18 April 2006


18 April 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, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.

**Security Council

The Security Council met this morning on Bosnia and Herzegovina, and among today’s speakers were the Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Adnan Terzić, and the international community’s High Representative to the country, Christian Schwartz-Schilling.

The Council is now holding consultations on Sudan and other matters.

Then, at 3 this afternoon, there will be an open meeting, followed by a closed one, on the Secretary-General’s latest reports on Sudan.

** Iraq

Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, today deplored the prolonged violence that took place yesterday in the Adhamiya neighbourhood in Baghdad.

The incident again underscored the importance of forming a Government of national unity as quickly as possible.  Qazi noted that the United Nations was encouraging all those engaged in the political process to reach a fundamental understanding on how to bring about an environment, in which rising sectarian tensions in Iraq could be tackled.

Qazi is currently visiting Najaf, where he is meeting with the Governor of Najaf this evening.  And we do have a press release with more information on that upstairs.

** Côte d’Ivoire

Turning to Côte d’Ivoire, the Secretary-General’s Representative for the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kälin, has arrived in Abidjan for a nine-day visit to Côte d’Ivoire.

Today, he held working sessions with the UN Mission there, and is scheduled to meet with several Government officials as well during his visit.  He is also set to visit several areas of the country, including Bouaké in the central part of the country, and the town of Guiglo in the west.  And he will report his findings to the Secretary-General.

** Uzbekistan

And, as we mentioned to you last month, the Government of Uzbekistan has asked the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees to cease operations in that country.  UNHCR reports today that, after 13 years of working in Uzbekistan, its offices are now closed.

UNHCR expressed regret over the decision, as many refugees continue to need assistance, but said it was pleased that the UN Development Programme in Tashkent will be allowed to continue providing basic care to some 1,800 refugees, most of whom are Afghans, and assist with voluntary repatriation and resettlement.  And we have more from UNHCR available upstairs.

** Australia - UNHCR

And also on UNHCR, in answer to questions, I think Matthew was raising, concerning Australia’s new proposed policies regarding asylum seekers, the UN refugee agency today responded to them, saying that the new measures, which would have new boat arrivals transferred offshore to have their asylum claims processed, raise some serious concerns.

UNHCR says the new policies would be an unfortunate precedent, marking the first time that a country with a fully functioning and credible asylum system decided to transfer elsewhere its asylum-handling responsibilities in the absence of anything approximating a mass influx.  And we do have more information upstairs in UNHCR’s briefing notes.


Also today, the Secretary-General appointed Steven Schook of the United States as the new Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the UN Mission in Kosovo.  And we have a bio of him available upstairs.

**UNFIP Event

And lastly, a heads up that the UN Office for International Partnerships –- UNFIP -- is co-hosting a conference tomorrow with the US Chamber of Commerce on “The Role of the Private Sector in International Aid and Development”.

The Executive Director of UNICEF, Ann Veneman, will give the keynote address, and the event will engage the UN and the private sector in a discussion on how to best work together.  The event is in Conference Room 8.  It runs from 9 to 5 tomorrow, and you’re all invited.  And we have more information on that upstairs.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I read somewhere that Kofi Annan was going to be giving a prize to the King of Thailand next month for development achievements… some such.  Is it possible to give a sense of what the procedure was that lead to the choosing of the King of Thailand for this prize?

Spokesman:  Sure.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Question:  Do you have any update on the Ashraf Qazi inquiry?  Where do things stand?

Spokesman:  That issue was addressed last week.  The indications we received from OIOS is that Mr. Qazi would be cleared, as the Secretary-General was always confident that he would be.  But, we’re obviously waiting for the final report from OIOS.

Question:  On that, I mean, I don’t really understand.  I know you’ve talked about this before, and colleagues of mine have asked you questions about it, but what’s the procedure for the OIOS releasing certain information on the subject of an inquiry, when that inquiry is not finished, just to say that he’s been cleared?  I mean, how does that follow --

Spokesman:  They obviously felt they had enough information to brief the Secretary-General’s Office on it.  Their report is almost done.  We wanted this to be done –- it was important for us that the investigation on these allegations be looked into, so as to clear Mr. Qazi’s name.

Question:  And what were the allegations?

Spokesman:  Mostly allegations of wrongdoing in the Mission, involving various aspects of the Mission.

Question:  Will that report be made public?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that report will follow the general procedure, which is that it will not be made public, but will be made available to Member States on request.

Question:  So, the general procedure in OIOS is to make public a finding when someone is cleared on something, and then to not issue a finding when someone is not made clear on something?

Spokesman:  They briefed the Secretary-General’s Office.  We felt we wanted to share this with you.  But I have nothing further to add than what I -–

Question:  Can you share it with us if someone was found guilty of some impropriety?

Spokesman:  Well, I think if a senior official of that stature was found to have acted improperly, I think you would be made aware of any disciplinary action against him.

Question:  Any follow on the [Jerome] Ackerman issue?  It’s been a year.

Spokesman:  As soon as I have something to announce on Mr. Ackerman, you, Nick, will be the first to know.

