8 August 2006


8 August 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.

**Secretary-General’s Letter on Qana

The Secretary-General yesterday evening submitted, as requested, a letter to the Security Council on the circumstances of the incident that took place in the Lebanese city of Qana on 30 July.

The Secretary-General notes that a proper gathering of all relevant facts cannot be completed within seven days, and adds that no United Nations personnel were present at Qana when the Israeli air strikes occurred. The United Nations peacekeeping mission was not in a position to confirm or deny whether Hizbollah was launching military activities from Qana prior to, or on, 30 July.

In the letter, the Secretary-General expresses his grave distress at the tragic events in Qana and by the overall effect of the conflict on civilian populations in Lebanon and Israel. He says that the attack on Qana should be seen in the broader context of what could be, based on preliminary information, a pattern of violations of international law.

The effects of the current conflict on civilians in Lebanon and Israel rise to a level of seriousness that requires further gathering of information, including violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, he says. Accordingly, the Secretary-General supports the calls for a more comprehensive investigation.

That letter was made available to you yesterday.

**United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reports intensive Israeli air strikes and shelling this morning in its eastern sector of operations, and adds that Israeli gunboats also shelled the coastal areas north of Naqoura.

There were two incidents of firing from the Israeli side close to a UNIFIL position in the area of El Meri, and one incident of firing close to a UNIFIL position by Hezbollah in the area of Hula yesterday.

The United Nations Mission adds that this morning, Hizbollah fired rockets from the vicinity of the United Nations position in Tibnin, and the Israeli Air Force carried out air strikes on the areas from which the fire originated. UNIFIL strongly protested all these incidents to the Lebanese and Israeli authorities respectively.

** Lebanon Humanitarian Note

On the humanitarian side, according to United Nations humanitarian agencies on the ground in Lebanon, the southern city of Tyre is currently effectively cut off, since the Israeli bombing of a provisional bridge across the Litani River yesterday. UNIFIL is looking into repairing the bridge, but is first seeking assurances from the Israeli Defense Forces that it would not be destroyed again.

The United Nations is also looking into alternative routes for providing aid to Lebanon by sea, especially with the bad condition of road transport. One major route would be to transport humanitarian aid by sea directly to Beirut, Sidon and Tyre.  Fuel shipments are ready to be sent to Lebanon as soon as the security situation allows. Fuel tanks are already being sent from Beirut to other areas in Lebanon in convoys, provided security is ensured.

We have further details on the humanitarian update that will be available to you upstairs shortly.

**World Health Organization

Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday urged all parties to secure safe passage for fuel supplies for health facilities.  The World Health Organization has warned that if fuel is not delivered this week, 60 per cent of all hospitals in Lebanon, in addition to other health facilities, will simply cease to function.

The WHO update is also available upstairs.

**UNEP/Lebanon Oil Slick

A number of you had asked about the oil slick.  The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says that two experts have arrived in Syria to evaluate the consequences of the oil spill that has already polluted over 140 kilometres of the Lebanese coastline and has spread into Syrian waters. At this stage information about the extent of the spill remains sketchy and no clean-up action has been possible.

[Inaudible question.]

Well, I’ll answer shortly when we go to questions, but one would assume that, due to military activities currently underway, it would not be safe to do these operations at this point.

**United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti

Meanwhile, the Security Council began consultations this morning on the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti.  The Council is considering the Secretary-General’s latest report on Haiti, on which it is being briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti, Edmond Mulet.  Mr. Mulet will be at the Council stakeout area to take any questions you may have after he is done briefing the Council.

**Security Council Meeting on the Middle East

At 3:30 p.m. this afternoon, the Council will hold a meeting on the situation in the Middle East, during which Council Members are expected to hear views of an Arab League delegation regarding the draft resolution on Lebanon.  The Secretary-General is expected to attend that open meeting.

** Sudan

Meanwhile, Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan met today with an adviser to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is in charge of the Darfur file, Magzoub Alkhalifa, as well as with Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, the Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson in Sudan. In both meetings, discussions focused on the situation in Darfur.

Yesterday, Mr. Pronk attended the swearing-in ceremony for SLM leader Minni Minawi as the new Special Assistant to the Sudanese President and ex-officio head of the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority.

**Counter-Terrorism Committee

A couple more items for you.  We have, upstairs, a new updated press kit on the Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate.  The kits give an updated overview of the United Nations’ activities in the anti-terrorism field.  Copies are also available on the United Nations website.

**Guests at Noon Briefing

I’ll close with something completely different.

Tomorrow, at 11:00 a.m. in this room, Christina Norman, President of MTV, and Jay-Z, President and Chief Executive Officer of Def Jam Records, will announce details of his upcoming journey to witness the devastating human impact of the world’s water crisis.  And that will be at 11 o’clock right here in this room.

