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15 March 2001

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

15/03/2001
Press Briefing


DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you for coming.  We have a busy day today, with several meetings and the Council in session.


**Secretary-General in South Asia


I am going to start with the Secretary-General, who continues his trip to South Asia.  The Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan left Bangladesh earlier today, after the Secretary-General laid the foundation stone for the Centre of International Mother Language Studies in Dhaka.  He noted the importance of preserving the roughly 6,000 languages that are spoken today, and added, "We must accept that languages are not mutually exclusive, but that human beings and humanity are enriched by speaking in more than one language".


[After the meeting, the Spokesman's Office added that, before leaving Dhaka, the Secretary-General also met with four leaders of the Bangladesh opposition.  They discussed the country's upcoming elections and the possibility of United Nations assistance.]


The Secretary-General then left Dhaka for New Delhi, India, where he spoke to press upon his arrival, stressing that, as he did in Pakistan, he will be encouraging the Government to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and urging a return to dialogue on Kashmir.


He said, "It is time to begin healing the wounds, to restore trust and to regain a sense of common good and a common future".  He noted that his good offices remain available if the parties wish to engage in a dialogue under United Nations auspices.


Later in the day, the Secretary-General visited the United Services Institute, a training centre for peacekeeping directed by Gen. Satish Nambiar, who commanded United Nations peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  He made remarks upon his visit to the institute, which we hope to have available later today.


The final stop of the day was a meeting with business leaders in New Delhi, followed by a dinner.  He thanked the private sector leaders who were participating in the Global Compact and working on such efforts as the fight against AIDS and advancements in information technology, and he urged all who were gathered to support his Global Compact.  He noted, "As markets have gone global, so, too, must the concept and practice of corporate social responsibility".

We have copies upstairs in our Office of his speech, as well as his remarks to reporters as he was leaving Bangladesh, and as he was arriving in India.  They are all, as I said, available in the Spokesman's Office.


**Security Council


Here in New York, the Security Council began its work with consultations on Ethiopia and Eritrea, on which it considered a draft resolution to extend the present mandate of the United Nations Mission to those countries, which was to expire today, by another six months, until September 15.


The Council just went into a formal meeting and unanimously adopted the six-month extension of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea.


Following that, the Council has begun an open debate on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.  Already, some 40 speakers, including all

15 Council members, are inscribed for the open debate; the formal meeting will continue into the afternoon.


Today's formal meeting on the Middle East, which followed requests by the Palestinian Observer Mission and the League of Arab States, comes one day after the Security Council held back-to-back private meetings with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and with Palestinian Ambassador Nasser al-Kidwa.


In those meetings, Council members discussed with their guests the state of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and proposals for a United Nations observer mission in the Palestinian territories.  Both topics will also be discussed at length in today's open debate, although the current formal meeting is not expected to include any vote on proposals for an observer mission.


**Environment


Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), responded to United States President George W. Bush's decision not to seek to regulate United States power plants' emissions of carbon dioxide by saying that "without United States leadership, effective global action on climate change may not be possible".


In a statement, copies of which are available in our Office, Toepfer said that the United States has much to gain from leading the way into the new low-emissions economy of the twenty-first century.  He added that although the United States is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, it is also the "best hope for a solution", because it is the world's most technologically innovative country.


**Letters Sent by Secretary-General


The Secretary-General has sent letters in recent days to the heads of States and governments of industrialized nations that do not belong to the European Union, encouraging them to emulate the European Union's “everything but arms” initiative.

In his letters, he asked the industrialized countries -- the United States, Japan, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand -- to extend duty- and quota-free treatment to all non-weapon exports from the least developed countries.  As you will recall, the European Union, on February

26, had agreed to give full duty- and quota-free access to their markets for all products from the least developed countries, other than weapons.


The Secretary-General, in his letter, reminded those governments that, from 14 through 20 May in Brussels, the European Union will be hosting the third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.  The Secretary-General said that the Brussels Conference is a major event, and urged them to do more to help improve conditions in the world's poorest nations.


**East Timor


Moving now to East Timor, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, today went to the district of Viqueque, which has seen considerable violence in recent days, to urge communities to help the United Nations maintain peace in East Timor.


He told Viqueque residents, "The enemies of independence want violence and destabilization.  Violence is our common enemy.  To attain independence, we must work together".


He was accompanied by Timorese National Council President Xanana Gusmao and other Timorese leaders, who will stay on to meet with local community leaders about this week's violence, which led to the death of two persons and the burning of almost 40 houses.


Vieira de Mello also visited Baucau district earlier today, which had also been the site of violent incidents, including attacks on United Nations staff and a local mosque, last week.


More details are available in the briefing notes from Dili, which we have in our Office.


**UNMEE


The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) reported today that a vehicle investigating the mine incident which we reported to you yesterday hit another mine on the road north of Tsorena.  A Canadian soldier suffered a ruptured eardrum in this latest incident.


**Human Rights


The Commission on Human Rights will hold its fifty-seventh session in Geneva from 19 March to 26 April.  Among the items on the agenda are the question of the violation of human rights, rights of women and children, the situation concerning torture and economic, social and cultural rights.  A special debate on tolerance and respect will take place on 26 March.  More information, you can have, from the press release we have in our Office.


**ICTY


Yesterday afternoon, after seven ballots, the General Assembly elected all 14 judges who are to serve on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, beginning this November.  Twelve judges were chosen on the first ballot, one in the fourth, and one more on the seventh.


We have the full list of jurists who were elected available in our Office.


**Press Releases


The Committee on Forestry of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is meeting in Rome this week and among topics under discussion are plans for a new Global Forest Resources Assessment.  The assessment programme is seeking ways to make future assessments more accurate.  The meeting is being attended by more than 300 ministers, senior officials and experts from the forestry sector around the world.


We have an update from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Guinea, where hundreds are fleeing the southern town of Nongoa following rebel attacks.


These press releases are available in our Office as well.


**Signings


Treaties -- we had two treaty signings this morning.  China became the seventy-ninth country to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and Bulgaria became the fortieth country to sign the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.


**Press Conferences


Finally, press conferences tomorrow.  At 11:15 a.m. Dubravka Simonovic, Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, will be joined by Angela King, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women.  They will discuss the outcome of the forty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women.


Also tomorrow, also here in this room, 226, following the Security Council's open briefing on Kosovo scheduled for tomorrow morning, Hans Haekkerup, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo, will hold a press conference here.


We'll make an announcement over the p.a. system a few minutes before he makes his way from the Council chamber to this room.


Are there any questions?

**Questions and Answers


Question:  Was there any discussion on the Eritrea/Ethiopia resolution, or was it a unanimous agreement to extend for another six months?


Deputy Spokesman:  It was a unanimous vote, yes:  another six months.


Question:  The consultation with Peres, yesterday.  Could you tell me the outcome?


Deputy Spokesman:  Actually, that was a private meeting.  Technically, that's what the Council called it because it was held in the Council chamber and it was a closed meeting, a private meeting.  Therefore, it is for Council members, if they wish so, to share with you what the content was, since it was a closed meeting.  But my understanding is that in the open debate of today, Council members and other Member States will take the floor and will probably be addressing the issues that were discussed yesterday in that private meeting.


If there are no more questions, I thank you and I wish you a pleasant afternoon.


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For information media. Not an official record.