12 September 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.

Good afternoon.  Before I start, if someone could close the doors and please turn off all cell phones, that would be much appreciated.  Thank you.


Good afternoon.  Due to the ongoing discussions within the General Assembly, the Secretary-General decided to postpone his press conference, which, as you know, had been scheduled for earlier this morning.  We are likely to see a rescheduled press conference by the Secretary-General tomorrow morning or early afternoon.  But we’ll keep you posted as to the exact timing.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General met this morning with both the incoming and outgoing Presidents of the General Assembly, and he intends to meet with them again later this afternoon.

Also later this afternoon, he will address the last plenary session of the fifty-ninth General Assembly, and we will make his statement to the Assembly available to you. 

**General Assembly

The Office of the President of the General Assembly is telling us that intensive negotiations were held in the General Assembly over the weekend on the draft outcome document for the Summit, and they are still continuing.  Progress was made in the areas of development, terrorism and management reform.

Differences still exist in other areas, especially the section on disarmament and non-proliferation.  General Assembly President Jean Ping will submit to Member States later today a revised version of his negotiating document for their further consideration.

Mr. Ping will also chair this afternoon’s last plenary meeting of the fifty-ninth General Assembly.

** Lebanon

Turning to Lebanon, the Secretary-General has informed the members of the Security Council, by letter, that Detlev Mehlis, the head of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission dealing with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has asked for a 40-day extension for the work of his team.  That extension means the investigators’ mandate will last until 25 October.

The Secretary-General told the Security Council it is his intention to grant that extension.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mehlis arrived in Damascus today to continue his work on the investigation.

**Security Council

Turning to the Security Council, this morning they are holding consultations on Liberia, on which members are being briefed by the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative, Alan Doss.

Doss presented to the Council the Secretary-General’s recent report on Liberia, which says that Liberians have made steady progress in preparing for the October national elections.

The report also adds that the re-integration of ex-combatants, vital to heading off an increase in crime, is facing a funding shortfall.

** Burundi

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General and the President of the Republic of Uganda will chair a meeting on Burundi at 4 p.m. in Conference Room 9.

The meeting was called to mark the installation of the new Government in that country.  And the new President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, will attend, as will heads of State and heads of government from the Great Lakes region.

The group is expected to establish an international body to coordinate assistance to the new Government.

And the Secretary-General will have a statement that we will make available to you tomorrow probably, or late this afternoon.

**UN-Habitat Report

Anna Tibaijuka, the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, today will present a report on financing for homes and shelter worldwide.

According to the report, in 25 years, an extra 3 billion people will need urban housing, water supply, sanitation and other city services.

The report paints a bleak picture of urban needs but recommends several creative and innovative systems to pay for housing.  It concludes that contributions from the public sector will continue to be necessary far into the future.

A press release is upstairs and on UN-Habitat’s website, as well.  And Ms. Tibaijuka will brief you at 1 p.m. today.

**Millennium Development Goals

Tomorrow afternoon, from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Millennium Plaza Hotel across the street, there will be a round table on scaling science and technology to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  Invited participants include the Presidents of Indonesia, Senegal and the Dominican Republic, as well as the Prime Minister of Malaysia and Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University.

And we have a press release available upstairs for you.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow, in addition to the Secretary-General’s press conference, which is still to be scheduled, at 10:15 a.m., Prime Minister John Howard of Australia will be here in this room. 

At 2:15 p.m., Jan Eliasson, the President of the General Assembly for the sixtieth session, will be here. 

And at 5:30 p.m., the European Union will brief on its commitments and contributions towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

And obviously, the press conference schedule keeps changing, so I will encourage you to check our website or come by our Office. 

That’s it for me.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Stéphane, if the Secretary-General postponed his press conference today because the document has not been final -– and I think that is a fair understanding -– what is he doing now to get these people to come up with a document that can be presented to the heads of State?

Spokesman:  Obviously, the hard decisions are going to have to be made by the Member States, but the Secretary-General has been meeting daily, if not twice daily, with both Presidents of the General Assembly.  He’s also meeting today with the chairs of the regional groups.  He’s been in phone contact with Member States, both at the ambassador level here and the higher level at capitals.  And he’s trying to encourage them to make the necessary give and take that will enable us to have an outcome document for the Summit.

