Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

12 November 2010

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

12 November 2010
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  I’d like to welcome the visiting students from New York University.  Welcome to this briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Iraq

I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General concerning Iraq:

The Secretary-General welcomes the agreement of the Government formation process in Iraq which represents a major step forward in the country’s democratic process.  He commends all political parties and their leaders for reaching a compromise that will serve the collective interest of the Iraqi people.  The Secretary-General congratulates President Jalal Talabani on his re-election, and welcomes the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speakers of the Parliament and the nomination of the designate Prime Minister.  The Secretary-General calls on Iraqi leaders to continue demonstrating the same spirit of partnership in moving swiftly to conclude the formation of a new Government.  The United Nations is committed to assisting the people and Government of Iraq in their efforts to achieve national reconciliation and build a strong and prosperous country.

That statement is available in our office.

**Secretary-General at G-20 Summit

The Secretary-General addressed the Group of 20 (G-20) leaders gathered in Seoul today, telling them that the promises made at the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) must be promises kept.  “Our words must translate into action on the ground.”

He said that the G-20 leaders could chart a way forward by keeping the focus on the Millennium Development Goals by demonstrating strong political will; by making strategic investments that multiply progress across all the Millennium Development Goals; and by following through on our funding commitments.  Economic uncertainty, he said, should not be an excuse to do less.

He later spoke to the G-20 leaders about climate change at a working lunch, saying that we need to make progress on all fronts.  We need to move forward on efforts to protect forests, finance, adaptation and technology cooperation.

The Secretary-General said that climate finance is crucial for unlocking progress in the negotiations and closing the gap in trust.  He asked the G-20 developed countries to contribute fairly and transparently to fast-start funding for the 2010-2012 period.  Developing countries are looking for new and additional funds, and not repackaged development aid, he told them.  We have his remarks available in our Office.  The Secretary-General will be back at UN Headquarters on Monday.

** Côte d’Ivoire

The Secretary-General has received from his Special Representative in Côte d'Ivoire, Choi Young-Jin, the statement certifying the first round of presidential elections in the country.

Choi said that after a thorough analysis and evaluation of the final results of the first round of the presidential elections, which took place on 31 October, he has concluded that the process leading to the proclamation of the final results was, as a whole, peaceful and democratic, and that the results of the elections were determined through a fair and transparent process.

He calls on all stakeholders to remain committed to the holding of an open, free, fair and transparent second round of the presidential elections, with a view to bringing the Ivorian crisis closer to a conclusion.  That second round is scheduled for 28 November.  And we have his full statement in our Office.

** Haiti

The United Nations and its partners are launching a new cholera plan for Haiti.  More than $163 million are requested for the Cholera Inter-Sector Response Strategy for Haiti, which aims to support the Government of Haiti’s response to the current cholera epidemic.

The Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Nigel Fisher, says that although a major effort has already been made, the sheer quantity of relief items that need to be delivered in the days and weeks ahead is going to require more logistical and financial support by all humanitarian agencies and donors.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 12,000 Haitians have been hospitalized so far, and more than 800 people have died during the cholera outbreak.  That Office adds that a total 200,000 people are expected to show symptoms of cholera ranging from cases of mild diarrhoea to the most severe dehydration.

It also says that, according to epidemiologists, the epidemic will continue to spread throughout the country and resources will need to be mobilized for at least six months.

**Security Council

The Security Council will hold an open meeting at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon on Kosovo.  The Secretary-General’s latest report to the Security Council on Kosovo is out as a document, and in it he welcomes the resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 9 September and the readiness of the European Union to facilitate a process of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.  He encourages Pristina and Belgrade to engage in it in good faith, in close consultation with the European Union.

The Secretary-General is concerned over the recent report by the Kosovo authorities and the subsequent media commentaries against the presence of the UN Mission (UNMIK) in the north, which have risked placing United Nations staff in danger. UNMIK would be prepared to hand over its functions in northern Kosovo to a structure which is legitimate and acceptable to all communities, in accordance with the United Nations policy of status neutrality.  Until then, the Secretary-General strongly urges all sides to continue their cooperation with UNMIK in delivering its mandate.

