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6 May 2002

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

06/05/2002
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 Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Jan Fischer, Spokesman for the General Assembly President.


Spokesman for Secretary-General


Good afternoon.


**Statement on Myanmar


The following statement is attributable to the Spokesman on the situation in Myanmar:


“The Secretary-General warmly welcomes the restoration of freedom of movement for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, General Secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD), which took place on 6 May shortly after his Special Envoy, Razali Ismail, concluded his seventh mission to Myanmar or 26 April.  The release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a major development, which provides fresh momentum to the 19-month-old confidence building and national reconciliation process between the Government and NLD.


“The Secretary-General extends his best wishes to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who will resume her normal political activities as the leader of a lawful party.  He remains ready to assist in the efforts of the Government and the NLD to find ways to push ahead the process of national reconciliation and democratization, acceptable to all parties in Myanmar.”


**Myanmar


In addition to the Secretary-General’s statement on Myanmar, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, and the Commission’s Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, Paulo Pinheiro, also issued a joint statement.


In that statement, which was released in Geneva this morning, they warmly welcome Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, and they commend the Government of Myanmar for the release, which they call an “important step” towards advancing the political dialogue and the process of national reconciliation.


We have the full text of the statement upstairs.


**International Criminal Court


Today, the United States has formally advised the Secretary-General that it does not intend to become a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted on 17 July 1998.  The United States Government maintains that, accordingly, it has no obligations arising from its signature of the Statute on 31 December 2000. 


The Secretary-General, as the depositary of the Rome Statute will, consistent with normal practice, circulate the United States notification to all states concerned.  The effect of the notification is a matter for the parties to the Statute to decide.


**Security Council


The Security Council met this morning in closed consultations to discuss a draft resolution to extend the arms, travel and diamond ban on Liberia.  The meeting was suspended shortly after 11:30 a.m. for one hour for delegations to hold further consultations.


As you know, the Liberia sanctions are due to expire after midnight, and a  formal meeting is expected later today.


In the afternoon at 3 p.m., there will be a troop contributors' meeting on East Timor.  The Security Council President Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani of Singapore is scheduled to brief you in room 226 on the program of work for May around 1 p.m.  We will let you know the precise time when we know it.


Also on the Security Council, the Council's formal meeting on children and armed conflict will be from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m. tomorrow.  The UN Journal reports an incorrect time for that meeting.  The meeting will feature three children –- one from East Timor, Bosnia and Liberia, respectively.  We have the list for you upstairs.


The United Nations Security Council delegation to the Great Lakes was in Rwanda today, the last leg of its eight-nation tour.  They met today with President Paul Kagame and other senior officials.  The meeting with the President lasted two hours and was described as positive.  Following those meetings, the Council Ambassadors were to hold a joint press conference with President Kagame before heading back to New York via Cairo.  We will put out a transcript of the press conference as soon as we receive it.


Yesterday, the Ambassadors were in Burundi where they met with President Pierre Buyoya, as well Deputy President Domitien Ndayizeye, among others.  At a press conference before departing Bujumbura, Ambassador Jean-David Levitte of France, who is leading this mission said:  “The message of the Security Council to President Buyoya was simple:  continue reform.”  Ambassador Levitte added that the Council encouraged the transitional government and parliament to “fully implement in the coming months the political, social and economical reforms that are part of the Arusha agreement.”  We have more on the mission’s activities available upstairs.


**Profiles in Courage Award


This morning, at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, the Secretary-General was presented with the Profile in Courage Award by Caroline Kennedy, President of the Kennedy Library Foundation.


In accepting the award, the Secretary-General paid tribute to the late President, saying "few Presidents...defined their times in the way John Kennedy did."  He recalled that as a student at MacAlaster College he heard Kennedy's inaugural address.  "His youth and vigour made it a vigourous age," he said.  "His boldness and courage made it an adventurous age.  And his belief in man's ability to meet great challenges made it an age when anything seemed possible."


He described true leadership as convincing people that giving in to fear and hatred will not bring peace.  "This is when leaders must make decisions of conscience," he said, referring to the Middle East, "and choose compromise over conflict, negotiation over violence, peace over war."


At a press encounter with Senator Edward Kennedy before the ceremony, he was asked how he found the courage to deal day in and day out with the deprived and unfortunate.  He replied, "In many ways, you give them a voice, you encourage them and then you see hope in their eyes.  And that's what cheers me on."


Yesterday evening, the Secretary-General and his wife Nane were guests of honour at a reception and dinner hosted by the JFK Library Foundation.


The text of his comments both at the dinner and today's ceremony are available in my office and we will have a transcript of the press encounter in the course of this afternoon.


**Ethiopia-Eritrea


The United Nations mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, or UNMEE, is reporting that the Ethiopian government has suspended measures imposed on April 27 and reopened the borders with Eritrea, as scheduled.  The Special Representative of the Secretary General, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, who had been in Addis Ababa since the measures were imposed, crossed the border and left the Ethiopian capital this morning for Asmara, Eritrea.  The regular UNMEE flights have not resumed yet, but are scheduled to do so on Wednesday.  The United Nations Mission says it does not yet have a full picture of the movements of its peacekeepers across the Ethiopian-Eritrean border.