Question:  Since OIOS is defined as an independent agency, can we have somebody from OIOS independently of you saying your conclusion?

Spokesman:  You would have to ask them.

Correspondent:  I’m putting this on the record that we want OIOS to say exactly the same thing that you do.

Question:  As it seems to be a sort of investigation into corruption question day, does the UN have any position on the Australian Government’s lack of cooperation over reporting kickbacks during the “oil-for-food” scandal?

Spokesman:  As far as we are concerned, the Volcker Committee came out with a vast and exhaustive investigation.  All the documents that they have accumulated were made available to national investigative bodies, and you’re seeing now Governments pick up on the work of the Volcker Committee in their own national sphere, and I think that’s what you’re seeing in Australia.  But, I think we have to let that process play out before we give any opinion on it.

Question:  The UN, I mean, would it be possible to get a UN comment on… did the UN believe that the Australian Government was helping create a transparent, legal process at the time or not?

Spokesman:  There is a national commission going on in Australia, and I don’t think it would be right for us to comment on what the Australian Government knew or did not know at the time.

Question:  This Quartet meeting that the Secretary-General called for 9 May, do you know whether the Secretaries of State --

Spokesman:  It would be at the principals’ level.

Question:  And it has been agreed now?

Spokesman:  That’s the date, you know, the Secretary-General said that was the date that he was arranging for, 9 May, but I believe it’s just about confirmed.

Question:  About the Quartet meeting, the Secretary-General said yesterday that regional partners would probably be included.  Has he contacted Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia regarding this?

Spokesman:  Jordan and Egypt are the ones he was primarily thinking of, but I will give you an update as to who has been confirmed or contacted.

Question:  A quick follow-up on Qazi.  Can you give any more details about the allegations against him, aside from saying that they concern wrongdoing?

Spokesman:  Allegations of financial wrongdoing in the handling of the Mission’s administration.

Question:  But what does that mean?

Spokesman:  That’s all I can say right now.

Question:  Do you know more and you’re just not able to tell us?

Spokesman:  That’s all I can say right now.

Question:  Thank you for the UNHCR updates.  It seems to give rise to a follow-up question.  Maybe you can answer it, or maybe not.  In the case of the Australian policy that UNHCR has said is an unfortunate precedent, I don’t know, I tried to ask whether they’re actually going to participate in reviewing asylum seekers that are sent to Nauru.  That seems to be the question.  So, I don’t know if that statement upstairs addresses that?

Spokesman:  Let’s see if it does, and if it doesn’t, we could put you in touch with UNHCR.

Question:  Ok.  And the other one.  I don’t know if you’ll comment on this either.  Uzbekistan, which is putting UNHCR out of the country.  I think the Government of Uzbekistan has said publicly that they’re throwing their support to the South Korean candidate to be the new Secretary-General.  So, I don’t know, I know that there’s a lot of politicking out there, and I’m sure you’re going to not comment on most of them.  I guess I’ll just note that it… I don’t know if you might have a comment on that?

Spokesman:  No.

Correspondent:  OK.  Thank you.

Question:  I just wondered if it was possible to give us an update on talks between the UN and Sudan over the peacekeeping force in Darfur and preparations and all this kind of stuff.

Spokesman:  Hédi Annabi is in Khartoum.  He met… He’s been meeting with a number of senior officials, including the President, who he met with yesterday.  And, we do expect him to meet again with the President, maybe as early as tomorrow.

But, the meetings that Hédi Annabi led in Addis with the African Union went very well.  The African Union and the UN agreed to work together to expedite the planning process and create joint planning teams, both in consultation with the Government of Sudan.

Question:  Just to help me.  Is there still confusion about what the AU meant by its statement of 10th… anyway.  Does this imply that the AU is now planning alongside the UN to definitely replace the AU force with a UN force by September?

Spokesman:  I would refer you to the communiqué the AU put out on Sunday.  But, it’s clear from our contacts with them that they are fully engaged in working side by side with us for the planning of the eventual transfer.

Question:  There was confusion yesterday about whether the Americans were going to let the names of the four go public or not.  Does the Secretary-General have any… since it was his list that was originally sealed… it was his modus operandi that prepared and sealed the names originally?  So, do you have any opinion about whether the names should be released?

Spokesman:  At this point, this is being dealt with at the Council, I think even as we speak.  So we will refrain from commenting.

Question:  I don’t mean to do this -– it’s nothing against you personally -- but I just want to make sure I understand the OIOS position.  Is it fair to characterize it as saying that they’re not going to say what Qazi was accused of [talkover] but that he’s been cleared of charges, but we’re not going to say what the charges are?

Spokesman:  Obviously, at this point, you’re asking me what I can tell you.  What I can tell you is the issues of financial wrongdoing in the Mission.  Obviously, once we’ve received the report, we would be able to say more.

Question:  Just an unrelated thing on Charles Taylor.  Is the Secretary-General getting frustrated at what seems to be a real reluctance by Member States to agree to take him in if he’s convicted of these [inaudible] crimes?