** Myanmar

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is reporting that most of the 15,000 refugees who fled into northern Thailand have returned to Myanmar.  The refugees escaped across the border when fighting broke out between ethnic Karen rebels and Government troops in eastern Myanmar, the day after elections were held.

But some refugees have crossed back into Thailand due to resumed clashes.  Together with the Thai Government, UNHCR is advocating for refugees to be given more time before being encouraged to return home.  The agency said that it cannot assess the voluntary nature of all returnees at this time.

**Press Conference

And next Monday at 12:30 p.m., in this room, Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator will brief on her recent trip to Sudan.

**The Week Ahead at the United Nations

We also have available in our Office, “the Week Ahead at the United Nations”.

Among other key events next week, on Tuesday, the Security Council will hold a debate on Sudan, and the Secretary-General is expected to address that meeting.

Wednesday will be an official UN holiday.  UN Headquarters in New York will be closed.

And Thursday, the Secretary-General will meet with the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.

And that’s it from me.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, Farhan.  There has been an escalation in the warnings regarding the tribunal of Lebanon and its impartiality.  Most recent ones were from Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Walid Jumblatt, also from former President Emile Lahoud.  How concerned is the Secretary-General about that?  What is he going to do?  Even regional powers have expressed concern on that.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General believes that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon can do a fair and impartial job.  He believes that it can go about its Security Council-mandated tasks, and he continues to encourage all parties to cooperate with the Tribunal as it goes about its work.

Question:  How about the accusation that it has ignored warnings from these fabricators of evidence; those who are still at large, whereas generals were put in jail who were innocent?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  The Special Tribunal, as you know, has been putting out a number of releases about its recent rulings and judgements about its cases.  I’d just refer you to those.  It continues to press ahead with the various investigations, and again, I’d simply refer you to what the Special Tribunal has already been saying.  Yes?

Question:  [inaudible] particular reaction for the speech by the Hezbollah leader, Nasrallah, in which said basically he would not cooperate at all with the Tribunal?  This is an official position by this group.  And then he also said that in case of an indictment, he will never allow anyone to arrest a member of Hezbollah.  So, that’s a very clear position. Any reaction to this?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I think the Secretary-General, including in his remarks just a few weeks ago on the question of the Special Tribunal, has been very clear that it is essential for all parties to cooperate with the Special Tribunal and we would implore them to do so. Yes.

Question:  [inaudible] about future stability and peace in Lebanon and the region as a result of this?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  One of the things we believe that is important for the peace and stability of Lebanon is justice and the end of any feeling of impunity.  And so, we believe that the work that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon can help contribute to the overall stability of the country.  That is one of the reasons why we think it’s important for it to be allowed to go about its work without interference.

Question:  But it is not the opinion of many (inaudible)…as well.  Walid Jumblatt was a staunch supporter of the Tribunal, now he speaks openly saying that it is a conspiracy.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I wouldn’t have any particular comment to make on the domestic politics that have revolved around this particular Court.  The Court itself has been doing its very best to do a fair and impartial job.  As you know, we have an Envoy on the ground, Michael Williams, who is in touch with all of the political parties in Lebanon, and who has been encouraging all of them to work with each other and to work with the Tribunal.  Yes, Frank.

Question:  [inaudible] statement by the Secretary-General.  First of all, when was that statement drafted?  Was that drafted today or yesterday?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, no, no.  The statement he made on Lebanon?  It was a few weeks ago, at the start of the month.

Question:  Oh, a few weeks ago. Okay.  That which you just read today?  On Iraq.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, on Iraq?  No, no, no.  That was just drafted, it was just approved mere minutes ago, at about noon.

Question:  The reason I am asking that is because, is he aware that the Sunni lawmakers walked out on Parliament yesterday?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  And is he also aware that [inaudible]?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, yes, yes, he is.  This statement was drafted after that.  This was drafted after that incident.

