20 July 2006


20 July 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, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General on Middle East

The Secretary-General just now briefed the Security Council in an open meeting on the Middle East, telling the Council that almost every day brings a new escalation to the bloody conflict that has engulfed Lebanon and northern Israel.  He said that, already, over 300 Lebanese have been killed and over 600 wounded, and the casualties are mainly among the civilian population, about one third of them children.  Meanwhile, the Israeli people, who had hoped that Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon would bring security along their northern border, find themselves under constant Hizbollah rocket attacks, which every day reach further into Israeli territory.  To date, 28 Israelis have been killed and over 200 wounded.

The Secretary-General said that [what] is most urgently needed is an immediate cessation of hostilities, to prevent further loss of innocent life and the infliction of further suffering; to allow full humanitarian access to those in need; and to give diplomacy a chance to work out a practical package of actions that would provide a lasting solution to the crisis.  He added that, while Hizbollah’s actions are deplorable, and Israel has a right to defend itself, the excessive use of force is to be condemned.

He told the Council that the mission he sent to the region, headed by his Special Adviser, Vijay Nambiar, has suggested elements which, in his opinion, must form the political basis of any lasting ceasefire, and on which they have conducted consultations with the leaders of Lebanon and Israel.

The elements include the following, among others:

-- The captured Israeli soldiers would be transferred to the legitimate Lebanese authorities, under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, with a view to their repatriation to Israel and a ceasefire;

-- On the Lebanese side of the Blue Line, an expanded peacekeeping force would help stabilize the situation, working with the Lebanese Government to help strengthen its army and deploy it fully throughout the area.  Meanwhile, the Lebanese Government would fully implement Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1680, to establish Lebanese sovereignty and control; and

-- The Prime Minister of Lebanon would unequivocally confirm to the Secretary-General and the Security Council that the Government of Lebanon will respect the Blue Line in its entirety, until agreement on Lebanon’s final international boundaries is reached.

The Secretary-General added that we also need a peace track for Gaza -- despite the different issues involved there -- as much as we do for Lebanon.  He noted that Palestinians in Gaza are suffering deeply, with well over 100, many of them civilians, killed in the last month alone.

We have the speech upstairs, and the open meeting has been followed by consultations on the Middle East, which are going on now.


Meanwhile, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reports from the field that heavy exchanges of fire have continued unabated along the length of the Blue Line.  There were 31 incidents of firing close to UN positions during the past 24 hours. Three positions suffered direct hits from the Israeli side.  One artillery shell impacted inside the UNIFIL Headquarters compound in Naqoura, causing extensive damage to the UNIFIL hospital, where doctors were operating at the time.

The UN Mission says that some re-supply convoys to its positions are planned for today, but the ability to move will depend on the situation on the ground.  All UN positions close to the Blue Line are facing shortages of basic supplies, and the need to re-supply them is vital.

** Nepal Statement

And I also have a statement on Nepal today.

“Recent developments have provided an unprecedented opportunity to achieve a negotiated political solution to Nepal’s 10-year armed conflict.  With that in mind, the Secretary-General has decided to send a team to Nepal to discuss the proposed United Nations assistance in the peace process.  Through consultations with all concerned, the mission will seek a common understanding of the nature and scope of responsibilities the United Nations could undertake in the peace process.  The assessment team will be led by Staffan de Mistura, and is scheduled to be in Nepal between 26 July and 3 August.”

**Security Council

The Security Council earlier today had consultations on Guinea-Bissau, with a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Representative, João Honwana.  Mr. Honwana discussed the Secretary-General’s recent report on that country, which says that the political climate there remains fragile, as deep antagonisms between political actors continue to hamper a frank and open national dialogue.  The Security Council also heard a briefing on sanctions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, by the Chairman of the Council’s Sanctions Committee, which is now Peru.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

And on that topic, available today is the latest report of the group of experts on the DRC.  In it, the experts document repeated violations of the Security Council’s arms embargo on that country, by both Congolese and foreign actors.  Internal trafficking in arms and ammunition, the experts say, remains a genuine threat to the peace process.  Equally threatening is the financing of violations of the arms embargo through the diversion of Congolese natural resources, including cross-border smuggling of diamonds and radioactive material, such as uranium and radium.  And you can pick up a copy of that report upstairs.

