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

23 August 2012

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

23 August 2012
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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon and welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council met in closed consultations to discuss the situation in Sudan and South Sudan, as well as the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

** Lebanon

A senior UN official told Lebanon’s Interior Minister in Beirut today that the Organization has been closely following with concern the recent security incidents in the country, particularly the kidnappings targeting Syrian nationals and others.

The Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Robert Watkins, also expressed deep regret for the loss of life in the clashes that have been taking place over the past few days in the city of Tripoli.  All of these incidents undermine the efforts that many in Lebanon have been exerting to promote peace, stability and long-term development, Mr. Watkins said.

And he said that he agreed with the Interior Minister that the Lebanese State has a moral responsibility to protect innocent people, including Syrian nationals, many of whom are refugees seeking shelter from the violence in their own country.  Mr. Watkins will meet with the Lebanese Prime Minister later this week.  And his full statement is available in my office.

** Camp Ashraf

I was asked yesterday about allegations by a former staff member of misleading use of photos or “doctoring” of reports in connection with the work of the United Nations on Camp Ashraf in Iraq.

An e-mail has gone to the reporter who asked, but just to say here that the Department of Political Affairs says very clearly that such allegations are false.  As I said yesterday on this topic, it is regrettable that such a distorted picture is being presented of the efforts of the United Nations in Iraq to resolve peacefully the situation of Camp Ashraf. 

In fact, the UN Mission, under the leadership of Special Representative Martin Kobler, has worked diligently and impartially to facilitate a peaceful solution that respects the rights and concerns of both the residents and the Government of Iraq.  And these efforts are one of the main reasons why this very tense situation has not already spilled over into further violence.  And also just to reiterate that the camp residents agreed last week to the transfer of 400 of their number to the new camp.

** Iran

I was also asked yesterday if the Secretary-General has met the Supreme Leader of Iran.  This Secretary-General has not yet met the Supreme Leader, but former Secretary-General Kofi Annan met him during his visit to Tehran in 2007 to attend the Summit of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation.

Okay, that’s  what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes, Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you, there are reports that, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Government is seeking to recruit Mayi Mayi militia to fight the M23 mutineers.  But what I wanted to ask you about is that it seems to say that the Government officials are being flown to meet with the Mayi Mayi militia by United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) helicopters, and that UN representatives are involved.  And, given the history of criticism of the UN by many of the Mayi Mayi factions, and the fact that these are militias that are not part of any, you know, known Government entity, and are sort of unregulated, is it true that the UN is assisting the Government of the Congo to recruit these militias to fight another militia?

Spokesperson:  I think I would need to refer you to DPKO, for peacekeeping operations.  If I have anything, then I’ll let you know, but you might want to check with them, okay?  Alright, other questions, please?  Yes, Masood?

Question:  On this issue of drone strikes inside Pakistan, there was, earlier in the year, one of the United Nations, I think it was [inaudible], said that these drone strikes were perhaps against the sovereignty and integrity of the country.  Has there been a determination made positively, and what do these drone strikes inside Pakistan mean, which is now become more and more troublesome for Pakistan?

Spokesperson:  Well, I have spoken about this topic on a number of occasions.  I don’t really have anything to add, Masood.  I really don’t.  Yes?

Question:  Alright, maybe this will… this should be right in your wheelhouse, it’s a Secretariat question.  Whether it is the case that the Chief Information Technology Officer, Mr. Choi, will be leaving the UN under this five-year mobility rule?

Spokesperson:  I will need to check precisely on the movements of members of the senior team, but the Secretary-General has been on the record about rotation of senior officials after five years, okay?

Correspondent:  Because I had heard specifically that he…

Spokesperson:  I beg your pardon?

Correspondent:  I had heard specifically that he had asked for a six-month extension; he was offered three and is now leaving.

Spokesperson:  As I say, the Secretary-General is on record about the need for rotation after five years.  Of course, in individual cases, there might be good operational reasons why it’s not precisely on the day.  You have to bear in mind, of course, that not everybody joins that senior team on the day that the Secretary-General started.  And so the five years is something that is flexible in the timing during the course of this year and beyond. Okay, other questions?  Yes?

Question:  I have a question on… it was a report that came out last week, so I apologize if I missed a previous comment on it, but on disciplinary measures and possible criminal behaviour at the UN, I was wondering if there was a comment?  It looks like it went down from 123 to 95 cases in the previous reporting… sorry, it was a report by Ban Ki-moon to the General Assembly.  So it looks like the cases went down, and I was just looking for kind of a general comment from the Spokesperson on it.

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have any general comment at the moment.  I would need to check and come back to you on that, but I don’t have anything specific at the moment.  Alright.  Yes?

Correspondent:  [inaudible] about this report yesterday, and it seems like a lot of the cases didn’t have the name of the staff member, which is understandable.  But it seems like a lot of them — and some of them are pretty troubling, like the use of a pipe to hit someone on the head, tearing a chair apart, stuff like this — and they say, you know, discontinued from service, but with compensation in lieu of notice.  So some people look at it and they say, it seems kind of strange that, if these allegations are true, that you’d be paid to leave.  But I guess, in seeking comment from OHRM, maybe that’s the best that the UN can do.  It does seem strange to some that these payments are made.

