5 December 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, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  I do expect shortly a statement from the Secretary-General on the bombing that took place in Netanya, which took place earlier today in Israel.

** Middle East

In the meantime, I will flag that Alvaro de Soto, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, issued a statement out of Israel, saying he was shocked and saddened at today’s suicide bombing in Netanya.  He condemned this act of terrorism, saying that no cause can justify the deliberate killing and maiming of civilians.  He sent his condolences to the bereaved families and to the Government of Israel.  De Soto added that he had no doubt that whoever ordered and carried out this attack wants to undermine efforts to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  He said, “I hope that all concerned will not play into their hands.”  We do expect a statement, as I said, later on.

** Côte d’Ivoire

Also, in the rubric of “to be expected”, we will have a statement on the appointment of a new Prime Minister in Côte d’Ivoire, and I will read that as soon as I have it approved.

Also from Côte d’Ivoire, Juan Mendez, the Secretary-General’s  Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide, told a press conference in Abidjan Saturday that he believed it was necessary to break the circle of impunity in that country.  Mendez said the lack of responsibility and punishment for massacres had aroused the indignation of the international community.  He spoke, as you know, at the end of a four-day visit to that country.  And we also have word from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Côte d’Ivoire that the Coordinator has condemned the destruction of two communities in Abidjan.  We have more details upstairs.

** Zimbabwe

From Zimbabwe, as you know, UN Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland arrived in Zimbabwe over the weekend, on a three-day mission on behalf of the Secretary-General to assess the humanitarian needs of the population, including those affected by Operation so-called “Restore Order”.  On Sunday, Mr. Egeland met with the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development, Ignatius Chombo.  During the meeting, there was discussion as to how the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and other humanitarian partners in Zimbabwe can better support the many people in need of humanitarian assistance, including with temporary shelter.

Egeland emphasized the critical role of the Government in facilitating the work of the humanitarian community, particularly in regard of granting access to humanitarian organizations and helping them to expedite bureaucratic procedures.

Today, Mr. Egeland visited areas where he assessed the living conditions of those who had been affected by the Government’s clean-up operation and an orphanage caring for HIV-positive children.  He also met with church leaders, representatives of national and international NGOs, and tomorrow, Mr. Egeland will visit Bulawayo and Matabeleland South to assess the humanitarian situation there.  He’s also expected to meet with President Mugabe tomorrow, and he will hold a press brief in Harare before leaving, and we do expect him to brief you later this week when he comes back to New York, I think on Thursday, if all goes well.

** Pakistan Quake Update

Turning to the aftermath of the earthquake in Pakistan, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said over the weekend that it can guarantee winter food supplies for some 400,000 earthquake survivors in remote villages in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.  But the agency said continuing donor support is vital.  The Pakistani Government has agreed that the UN and its choppers should ferry food to those people who can be reached only by air.  The UN is capable of flying approximately 6,000 tons of food a month, the agency said.  The helicopter programme is part of a coordinated winter feeding plan the UN has developed for all the affected areas.  And we have more details upstairs.


From Kosovo, Søren Jessen-Petersen, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, condemned the weekend bus attack in Prizren, which fortunately failed to cause any major damage or injuries.  We have, that apparently, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at a bus but failed to explode.  And we have a press release with more information upstairs.

** Liberia

An appointment, the Secretary-General announced today the appointment of Lieutenant General Chikadibia Obiakor of Nigeria as Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, effective 1 January 2006.

**Statement on Weapons Convention

And today in Geneva, a message was delivered on the Secretary-General’s behalf to those meeting at the States parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in which he says the meeting can provide a chance to address the threat posed by the possible use of such weapons by terrorists.

**International Volunteers Day

Today is also International Volunteers Day.  The Secretary-General, in a message, said that, from the flooded streets of New Orleans to the flattened villages in Pakistan, ordinary people have risen to extraordinary challenges in volunteering to save lives and rebuild communities.

**Compensation Commission

And also from Geneva, the Governing Council of the UN Compensation Commission will hold its fifty-eighth session, from tomorrow until Thursday, under the Presidency of Ambassador Tassos Kriekoukis of Greece.  During the session, the Council will discuss various issues relating to the activities of the Commission.

