7 December 2000


7 December 2000

Press Briefing



The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Susan Markham, Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesman of the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.

**New Appointments by Secretary-General

The Secretary-General has decided to appoint Rolf Goran Knutsson, presently his personal Representative for Southern Lebanon, as the new Executive Secretary of the United Nations Compensation Commission at the Assistant Secretary-General level. He would be replacing Jean-Claude Aimé, who would be completing his assignment in Geneva. Mr. Knutsson is expected to assume his new duties in early January.

Meanwhile, the Governing Council of the Compensation Commission wrapped up its thirty-eighth session today in Geneva. We expect a report on the activities of this session very shortly. We will make it available in my office as soon as we get it.

The Secretary-General has decided to appoint Mr. Staffan de Mistura, presently the United Nations Information Centre Director in Rome, as his Personal Representative for Southern Lebanon at the Assistant Secretary-General level. He will succeed Rolf Knutsson, who has been reassigned to Geneva. Mr. de Mistura is expected to assume his new duties in Beirut in early January.

**Secretary-General Gives AIDS Speech in Addis

The Secretary-General today delivered a message of hope in an address to the heads of State attending the African Development Forum on HIV/AIDS in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. "We face a terrible epidemic," he said, "but we are far from powerless to prevent it."

"We can halt the spread of AIDS," he affirmed. "We can reverse it."

He called on the African leaders to make the battle against AIDS "their top priority" and said that the United Nations itself must put the struggle against AIDS in Africa " on an equal footing with our work for peace and security".

He appealed for more awareness of the disease. "We want to hear the big noise of awareness campaigns everywhere," he said, "in every country, in every continent, at every level. We want to make every man, woman and child understand what Africans have understood -- that facing up to AIDS is a point of honour, not a source of shame."

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In the margins of that Forum, the Secretary-General had bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister of Senegal, Moustapha Niasse, and the Prime Minister of Chad, Nagoum Yamassoum.

This afternoon, he was to be accompanied by Catherine Bertini, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) and his Special Envoy for the drought in the Horn of Africa. They were to visit the Gemini Trust; a non-governmental organization that supports over 1,100 destitute families.

He was then to visit a second non-governmental organization that supports AIDS victims and orphans and which is supported by Christian and Islamic denominations.

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will fly to Asmara, Eritrea, and we have a full report on his activities of today in my office.

**UNHCR Warns of Looming Humanitarian Catastrophe in Guinea

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned today of a looming humanitarian catastrophe in the West African country of Guinea and reported its office in the southwestern town of Gueckedou was destroyed during fighting between government troops and rebels.

The Office of the UNHCR is trying to determine the status of the agency’s local staff members in that town, which came under attack on Wednesday by rebel factions. Radio contact with the office in Gueckedou was cut yesterday. The last massage received from the UNHCR radio operator indicated heavy gunfire in the town of some 31,000. Unconfirmed reports say hundreds of civilians had been killed.

The High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, referring to her briefing to the Security Council on 10 November, said that UNHCR and the Government of Guinea have been warning for months that the international community must take urgent action to secure this volatile border region.

We have a press release from UNHCR with more details.

**Secretary-General Releases Report on Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) is out today.

The Secretary-General recommends the extension of the mandate for six months, until 15 June.

The report says that during that period, in order to monitor and verify the parties’ implementation of the cease-fire disengagement plans adopted in recent meetings in Maputo and Lusaka, the United Nations mission in the Congo would deploy additional military observers. Such a deployment could be carried out within the current mandate.

The Secretary-General also says that, in principle, he would be prepared subsequently -– with the guidance of the Security Council -– to recommend that

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 7 December 2000

infantry units be deployed in support of the military observers if conditions both required and permitted such a deployment.

There is a joint meeting of the Security Council and troop-contributing countries to the Congo this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. and Council consultations on the report are scheduled for tomorrow morning.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council is meeting in closed consultations for an interactive dialogue on the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

During this meeting, the Council heard from Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, Ambassador Berhanu Dinka, as well as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kamel Morjane.

Also in this morning’s session, a joint United States-Russian resolution on sanctions against Afghanistan will be introduced.

On that subject, the United States Mission will be holding a background briefing in this room at 2 p.m.

