28 March 2006


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

Good afternoon.  I’m sorry I’m a little late.


The Secretary-General, as you know, spoke to reporters on entering the Building today, and was asked about reports that former Liberian President Charles Taylor has disappeared from his residence in Nigeria.  The Secretary-General said that “it would be extremely worrying if indeed he has disappeared”, since Nigeria had indicated that it would cooperate with transferring Taylor to Liberia and to the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

He also discussed his recent travels in Africa, including his visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where preparations are under way for the first elections in 45 years.

The Secretary-General said he was struck by the difference in the country when he visited Kisangani, in the east, where, he noted, the last time he visited, “the tension was palpable”, but this time, the atmosphere was fairly calm.

And we have the transcript of his remarks available to you upstairs.

**Security Council

And here at UN Headquarters now, the Security Council held a private meeting for troop-contributing countries of the UN Observation Mission in Georgia.

It then went into consultations on the same subject and other matters, with a briefing by Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber, who heads the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ Europe and Latin America Division.

**Arab League Summit

Meanwhile in Khartoum, Ibrahim Gambari, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, today delivered a message on the Secretary-General’s behalf to the Summit of the League of Arab States taking place there.

In that message, the Secretary-General notes that today’s gathering takes place during a period of continued turbulence in the Arab world.

The Secretary-General says that the affirmation by the new Palestinian cabinet of the Arab Peace Initiative would be a first and welcome step towards the reaffirmation of Palestinian commitment to the principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Road Map.

And on Darfur, Sudan, he stresses that the transition to a UN force means building upon the existing African Union mission, so as to make the UN successor mission larger and more mobile.

We have copies of that message, which also discusses Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Somalia, and that’s available upstairs.

** C ô te d’Ivoire

From Côte d’Ivoire, the UN Operation there today reports that its troops deployed into two western towns yesterday, two months after it withdrew its troops from them following violent anti-UN demonstrations.

The mission also reports that the University of Bouaké opened its doors today for the first time in three years.  And I’m sure we have more on this upstairs.

** Burundi

Turning to Burundi, Nicolas Michel, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs or Legal Counsel, is in Burundi today leading a high-level UN delegation aimed at helping that country set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and establishing a Special Tribunal.

Michel said he was encouraged that the Burundian authorities have given a high priority to reconciliation and to ending impunity, which, he said, were essential elements for a durable peace.

We have a press release upstairs in French from the Mission.

**Humanitarian Appeal for Sahel Region

The United Nations today launched a humanitarian appeal for more than $90 million to meet food requirements in Africa’s Sahel region, which is still recovering from poor harvests in 2004 and 2005, and is now entering the lean season between harvests.

The appeal will cover Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, said, “We cannot wait for thousands of people, the majority of them women and children, to die of hunger or malnutrition to react.”  We have more details in a press release upstairs.

**Jan Egeland -- East Africa Mission

And the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator will embark this Thursday on a nine-day mission to Uganda, Sudan, Chad and Kenya.

In Uganda, he is planning to visit the north, to get a firsthand view of the situation of the internally displaced persons there.  In Sudan, he will travel to Juba in the south, as well as to south Darfur.  And in Chad, he plans to visit a Sudanese refugee camp in the east of that country.  And we have more information on Jan Egeland’s travel plans upstairs.


A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that the number of people on HIV anti-retroviral treatment in low- and middle-income countries more than tripled to 1.3 million, from 2003 to 2005.  In addition, sub-Saharan Africa and East, South and South-East Asia -- the regions most heavily affected by the epidemic -- achieved the most rapid and sustained progress.

At the same time, however, that progress, despite being substantial, is less than what had been hoped for.  You’ll recall that the WHO/UNAIDS “3 by 5” initiative actually aimed to get treatment to 3 million people in low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2005.

The report also finds that access to therapy that would prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission remains unacceptably low.

And we have more on that report upstairs in the Spokesman’s Office.

**Secretary-General Lecture Series

And the latest in the Secretary-General’s lecture series kicks off this afternoon in the ECOSOC Chamber here at UN Headquarters.

At 1:30 p.m., the Secretary-General will introduce his two guests -– the novelist, Professor Chinua Achebe, and the poet, Professor Paul Muldoon -– who will speak on the topic “The Use of Language in War and Peace”.

The lecture will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

And we have embargoed copies upstairs of the Secretary-General’s opening remarks.

**Press Conference

And just a heads-up for tomorrow, we will have, actually this is for Thursday, and a press conference this afternoon.  At 12:45 p.m., Ambassador Revaz Adamia of Georgia will be in this room to brief on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia.

And tomorrow, our guest will be the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ Gender Adviser.  The Department has been holding a seminar with Member States on the topic, “Enhancing Gender Balance in Peacekeeping”.  And along with the other guests from the seminar, Ms. Comfort Lamptey will brief on that subject.  That’s tomorrow.

That’s all I have for you today.  We may have something more on Liberia on Charles Taylor later today, and we’ll keep you informed should there be more on that subject.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  The Secretary-General said he was going to speak to some of the authorities in Nigeria.  Has he made any of those calls yet?

Deputy Spokesman:  He is in the process of trying to reach the President, as he mentioned to you, and we will let you know if and when that happens.  And we’re also in touch with our office in Nigeria.

Any other questions?  If not, have a good afternoon.

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