**Briefing Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Christopher Burnham, the Under-Secretary-General for Management, will be joining us at noon to brief you on the outcome of a survey of the UN’s Procurement Office, which was conducted by the consulting firm of Deloitte and Touche.  That is it for me.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Did the SG receive an official request from the Lebanese Government to extend the Mehlis Commission?

Spokesman:  No, I’m not aware of an official written demand being received, but again, the extension of the Commission, should it take place, unlike the previous extension, would need to be done by a new resolution of the Security Council.

Question:  In the case of Carina Perelli, has she been fired, has she been removed?  What is the exact nature of this case at this point in time?

Spokesman:  I can’t comment on this case until the Secretary-General’s decision has been communicated to Ms. Perelli.  A decision has been made and is being communicated to her.

Question:  This story was leaked to the AP after months of questions.  Apparently you thought it best to leak it to the AP.

Spokesman:  Me personally or the Secretariat?

Question:  The Secretariat.

Spokesman:  Far be it from me to lecture you on how to do your job, but leaks happen.  I won’t go down that road and I have nothing else to add on this.

Question:  Isn’t the Secretary-General concerned that the decision on
Ms. Perelli was taken this week?  It wasn’t taken before, right?

Spokesman:  The decision was taken recently.  I don’t have the exact date.  As I said, the decision was taken but has not yet been communicated.

Question:  But aren’t you concerned that all this happening a week before the Iraqi election, with what Carina Perelli did as pretty much all the UN’s done in Iraq, aren’t you concerned that at the very least, this will be hazardous to the UN image in Iraq?

Spokesman:  First of all, it is not all that the UN has done in Iraq.  It is quite a bit of the work the UN has done in Iraq, but the UN has worked closely with the Iraqis on the Constitution.  That was Mr. [Nicholas] Fink Haysom, a constitutional expert leading that team.  And as Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura briefed you extensively here, we’re also working hard on the humanitarian development aspects.  That being said, we have a senior international official dealing with support for the Iraq election.  That’s Craig Jeness.  He’s been on the ground there since the referendum as the international member of the Electoral Commission, and he is continuing to lead our efforts there.

Question:  She’s the head of the Electoral Division.  She was highlighted in a Bush speech, in every UN briefing on what the UN is doing in Iraq.  Aren’t you concerned that the leak a week before the election will send a bad message to the Iraqi people?

Spokesman:  We are working closely with the Iraqi people with a top-flight election expert, and our election team continues to work with them.  I will not go into the details of the case regarding Ms. Perelli, but there’s a process to be followed, there’s an internal justice system here at the UN that needs to be followed and it is being followed.

Question:  Other people accused of sexual harassment have been allowed to resign in dignity while Ms. Perelli is fired.  Is that because she refused to resign?

Spokesman:  I’m not commenting on the case until the decision has been communicated.

Question:  How will this be handled procedurally?  Once it’s communicated, will you have a press conference or statement?  Let us know?

Spokesman:  We’ll let you know.  The important thing is for the decision to be communicated to her, and then we will let you know.

Question:  One of the papers said today Annan had criticized the US for interference in the Mehlis investigation.  Is that true?  Nobody here heard about this.  I need a confirmation or denial.

Spokesman:  When would he have said this?

Question:  After his meeting with [Ambassador John] Bolton, apparently on Friday.

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of it.  The Secretary-General spoke to you at length on Friday a number of times, but I have nothing else.  I’m not aware of the specific comments you’re referring to.

Question:  But has Annan been unhappy with US interference in the Mehlis investigation?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of any interference.  What we’re focusing on is supporting Mr. Mehlis and his work in the run-up to the report.

Question:  To follow up, mass graves were reported to be found in Lebanon over the weekend.  Is there any comment on this, at least a condemnation?

Spokesman:  Yes.  We spoke to Geir Peterson, who, as you know, is the UN’s representative in Lebanon.  He expresses deeply-felt concern at these reports of mass graves.  He said it’s a matter that needs to be examined closely.  The Lebanese authorities are doing that.  They’ve already started the work of identifying the victims.  We will be following up this issue with them.

Question:  Since you won’t comment on the Perelli case, can you say that the Secretary-General has full confidence in Mannet S.A.R.L., the company that prepared the report on her?

Spokesman:  I will not comment on any aspect of this case until the decision’s been communicated to her.

