28 February 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

Before I start the briefing, I just wanted to make a quick announcement about the stakeout area.  I understand that Alvaro de Soto, as soon as he is done with his briefing on the Middle East, in consultations, will be at the Security Council stakeout microphone and then, if it all works out, at 12:30, General Assembly President, Jan Eliasson, will also be at the second floor mike to talk to you.  Just to let you know, there is a lot of activity expected to be going on outside.  I just needed to let you know.  Jan Pronk will be here at 1 o’clock.

So, now we start the briefing.

**Secretary-General in Paris

The Secretary-General, as you know, is in Paris today, where he met with President Papadopoulos.  The purpose of the meeting was to review the situation in Cyprus and examine ways in which to move forward towards reunification of the island.  They agreed that the resumption of the negotiating process, within the framework of the Secretary-General’s good offices, must be timely and based on careful preparation.  Referring to the agreement by both communities’ leaders to hold technical discussions on a series of issues, the Secretary-General and the Cypriot President expressed hope that those discussions would help restore trust between the two communities.  They also agreed that progress on a number of issues, including demilitarization and de-mining on the island, would greatly improve the atmosphere for further talks.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, the Secretary-General said that, in the next couple of months, he would be doing whatever he could to narrow the gap between mere words and actual actions.

We have the whole statement upstairs and we’ll soon have a transcript of the Secretary-General’s remarks to the press on this issue.

In Paris earlier today, the Secretary-General attended the Ministerial Meeting on Innovative Sources of Financing for Development, chaired by French President Jacques Chirac, and he asserted that financing for development is “an area where political courage is needed”.  He praised the efforts of the President, among others, to find new ways of funding the fight against poverty.  And we have copies of his speech upstairs.

Prior to attending the meeting, the Secretary-General met with President Chirac.  The two discussed a wide range of issues, including Lebanon and Syria, Haiti, Côte d’Ivoire and financing for development.

**Security Council

And as I just mentioned, Alvaro de Soto, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, today briefed the Security Council in an open meeting on the latest developments in the region, and said that the choices that Hamas makes are the single most important variable that will shape the future of the conflict.  He noted, as the Secretary-General has said, that it will take time for clarity to emerge.

He reminded the Security Council of the need, as stressed by the Quartet, to stabilize the finances of the Palestinian Authority during the caretaker period.   De Soto welcomed the decision announced yesterday by the European Union to provide $143 million of emergency assistance to the Palestinians.  He also said that we should be alert to the danger that cutting off assistance prior to the formation of a new Government might be interpreted by the Palestinians and the Arab world as a punishment for the way the Palestinians voted in January.

We have copies of his statement upstairs, and, as you know, de Soto continues to talk to Council members in consultations and will speak to you shortly.

Meanwhile, the Security Council has also scheduled a daily briefing by the Secretariat, and today, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, will be briefing on the achievements of the transition period in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the key remaining challenges on the way forward to build on the substantial progress made so far in the peace process.

The Council also passed a resolution on the use of ad litem, or short-term, judges for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

And as you know, today is the last day of the US Council Presidency, and tomorrow, Argentina will assume the Presidency for the Security Council for the month of March.  He is scheduled to brief you on the March programme on 2 March, which is Thursday.

** Iran

On Iran, Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, this week circulated his latest report on the Agency’s nuclear verification in Iran to the IAEA’s Member States.  The Agency’s 35-member Board of Governors will consider the report at its next meetings, which will begin in Vienna on 6 March.  The document’s circulation is restricted, and unless the IAEA Board decides otherwise, the Agency cannot authorize its release to the public.


Turning to Sudan, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says it is seeing population movements in both directions along the troubled Chad-Sudan border, further evidence of the spreading insecurity that now straddles that increasingly insecure region.  In addition to the more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur who have sought refuge in eastern Chad in the past three years, UNHCR says it is now seeing indications that some Chadians are themselves fleeing in the opposite direction, into Darfur.  High Commissioner António Guterres has repeatedly expressed concern over the potential for further destabilisation in the region.

Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Sudan continues to report insecurity in Darfur, due to the constant attacks on civilians.  An African Union patrol was attacked yesterday in South Darfur, and in West Darfur, instability was reported due to increased banditry activities, believed to be perpetuated by Chadian rebels, according to the UN Mission.  And recent reports indicate that women passengers were raped after an attack on a convoy of six trucks, going from Nyala to Al Fasher, two days ago, and that’s also in the Mission’s latest report.

And Jan Pronk, the Special Representative for the Secretary-General for Sudan, will be here, in person, at 1 o’clock, to brief you on the latest developments.

**Reports on Somalia and Small Arms

Out on the racks today are two reports of the Secretary-General.  In his report on Somalia, he notes that the signing of the Aden Declaration in January created encouraging prospects for reconciliation among Somali leaders, and he calls upon the international community to continue supporting these efforts at political reconciliation.

And in his report on small arms, the Secretary-General says that one of the most significant achievements reached in this area last year was the adoption of the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons.

** Côte d’Ivoire

From Côte d’Ivoire, the UN Mission there reports that a meeting of the main leaders from the Government, the rebel forces and the political opposition has begun in the capital.  The meeting is designed to map out a peace plan, aiming towards elections by October.  It was called by Prime Minister Charles Banny.  The meeting was originally scheduled to open yesterday, but was postponed, due to disagreements over security arrangements.  It was the first time the parties have met on Ivorian soil, since the civil war began in 2002.  And we have more information on that upstairs.

** Afghanistan

And turning to Afghanistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) has called on donors to urgently provide funds to its operations in that country, which is facing critical shortages.  WFP needs $11 million in order to keep supplying food to 3.5 million Afghans during the coming months.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR is tomorrow restarting its repatriation operation from Pakistan to Afghanistan after the usual winter break.  Some 400,000 Afghans are expected to return to Afghanistan this year.  And there is information on both these developments.

** Mozambique

On Mozambique, following last week’s earthquake there, the Mozambican Government has requested technical support from the UN, to help it manage risks and disasters.  The UN has also been playing a role in earthquake assessment missions, having already helped the Government to get helicopters for remote areas.  And there is a press release on that.

** Guatemala

And the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, will be in Guatemala from tomorrow until Friday, for a meeting on the forthcoming hurricane season.  And there is more information on that, as well.

**Press Conferences

And on press conferences this afternoon, I already mentioned to you: 1 o’clock, Jan Pronk.  And at the stakeout, Alvaro de Soto, to be followed by GA President, Jan Eliasson.

So that’s all I have for you, before you all go marching out there.  Any questions for me?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Do you have any update on the investigation into the bird flu in Niger and what the UN is prepared to do for that country?

Deputy Spokesman:  There is a press release today that was issued, I believe, by the World Health Organization, FAO,that focuses on recent developments regarding bird flu.  But we can also give David Nabarro a call, to see if there is anything he would like to add.

Question:  Speaking of updates, is the Ackerman probe of the Nair situation going on?

Deputy Spokesman:  I have nothing, nothing on that.  I’ll look into where it stands, but I have nothing new on that.

[After the briefing, the Deputy Spokesman told the correspondent that Jerome Ackerman was making progress on the matter concerning Dileep Nair, and he had started to interview the concerned staff.  He had also reviewed the pertinent electronic data.]

Question:  You just said something about the IAEA report -- that it’s not being released.  Am I right on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  I just mentioned that the report, which everybody was anticipating, has gone to the members of the IAEA Board.

Question:  And eventually, it will be released, after the Board approves it?

Deputy Spokesman:  That is up to the Board, but the Board will be discussing the report on March 6.

Question:  Will it be sending that to the United Nations Security Council?

Deputy Spokesman:  I think you have to ask IAEA, but usually the reports are made public.  But we’ll ask for you.

No other questions for me? Have a good afternoon, and we’ll see you here at 1 o’clock.

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