Also today, available on the racks is the decision by the independent Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission transmitted by the Secretary-General to the Security Council President.


**Iraq Talks


As you know, once talks with the delegation headed by Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri ended last Friday, the Secretary-General briefed the Security Council on those talks, and then told reporters that the talks moved forward, and he hoped that, within a month, there will be further talks with “constructive proposals” after the delegation has reported back to Baghdad.


The talks, he said, focused on disarmament, but he also noted that Sabri had confirmed information received from Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa that the Iraqis are ready to return the Kuwaiti national archives, and would work with the United Nations to transfer the assets back to Kuwait.  If that transfer happens, he said, “it will be a positive development.”


Hans Blix, the Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission dealing with Iraq, said he had advised the Security Council that, “if the Iraqis were to provide cooperation in all respects . . . then one could come to a result within a time span of a year.”  We have transcripts of that press encounter upstairs.


**Bosnia and Herzegovina


The Secretary-General intends to appoint Police Commander Sven Christian Frederiksen of Denmark, as Commissioner of the International Police Task Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina, upon the expiration of the tour of duty of the current Commissioner, Vincent Coeurderoy of France, at the end of May.  This is not just a usual succession of Police Commissioners for the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Frederiksen will serve not only as the United Nations Mission’s final police commissioner, but he will also continue on as the first Commissioner of the European Union Police Mission (EUPM) that is to take over responsibilities from the United Nations Mission on January 1, 2003, once the United Nations Mission has fulfilled its mandate.


To ensure smooth transition and continuity, Frederiksen’s primary task will be to bring the United Nations Mission to a successful conclusion.  The European Union will appoint a senior officer to undertake the planning for the European Union Police Mission under Frederiksen’s general supervision.


**Kosovo


In Kosovo today, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Michael Steiner, announced a regional conference to discuss ways to combat cigarette smuggling, which is to take place in Pristina this Friday.  Officials from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have all been invited to take part.


Steiner said, “Cigarette smugglers are stealing from the people of Kosovo, and we are talking big bucks here.”  Participants at the conference will discuss coordinated steps to end the region-wide practice of avoiding taxation on the transport and sale of cigarettes.  At present, customs officials in Kosovo estimate that some 8 million euros elude customs control in Kosovo every year.  We have a press release with more information upstairs.


**Special Session on Children


The General Assembly Special Session on Children is to begin later this week, and yesterday, the Secretary-General addressed the Children’s Forum, organized by non-governmental organizations, that takes place for three days before the Special Session begins.  He told some 300 children at yesterday’s gathering, “I hope you will help us follow up afterwards to make sure we keep our promises.”  He told the children, “Your voices will be heard –- I promise you that.”


In a grim sign of the challenges of the Special Session, the International Labour Organization, in a report issued today, says that an alarming number of children continue to be trapped in the worst forms of child labor.  The report -– on which ILO Director-General Juan Somavia just gave a briefing in this room –- is entitled “A Future without Child Labour,” and it says that 246 million children are involved in child labour, or one out of every six children between the ages of five and 17.  Also, one in eight of all the world’s children – or some 179 million children in all -– are still exposed to the worst forms of such child labor, in which a child’s physical, mental or moral well-being is endangered.  According to the report, some 8.4 million children are trapped in “unconditional” child labor, including slavery, forced labor, forced recruitment for armed conflict and prostitution.


A press release with more information is available upstairs.


**Exhibition on Impact of Armed Conflict on Girls


This afternoon at 3 in the Visitor’s Lobby, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, will open an exhibition of photographs called “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Girls”.  The more than 100 photographs draw attention not only to the impact of armed conflict on girls but to the disproportionately little care they receive.  The exhibition is co-sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund, the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender issues and Advancement of Women and the Government of Canada.


**Signing


One signing this afternoon:  the United Kingdom will become the 28th country to sign the Protocol Against the Illicit Manufacture of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Organized Transnational Crime.


**Security Measures


For those of you who have broadcast booths in the General Assembly hall, the locks have been changed.  You will have to go to the Chief of Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, Sonia Lecca, to get new keys.  That is a security measure.


**Press Conferences


And finally, press conferences.  As we mentioned, Ambassador Mahbubani here, probably around 1.  And then tomorrow, three more press conferences to announce: at 12:45, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, is sponsoring a press conference by the Child Rights Caucus.  At 2:30 p.m., Shirley Mabusela, South African Human Rights Commission and Claire Brisset, Defender of Children, will brief on independent human rights for children.  This is sponsored by UNICEF.  And finally, at 4 p.m. Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, will brief on the Security Council meeting on children and armed conflict.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Is there any comment from the Secretary-General or Legal Counsel Hans Corell concerning the United States move on the ICC?


Answer:  No.  At this point, I do not have anything further.


Question:  Following the Secretary-General’s endorsement of the ICC, is this decision a blow?  And what are the implications for other international treaties?


