1 August 2005


Spokesman's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Are the phones off?  Alright.

Good afternoon.

**Death of John Garang

I’ll start off with an official statement attributable to the Spokesman on Sudan and the death of John Garang:

The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the tragic death of Dr. John Garang de Mabior, First Vice-President of Sudan, President of Southern Sudan and Chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

The Secretary-General offers his sincere condolences to the family of Dr. Garang and to the people of Sudan, who have lost a great son.  Dr. Garang, who led the SPLM/A for more than 20 years, was a symbol of hope for millions of Sudanese who aspired to a better future.  He was one of the main architects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the historic accord which was signed by the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A on 9 January 2005, ending the civil war.

The Secretary-General calls on all concerned to honour Dr. Garang’s memory by reaffirming their commitment to continue to build on what has been achieved in the peace process in Sudan.

During this time of mourning, the Secretary-General has received personal assurances from President Omar Hassan al-Bashir that the Government remains committed to implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  He is also reassured to hear that the SPLM leadership is likewise committed to the CPA and the peace process in Sudan.

The death of Dr. Garang is a terrible loss for Sudan.  As the country recovers from this loss, close collaboration between the signatories to the CPA will continue to be critical.  The United Nations and United Nations Mission in the Sudan stand ready to assist and support the Sudanese in this process, as they address the challenges ahead and move irrevocably towards a lasting peace.

**More on Sudan

Also, just to add a bit more on Sudan, the Secretary-General said the United Nations has offered very close collaboration with the Government and SPLM.  He noted that the UN has been working with them ever since the crash.  The Secretary-General said it was a UN helicopter that took the body to New Site, where his family and the SPLM leadership have gathered.  And, we’re also helping and retrieving other bodies from the crash site.  So, we are on the ground and very actively working with them.  And we have also made it clear that we will give them all the support that is necessary, both in the political process and in our efforts to contain the humanitarian situation and settle the process in Darfur.

The Secretary-General also appealed to the Sudanese people for calm.  All indications as of now seem to indicate that it was an accident, he said.  The Secretary-General added that he has good hope that this will hold together, and we should all do whatever we can to ensure that it doesn’t unravel.

And, we will have shortly for you the comments made by the Secretary-General at the stakeout.

** Saudi Arabia

He also told reporters this morning that he was saddened to hear about the death of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, whom he called “a man who has done a lot to develop and build his country.”  He said he had offered his deepest condolences to King Fahd’s successor, King Abdullah, saying that the new king “is a man of great experience”, and the Secretary-General is sure he will be a successful King.

We also have an official statement on the death of King Fahd available upstairs.

**SG’s Comments - John Bolton ’s Appointment

And, also from this morning and his comments to you -- the Secretary-General said that he looked forward to working with John Bolton, appointed today by President Bush as the new Permanent Representative of the US to the UN.  The Secretary-General said that “we will welcome him at a time when we are in the midst of major reform.”

**SG - Children and Armed Conflict

I have another statement on the issue of children and armed conflict:

As you’ll recall, on July 26th of this year, the Security Council adopted resolution 1612 (2005) in which it took note of the action plan presented by the Secretary-General relating to the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict.  The Council requested that the Secretary-General implement the mechanism without delay with regard to situations of armed conflict listed in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2005/72).

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Mr. Olara Otunnu, contributed enormously in the preparation and presentation of the plan of action.  His comprehensive briefings of the Council culminated in the adoption of resolution 1612.

With the adoption of a solid plan of action, this mechanism has now entered the implementation phase.  With the expiry of Mr. Otunnu’s appointment, which took place on 31 July of this year and pending the appointment of his successor, the Secretary-General has requested Ms. Karin Sham Poo of Norway to be Officer-in-Charge of the programme.  Ms. Sham Poo served, until recently, as the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF.

The Secretary-General wishes to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Otunnu for his splendid services to the Organization and, in particular, for raising the profile of United Nations efforts to protect children in armed conflict.  The adoption of a comprehensive plan of action on a monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict attests to the wonderful work done by Mr. Otunnu, for which the Secretary-General and the international community, and no doubt children around the world, are all grateful.

And that statement is available upstairs.