Question:  But he is not acknowledging that role, is he?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We are well aware of the challenges.  I think what we have been saying as the government formation process has been going forward over the past eight months has shown our awareness of the difficulties that we’ve had.  At the same time, like I just said, he did commend all political parties for reaching compromise that would serve the collective interest of the Iraqi people.  And that is the bottom line.

Question:  [inaudible]

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  What?

Question:  The compromise obviously seems in doubt right now from walking out.  And also they’re considering…

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as…

Question:  …they are also considering boycotting the next session of Parliament.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Certainly, we will continue to monitor the situation.  As you know, there is a UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, headed by Ad Melkert, that is on the ground there.  They have been helping to keep us apprised of the regular events on the ground that have been happening.  And certainly we’ll continue to monitor that.  But at the same time, I would like to repeat what the Secretary-General did call on the Iraqi leaders to continue demonstrating a spirit of partnership and moving swiftly to conclude the formation of a new Government.  And we do want that process to be concluded.

Question:  [inaudible]

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  [inaudible] What I am saying is that ever since American combat mission ended over there, there has been sporadic increase in violence in Iraq.  Has the Secretary-General’s Special Representative over there submitted any new observations of his own as to what is happening and what can be done to, I mean, to sort of, somehow, make the situation better?  Has he any suggestions or anything like that?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, we have done.  You may have noticed earlier this week the Secretary-General himself came out with a statement condemning the violence that has happened in Iraq.  And both he and Mr. Melkert have implored the Iraqi people to come together, not to let the violence divide them.  And certainly we have also been concerned about the targeting of specific ethnic groups and specific religious groups over the course of recent days.  Yes?

Question:  Has he made any substantive statement?  What I am saying is that he has joined the Secretary-General in making an assessment.  But has he done any assessment of his own, independently, and submitted it to the Secretary-General or the Security Council?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, Mr. Melkert continues to keep the Secretary-General apprised of what is happening, including this latest rise in violence and the worries that some factions are trying to do what they can to split the sort of process that has also led — happily — to an actual agreement on the formation of a Government.  People are trying to block that — and what we are trying to do is encourage them to continue with the process of moving forward and trying to keep Iraqis unified.  Yes?

Question:  A follow-up question, please, I mean like obviously the SG is satisfied with the formation of the Government.  What is his reaction to reports that this is basically a sectarian Government, that it is, that many people expect it is going to be short-lived.  The basis is not Iraqi national interest but basically giving the interests of the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds.  Does this worry him at all?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I don’t have that much more beyond what I just read out in the statement.  Beyond that, I would like to point out our emphasis in the fact that this was an Iraqi-led process that led to this formation of the Government.  And you can see that a number of different political parties, a number of different ethnic groups, but people representing essentially the whole spectrum of Iraq, did try to work together and come to this moment.  And so that is at least a hopeful sign, and we’re hoping that having an Iraqi-led process will continue to contribute to building up the unity of the Iraqi nation.  Yes?

Question:  On Iran, please can you confirm whether Nigeria has reported to the Security Council Sanctions Committee, has reported Iran vis-à-vis Security Council Sanctions Committee three weeks after an arms shipment allegedly originating from Iran was seized in Lagos?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have that confirmation for you.  I think you should probably check with the Security Council Sanctions Committee on Iran, and they would be able to provide any details.

Question:  A follow-up, too. May I know whether the Secretary-General named members of panel of experts on Iran Sanctions Committee?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Whenever we have an announcement to make, we will certainly give it.  I don’t have any for you right now.  Yes, Catherine?