Question:  Can you characterize how seriously he thinks these last minute negotiations –- or how serious he thinks the situation is? 

Spokesman:  There’s clearly a sense of urgency.  You know, the clock continues to tick.  The negotiators, I think, have left things perilously late in light of the date of the Summit, which was announced well in advance. 

And he’s concerned that the work may not be done on time, but he’s definitely not given up and, as I said, he’s continuing to consult with Member States at various levels.

Question:  I have two questions.  One on Mehlis in Syria and the second would be Roed-Larsen.  Mehlis in Syria... do you have any update on his investigation?

Spokesman:  No, I don’t have that.  The only thing I’m able to confirm to you is that he did arrive in Damascus and he’s meeting with officials, but we do not have the list of appointments.  No, we do not.

Question:  And concerning Roed-Larsen?  How fast he’s moving in his implementation of resolution --

Spokesman:  Well, I think he’s obviously trying to move ahead, but other parties also have to move.  But we’ll try to get an update for you from Mr. Roed-Larsen.

Question:  Saudi Arabia has suggested establishing an international centre for fighting terrorism.  How does the United Nations see this initiative?  This could be an attempt to organize world efforts towards this issue and make it more effective.

Spokesman:  I had not heard of this development, but if you want, after the briefing we can look into it, and I will give you a reaction.

Question:  As you mentioned, the President of the General Assembly Mr. Ping, will conclude the session tomorrow afternoon. 

Spokesman:  This afternoon.

Question:  Do you know if he still intends to hold a press conference?

Spokesman:  Yes, I’m told he will very much like to hold a press conference at some point, probably late this afternoon.  And again, we will keep you posted.  I think things are moving fairly quickly today, so keep checking with us on schedule issues.

Question:  Can you repeat in which areas Kofi Annan sees progress in the negotiations and in which areas he sees some difficulties?

Spokesman:  Yes, the list I said, what we had been told by the General Assembly President.  And that is, according to the General Assembly President, progress was made in the areas of development, terrorism and management reform.  Obviously, differences still exist in other areas, especially the section on disarmament and non-proliferation.  But I think you should -- Mr. Ping will probably give you more details this afternoon.

Question:  Have there been any comments from the Secretary-General on the proposed increase in the budget in the Fifth Committee for protocol?  A rather major increase -- both the office of protocol, as well as the General Assembly President.

Spokesman:  I’ll have to get some guidance for you and get back to you afterwards.

Question:  There has been a suggestion by the Secretary-General to the Iraqi Government to postpone the election, the next election in December.

Spokesman:  No, the timing of the referendum and the election is the prerogative of the Iraqi Electoral Commission to decide on the exact dates, and we continue to be committed to assisting them in fulfilling their responsibilities on the agreed timetable.

Question:  When you say there’s progress on development, terrorism, management reform, is that just simply language or substantial changes?

Spokesman:  That question you will have to address to the General Assembly President.

Question:  Have you discussed regarding the crew, who’s coming here, who don’t actually know where there’s going to be a checkpoint for security?  Have you discussed this regarding the locker for the crew?

Spokesman:  There was an extensive security briefing by our security folks and Gary Fowlie two weeks ago, I don’t know if you were there, but any of those questions should be addressed to Mr. Fowlie, to the Media Liaison Unit.

Question:  12 September is very accustomed to postponements.  Four years ago, because of 11 September there was a postponement of a very important meeting with Secretary-General Kofi Annan [inaudible] Cyprus [inaudible] in New York in order to find a solution according [inaudible] United Nations Security Council resolutions.  Afterwards, there was [inaudible] movement on this, and the results were not really positive up until now.

But now there are new developments, basically.  Do you think there is enough ground in order to carefully prepare a fresh new start of the United Nations effort?  Would there be any consultations in this view with maybe the European Union [inaudible] at the Summit, maybe also poor people and refugees some of them, will be interested.  Is there any news about the possibility for the Secretary-General to appoint a new representative for Cyprus?

Spokesman:  No, I have nothing new on the appointment of a new representative and obviously the Cyprus question will come up in a number of bilateral meetings the Secretary-General will have over the next couple of weeks with leaders from the region. 

Thank you very much.

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