22 March 2006


22 March 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’d like to welcome my visitors, who are students from San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, California.  Welcome.

**Guest at Noon

And my guest today after my part of the briefing will be Carolyn McAskie, who, as you know, is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Burundi.  And she’ll be joining us to discuss the situation in that country.

**Secretary-General in Africa

I just have an update on the Secretary-General’s travels.  Before returning to New York this weekend, he will make two additional stops during his current travels in Africa.

He will now be stopping in Libreville, Gabon and Bata in Equatorial Guinea.

In both countries, he will meet the Presidents and other senior officials.  And this is a continuation of the Secretary-General’s good offices effort of mediating the territorial dispute between the two neighbours.

**Secretary-General in Democratic Republic of Congo

Today, the Secretary-General held back-to-back meetings with the four vice-presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He also had his second meeting in two days with President Joseph Kabila.

The Secretary-General then met with the President of the DRC’s Independent Electoral Commission, Abbe Malu Malu.  He then spoke to members of political parties and civil society.  He emphasized the importance of creating an atmosphere of trust and security to enable the full participation of all political parties that will reinforce the credibility of the democratic process.

He also met with representatives of Angola, Nigeria, South Africa, Belgium and the five permanent members of the Security Council, who make up a committee supporting the transition to democracy.

This afternoon, he’s also speaking with the staff of the UN Mission in the country, in a town hall meeting.  And he is scheduled to speak to the press after that.

And we will give you the full transcript of the press conference.

And tomorrow, as I mentioned, the Secretary-General will first go to Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and from there he will travel on to Libreville, the capital of Gabon.

** Iraq

Turning to Iraq, the UN Mission in Iraq today issued its latest bimonthly report on human rights, in which it expressed its concern over the sectarian violence that followed the attack last month on the Askari Shrine in Samarra.

The Mission notes “a marked deterioration in the security environment, resulting in hundreds of cases of killings, torture, illegal detention and displacement”.  It calls on the Iraqi Government to assert control over the security forces and all armed groups.

The report also emphasizes the UN Mission’s apprehension over the treatment of an increasing number of detainees in Iraq, including the lack of due process and acts of abuse.

And we have copies of that report, as well as a press release, available upstairs.

** Lebanon

The Secretary-General’s report concerning the nature and scope of international assistance for a tribunal of an international character, concerning the killings of Rafik Hariri, the former Primer Minister, and
22 others last year, is now out as a document.

The report sets out the common understanding reached in consultations between the Secretariat and the Lebanese authorities on key issues that would need to be further explored, should the Security Council decide to pursue the establishment of a tribunal of an international character.

The Secretary-General writes that, if the common understanding that was reached is acceptable to the Security Council, the Council may wish to consider adopting a resolution requesting him to initiate negotiations with the Lebanese Government, aimed at establishing such a tribunal.

And we do expect the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Nicolas Michel, to brief the Security Council on that report tomorrow.

**World Food Programme –- Ecuador

The World Food Programme (WFP) reports from Ecuador that they have made plans with the Ecuadorian Government to provide food for some 5,000 families, who were forced to flee their homes after heavy flooding along Ecuador’s coast.

And we have a press release with more information upstairs on that.

**Bird Flu

Also, the UN Regional Meeting on Avian Influenza in Africa wraps up its work today in Libreville, Gabon.  The three-day meeting, which brought together Government and UN officials from 45 African countries, issued a declaration calling for firm political commitment at the highest level of government.

The declaration also highlights the need for each country to finalize an integrated, avian influenza and human pandemic preparedness and response plan.

And we have more information on that upstairs.

**World Health Organization -- Tuberculosis

Also, from the World Health Organization, three of the world’s six regions are expected to achieve internationally agreed targets for tuberculosis (TB) control, according to the World Health Organization’s latest report on TB which is out today.

Specifically, the Americas, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific region should have been able to detect 70 per cent of TB cases in their territory and successfully treat 85 per cent of them by the end of 2005.

