11 January 2006


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


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

Good afternoon.

I will start off with a statement regarding the investigation into the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

**Statement on International Independent Investigation Commission

“The Secretary-General today sent a letter to the President of the Security Council informing the Council of his intention to appoint Serge Brammertz of Belgium as the Commissioner of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  Mr. Brammertz succeeds, as you know, Mr. Detlev Mehlis.

“Mr. Brammertz is currently the Deputy Prosecutor for Investigations of the International Criminal Court.  Before his election to that position he was the first Federal Prosecutor of the Kingdom of Belgium.

“He will proceed to Beirut to take up his assignment as soon as practicable.

“The Secretary-General wishes to thank Mr. Mehlis for his excellent work in establishing the investigation and setting it on a firm and professional footing.  He reiterates his unwavering commitment to support the work of the Commission to fulfil its mandate to assist the Lebanese authorities to bring to justice the perpetrators of this crime.

“In particular, the Secretary-General has taken steps to fulfil the mandate of Security Council resolution 1644, passed last year, to help the Lebanese Government identify the nature and scope of the international assistance needed for those charged with the crime to be tried by a tribunal of an international character.  In the near future, the Secretary-General will dispatch a mission to Lebanon for this purpose.

“In addition, the Secretary-General will consult with Mr. Brammertz and the Lebanese authorities regarding the most effective manner of expanding the work of the Commission to assist the Lebanese authorities to investigate other terrorist attacks since 1 October 2004.”

And copies of that statement are available upstairs.

** Iran

Turning to Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, expressed his serious concern about Iran’s decision to unravel the suspension of enrichment-related activities, before the Agency has clarified the nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Dr. ElBaradei said in a statement that maintaining the suspension, resuming the dialogue with all concerned parties, and providing the necessary cooperation and transparency to the IAEA are conditions for a comprehensive and equitable solution that ensures Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear activities, while assuring the international community of the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.

IAEA inspectors confirmed yesterday that Iran started to remove IAEA seals on enrichment-related equipment and material at Natanz.  Based on the information currently available, the removal of Agency seals at the enrichment site of Natanz and at two related storage and testing locations will be completed by today.  The activities at that facility will continue to be covered by IAEA containment and surveillance measures.

And we have a press release from the IAEA available upstairs.

** Sudan

Turning to Sudan, the Secretary-General, in an exchange of letters with the President of the Security Council, appointed Lieutenant General Jasbir Singh Lidder of India as the new Force Commander for the United Nations Mission in Sudan.  The General replaces Major General Akbar of Bangladesh.

And those letters are available out on the racks today.

** Malawi

Turning to the situation in Malawi, heavy rains, strong winds and flooding in Malawi have worsened the food security situation there, according to the latest information from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In light of growing malnutrition among children, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is supporting nearly 100 nutritional rehabilitation centres throughout the country.  And the World Food Programme (WFP) has almost doubled the outreach of its school feeding programme to reach more than 400,000 children in seven districts.

Last August, the United Nations launched a six-month $74 million flash appeal for Malawi, to help improve the food situation there.  As of now, that appeal remains only 56 per cent funded.

**General Assembly

And a couple of scheduling announcements from the President of the General Assembly -- the Summit follow-up process resumes today, with informal consultations on the Human Rights Council taking place this morning and this afternoon in Conference Room 2.  These consultations will continue on Friday afternoon.  In addition, consultations on ECOSOC reform and development are scheduled for Friday morning and Monday morning, respectively.

The General Assembly President, Jan Eliasson, will take part tomorrow morning in a ceremony to mark the formal handover of the chairmanship of the Group of 77 from Jamaica to South Africa.

And the event will take place in the Trusteeship Council.  And again, that is from the General Assembly President’s Office.

**Press Conferences

Last week I mentioned that we would be having a senior official from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations as a guest at tomorrow’s noon briefing to speak to you about the situation in Haiti.  That briefing has been postponed for now, and I hope to give you a new date for that fairly soon.

At 12:45, in a about a half hour or so, David Nabarro, the United Nations System Avian Influenza Coordinator will be here to provide an update on the avian flu, especially on the latest test cases in Turkey.

And at 11:15 in this room tomorrow, Ambassador Don McKay of New Zealand, as Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be receiving from Dr. Harold Snider, the Executive Director of Services for the Visually Impaired, a state-of-the-art Braille printer for use by the United Nations.  And copies of a media advisory are available in our office upstairs.

And I think that is it for me.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I’m interested whether the United Nations has an opinion on whether a Security Council resolution to deal with an investigation in the case of Lebanon would trump the immunity of a sitting Head of State?

Spokesman:  I would not want to answer this without doing actually some research and thinking on that.  So, I’ll get back to you.

Question:  In the case of Brammertz, we understand that Mehlis informed you well in advance that he would be staying for a certain period only.  Did Brammertz make that clear as well when he was appointed, that he would stay for a limited period of time?

Spokesman:  The appointment is for six months, as the mandate of the Commission is for six months.

Question:  But the mandate of the Commission, it says in the resolution, initially is extended for six months.  And you know better than me that come June we will be looking at another extension.

Spokesman:  I don’t want to predict what will or will not happen.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I understand.  Mr. Brammertz will serve for the full term of the mandate.

Question:  My question is, actually, is he open?  Did he make it clear that he’s open for extension?

Spokesman:  I have no information on that.

Question:  Does that worry you at all that the continuity of the investigation will be...

Spokesman:  I think our focus needs to be on the next six months and on the investigation and the task at hand.

Question:  What is the Secretary-General’s reaction to Iran’s decision to break the seals, and does he anticipate stepping up his call for Iran to comply with the IAEA?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General is, in fact, very concerned by Iran’s decision to resume its nuclear research.  He’s been in close touch with the IAEA Director General, Mohammed ElBaradei.  He’s spoken to him a number of times over the past few days.

The Secretary-General remains mindful and very appreciative of the efforts of the European Three -- the Germans, the French and the British -- as well as the efforts of Russia, to find a diplomatic solution on this issue.  But at this point, the IAEA remains, along with the E3, clearly in the lead in this situation.

Thank you.

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