Question:  I am wondering, on Haiti, how confident are you that you’ll be able to meet the goal of $164 million needed to fight this spread of cholera when you think of the fact that the multibillion dollar pledges made earlier this year where a large chunk of them has still not been disbursed?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Obviously whenever we put out an appeal there is always a challenge making sure that it will be funded.  We do believe that the nations would appreciate the severity of this problem.  As you can see, this is something where just a few weeks ago we were talking about dozens of cases.  Now we’re talking about something that could potentially affect, to some degree, could potentially affect as many as 200,000 people.  So, we are hopeful that the money would come.  When you think about what we are trying to do in terms of preventing tens of thousands of people from tremendous illness and from death, this is not a lot of money to ask for.  So we are hopeful that it will be coming. Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Yeah, well, I was wondering in terms of donor fatigue and people are wondering, well, so much money was given already to Haiti.  If you could explain a little to people who may be not familiar with how that works, why is it that there is no money right now?  It seems like a lot of aid organizations and the UN are saying we just have no money to help the people, although so much was given earlier.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Clearly there are times when levels of aid rise and drop.  Immediately after the earthquake you noticed that there was a huge amount of support.  We’ve been trying to continue that over the course of the year, but obviously, with other competing crises as well as the world financial situation, there is always a problem in maintaining that level of funding.  But we do trust that people appreciate that this is a new and urgent challenge that needs to be responded to very quickly.  And we are hopeful that they will get the funding that’s needed.  Yes.

Question:  Sure, I want to ask a couple of questions on Sudan, Sri Lanka and the ILO.  On Sudan, there are reports, maybe it’s two separate reports or similar reports of fighting in South Sudan between the Government and the Misiriya tribe, there are some Arab tribes that have joined Abdul Wahid forces.  So I am wondering since UNAMID is there, can they confirm; there is one, at least one article quoting an unnamed UN official confirming these fights by the city of Kass in South Darfur.  What can you, what does UNAMID have to say about these two reports of renewed fighting in Darfur?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We don’t have anything right now.  But I will check whether UNAMID has anything as the situation there progresses.

Question:  There are also these reports of Darfur refugees in the Central African Republic being moved, it’s said by the UN, from one — from a camp in Sam — to one in Bambari because they say the camp in Sam is insecure.  I am just wondering if that, is that a matter of MINURCAT having pulled out?  What is the UN’s plan for keeping Darfur refugees in the Central African Republic safe now that the peacekeeping mission is leaving?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, we will continue to do what we can through our various other bodies to keep refugees safe.  We’d probably need to check with UNHCR what they are doing in that regard.  I cannot confirm this particular report of people being moved.

Question:  There is also a controversy…

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Hold on, Catherine, and then we can go back to you.

Question:  Okay.  I was wondering if you had gotten any pledges so far already for the cholera emergency relief?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  This is something that was just announced, so I wouldn’t have any figures just yet.  Once we can have an update, we’ll try to provide it for you.  And like I said, we’ll have Valerie Amos briefing here on Monday.  So hopefully we’ll have some additional figures by then.

Question:  And do you know if the SG is planning any trips to Haiti in the coming months?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  There is nothing to announce over the coming month.  We’ll see whether there is a trip somewhere down the line.  As you know the first anniversary will be next January.  Yes.

Question:  On Sri Lanka, there’s been a report by Al-Jazeera of new photos of deaths in final stage of conflict — the Government has now denied visas to Al-Jazeera reporters because of the publication of photographs of piled-up bodies supposedly caused by the military.  Is this the type of evidence that the Panel named by Ban Ki-moon to look at accountability on Sri Lanka can consider or will consider?  What’s the relation between new evidence of deaths in final stage of conflict and that Panel and what’s the Panel been doing?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  The Panel has been seeking and trying to review different types of information as it goes about its tasks — namely the task of advising the Secretary-General on the accountability process — it’s up to them to determine what evidence would be relevant — this could potentially fall into that but ultimately that’s their judgement.  In order to protect their work, we haven’t been giving regular updates but whatever they would like to convey, any messages about the kind of work they’ve been doing, they’ll pass that through us.

