not the best word to have been used. But he, at the end of the day, represented that Maxwell was killed without having exact understanding of what happened. That is what he was trying to reflect.
I hope that what I am trying to convey here is not murky in the sense that we are not, again, as worried as we have been from the very beginning on the death of all of our colleagues. What I am trying to portray to you is what happened in very difficult circumstances. This was an attack by the Taliban, so we need to be very aware of that so that we understand what it is that took place a little better and a little bit more balanced. And of course, we need to pursue this with the Afghan authorities so that we have a full-fledged understanding, which we have not been able to obtain so far through the Board of Inquiry.
Question: Can I ask one follow-up? I just want to ask a single follow-up because I would like to get your response as DFS to it. Some weeks ago, I was contacted by UN staff in Kabul. Their take on this -- and I will give you a direct quote without, obviously, using the name of the staff member -- was that “UN SG Ban has refused to allow the issue to be raised to the Afghan Government for political reasons”. This comes from within. Again, I do not know how representative it is; I am not going to say everyone feels that way. The idea that this was something that many UN staff in Afghanistan knew about without any of us here at Headquarters being told that there was this controversy about how the person was killed, and that, for political reasons, the Secretariat did not move forward or raise it to Afghanistan -- what do you have to say to that?
Under-Secretary-General: I am sorry that staff conveyed that message to you. First, the Secretary-General asked me to proceed with due process in managing this very, very sad situation. We have not at all influenced the Board of Inquiry’s findings. The Board of Inquiry’s findings do not blame the Afghan authorities of any wrongdoing, but they do not say either that they cannot confirm that they were killed by friendly fire. What we are asking now is for the Afghan authorities to further pursue this investigation. There was no intent to influence the process of the Board of Inquiry; there was no intent to change a single word of what was written there. This is an independent Board of Inquiry. I received the report last week, and we are here to present it to you as we did with the Afghan authorities, both in Kabul yesterday -- the Deputy [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] conveyed this message to the authorities in Kabul -- and Alain Le Roy, Greg Starr and myself presented the same conclusions to the Permanent Representative in New York this morning. So what we are doing is due process in a very, very difficult process that has taken us so far, and now we have to pursue in a cooperative manner with the Afghan authorities to fully address the pieces of the investigation that the Board of Inquiry was not able to resolve.
Question: Kind of on the same issue, does the report make any reference to the extent to which the Afghani authorities cooperated with the Board during its investigation? The gaps in the Board’s understanding of what happened during the raid, what are they? Do you have any specific questions that the Afghan authorities need answering so we can understand what really happened?
Under-Secretary-General: Well, first of all, the Secretary-General had asked President [Hamid] Karzai to fully cooperate when he launched this Board of Inquiry and I have to say, the members of the Board of Inquiry have reflected that in their documentation, the meetings, and the conversations they have had with multiple officials from the Afghan Government. So we do not see any issue in that regard. On some of the gaps, which we will have to work together with the Afghan authorities on one side and on our side also, let me just give you an example. Four different security forces show during different moments in the attack, so coordination was an issue. But also, coordination with the United Nations was an issue, and one of the findings is that we do not have enough security officers that speak the local language so that we are able -- particularly in case of a crisis -- to move as fast as we should. So, some of the exchanges of communications took place at certain levels, but did not trickle down fast enough to the operational level, which is required to react in this circumstance. So those are the types of gaps that the Board of Inquiry has found and that we as managers now need to tackle.
Question: You are talking about gaps about what happened, but can you give us sort of a basic reason why the Board of Inquiry feels it cannot say that Mr. Maxwell was definitively killed by Afghan security forces? Because of the various things you are talking about, it sounds like it points very strongly in that direction, so what is it that you feel is not there so you cannot say that? That is one question. And then secondly, in terms of the next steps, the Afghan authorities carrying out an investigation on the UN side as well -- I did not get everything that Martin said, but various steps the UN is taking -- is there going to be any move to re-look at how the Afghan forces work with the UN in response to security situations, or if the UN decides it will beef up its own security and not rely on the Afghan forces? I mean, it was not followed [inaudible] from the fact that your guys were probably killed by Afghan security forces for future planning and security.
Under-Secretary-General: Clearly, the Board of Inquiry was not able to find sufficient proof to say in a definite way that Mr. Maxwell was killed by Afghan security forces. One of the reasons for that is that when they visited the place, they found that there were gunshots from right, left and centre crossing each other. So by the time they got there, it was not possible for them to definitely make such an accusation. Of course, they have left it open to suggest that this may have been the case, but this is, at the end of the day, a very serious take and you do not do it unless you have all the proof. And again, the Board of Inquiry is not a board under illegal process, and it has limited access to certain proofs, so that is one of the reasons why they couldn’t arrive at that conclusion.
On next steps, I think there are two next steps that the Secretary-General has taken. One is to request Greg Starr to go to Kabul and engage with the Afghan authorities both on how best to address the coordination and how best to address the needs of our people on the ground, which of course is the driving force in what we said that we need to improve and do better. And also, to engage through Greg and through the [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] on the next steps of a further investigation by the Afghan authorities, which will be willing to do jointly should that be something that they would entertain.
