22 June 2006


22 June 2006
Spokesman's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  Our guest in a few minutes will be Judge Rüdiger Wolfrum, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, who is already here and will come up here as soon as we are done.

**Secretary-General in Geneva

The Secretary-General today met in Geneva with Foreign Minister Motaki of Iran and, in a press conference afterwards, he said that their discussion was “very useful”.  He said he believes that Iran is considering the offer made by the permanent members of the Security Council and Germany “very seriously”, and added that he hopes it will give a sufficient answer before too long.  He also said, in response to a question, that he expects Iran to provide an answer after the Group of Eight’s meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

The Secretary-General was also asked about the recent situation in Timor-Leste, and said that what has happened there is “a great disappointment for all of us”.  He said that his Special Envoy, Ian Martin, will go back to Timor-Leste to hold discussions with the authorities and assess what the United Nations can do further to help the country, adding that he foresees a strengthened UN Mission there in the future.

We have a transcript of that press conference upstairs in the Spokesman’s office.  And, as you know, the Secretary-General is on his way back to New York.

**Sudan - Secretary-General’s Comments

The Secretary-General, in that same press conference in Geneva, also addressed the situation in Darfur at some length.  He said that he is looking forward to the report of the joint UN-African Union assessment team, led by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno.  In the medium term, he added, he believes that a UN peacekeeping force will be needed to help the parties implement the peace agreement and help provide security for the internally displaced in Darfur.

He responded to recent concerns expressed by the Government of Sudan, saying that “no one, and least of all the United Nations, is interested in imposing anything like a colonial rule on one of its Member States”.  The talks continue with the Sudanese Government, he said, adding, “I hope ultimately we will be able to convince them to accept the UN force.”

He also urged Governments to give generously at the pledging conference next month in Brussels, so that African Union troops can carry out their mandate in Darfur.

** Sudan – Assessment Missions

Meanwhile, on the ground in Sudan, the joint UN-African Union technical assessment mission is wrapping up its work and its visit there.  Jean-Marie Guéhenno is holding a press conference in Khartoum, and he’s expected to talk about what the assessment mission did, as well as misunderstandings of the nature of UN peacekeeping operations.  He’s also expected to stress that the United Nations doesn’t have any agenda, other than to bring peace and stability to Sudan.

Guéhenno is back at UN headquarters on Monday, and will be giving the Security Council an oral briefing sometime in the first half of next week.

Further to that, the Security Council resolution, which called for the deployment of the assessment mission, requested that the Secretary-General submit recommendations to the Security Council within one week of its return on all relevant aspects of the mandate of a UN operation in Darfur.  And that report is in the process of being finalized.

We’re making arrangements for Mr. Guéhenno to brief you afterwards on the assessment mission’s visit, and we hope to have a transcript of his press briefing for you later today, or tomorrow –- it’s late in Khartoum already.

**Security Council

Here at UN Headquarters, the Security Council this morning adopted, without a vote, a resolution recommending to the General Assembly that the Republic of Montenegro be admitted to membership of the United Nations.  That decision will now be conveyed to the Secretary-General for transmittal to the General Assembly’s sixtieth session.  And we’ve just been informed by the General Assembly spokespeople that the General Assembly is expected to consider the Montenegro submission next Wednesday.

Following that item, the Council, chaired by the Foreign Minister of Denmark, began an open debate on strengthening international law.  UN Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel and Judge Rosalyn Higgins, President of the International Court of Justice, participated in that debate.  Michel said that the Security Council has taken a number of decisions in recent years to deal with impunity for crimes, including its recent decision to transfer the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.  He said that justice and peace are to be regarded as complementary, noting that those two goals should be dovetailed, without justice being sacrificed.

We have copies of his statement upstairs.

** Iraq

And those of you who may have missed it, we did put out a statement yesterday afternoon, expressing the Secretary-General’s appreciation of Denmark’s recent announcement that it will provide a dedicated fixed-wing aircraft for UN operations in Iraq.  The Secretary-General also welcomed the recent offer by the Government of Japan to provide airlift support.  He looks forward to seeing these arrangements finalized and implemented as soon as possible.  These contributions will significantly improve the UN mobility and support to its offices in Iraq.

And also, we have out on the racks today a letter, transmitted by the Secretary-General to the Security Council, from Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, our representative on the International Monitoring and Advisory Board for Iraq, which provides an update on the Board’s work.