Question:  Is somebody following up on her work?

Spokesman:  Again, I won’t comment on the case specifically, but people here hold jobs, they hold offices.  It’s the office that matters.

Question:  Without commenting, will your refresh our memories with facts that have already been made public?  When was the report issued?

Spokesman:  I appreciate your attempt to get me to comment on the facts that have already been made public, but I really would rather not say anything today, at least not until it’s been communicated to her.

Question:  Is the UN going out to Kinshasa after the earthquake?

Spokesman:  We’re in the midst of trying to get an update from our people on the ground in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

[The Spokesman later told reporters that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was in contact with its sub-offices in Kalemie and Goma, and its regional office in Nairobi.]

Question:  With regard to Perelli, what’s the difficulty of communicating this to her?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of whether she’s in the building.  She needs to receive a letter and that’s in the process of being done.

Question:  On the procedural aspect, you may want to do this by an announcement and then no appearance by anybody.  There are lots of questions raised by this apparent dismissal, and I just urge you or somebody from the UN to answer all these questions we have.

Spokesman:  Of course.

Question:  And if she is dismissed, are there avenues for her to appeal?

Spokesman:  Of course.  There are avenues for her and any other staff member accused of wrongdoing, whether they’re suspended, fired or reprimanded.

Question:  Can you tell us when the official communication is expected to take place?

Spokesman:  No, I can’t predict when that will happen.

Question:  When was the United Nations first aware of the allegations against Perelli?

Spokesman:  I’ll have to get back to you on exactly when that took place.

Question:  For how long can the WFP provided winter food supplies for the 400,000 people?

Spokesman:  I’ll check upstairs on the press release.

Question:  Has Mr. Mehlis agreed to stay until the end of January if the Commission extension takes place?

Spokesman:  In case the Commission extension does occur, it is our understanding that Mr. Mehlis will not be able to continue on, but he will of course work with us on a smooth transition, though I don’t want to put any timeframe on it.

Question:  The mission will be extended?

Spokesman:  That’s up to the Security Council to decide.  First we have to get through Mr. Mehlis’ report.

Question:  On the mass graves, it’s said the cadavers were being studied to see if Mr. Abou-Abass was among the 30 or so bodies found.

Spokesman:  I don’t have any information on that.  I’ll check with Mr. Mehlis’ spokesman when we go back.

Question:  Since Mr. Stephanides has been reinstated, when will he appear here?

Spokesman:  I don’t have anything new on Mr. Stephanides.

Question:  Since the decision on Ms. Perelli has not been communicated, is she currently working on the Iraq election?

Spokesman:  Ms. Perelli is currently a staff member and head of the Electoral Division, as of 12:21 p.m. today.  And the Electoral Division obviously works on the Iraqi election, but the lead on the Iraqi election is being done from the work on the ground by Craig Jeness who represents the United Nations in Baghdad on electoral matters.

Question:  In light of the Mehlis situation and the letter from Mr. Bolton, can we infer that so far you have failed to convince Mr. Mehlis to stay on?

Spokesman:  We need to get through his report in mid-December, which is now just some 10 days away.  Mr. Mehlis will be here.  I’m sure he’ll have a chance to talk to the Secretary-General and other interested parties.  The fact is, Mr. Mehlis told us from the start he could only give us six months.  He has a pretty important day job in Germany, so there are all sorts of factors involved.  So we need to get through the report, and we need to see if the mandate is extended.  Thank you very much.

Briefing by Spokesperson for Assembly President

Today the General Assembly is holding informal consultations of the plenary on the Human Rights Council.  The co-Chairs are conducting a paragraph-by-paragraph review of the compilation text, with the aim of producing a new text by early next week.

Also this morning, the Assembly President opened the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  The President stated that “the international community remains morally obliged to sustain its commitment to the Palestine refugees” and support the invaluable work of UNRWA.  The Agency is seeking $488 million to maintain its core programme services that are delivered to over 4 million refugees.  And we have the text of his remarks upstairs.

Tomorrow morning the first informal consultations of the plenary on Secretariat and management reform will take place, to consider the Secretary-General’s report on an ethics office, independent evaluation of the oversight system, and an independent audit advisory committee.  And that report is out on the racks, if you want to look at it.  Any questions?  Great.  Thanks very much.

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