**Otunnu’s Statement

In his own statement issued today, Olara Otunnu said he would continue to be actively engaged in the campaign to protect children.  He said he would work to ensure compliance with child protection instruments and norms where it matters most, on the ground.  He said that words on paper alone cannot protect children and women in danger.

And the full text of his statement is available upstairs.

** Lebanon

Over the weekend, the Secretary-General issued a statement welcoming the vote of confidence that formally established Lebanon’s new Government, headed by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

And we have the full text of that statement upstairs.

** Somalia

Turning to Somalia, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, held talks today with President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi of the Transitional Federal Government in Jowhar, Somalia.  Fall afterwards returned to Nairobi.

The objective of Fall’s initiative is to help in overcoming the current differences within the Transitional Federal Institutions on the way forward.  And, this can only be done through a constructive dialogue among the Somali leaders on issues related to the relocation of the Transitional Federal Government back to Somalia, and the deployment of an Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD)/African Union peace support mission on the question of security for Somalia in the future.

** Iran

Turning to Iran, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, today called on Iran to continue negotiations with the three European Union member States.  He urged Iran not to take any action that might prejudice the process at this critical stage when those three countries are expected to deliver a package addressing security and political, economic and nuclear issues.  ElBaradei also called on Iran not to take any unilateral action that could undermine the Agency inspection process at a time when the IAEA is making steady progress in resolving outstanding issues.

**Security Council

Today, being the first of the month, we have a new Security Council President -- Japan takes over as the President for the month of August.  Ambassador Kenzo Oshima will hold bilateral meetings with other Council members today, and at 12:30, he will also meet with the Secretary-General.  Then, tomorrow, the Council plans to hold consultations on the programme of work for August.  And after those consultations, we expect Ambassador Oshima to brief you in this room.

**Appointment - Tsunami Recovery

Today, the Secretary-General appointed Eric Schwartz as the Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery.  Mr. Schwartz served on the United States National Security Council during the Clinton Administration, as the Senior Director for Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs.  He has also worked for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as the Chief of the Executive Office.

Schwartz succeeds Erskine Bowles and he will assume his new duties this month.

**WFP - Myanmar

James Morris, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), arrived in Myanmar today, and will be there until this Friday.  The purpose of the trip is to review the WFP’s humanitarian operations throughout the country, and Morris is expected to meet with the UN Country Team, as well as other officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations and civil society.

** Iraq

Yesterday, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and updated him on the UN’s electoral work and its Office of Constitutional Support.  They also discussed the ongoing discussions about the Constitution taking place in the Transitional National Assembly.

** Zimbabwe

And lastly, a few of you were asking me this morning for an update about a possible Secretary-General’s trip to Zimbabwe.  He’s not about to jump on a plane, but as we’ve said in the past, he has agreed in principle, but the trip should be carefully planned and needs to reach certain objectives.  The visit needs to contribute to the alleviation of human suffering and unblock obstacles standing in the way of resolving the social, economic and political problems of Zimbabwe.

**General Assembly

The General Assembly is informing us it’s continuing today and tomorrow its informal consultations on the revised draft outcome document for the World Summit in September.  General Assembly President Jean Ping plans to submit to Member States a second revised version of the draft outcome document later in the week, on Friday.

And this afternoon, at 3, the Secretary-General will draw the name of the Member State to be seated at the first front row seat in the GA Hall during the sixtieth session of the General Assembly.  And, that seat is located on the extreme right of the speaker facing the… [hall from the podium].  And there’ll be coverage by UN TV of the drawing.

And that is it for me.  Just to flag one more Press Conference.  Tomorrow at 3, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, will speak about the issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

And I think that is it for me.  Yes, Joe?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  The Secretary-General has to be diplomatic about Bolton, but this man is a proven foe of this Organization; he’s said the most outrageous things about the UN.  Isn’t there the slightest trepidation upstairs about what he plans to do here?

Spokesman:  Mr. Bolton comes as the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, and I think the Secretary-General was eloquent in his comments about Mr. Bolton’s arrival, so I will not add to that.

Question:  Stéphane, you said in the statement about Sudan that the UN’s ready to assist.  Any concrete steps being taken on the ground in terms of what the UN is doing to shore up the Comprehensive Peace Agreement?