**Convention against Torture

And High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour welcomed today the entry into force of the Convention against Torture’s Optional Protocol, which strengthens the treaty by establishing an international subcommittee that can visit detention centres in State parties.  It also requires State parties to set up national torture preventive mechanisms.  So far, 20 countries have signed on to the Protocol.

**Peacebuilding Commission

And to flag something for tomorrow:  on the Secretary-General’s return, he will chair the first meeting of the Organizational Committee for the newly-created Peacebuilding Commission.  It is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. in the Economic and Social Council Chamber –- that’s the ECOSOC Chamber.  At that meeting, the 31-member Committee is expected to adopt its agenda and provisional rules of procedure and to agree on the first post-conflict country situations that it will consider.

Out on the racks today, in this connection, is a letter from the President of the Security Council to the Peacebuilding Commission Organizational Committee, saying that the Council would like to request the advice of the Commission on the situations in Burundi and Sierra Leone.

The Secretary-General will open the first session of the Commission, as well as the first meeting of the organizational committee, and I am told that the Presidents of the General Assembly, the Security Council and ECOSOC will also speak during the meeting. And there will be a stakeout microphone set up outside the ECOSOC Chamber, and we’ll inform you of the details of who will speak and in what order, as soon as we know.

**World Cup

And one last item, on the World Cup:  World Cup fever is gripping Angola, but unfortunately, it’s not the only disease hitting that country.  That’s why UNICEF and the World Health Organization are helping the Angolan Government launch an immunization campaign to fight measles and polio.

For their part, three Angolan star football players are taking to the airwaves to encourage their countrymen to participate in the immunization drive.  The nationwide campaign will be held between 5 and 26 July and will immunize more than 3.6 million children under the age of five.

And we have more on that upstairs.

And that’s all I have for you.  Before we ask the President of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to come up here, any questions for me?

Questions and Answers

Question:  Marie, in the report today, calling it a most rigorous form of international sanctions in modern times, human rights experts –- you probably have read it -– have called upon the United Nations and the EU, about the Occupied Palestinian Territories...  The situation is so bad over there in the absence of money flowing over there, the stopping of all the funding and everything.  They demand that the EU and the United Nations take some action, because the situation is so pathetic.  They have precluded the United States saying that, in the Quartet, the United States had a position, which did not make it an independent arbiter of the situation.  Does the Secretary-General have any position on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  I’d like to refer you to his remarks in Geneva.  I don’t have the transcript in front of me, but he was asked about the situation on the ground there, and I would like to refer you to those remarks in this transcript.

Question:  About the report?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, not the particular report, but the situation on the ground and...

Question:  [talkover]

Deputy Spokesman:  Not specifically on that report, but his assessment of how things are going there.

Question:  Yeah, but these experts are asking for ... I mean, probably, we have to show to the Secretary-General...

Deputy Spokesman:  We don’t have an immediate comment on what you are reading to me, but I would like to refer you to what he said in general about the situation regarding the UN’s role and its work in trying to assist the situation on the ground there.

Question:  Obviously, we can’t have any comment on the outcome of this match between Ghana and the US?

Deputy Spokesman:  Hopefully, the results have been conveyed to him on the plane, but he did also make some remarks in Geneva at the press conference about the odds.  I think, he was right.

Any other questions?  Yes?

Question:  A couple of quick questions, if I may:  this Peacebuilding Commission is to meet –- I may just have missed this -– in the ECOSOC Chamber tomorrow, Friday, at what hour?

Deputy Spokesman:  At 10:30 a.m.

Question:  At 10:30...  So, there would not be a stakeout much before 11:30, a quarter to 12?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, that’s a good bet.

Question:  And Mr. Guéhenno will be back in New York approximately when and ... when he briefs us?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as I mentioned, he should be back, he is wrapping up his visit today.  It takes a while to get back from Sudan.  He should be in early next week.  He probably will be briefing the Council in the early part of next week, and we will let you know.  Hopefully, when he briefs the Council, he can brief you afterwards.

Question:  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  The Secretary-General of the Arab League is in Sudan to meet with the authorities and discuss the issue with them. Has the Secretary-General spoken to Amr Moussa prior to his departure for Sudan?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t believe so, but I can check the call log for you.

There are no other questions?  Judge Wolfrum?

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