On how to better protect our staff, this is something that we are genuinely trying to address. We have some of our most difficult missions in places that are very, very extreme from a safety and security perspective, without any military forces to protect them the way the traditional peacekeeping operations do. In those cases, we of course relied on the host Government and on the protection given by the forces of Government. So how to ensure that we work together very closely with the host Government so that the capacity is there to protect our own staff is very critical. By the way, the Afghans have a dedicated team to protect the UN which has worked very closely with DSS. But once we have learned through this process how to adjust and determine what is better for the future is part of the work we have to do from now on.
Question: Just to follow up a little bit on the next steps. The Secretary-General has asked who specifically in the Afghan Government to pursue this investigation? Was the request specifically for a joint investigation going ahead, and what has been the response of the Afghan Government?
Under-Secretary-General: First of all, the meeting in Kabul took place with the Minister for the Interior, which is the authority under which falls this type of request.
Question: When was that?
Question: Yesterday. Between the Minister for the Interior and who?
Under-Secretary-General: And the [Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General] because Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura was not in Kabul yesterday. So the Officer-in-Charge in the Mission was Mr. [Martin] Kobler.
And on the joint investigation, let me say here that the Afghan authorities were willing to do a joint Board of Inquiry to begin with. At that point in time, we followed due process. We are, by our own internal procedures, obliged to have a full Board of Inquiry in our own hands and that is what we did. So I have seen the Afghan authorities open to do something jointly in the past, so that may be the case in the future. I did not see them [inaudible] at all in the past.
Question: What was the response of the Minister for the Interior in yesterday’s meeting?
Under-Secretary-General: Well, he took this very seriously. He is concerned about it. And of course this is something, if you are the Minister for the Interior, you are not happy with and you do not want to see your own security forces under a bad light.
Question: What was the response, whether they agreed to cooperate with the United Nations?
Under-Secretary-General: Well, what happened yesterday was at first the briefing on the situation, and they promised to pursue this further. And I am sure it is going to happen as soon as Mr. de Mistura goes back to Kabul.
Question: So there is no definitive answer, in other words?
Under-Secretary-General: No, there was not.
Question: So is the Board of Inquiry completely happy with the cooperation that they have gotten from Mr. Karzai’s Government?
Under-Secretary-General: They did not have any concerns raised in the report regarding the support from the Afghan authorities.
Question: So they are happy?
Under-Secretary-General: Well they did not say they were happy; they did not have any concerns.
Question: I wanted to know, when did the UN, or you yourself or others, become aware of the video? Go ahead, I have a couple. I do not know how you want to proceed, but when did you become aware of it?
Under-Secretary-General: We first learned about a video sometime in January, and this video that was available in Kabul was made available to us. I think it was late in January.
Question: By the German Mission there?
Question: Do you want to say by who?
Under-Secretary-General: We are not going to say what the sources are.
Question: I have been looking at the video as you are saying this, and obviously, I do not pretend to… I am sure they have looked at it a number of times, but as the person that you are saying is Louis Maxwell falls to the ground, an Afghan national force [officer] next to him does not move at all, does not step back, does not seem to be frightened, does not seem to be surprised in any way that the person right next to him is falling dead. I am not sure what we can conclude from that. It sounds like one of the possibilities they are raising is that they were somehow talking to him and then an unrelated sniper from a longer distance, by mistake, killed him, maybe thinking that he was engaging them. But this looks like an execution. I mean, if that is Louis Maxwell, that is pretty much what it looks like.
Under-Secretary-General: First of all, I hope I did not say all the things you just said. I hope.
Correspondent: You said from a long distance.
Under-Secretary-General: Well that is what the forensic conclusion was -- that he died from a shot from long distance -- and now we need to find how is it that that happened. It does not show the forensic conclusion at all that he was killed from short distance, which was the first assumption after seeing that video that you are referring to. So he was surrounded by people and he was shot from the distance. That is exactly what caused his death -- a long-distance shot. Who was in the distance? How is it that this happened? That is what has to be determined. I did not suggest that it was somebody bypassing. This is the objective conclusion of the Board of Inquiry. He was shot from a long distance and that came from the forensic conclusions.
Correspondent: I am taking that from one of the Banbury interviews.
Under-Secretary-General: I do not have…
Question: Was it two metres? Four…?
Under-Secretary-General Malcorra: It was not close range. I do not have that information.
Question: What is the close range and the long range? What is the difference? What is the limit -- two or three metres? Four metres? Five metres?
Under-Secretary-General: It is long, somewhere beyond five metres I will say, but I will have to come back to you. It was not from the people who were surrounding him. That is what the forensic conclusions arrived at.
Question: But it is further than five metres?
Under-Secretary-General Malcorra: Yes.
Question: Were any of the terrorists alive and still firing at the time that Maxwell was killed?
Under-Secretary-General: The conclusions of the Board of Inquiry say that the three terrorists had already put themselves to death, had killed themselves.
Question: So there are still huge question marks over how he died, seeing as it seems unlikely that an Afghan soldier would shot at a man from a long distance while he is surrounded by his colleagues from the Afghan security forces?
