27 April 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General Meets with European Commission President

The Secretary-General just met with the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, with whom he discussed the UN reform process, climate change, Darfur and Kosovo.

The two of them then had a press appearance, which is available to you on our live webcast, from the UN News Centre web page.

During that briefing, the Secretary-General was asked about his meeting earlier today with former US Vice-President Al Gore, and he said that he was encouraged by Gore’s firm commitment and strong support regarding climate change efforts.  We’ll have the transcript of the press briefing for you shortly.

**Secretary-General Travels

The Secretary-General will travel next week to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where he will co-chair, on the 3rd of May, the launching of the International Compact with Iraq.

The Secretary-General will also attend a meeting of the foreign ministers of expanded Iraq neighbours, representatives of the permanent members of the Security Council and members of the G-8 countries.

** Iraq

Ibrahim Gambari, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Compact and Other Political Issues, continued his meetings in various capitals to widen support for the International Compact with Iraq and discuss commitments of Member States before the launch event next week in Sharm el-Sheikh.

He met in Brussels today with Javier Solana, the European Union’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, who confirmed his attendance at the launch event, as well as that of several ministers of the European Union. 

Earlier in the week, Gambari, who is travelling with Dr. Sinan Mohammed Rida al-Shabibi, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, held high-level meetings in London, Kuwait City and Sofia, Bulgaria.

** Lebanon

On Lebanon, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) received a report yesterday that an Israeli foot patrol allegedly crossed the Blue Line into Lebanese territory, in the general area of Kafar Chouba.

UNIFIL immediately deployed peacekeepers, followed by reinforcements, to the area, to ensure that there was no violation of the Blue Line, and technical experts were also sent to the area.  The team established that the Israeli foot patrol did not violate the Blue Line and did not cross into Lebanese territory.

Today, UNIFIL peacekeepers continued to patrol and monitor the area, and the situation on the ground has been generally calm.

We also have a press release from UNIFIL saying that its full strength has risen to 13,308 peacekeepers.

**Security Council

At 3 this afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled a formal meeting to consider a resolution concerning the lifting of diamond sanctions on Liberia.

Afterwards, Council members expect to attend an informal meeting with the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia in Conference Room 8.

The Secretary-General informed the Security Council in a letter this week that he intends to extend the mandate of his Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, by a year, until 8 May 2008.

** Nepal

The Secretary-General, in his report to the Security Council, released today, said Nepal has advanced considerably in a very short period of time, and congratulates all the parties to the peace process for their hard work to achieve consensus on difficult issues.

The Secretary-General, however, added that much remains to be done in terms of the monitoring of arms and armed personnel which has been entrusted to the United Nations.

** Fiji

On Fiji, the UN inter-agency fact-finding mission to Fiji wrapped up its work today.  The mission held a wide range of discussions with various Fijian interlocutors on elections, human rights, the rule of law and related issues pertaining to the restoration of democracy, peace and stability.

The mission will submit its confidential recommendations to the Secretary-General upon its return.  That report will form the basis of continued consultations between the UN and Fiji.  We have more information on that in my office.

** Sri Lanka

On Sri Lanka, UNICEF today said that one of Sri Lanka’s warring groups, the so-called Karuna faction, is not taking seriously its commitment to the UN to end the recruitment of child soldiers.  The statement followed a UN mission undertaken last week to one of Sri Lanka’s conflict zones.

UNICEF is part of a Security Council-established task force that was charged with monitoring the serious violations of children’s rights in Sri Lanka.  We have a press release on that upstairs.

** Sudan

The Group of Experts on Darfur, which was established last year by the Human Rights Council, today announced that it will meet with high-level representatives of the Sudanese Government in May to identify practical steps to improve the human rights situation in Darfur.

The Group of Experts on Darfur is to report at the Human Rights Council’s fifth session, which takes place this June.  The Group is chaired by Sima Samar, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Sudan.  We have a press release in my office with more information.

**Chemical Weapons Convention

This Sunday will be the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  And I have a message to mark the occasion.

The Secretary-General calls upon all States that have chemical weapons to destroy their stockpiles according to the agreed deadlines.  He also urges all Governments that have not yet done so to ratify or accede to the Convention without delay.

The Secretary-General says we should redouble our efforts to ensure that no one’s life will ever be lost again through the use of chemical weapons.  We have the full statement in my office.

** Estonia Statement

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the events in Tallinn, Estonia.

The Secretary-General regrets the violence and the loss of life in Tallinn, Estonia.  He appeals to all concerned to deal with the issues at hand in a spirit of respect and conciliation.

** Rwanda Exhibit

The previously postponed exhibit entitled “Lessons from the Rwanda Genocide” is scheduled to open here at Headquarters on Monday.

The Secretary-General will open the exhibit at 6 p.m. in the South Gallery of the Visitors’ Lobby.  It will be on display here for three weeks.