Continuing on Afghanistan, the final study of a report commissioned by the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs on the humanitarian impact of the current sanctions regime in Afghanistan, called “Vulnerability and the Humanitarian Implications of United Nations Security Council Sanctions in Afghanistan”, will be available to Member States and to the media by close of business today, and will be posted on the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Web site, which is www.reliefweb.int.

Getting back to the Council, members are expected to gather for an afternoon session in closed consultations at 4 p.m. to resume the discussion of a draft resolution proposing a United Nations monitoring force for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

**WFP to Launch New Balkans Programme

The World Food Programme (WFP) says it will launch a new $90 million emergency operation in the Balkans region that will give a significant focus to vulnerable people in Serbia who are grappling with spiralling food prices and harsh new economic realities. See their press release for more information.

**Press Releases and Reports

On the racks today is an addendum to the report of the Secretary-General on the programme budget for the biennium 2000-2001. This report presents revised estimates, resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council at its 2000 substantive session and requests an additional $770,000.

Daily Press Briefing - 4 - 7 December 2000

Also, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has announced, in a press release, the award of a grant of 1,480,000 euros to its voluntary fund from the European Union. This grant will support the Tribunal’s outreach programme, library and defence-counsel training. The outreach programme is conducted in all the languages of the former Yugoslavia and aims to strengthen contacts between the Tribunal and the communities in the region. See the press release if you are interested.

**Treaty Signings

This morning, Peru became the 118th country to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and the Marshall Islands deposited their instrument of ratification for the Statute.

This afternoon, we have one more country signing the Basel Protocol on Liability and Compensation for Damage Resulting from Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. The United Kingdom will be the twelfth country to sign.

**Budget Contributions

Today, Albania became the 139th Member State to pay its regular budget assessment for the current year and with the payment of just over $31,000. We believe this is the largest number of Member States ever to be paid in full, but certainly our records show that it is the largest for the last 10 years.

**Press Conferences

At 4:30 this afternoon -- sorry it's so late, but it's the best we could do -- Berhanu Dinka, the Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, and Jean Arnault, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Burundi, will brief you on the Burundi peace process.

We had a question yesterday about the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court, and we have asked Philippe Kirsch, the Chairman of that Commission, to join us at the briefing tomorrow to tell you about the Commission’s latest session.

Also tomorrow, a press conference by Kamel Morjane, the Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and that would be following his briefing of the Security Council. We will have to squawk it when it is ready to happen.

Another World Chronicle programme will be shown today on in-house channels 3 or 31 at 2:30 p.m. This one will feature Mats Karlsson, the Vice-President for External Affairs of the World Bank.

And the Correspondents’ Association has asked me to invite you to a press briefing on the Human Rights Watch World Report 2001. That will take place at the UNCA Club at 3:00 this afternoon.

Any questions? Yes. Noberto.

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**Questions and Answers

Question: We have received some calls. Some colleagues are worried, because there is a plan to reduce the hours of operation of the International Broadcasting

Centre in the basement, from which all the journalists outside New York City and overseas can get feeds of the Security Council. Can you look into that and let us know if that can be changed? Secondly, when can we expect a meeting with the Secretary-General for the end-of-the-year press conference?

Spokesman: We have suggested some dates to him for the week after he returns from what will now be the Eritrea/Ethiopia Peace Agreement signing in Algiers. He is still expected to get back to New York on the 13th of this month, and so we have suggested to him the year-end press conference the following week. We don’t have a date confirmed yet. I wasn’t aware about plans to reduce the hours of the Broadcast Centre so I will look into that for you. Any other questions? Sue.

Briefing by the Spokeswoman of the President of the General Assembly

There was no plenary today, but tomorrow we have a very busy day to make up for it. Tomorrow is the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and that will be observed in the General Assembly. The President will make some opening remarks, and then the Chair of the Special Committee that deals with this Declaration will speak, followed by the regional group heads.

We expect the plenary to adopt a resolution concerning the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, which begins next year. And then the plenary will take up the reports of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization). There are a large number of these dealing with the effects of atomic radiation, peaceful uses of outer space, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices, peacekeeping operations, the question of information, from non-self-governing territories, implementation of the Declaration on Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and study and training facilities for the inhabitants of non-self-governing territories. So that will be a long session starting in the morning tomorrow. That is all I have.

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For information media. Not an official record.