Under-Secretary-General: Well that is exactly what we need to prove. First of all, we know now that there were three terrorists. At that moment it was not known how many terrorists were there. In fact, as I said earlier, some of the firing coming from inside the house went after the police were outside, so it was not clear how many were terrorists. The three that have proven to be, in the end, the attackers, had killed themselves by the time Maxwell was outside the house, yes.
Question: In listing the people with whom you have shared the report, I did not hear any mention of the FBI [United States Federal Bureau of Investigation], but it has been said throughout that the UN is cooperating with the FBI. As an overall question, I think this again goes back to some of the concerns, at least that I heard from staff there. Given that, at the time this attack took place, the UN was embroiled in something of a controversy with the Afghan Government about alleged fraud or not fraud within the election, and even now, President Karzai has said the fraud was caused by the UN or outside forces, how can we… given that the UN tends to modulate what it says based on a Government that may throw a mission out or that bristles, as in Sudan, how can that… you are saying that the report, Mr. Hughes did not write in any concerns about cooperation by the Afghans, but UN staff think that the overarching political situation makes it less likely that the UN would say Afghan national forces killed our person. What would you say to that? How do you rebut that?
Under-Secretary-General: I can only attest to what I have responsibility for, which is the calling of the Board of Inquiry and the independence of the Board of Inquiry. I can assure you that the Board of Inquiry produced a report without any influence. We have been in touch, different people have been in touch, with the FBI and one of the stakeholders we are sharing the information with is the FBI. So the American authorities that have a say in this matter have been informed.
Question: And do you expect them to come out with their own report? What is the status of that?
Under-Secretary-General: They are working on their own line of investigation, as far as I can tell.
Question: You mentioned that one of the problems with the investigation is that all sides use the same type of weapon. Is there an investigation on how the attackers got access to the type of weapon that is reserved to the UN and NATO forces?
Under-Secretary-General: No, it is not the UN and NATO; the UN does not have any particular… they were using AK-47’s which are used by the Afghan security forces, and the Afghan authorities have found the trail of how is it that the attackers got to Kabul. They have provided that trail to the Board of Inquiry and they have been able to put in prison some of the people who were able to allow these attackers to come to Kabul and attack the house.
Spokesperson: Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Good afternoon to all.
**Official Visit of General Assembly President to China, India and Pakistan
The President of the General Assembly, Ali Abdussalam Treki, arrived today in Beijing for an official visit at the invitation of the People’s Republic of China.
During his visit, Dr. Treki will meet with senior Government officials, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Yang Jiechi; State Councillor Dai Bingguo; and Vice-President Xi Jinping.
On 30 April, he will meet with Vice-President Xi Jinping and attend a banquet hosted by Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China.
President Treki will attend the opening ceremony of the Shanghai World Expo before leaving Shanghai on 2 May for New Delhi. The President of the General Assembly will visit India from 3 to 5 May and Pakistan from 5 to 7 May.
**Meetings of the President of the General Assembly -- 19-23 April
During the week prior to his departure, in addition to presiding over General Assembly proceedings and his meetings with the President of the Security Council for the current month and the Speaker of the Parliament of Bangladesh, President Treki had a working luncheon on Friday, 23 April, with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Furthermore, he had separate meetings with several Permanent Representatives, including those of Syria, India, Tunisia and Spain. On 21 April, he met with the Permanent Representatives of Morocco and Liechtenstein, in their capacity as co-facilitators for the Human Rights Council review.
On 20 April, President Treki was briefed by Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, in his capacity as Chair of the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform.
On 19 April, Grigol Vashadze, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia paid a courtesy visit to the President of the General Assembly.
That is what I have for you. Questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Is this visit of President Treki official in the sense that [inaudible], and who in the Pakistan Government is he going to be meeting, and who is he basically invited by?
Spokesperson: All three visits -- to China, India and then Pakistan -- are official visits at the invitation of these respective Governments. We will provide you, very shortly before he gets to Pakistan, with further details on who he is going to meet with and his programme in Pakistan. The same will apply to India. For the time being, this is what we have on his meetings in China.
Question: On this meeting with the Foreign Minister of Georgia, since he subsequently came and sat where you are and said that the country cannot proceed in the Security Council because of the Russian veto and must proceed in the General Assembly, I am wondering, did the topic of Abkhazia or South Ossetia come up in any way in this meeting between him and the President of the General Assembly?
Spokesperson: We put out this line in the briefing notes today simply because correspondents here have asked a question on the meeting the President had with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia. But in this meeting it was a courtesy call to the President, so what might have been stated here at this podium is not necessarily what he stated there. So what we have in terms of readout following the encounter between the Foreign Affairs Minister and the President of the General Assembly is simply a courtesy call.
Question: How long did they meet?
Spokesperson: Very briefly. Not more than a few minutes, really. It was a very short courtesy call.
Question: Was there anything of any substance discussed in this courtesy call?
Spokesperson: No. No more than the usual courtesy call. If they had discussed that issue, or any other important issue besides the general topics that are important in the agenda of the General Assembly, I would have reported that to you, certainly. No further questions? I wish you a pleasant afternoon. Thank you.
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