** Somalia

And on Somalia, the Special Representative there, François Lonseny Fall, today urged leaders of the Transitional Federal Government and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Courts to restrain their forces.  He urged both sides to respect the ceasefire and other provisions of the 22 June agreement, including their commitment to refrain from any provocations that could lead to an escalation.  

A continuation of that process, he said, would give both parties an opportunity to flesh out their expectations and move towards a peaceful solution. And there is a press release with these remarks upstairs.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

And another report out on the racks today is the Secretary-General’s progress report on Côte d’Ivoire.  In it, the Secretary-General says that, while the steps taken so far to implement the peace process provide the ingredients for further progress, sustained and focused efforts to expedite country-wide identification and disarmament are needed to take the country out of crisis.

** Indonesia

And turning now to the tsunami that hit Java, Indonesia, earlier this week.  We issued a statement yesterday afternoon, expressing the Secretary-General’s sadness over the loss of life.  For his part, the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery travelled to Java this week, where he called for accelerated progress on national disaster prevention efforts.  Meanwhile, on the ground, the World Food Programme has sent 20 tons of food to the hardest hit areas, and UNICEF is sending emergency supplies, including tents, jerry cans and hygiene kits.  And the World Health Organization is assessing health needs and planning a measles vaccination campaign.  And there is more on that upstairs.


And the World Food Programme (WFP) today draws attention to a new report, which notes that, in the same year it stopped receiving food aid from WFP, China has emerged as the world’s third largest food aid donor.  The report also says that donations of food aid, not just those handled by the World Food Programme, grew by 10 per cent to 8.2 million tons in 2005.  WFP aid accounted for over half of that figure and reached close to a 100 million people.  And we have a press release on that upstairs.


And two more announcements.  One, the Economic and Social Council meeting in Geneva this morning focused on the review and coordination of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010.  And we have more on that upstairs.

This afternoon, at 3:30, members of the Redesign Panel, which is made up of external and independent experts appointed by the Secretary-General to consider the redesign of the UN’s system of administration of justice, will be here to brief you on that Panel’s report.

And DPI tells us that “Tales of a Globalizing World”, an exhibit of photographs on aspects of globalization in Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America, will open in the General Assembly Visitors’ Lobby at 6 o’clock this evening.  You are all invited to attend.

And Pragati Pascale, the General Assembly Spokeswoman, is here to brief you on General Assembly matters.

Any questions for me?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Regarding the Secretary-General’s statement, now in the press release of 17 July, besides saying that he expects a package of actions, he also said “not exhortations”.  I am trying to understand this word.  I looked it up in the dictionary and Webster says it comes from the Latin exortibus, or exortus and it’s depicted as pertaining to the rising of the heavenly bodies.  It relates to the east.  I am really interested to find out how or what the Secretary-General thought when he pronounced that word.

Deputy Spokesman:  I think his statement today is a much further elaboration of the press encounter remarks he had a few days ago, and I urge you to look at every word of today’s statement, which, I think, spells out very clearly his vision now for where he would like things to go in the Middle East.

Question:  My question is that the statement today, which I heard, and what he said before, is on the positive side, which is on the package of actions, but my question is the negative, because negatives usually clarify the positives.  He said clearly here in the negative that he does not want any more exhortations. That means we need an explanation of what “exhortations” means, in order to understand the fullness…

Deputy Spokesman:  Again, I understand your question, but I would urge you today to focus on his statement today at the Council.

Question:  Is it possible to get an explanation of what this word means?

Deputy Spokesman:  It sounds like you did a very good job looking in the dictionary.  I have nothing further on that.

Thank you very much.  Pragati.

Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

The General Assembly is holding a debate in plenary all day today on the reform of the Security Council.  As of this morning, 59 speakers were scheduled, and it is possible that the debate will extend into tomorrow.  No action is expected to be taken during this debate on any of the existing resolutions on the Security Council expansion, or reform of its working methods.

Several delegations are suggesting various ways of moving forward on this important issue in a constructive spirit, and the delegations’ statements are available at the press documents counter.

Consultations are continuing in the Assembly during this period on the review of mandates, as well as work behind the scenes on a counter-terrorism strategy, ECOSOC reform and other issues that are still to be acted upon during the sixtieth session.  And, just to give you a heads up, the first provisional list of speakers has been issued for the general debate of the sixty-first session of the Assembly, starting on Tuesday, 19 September.  And we have put out copies of that upstairs for you.

Any questions? Thank you very much.

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