We have copies of a note to correspondents on this upstairs in my office.

**Week Ahead

And then we have, of course, other events in “The Week Ahead” available in my office.

**Press Conference

At 11 a.m. on Monday, 30 April, there will be a press conference by the Minister of Energy and Industry of Qatar, H.E. Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, on the opening of the fifteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

This is all I have for you.  Questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On Darfur, the Secretary-General said yesterday that he talked with Americans about having more time for diplomatic solutions for the problem.  How much time was given by the Americans?  And where do we stand now on the heavy [support] package agreement?

Spokesperson:  Well, there is no time given.  It was not a contract.  What the Secretary-General had wanted was, since he had just that same week had the meeting with Chairman [Alpha Oumar] Konaré of the AU on the issue of Darfur, and that they had had a commitment by President [Omer al-]Bashir, he wanted a little more time for the political solutions to move ahead.  There was no question of how much time ever discussed. 

Question:  On the heavy package agreement, where do we stand now?  Is there an update?  

Spokesperson:  On the heavy package agreement, I can have an update for you later on.  You can come to my office.  I will have it for you.

Question:  In Somalia, the Prime Minister in an interview had said that the UN aid agencies are used to running the country like it’s their own fiefdom and that they’re basically disagreeing with Mr. [John] Holmes in terms of humanitarian access.  So I’m wondering if anyone in the UN system has some response to those statements or what the status is of humanitarian access in Somalia. 

Spokesperson:  Well, according to what I got today, the discussions were good and they were given access.  And the tone was positive on the part of WFP.  

Question:  You said Mr. Fall has been reappointed.  In this interim between talks, what is he doing?

Spokesperson:  He is still continuing what he was doing.

Question:  Ok, so he is based in Kenya?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  I wanted to ask, it’s a UN question but it follows up on yesterday’s noon briefing about UNDP.  They’ve said that their guy remains the Resident Coordinator even though he’s out of the country.  Since then, I’ve learned that the Resident Coordinator is also the designated officer for security.  Meaning that all the UN agencies have one person, that is the security officer, and it’s always the Resident Coordinator.  So how can the designated security officer for DPRK not be in the country?  If there is some distinction, if in this case some other agency has been designated or some other individual, who is the UN’s designated officer for security in North Korea?

Spokesperson:  Well you can ask that question to Mr. Morrison. 

Question:  What I’m asking here is that it’s beyond coordinator.  It’s someone for all the UN agencies together.  So I asked WFP about something and they said you have to ask UNDP. That was about the Resident Coordinator.  This is a security thing.  I heard it’s DSS.  So that’s a Secretariat agency.  So I’m just wondering, just to confirm that the Security Officer for North Korea is in fact not in the country.  From what we’ve heard, the visas actually now have to be returned.    

Spokesperson:  As far as I know, Mr. Morrison told you yesterday about the people being withdrawn.  And if all the UNDP operations have been suspended I guess that’s probably the issue.  That’s probably why.

[The Spokesperson later said that the designated Security Officer in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is Jean-Pierre de Margerie.]

Question:  (inaudible) and we’ve since learned that the visas have been withdrawn or have been requested.  Anyway my question is simply, who is the designated security officer for the UN system, not for UNDP, since they’re not there anymore? It seems strange that they would answer for North Korea if they’re not there.

Spokesperson:  We can find an answer for you.  And about Somalia, as far as I know, and I see the information I got there, there was a meeting about the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia.  The meeting was positive.  WFP was given the green light to begin deliveries, which was done.  And basically everything is working now between WFP and TFG.  According to OCHA, the UN has some 200 national and international staff in south central Somalia whose sole aim is to assist the people of that country, including in delivering urgently needed life-saving assistance.  So, the UN humanitarian agencies, which are non-political, do not aspire to enjoy power in Somalia or elsewhere, as was said in an article today.

Question:  Beyond the Secretary-General following the events in Nigeria, what is his view about the opinions of the monitors of the elections in Nigeria?  Most of the election monitors have been very critical.  What sense can we get of the Secretary-General regarding those developments that have been documented?  And secondly, will the Secretary-General be sending a congratulatory message to the President-elect anytime soon?

Spokesperson:  With regard to congratulations, the UN practice is that we send a formal letter of congratulations to the Head of State at the time of the inauguration.  So that’s the situation.  As for the question about developments in terms of the elections in Nigeria, the Secretary-General continues to urge those with grievances to use legal and constitutional means to address their complaints.  However, he has been following the situation very closely. 

Question:  There have been indications that the kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston might be released soon.  At this stage, can you tell what concrete role the Secretary-General has been playing for his release?  

Spokesperson:  Well, before we have any comment, we’ll wait until Mr. Johnston is free.

Any other questions?  Thank you very much.

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For information media • not an official record