Spokesman:  It’s an issue that, obviously, he would like to see resolved as soon as possible, but, meanwhile, the Special Court in Sierra Leone has made it clear to us that they are continuing with the process.

Question:  On that, how many other countries has the UN spoken to, to try and get Taylor taken in?

Spokesman:  I have no information.

Question:  One more on the OIOS issue.  As a rule, is it not a problem that you, as the Secretary-General’s Spokesman, as the UN Spokesman, are saying things for the OIOS?

Spokesman:  I’m not speaking on behalf of OIOS.  I relayed to you the information that OIOS has given to the Secretary-General’s Office.  I’m not speaking on behalf of OIOS.

Question:  But, is it even proper for the OIOS to relay such information to the Secretary-General for --

Spokesman:  They obviously felt that they were in a position to do that.

Question:  I didn’t hear your answer to the question that Mark asked about the Secretary-General’s contacts with Governments, attempting to get someone to take over Taylor.

Spokesman:  Because there was no detailed answer.  I said, obviously, the Secretary-General would like to see this process wrapped up.  But I have no information on countries that may or may not have been contacted.

Question:  Do you know if he contacted any?

Spokesman:  All I can say is it’s a process he would like to see wrapped up as soon as possible.

Question:  I’m sorry.  Can’t you say whether he’s involved at all in trying to facilitate this?

Spokesman:  That’s all I can say.  I’m sorry.

Question:  The Chinese President, Hu Jintao, is visiting Washington starting from today.  Will he be coming to the United Nations to meet with the Secretary-General?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware he will.

And one thing here -- I have a note, which I kind of buried in part of the lead, that the Secretary-General does intend to go the Security Council this afternoon to brief them on the situation in Chad.

Question:  Have there been any formal requests from the Chadian Government for the UN to investigate allegations that Sudan was involved with the attempt to overthrow the Government, or at least the attack on Chad?

Spokesman:  There was a letter from the Foreign Minister of Chad with accusations, which was circulated as a Security Council document.  I’ll have to take a look at the letter again, you know.

Question:  I’ve read the letter.  I was just wondering if there was actually a request –-

Spokesman:  Not to the best of my knowledge, but I can take a look at the letter again.

Question:  Sorry.  Just to follow-up on Bill’s thing.  Charles Taylor, you can’t say much about the Secretary-General’s involvement, but is he involved in the search?

Spokesman:  I can’t say.  If I could say more, I would say more.

Question:  Is Mr. Annabi, in his consultations in Khartoum, dealing with the issue of getting clearance for the UN assessment team to go in?

Spokesman:  He’s dealing with the planning, the issues of mission planning as a whole, and the eventual dispatch of a planning mission to Darfur, along with the African Union force.

Question:  Where does that stand?

Spokesman:  Well, as I said, he continues to be in Khartoum, and he will likely meet with the President of Sudan tomorrow.

Question:  Has he made a specific request that visas be granted to the assessment team?

Spokesman:  As I said, we’ll see what we can get in the next couple of days as a wrap up to his mission.

Question:  Two questions, one on Chad.  There were reports last week [inaudible] confirmed last week that France, you know, fired on the rebels as they approached the capital.  I wondered, those rebels have now asked to meet with France and I don’t know whether that meeting has taken place, but does the Secretary-General have any view of the propriety of the bombing drop and whether such a meeting should took place?

Spokesman:  On the meeting, it’s up to them.  On the bombing drop, I don’t believe we have any independent confirmation that it happened, but we may have more information by this afternoon.

Question:  Has arrangements been made, or requests put for Salim Salim to come to the stakeout and speak with us?

Spokesman:  We’ll be happy to do that.

Thank you very much.  I’ll leave you now to Pragati, who will brief you.

Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

The Fifth Committee has been continuing informal consultations this week on management reform, based on the Secretary-General’s report Investing in the United Nations.  They are working on the text of a draft resolution that will then be forwarded to the plenary consultations.  The Capital Master Plan is also on the agenda this afternoon for the Committee’s informal consultations.

Tomorrow morning, the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the General Assembly will meet to hear delegation views on the role of the Assembly in the selection of the Secretary-General.

Also tomorrow, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson will be making a one-day trip to Washington to speak at two events; a roundtable at the Aspen Institute and a seminar on “The United Nations: Assessing Its Value, Looking to the Future”, organized by the Smithsonian in collaboration with the Meridian International Center.

And to give you a heads-up, on Thursday, the Open-Ended Working Group on Security Council Reform will meet in the morning, and that may run into the afternoon.  The Assembly President will be making opening remarks at that.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  That meeting on Thursday, that’s an open meeting, a plenary meeting or?

Spokesperson:  I have to check.

Question:  Broadcast on UN and so forth?

Spokesperson:  It’s in the Journal.  But let me check what the status of it is.

Question:  Will the meeting tomorrow also be broadcast on UNTV?

Spokesperson:  No, that’s a closed meeting.

Question:  A closed meeting to discuss greater transparency?

Spokesperson:  They’re airing their views.

Question:  They’re airing their views in private.

Spokesperson:  Among themselves.  Yes.

Thanks very much.

* *** *

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