That is it for me.  Any questions?  Yes, Benny.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I have four questions about the [inaudible] Qana report.  First one, on 30 July, as he convened the Security Council for an emergency meeting, Kofi Annan cited a very precise number -– or not very precise, but quite precise number.  He said that in Qana at least 56 were killed and at least 28 of them children.  In this report he only says that in the initial reports the Lebanese said that a number of causalities.  Why the discrepancy?

Second question is, this report says that it relies only on Israeli and Lebanese data, and it says that in Qana, the Israelis said that Qana was a regional headquarters of Hezbollah, and the Lebanese say that there were no missiles shot.  But, it has commentary, I guess, that says that on normal days, the residents of Qana are shopkeepers, farmers and traders.  What is that data based on?

Third, the casualty numbers in the overall numbers in the end say that, I think, 937-some Lebanese civilians died, while only 30-something Israeli civilians died.  The Lebanese number, assuming -- based on the Lebanese data -– corresponds to the same numbers that were cited by Siniora as the overall casualties in Lebanon.  Does that mean that the Secretary-General finds it credible that not one Hezbollah combatant was killed in this whole dispute?

And fourth question, in those numbers, it cites the precise number of Lebanese that were displaced three times -- one, the exact number; second, it says that it’s a fourth of the Lebanese population; and third, it cites another data –- while on the Israeli side, it says only 10,000 people are in bomb shelters and many more left their homes.  The Israelis have publicly said that at least two million of the Galilee residents are in bomb shelters or left their homes.  Is that last number that only 10,000 or so Israelis are in bomb shelters -– was that number supplied by the Israelis, because they tell me it was not.

Spokesman:  Benny.  First of all, I think if you look back at what the Secretary-General said on 30 July, he said he was basing his preliminary information on what the Lebanese authorities were saying.  The Qana report, Qana letter, was done in seven days, and I think the Secretary-General says it’s clear that in seven days you cannot have time to gather sufficient information.  The information is based on partly what UNIFIL gathered, although I would repeat that Qana is not in the area of operations of UNIFIL, so we do not have a permanent presence there.

I think the report in itself needs to be looked at in the broader context, and that is the suffering of the civilians on both sides of the border -– Israelis and Lebanese.  You do have almost a quarter of the Lebanese population that is internally displaced.  You have a large number of Israelis who have had to either live in shelters or have to move from their homes for fear of being hit by Hezbollah rockets.  And I think I’ll just go back to quoting what the Secretary-General says in the letter which is that the effects of the current conflict on civilians in Lebanon rise to a level of seriousness that requires further gathering of information.

The report, as far as I can see, speaks for itself.  You were given all the annexes of the information that the report was based on.  And I think one needs to look at the continuing suffering of the civilian population and understand the Secretary-General’s repeated calls for a cessation of hostilities to end that suffering.

Correspondent:  I asked you four questions you haven’t answered one of them.

Spokesman:  Benny, I’ve answered --

Correspondent:  I had asked four specific questions.  You answered none of them.

Spokesman:  Benny, you’ve asked questions, I’ve given an answer.  Yes, ma’am?

Question:  I had two questions for you.  The first one is, with this report, does it satisfy the international request given to Kofi Annan, to the Secretary-General?  And is there going to be anything further from the UN side, because he’s calling for more?

Spokesman:  The request was based on the Presidential Statement, which gave the Secretary-General, the Secretariat, seven days to respond.  We did that.  Obviously, we are very interested in hearing the views of the Security Council as to what they think the next steps should be.

Question:  And one other question on something different.  You said that because of all the bridges being bombed there is one major humanitarian route, and that’s the water route to Beirut, Sidon and Tyre.  This was announced a few weeks ago when Jan Egeland came here and said that there’s going to be three different options.  What is the hold up on this?  Is it because you haven’t had any sort of OK from the IDF?

Spokesman:  Part of the hold up also has to do with when you’re dealing with shipping lanes and commercial shipping is getting the assurances to the ship owners in terms of insurance and in terms of safety.  And that is something we are working on with the owners of those ships and also with the Israeli Defence Forces. 

Question:  So it’s logistical.  Basically the ships aren’t UN ships, they are –-

Spokesman:  That’s correct.  They’re chartered.  Sylviane?

Question:  Thank you and welcome back.

Spokesman:  I guess.

Question:  The Secretary-General yesterday met with the representative of Lebanon, Tarek Mitri.  Do you have any read out of this meeting?  And also, what is the Secretary-General’s position on the expansion of Lebanese troops in south Lebanon.

Spokesman:  Yes, we did put out a read-out of that meeting, and I can give that to you right after the briefing.