Question:  I sent to your office a request to Mr. Bennett, the Secretary of the Committee, on this notice that they sent out for solicitations of evidence —here was some kind of cover letter to that —asked if I could see cover letter and where has that notice been published?  It’s not widely known where on the UN web system has it been put that this Panel is ostensibly seeking evidence or submissions from the public.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I think we’ve already mentioned that they put out this request for submissions — we mentioned that a few weeks ago, it circulated to a number of interlocutors.  It’s not something I believe that is on the UN website as such, but it’s gone to different parties.

Question:  I saw Mr Bennett and he said it was going to go on a UN website but it’s apparently not happened, and I wrote to both him and your office asking for the cover letter to the thing.  Is it possible to get that?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well certainly if we post this on the website, it will be public at that point, but it hasn’t gone on the public website so far, though.

Question:  Why would that be?  If they’re seeking submissions why wouldn’t they put — there’s so many things on the UN’s website it seems very strange to be seeking evidence without public announcements.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I think we’ve discussed what the content of this is, so it’s actually kind of a technical point at this stage — you’ve seen it, and we’ve discussed it at this briefing.

Question:  Find out about the situation in Gaza — has Israel agreed to open up any of the Gaza crossings as of yet?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything fresh to report to you on that.  As I’ve mentioned to you a couple of times this week, the Secretary-General did take up the matter of the opening of the points in Gaza when he talked with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday.

Question:  Also just about this attack in Pakistan, yesterday, last night, is there any statement from the Secretary-General on the terrorist attack?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  There’s no statement on that, but as you are well aware, the Secretary-General does condemn all terrorist acts regardless of intent and he would do so again in this case.

Question:  The reply you gave us earlier about the Israeli proposal to pull out from the northern Ghajar, and you said that there was nothing formal yet?  Is there anything formal now?  The proposals from the Israeli Prime Minister…

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, no. There’s nothing formal.

Question:  Can you tell us what did he propose to the United Nations?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  It’s not for me to give the details of what Prime Minister Netanyahu proposed.

Question:  [inaudible] from the Israeli Prime Minister.  Does he approve those proposals?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Like I said we do not regard that as a final offer.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask about ILO and also Western Sahara.  There was a big strike at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva — where it was surrounded by its employees, the board members couldn’t meet.  There are two reasons why I’m asking, they’re claiming, the staff union of ILO that their communications were censored, their rights to association were violated by the ILO, and they’re also saying that it’s hypocritical of the UN to be saying what it is at the G-20 about the rights of workers while denying their own rights.  Although, I understand that it’s the ILO that’s sort of in the family of the UN.  Is the Secretary-General, is he aware of that strike?  What does he make of it given that the ILO chief was here at the CEB meeting, and what sort of rules apply…?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  That’s a bit of a stretch.

Question:  Say again?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  That’s a bit of a stretch.  No, what I would refer you to — and we will put this out in our office — we do have a document from the ILO which says among other things, it says that in accordance with the provisions of the agreement covering consultation and negotiation, the ILO Administration and the Staff Union hold regular meetings and have reached agreement on a number of matters relating to the working conditions of ILO staff.  Nevertheless, there is one area on which the parties differ:  the procedures concerning recruitment and selection.  It does say that the Administration, that is to say the ILO Administration, wishes to continue these negotiations for one more year.  It adds that the Staff Union has the right to address the governing body of the ILO and present its point of view on any modification to working conditions.  And beyond that, what we’ll do is make this full press release from the ILO available in our office and you can consult that.  Yes, in the back.

Question:  ([inaudible] about the Haiti situation, but I think [inaudible]

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Could you speak up a little bit, sorry?