**World Water Day

And we have a message today from the Secretary-General marking this year’s Water Day, which is today, with a message calling for strengthening of efforts to protect rivers, lakes and aquifers.

The Secretary-General said in the message that we need to distribute water more equitably, and increase the efficiency of water use, especially in agriculture.  He also stressed the need to involve women in water-related decisions, as in many cultures women are the guardians of water, often spending long hours searching for and carrying water.

The Secretary-General urged the participants of the World Water Forum meeting in Mexico City today to send a clear message about the urgency of the challenge.

And that message is available upstairs.

**Press Conference

At 2 p.m. (tomorrow) in this room, the Permanent Mission of Serbia and Montenegro will be sponsoring a press conference by members of a delegation of the Serb Orthodox Church, who are currently visiting the United Nations.

And that is it for me.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Do you know if Nicolas Michel will be speaking to the press after the meeting?

Spokesman:  We’ve asked him and encouraged him to stop at the stakeout after his briefing to the Council.

Question:  Do you know at what time the briefing is?  Is it going to be an open meeting?

Spokesman:  I think we’ll have to look at the schedule.  I’ll let you know.

Question:  As a follow-up to that, the publication of the Secretary-General’s report on the international tribunal, do we infer from that that there’s already a set list of defendants who would appear before that court?

Spokesman:  No, I think you should -- this looks at the possible structure of a court.  This report is independent of the work that Mr. Brammertz is doing.  It is obviously linked to it, as the work done by Mr. Brammertz and the Lebanese judicial authorities would likely lead –- hopefully lead –- to indictments and people facing justice.  And what we are looking at with this report is the possible framework of how these people would face justice.

Question:  And then an Iraq question.  There are reports about procurement waste, embezzlement, influence peddling and discrimination against the Iraqis at the UN Mission in Iraq. Is the UN looking into that?  Is there an investigation?  Is it something you would confirm or deny?

Spokesman:  I think first off, I want to stress that the Secretary-General has full confidence in the work Mr. Qazi has been doing in leading the UN Mission in Baghdad and doing the work that he’s been doing in very difficult circumstances.

But as a matter of course, whenever allegations of wrongdoing are raised and come to attention, they are being looked at by OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services).  But I have no further comment.

Question:  Any reaction of the Secretary-General about the ETA ceasefire in Spain?

Spokesman:  No, we’ve seen the reports, we’re taking a look at them.  We’ve also seen the preliminary reactions from the Spanish Government, which is in the lead on this.  But at this point, we have no further comment.

Question:  First of all, my compliments for a great haircut.  I just wanted to have some follow-up about the [Jerome] Ackerman report.  Is it still on hold?  And ... go ahead.

Spokesman:  You go ahead.

Question:  I have other -–

Spokesman:  On Mr. Ackerman, I have no update to give you on Mr. Ackerman, except that he’s continuing his work.  And when I have a more detailed time frame, I will give that to you.

Question:  On the matter of oil-for-food, eight more days are left to the handover of all the papers to the United Nations [inaudible].  Where does it stand?

Spokesman:  As I’ve said, you’re right -- the agreement to extend the IIC ends on 31 March.  We have eight more days, and I do expect to have some news for you in that regard in the next few days.

Question:  And do you have any update on the employees who are [inaudible] by the US Southern District for questioning in this procurement scandal in the aftermath of the procurement scandal?

Spokesman:  I have nothing on that.

Question:  Do you have any update on the Roed-Larsen trip in the Middle East?

Spokesman:  No, we didn’t get anything today, but I’ll check up.  They’re usually pretty good about sending an update.

Question:  And another question regarding the report, is it very much stated that this report will be, that this tribunal would be extended to the 14 assassinations prior to October?

Spokesman:  I think -- I would refer you to the report.  That is not something that I would go into at this time.  Thank you very much.

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