Spokesperson:  Thanks for the helpful advice where I might be able to get some guidance, that’s the first thing.  And the second thing is that if there are specific rules and procedures in place in how specific cases are to be dealt with, then they are in place, and that’s the way that they would then need to be handled.  But I don’t have the specifics to hand here, so I would have to check.  I will check, among others, with the people you suggest.  Yes, Masood?

[The Spokesperson later said that where the disciplinary measure of separation from service (under staff rule 10.2 (viii)) is imposed and the appointment of the staff member is consequently terminated, the staff regulations and rules require that notice of termination, or compensation in lieu of notice, be given to the staff member (see staff regulation 9.3 and staff rule 9.7).

Where the disciplinary measure of dismissal (under staff rule 10.2 (ix)) is imposed, no notice or compensation in lieu of notice is given.

The decision whether to separate or to dismiss a staff member is based on a thorough consideration of the facts and circumstances of each individual case, including mitigating and aggravating factors.  For reasons of confidentiality, the summaries of the cases contained in the SG report do not reflect all of the details considered in each case.]

Question:  Did the Secretary-General receive a letter yesterday again from the Foreign Minister of Iran about Israel’s threat that it’s going to attack Iran?

Spokesperson:  Masood, we’ve been over this a number of times, least even yesterday.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Yeah.  Just to reiterate, there was a statement that was issued on Friday about remarks that had been made about some leaders in Iran about Israel and that statement was extremely clear, and I would refer you specifically to the second paragraph of that statement, and that is very clear in pointing to the need for all Member States to lower the rhetoric rather than escalate tensions.  So I would just emphasize those words for all Member States.  Okay?  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I will stay away from peacekeeping questions.  So this is… I guess it’s a… I mean, just because you will say to ask DPKO, so I would rather ask you this one.  There’s this DSS staff member that was charged, found guilty and imprisoned in Ethiopia; you might remember Abdulrahman Sheikh Hassan, he was given a seven-year sentence that many people thought was unjust because it was for speaking with the Ogaden Liberation Front.  And I know that there’s a lot of… obviously, there’s… you’ve issued a statement about Meles Zenawi’s passing and everything, but I thought I would ask, it was said at the time that the UN was looking into the case of its staff member. Has there been any development on that, any further inquiry, or is he just going to serve the seven years?

Spokesperson:  My understanding is that case, and our concern for the individual, is something that would continue regardless of who is Prime Minister of the country.  If we have any further details, I’d let you know, but I think you would also understand that it might be something that plays out behind the scenes and not in the public domain.  Yes?

Question:  The interim mission of the UN in Lebanon, although its mandate is for the south, given the events in Lebanon in the north, is the UN in contact with this mission?  Is it reporting on what is happening?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you’re right to point out the geographical location and the mandate, both of which are rather specific, but I think that you can, however, take it for granted that the Force Commander and his team in the mission are keenly aware of what’s happening in the broader region, and they do need to keep an eye on it.  But it is not specifically part of their mandate, in other words, for the forces on the ground there.  But clearly, they do need to be aware of what’s happening around them, and, as I just mentioned a little earlier, Mr. Watkins did speak — this is separate from the mission, the peacekeeping mission — but Mr  Watkins did speak today with the Interior Minister of Lebanon.  That’s a further indication of the concerns that we have about security in Lebanon.  It’s certainly something that the Secretary-General is also aware of and concerned about.  Yes, you had a follow-up?  No? Okay, last question.

Question:  If you permit, there’s two, they’re straight Ban Ki-moon questions.  The first one is pretty light.  Maybe you’ve seen these stories in Scotland; there’s apparently a football team that wrote… have you seen this?

Spokesperson:  Yes, I’ve seen it, I think you know it’s… well, first of all, it’s hardly worth commenting on, because it’s a silly-season story in the middle of August, and I think that even you, Matthew, even if you don’t know anything about Scottish football, you would understand that this is a little bit tongue-in-cheek, and not to be taken seriously, so I wouldn’t bother with it, Matthew.  What’s the other question?

Question:  Okay.  The other one is — maybe you’ll have the same response, but, obviously with Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi coming, there’s a lot of interest in when he’ll meet the Secretary-General, fine.  I’ve seen, in his schedule, it says that he is away from Headquarters; it says all week that he’s away from 21 to 24 August.  So, without trying to get into anything personal, is he in New York?  And is it at least possible that he’ll meet with Mr. Brahimi tomorrow?

Spokesperson:  It’s not only possible, it’s probable, Matthew, that the Secretary-General will meet with Mr. Brahimi tomorrow.  He will be coming to the office precisely to do that.  During the rest of the week, meaning Tuesday, Wednesday and today, he has been resting at home.  And I think he’s entitled to do so.

Question:  Absolutely.  Will that be reflected in his daily schedule when it’s decided what time, or…?

Spokesperson:  Yes, it will.  And Mr. Brahimi is arriving today in New York, and he has a week of consultations, including, as I’ve just said, with the Secretary-General tomorrow.  We’re aware of the interest in the media to speak with Mr. Brahimi or to hear from him.  That’s a work in progress.

Okay. Alright.  Thanks very much, have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

* *** *

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