8 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Response to Volcker Report

As you all probably know by now, the Secretary-General has received the report from the Chairman of the Independent Inquiry Committee looking into the “oil-for-food” programme.  We are studying the report and will not comment on it at this time.  There will be a briefing at 2 p.m. here, in Room 226, to answer all your oil-for-food-related questions.  That briefing will be given by a UN official, to be identified a little later.  [She later announced that the briefer would be United Nations Chief of Staff Mark Malloch Brown.]

**IAEA – Iran

Turning to Iran, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), informed members of the agency’s Board of Governors that Iran today started to feed uranium ore concentrate into the first part of the process line at the Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan.

Before that activity resumed, the IAEA had installed cameras to monitor the input stage of the process line.  ElBaradei noted with regret, however, that the feeding of the concentrate happened before the IAEA could test its cameras at the site, which normally takes 24 hours following installation.  It should be noted that the sealed parts of the process line remain intact, according to the IAEA.

** Sudan

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, is back in Khartoum after concluding his three-day visit to southern Sudan, during which he represented the United Nations at the funeral ceremony of First Vice-President John Garang on Saturday.

Yesterday, Pronk met with Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, the Chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), and other senior SPLM officials, including Riek Machar, the Movement’s Vice-Chairman, who is Vice-President of Southern Sudan.

During the meeting, Pronk praised the SPLM for the cohesion and unity they’ve shown after Garang’s tragic death by acting swiftly and appointing the new leader and reiterating their commitment to continue the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between North and South.

He recommended that the SPLM identify its immediate priorities in terms of relief aid and development assistance, and promised that the United Nations would help within its capabilities.

**UNRWA Staff Kidnapping

This morning, just before noon local time in Gaza, a Palestinian militant group kidnapped three staff members of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  The kidnapping took place in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.

Following negotiations, the staff members were released into the custody of UNRWA and of the Palestinian Authority.  They have now returned safely to the agency’s headquarters in Gaza.

**Security Council

In the Security Council today, as you know, there are no meetings here.  The Council expects to hold consultations tomorrow on Iraq, to be briefed on the activities of the UN Mission in that country.  The Secretary-General, in a letter to the Security Council that is now out on the racks, recommended a 12-month-extension of that Mission, whose current mandate expires this Friday.

**Afghan Election Funding

A week after it reported a $31 million gap in its funding for elections, the UN Mission in Afghanistan says that donors in recent days have made fresh pledges worth $12 million.  The remaining gap of $19 million, the Mission says, does not threaten the elections, and the elections will not be postponed.  The UN Mission says it is confident that it will have the money it needs for elections on time.

We have more information in today’s Kabul briefing notes upstairs in the Spokesman’s Office.

**SG’s Report on DRC

On the racks today is a report by the Secretary-General on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He observes that, in the run-up to elections, Congolese leaders must take steps to ensure respect for political inclusiveness.  And he notes that all concerned must refrain from inciting the public to disrupt the process.

The Secretary-General urges the Security Council to approve his request to allow the UN Mission in the country (MONUC) to provide logistical support to the elections, and appeals to the Council to allow an increase in MONUC’s civilian police and military contingents.  It is essential that the international community send a clear signal of its determination, he says, to create an environment conducive to the holding of peaceful and fair elections.

**WFP - Somalia

On Somalia, about a month ago, we told you that the World Food Programme (WFP) had suspended all humanitarian shipments to Somalia, following the pirating of a WFP-chartered vessel off that country’s coast.  Today, WFP announced an agreement with community leaders and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government to allow for the release of that ship, its 10-member crew and its cargo of food aid within days.

Last week, WFP sent two shipments of food to Somalia to ensure that its operations in the country would continue and that the hungry would not suffer because of the hijacking.  We have a press release on this upstairs.

** Guinea-Bissau

Turning to Guinea-Bissau, the UN system has launched an appeal for more than $100,000, following a cholera outbreak in that country.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warns that the onset of the rainy season has increased the risk of contamination for Guinea-Bissau’s neighbours.  Already this summer, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal have also reported cholera outbreaks.  And there’s more information on this upstairs as well.

**International Day of Indigenous Peoples

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People will be observed here tomorrow, with performances, statements, a panel discussion and a film screening.  As part of that observance, a cultural event, including Peruvian dancers and a storyteller from Nevada, will take place at 12:30 p.m., in the General Assembly Public Lobby.  We will also have a message from the Secretary-General, as well as ones from other UN officials.

**SG’s Statement – Robin Cook

Over the weekend, on Saturday, we did issue a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the death of Robin Cook.  That statement was sent to you over the weekend and is available upstairs in full.

That’s all I have for you and, as I mentioned, at 2 o’clock, or around that time, when the briefing on the Volcker report is over, we will have a UN briefing here in Room 226 on the UN’s response.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Marie, regarding Benon Sevan, has there been any reaction or any formal response by the Secretary-General to his resignation?  And also, can you just clarify a technical question regarding diplomatic immunity and whether or not it is affected by his resignation?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I mentioned before you walked in that all questions dealing with oil-for-food would be dealt with at 2 p.m.  Right now we’re studying the report.  It just was released at noon.  And even on the technical or any other kind of questions, if you could wait till 2 o’clock, we’ll have a senior UN official here.

Question:  This is really not apropos of the report, it’s just technical.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think that we would prefer to answer all questions dealing with oil-for-food matters at 2 o’clock.

If there are no other questions, have a good afternoon.  We’ll see you at 2.

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