Spokesman:  Well, obviously, we’re -- on the immediate need -- we’re working with the SPLM/A and the Government in retrieving the bodies and bringing them to New Site.  Our staff, both in the south and in Khartoum, are working very closely with the Government and the SPLM/A -- we’re in constant contact with them -- to make sure, I think, in these days of mourning, these delicate days ahead, that things don’t unravel, as the Secretary-General said.

Question:  Is Pronk going to New Site?

Spokesman:  Not that I’m aware of at this time.  He’s in Khartoum, and I don’t have a travel update for him.

Question:  Just a last question -- is there emergency meetings of, say, peacekeeping, or any reaction, or moving towards maybe speeding up the roll-out of the peacekeeping operation down there?  Are there any meetings with a view to changing police on the ground, in the wake of this?

Spokesman:  Our focus right now remains on the immediate days ahead and the support we can bring to the Government and the people of Sudan as a whole.

Question:  Will Bolton be presenting his credentials before he starts working here?

Spokesman:  Yes, obviously he will officially become the Permanent Representative of the United States, as with all ambassadors, when his credentials are presented to the Secretary-General.  I do not have a date for that yet, but as soon as I have one, I will communicate it to you.

Question:  On Iraq, the situation continues to be, I mean, there’s no less quiet in the situation in Iraq, and Mr. Qazi was supposed to come here last month and didn’t show up.  And, basically, we don’t have a clear picture as to what the UN has in store over there.  So, can you please tell us when Mr. Qazi is going to be here?

Spokesman:  I will, and again, as you put it so well, Masood, the situation is very delicate in Iraq right now, and that’s why Mr. Qazi is there assisting the Government in whatever way we can in the electoral process and the constitutional process.  But, I will again ask my colleagues upstairs to see if we have a target date for a visit by Mr. Qazi here, or one of his deputies who could equally brief you on what the UN is doing.

Question:  Steph, do you know if the General Assembly is going to hold a special session on behalf of the late King Fahd?

Spokesman:  I do not know.  We will try to find out.  But you will notice the UN flag is in half-staff today to mark the passing of the King.

[The Spokesman later said that the General Assembly would hold an observance when it next meets in plenary session.]

Question:  We received a report -- if you could ask and if any agency is listening -- that a major country said its contributions to UN agencies will be on hold until it gets a seat on the UN Security Council.  Are you aware of anything like that?

Spokesman:  No.  And again, as we’ve said from here -- they’re, we’re in a high-stakes game of negotiations on the reform process on Security Council expansion, and we would, I think we would call on Member States to be calm in their negotiating statements.

Question:  Stéphane, it appears that following John Garang’s death from a helicopter crash there are demonstrations taking place and that there’s violence also taking place in Sudan.  Could we have the latest information on that?

Spokesman:  We did get some reports that there were some demonstrations in Khartoum.  Obviously, the Secretary-General and the UN appeal for calm in the days ahead, following the death of Mr. Garang.

Question:  Do you have information on the dead?

Spokesman:  No, I’m not sure that’s information we would have, but we could check.

Question:  What role is the United Nations going to play in Iraq come September concerning the transactions?

Spokesman:  I’m sorry -- on…

Question:  On September, you mentioned the transaction in Iraq.  What’s the UN….

Spokesman:  I’m not sure I understand your question.  What transactions?

Question:  You mentioned that Qazi was in Iraq and discussed with the President, and discussed about the…

Spokesman:  The two, on the political side, obviously, the two greatest efforts are on the constitutional drafting process -- we have a gentleman there named Nick Haysom who leads our constitutional drafting team, who’s working with the Constitutional Committee, and we’re obviously working very hard in assisting them in organizing the upcoming elections.

Question:  Is the UN taking any part in investigating the causes of this crash?  Will the black box be coming here, like we saw what happened in Rwanda?

Spokesman:  Not at this time.  But, obviously, should the Sudanese Government ask for help in the investigation, we would be willing to help, as the Secretary-General said.

Question:  The Secretary-General said it looked like, at this point, it was an accident.  He was just speaking from…

Spokesman:  All indications from what we get from our team on the ground, from the Government in Khartoum, from the SPLM, from all those involved -- all indications are that it was an accident.  And, as the Secretary-General said, should Sudan ask for help in an official investigation, we would be very willing to do so.

Thank you very much.

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