Answer:  I really have nothing more to add.  As a matter of record, I suppose, I could say that this action by the United States is unique and unprecedented.  We are not aware that this has happened before in a situation where the Secretary-General was depositary.


Question:  Did the Secretary-General speak in the last three days about this issue?


Answer:  I am not aware that he has, but I have not seen him this morning.  He has just arrived from Boston back in New York, I think. 

Question:  But this is not a great triumph, for obviously, this is the United Nations most powerful Member State not signing up for the Court.


Answer:  The signatories and other parties to the Statute will have to comment on your comment.


Question:  But this is a matter of process.  You say it is up to other signatories to decide how to evaluate the legal standing of the United States move, but as the repository body for the signatures, is the United Nations going to have some legal record that the United States was advised that its pre-existing signature is no longer valid?  Or is there anything else that the United Nations has to do to put this on record?


Answer:  No.  I think, as depositary, the Secretary-General merely relays the letter, as I said he would be doing.


Question:  Does the fact that the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, Ismail Razali, owns a company in Burma represent a conflict of interest.


Answer:  No.  For two reasons, it is not.  The kind of contract that

Mr. Ismail Razali has with the United Nations, which means that he is paid as employed, does not carry with it any restrictions on business activities.  We did ask Mr. Razali about this matter, and he told us that the company entered into a contract –- not just with Myanmar, but with all ASEAN countries -– that they did that before he became Special Envoy and that since he was Special Envoy, he never discussed this matter with Myanmar authorities.  So there is no conflict of interest.


Question:  In his remarks to the JFK Library in Boston, the Secretary-General used the word “cautious”.  Does he think that moral considerations will play a role in the resolution of conflict?


Answer:  Oh, sometime, when we have a couple of hours, let us sit down and discuss that.  I do not think this is a question for a press briefing.


Question:  Although it has not ratified some treaties and conventions, the United States still participates in the process, as is the case with the Law of the Sea, for instance.  With the ICC, this is a total rejection.  Don’t you think this is going to hurt the functioning of the Court?


Answer:  You will have to ask the United States any questions about why it did what it did.  As you know, as a signatory, even though they are not yet parties, there are legal obligations.  So by withdrawing their signature, they free themselves from the obligations that a signatory would have.  Why they did that –- you’ll have to ask them.  What impact that has on the Court -– you will have to ask the other parties.  But the Statute has come into force.  The Court will come into being.


Spokesman for President of General Assembly


In letters (A/ES-10/170-171) dated 3 May addressed to the President of the General Assembly, South Africa and the Sudan have requested a resumption of the tenth emergency special session to consider agenda item 5, entitled “Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.  South Africa and the Sudan sent the letters in their capacity as Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement and Chair of the Arab Group, respectively.  In response to this request, the office of the President of the

Assembly has sent -- or is about to send -- letters to all missions informing them that the emergency special session will take place tomorrow at 10 or 10:30 a.m. Consultations are also going on regarding a draft resolution, which is expected to be finalized some time this afternoon.


A bit of background to the session:  the Tenth Emergency session dates back to 1997 when Israel began construction of a new settlement south of East Jerusalem.  The Security Council met twice on this issue, but failed to adopt two resolutions.  Using the “Uniting for Peace” formula, a special emergency session of the General Assembly was convened in April and again in July and November of 1997.  It also resumed in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001.  Last time, on 20 December last year, resolution A/RES/ES-10/8 on the issue was adopted with 124 votes in favour, 6 against and 25 abstentions.  Another resolution on the applicability of the Geneva Conventions, A/RES/ES-10/9, was adopted with 133 in favour, 4 against and 16 abstentions.  The Assembly heard some 20 speakers.


I have a list of previous emergency special sessions.  Regarding the meeting in December last year, you can find more information in Press release GA/10003.  If you are interested in the “Uniting for Peace” formula you should have a look at pages 181 to 195 in the 1950 edition of the United Nations Yearbook.  I can also provide copies.  When I last checked, six speakers had been inscribed on the list for tomorrow, but more will be coming in during the day.


There is also a fresh provisional list of speakers for the special session on children.  It is list number 3 dated 3 May.  As far as I have been able to count, there are 48 heads of State or Government, 24 Crown Princes, Vice-Presidents or Deputy Prime Ministers and 92 Ministers or Vice-Ministers.  In all, 191 speakers have been inscribed.


Question:   The draft resolution to be presented by the Arab block will be asking the Secretary-General to submit a report on the matter, if it is adopted.  I want to know what this topic has to do with uniting for peace.


Answer:  That is the formula the General Assembly uses when it meets to deal with an item that is usually dealt with by the Security Council.  So basically, this is the formula used when the Council is deadlocked and cannot take action on certain matters.


Question:   So, Fred, what happens when the resolution is adopted asking the Secretary-General to conduct an investigation?


Spokesman for the Secretary-General:  It’s hypothetical.  Let us wait and see what the outcome is.


Thank you very much.


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For information media. Not an official record.