Question:  I mean, I don’t want to drag back too much about the Haiti situation on cholera.  But I think the new report on the update owes us an explanation about the disparity of the big change of numbers.  For example, I mean, I think about a month ago, the affected number of people was about a thousand while the casualty was about a hundred.  When it jumps into 200,000, I mean I think we are owed an explanation.  Is it only a pure lack or insufficient funding, or as we can recall last time when a UN official was sent there to give inspection, the impression was that it should be under control and the medicines were dispatched reasonably effectively.  So is there any reason mentioned in the report about [inaudible] ineffectiveness of the dispatch of the medicine or is there funding or is there misjudgement of the situation, because it isn’t that expensive, medicine for cholera?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  The medical interventions that have been taking place so far have actually done quite a good job in levelling off the damage by this disease.  The number of deaths for example has started to level off.  As for the number of 200,000, that number was calculated based on other countries’ experiences.  And those are based on calculations by the Pan-American Health Organization, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control.  So, in other words, that’s an estimate based on how cholera is able to spread.  But the interventions that we are doing on the ground, including the 15 centres throughout Haiti that have been set up for treatment of cholera, they have been helping in order to deal with people who have had the disease and to prevent further fatalities, to prevent a surge in those.

Question:  [inaudible] Did it give you a reason about the calculation of the number of funding that is needed to address the number of patients, because it is not a very expensive medicine at all.  How did it get the number for the funding?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  The number of funding is calculated on estimates of how the spread will go and how many people need to be getting the medicine.  For further details you can ask our colleagues in Humanitarian Affairs.

Question:  On the rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola and expulsions there, and there have been a lot of different numbers [inaudible] and I was wondering, first, what [are] the numbers the UN is working with right now, for how many were raped and expelled?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:   We had actually a press release from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that we put out two days ago.  I can just refer you to that.  But it has their latest numbers on that.

Question:  Okay.  And what is the status of the investigation [inaudible]?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, in that press release, Valerie Amos, our Emergency Relief Coordinator, did ask for, as a matter of urgent priority, for investigations to be handled by the national authorities.  And that’s the request we’ve put in.

Question:  Can you explain at all why when you had the case of rapes in North Kivu over the summer, you had ASG Atul Khare down there [inaudible]?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the difference is the peacekeeping presence.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo we have a large peacekeeping mission that has been working in conjunction with the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And so, we had people who could go over there.  We don’t have a peacekeeping presence in Angola.  What we’re doing is we’re requesting the Angolan authorities, and in the meantime what we’re trying to do is as much as we can to assist the people who have been affected by these expulsions.  Yes?

Question:  I wanted to ask on Western Sahara, and I mean, I understand now that there is going to be a briefing of the Council on Tuesday.  But things seem to be moving pretty quickly.  Spain has said that one of its citizens was killed in this raid on the camp.  They’ve also said that their journalists are being expelled from Western Sahara by Morocco.  Morocco has said that only two protesters were killed and 10 security forces.  There is dispute about the numbers of arrests, and I just wonder, one, I mean, even prior to Tuesday, what can, in terms of the killing of the Spanish national, is that something that United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara MINURSO can confirm?  And how exactly MINURSO, there has been some talk in Rabat actually of the MINURSO report already being completed and leaked, which I don’t expect you to comment on, so much as how is MINURSO, what is its actual physical presence in the area in which this camp destruction took place and how is it, is it going to actually come out with what it says or estimates to be the death count, or are we going to be left with these radically different numbers and no foreign media coverage?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  At this stage, we do not have any count, any precise details on the numbers.  That’s something we had made clear when we came out with our statement on Monday about this, at the start of the talks.  If further information comes along, whether by MINURSO or some other body, we would take that into account.  But at this stage we don’t have any first-hand verification of any of the numbers.

Question:  Just one follow up.  One is that, I mean, it is said that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations will be providing a briefing about this violence on Tuesday in the Council consultations.  And it is also, I guess, what is MINURSO’s role if they hear this was brewing conflict, Polisario wrote letters to the Security Council saying that there is a threat to destroy the camp.  What is MINURSO’s role in terms of, if a conflict is known to be brewing, do they send someone to look?  Do they look away?  I assume they didn’t look away, but how could they have no information?  It seems difficult to understand what is being paid for in that peacekeeping mission.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Like I said, they had no first-hand information.  They will try and put together whatever information they can.  But ultimately, we’ll see what kind of information the Security Council has when they have their consultations on this next Tuesday.  And with that, have a good weekend everyone.

* *** *

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