I think in terms of the deployment of the Lebanese army to the south, that is in keeping with earlier plans and earlier calls by the United Nations and is obviously broadly consistent with the Secretary-General’s position.  We would of course welcome this proposal, but any deployment of the Lebanese army would need to be assisted by the UNIFIL or a UN force.  And obviously the timing of such a deployment by the army, together with a possible UN-backed force, remains one of the issues that needs to be worked out.

Question:  [Inaudible] with 913,000 people displaced, as per the UN figure.  I had asked last week, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International had said that they believe that some war crimes were committed.  And I asked specifically what the Secretary-General’s reaction is to this.  I was told that they would get back to me.  They have not.  That’s my first question.  My second question is, as far as the Qana report is concerned, the Secretary-General has said that he supports the calls for more comprehensive investigations.  Where is it going to go from there?

Spokesman:  I think I kind of answered both of those questions.  On the second one, we’re obviously very interested in hearing the views of Security Council members on what form a more comprehensive investigation would take.

And on your first question, I think the answer is in the third to last paragraph of the letter, in which he says “the effects of the current conflict on civilians in Lebanon and Israel rise to a level of seriousness that requires further gathering of information, including violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law”.

Question:  [Inaudible] response to that would be?

Spokesman:  No, that would be the answer to your question.

Question:  A question about something which I found out through the internet, that on 20 June 2000, the Secretary-General met with Nasrallah in Beirut.  My question is, did he meet Nasrallah since that date –- 20 June 2000?  Does he think it would be helpful today to meet with Nasrallah, because after all, Nasrallah is the leader of the warfare?  Second question, you mentioned the repair that was done to the Tyre bridge.  It was destroyed a second time by the Israelis.  It was destroyed on purpose by the Israelis.  Can you take a position about UNIFIL actually participating in the warfare, undoing something that one side is very intently doing?

Spokesman:  Our concern, whether it’s humanitarian agencies or UNIFIL, is trying to get humanitarian assistance to the people in need who remain in the south.  And that obviously involves helping rebuilding bridges.  We’re not going to keep rebuilding bridges if they’re going to be destroyed soon after.  That’s why UNIFIL has asked for assurances from the IDF that if they do rebuild the bridge it will not be destroyed.

Correspondent:  They gave assurance –-

Spokesman:  We have not yet received an answer.  UNIFIL is in close contact with the IDF, as is the OCHA, through its representatives in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  And we try to liaise with them to the best of our ability to assure that our convoys can get through and to assure that the bridges we rebuild are not destroyed.

And as for meetings with the leader of Hezbollah, I would have to check –- obviously the Secretary-General’s interlocutor in Lebanon is the Government of Lebanon and is the Prime Minister of Lebanon.

Yes, Erol?

Question:  Mr. Spokesman.  Again I would like to say “welcome”.  I am also the guy who came from vacation and so I missed so many things.  I wonder, although there is a deficit obviously for the vote for the Security Council resolution, the negotiations are going on, I wonder if there is any troop contributors that are expressing their wish even to talk at this point about the forming of the new contingent of the peacekeepers?

Spokesman:  Obviously, there are informal contacts being held, but it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation where countries may not want to formally commit troops until a mandate is seen, while others may want to shape the mandate around possible troop contributors.  So those discussions are going on informally.

Question:  But do you have any idea what the countries would be?  Can you mention any of them?

Spokesman:  No, not at this point.

Question:  Yes, I’m asking about the Office of the UNHCR and the Spokeswoman, Astride van Genderen Stort, has talked about the relief effort in Lebanon and that their team went in and assessed the Hezbollah relief efforts and gave them very high marks.  And I know that 40 per cent of the population is Shia.  Would there be any way of working with this network that’s already set up, even though the US has declared them a terrorist organization?  I mean you can’t just declare a whole population terrorist.  This seems to already be working.  The estimates here are that they are spending like half a million dollars a day and they are very effective with the relief efforts.  Would the UN consider doing something like that?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of her comments and I’d have to take a look at them before commenting on them.

Yes, Nick?

Question:  On the report where the Secretary-General said that this attack could be seen in a broader context of what could be based on preliminary information a pattern of violations, obviously that was a very artfully crafted sentence.  What exactly is he saying there?  Is he saying that this attack is part of that pattern that it could be a violation?  I mean, I don’t understand what the broader context is.

Spokesman:  The broader context is the fact that the overwhelming victims in this conflict have been civilians on both sides of the Blue Line.  That is the broader context.

Question:  So then what’s next?  I know he says that he supports calls for more investigation.  But would he consider getting involved or doing something similar to the Tibaijuka report in Zimbabwe, where there would be a UN investigation, or does he feel that you would have to be mandated to do that by –-?

Spokesman:  I think as I said, and I’m sorry I can’t go into more detail, but the next step is really for us to hear the views of the Council members on what further steps could be taken.  And they had gotten this report last night and I’m sure they will make those views known to us shortly.

Question:  Then the last thing.  This delegation that’s coming in, do you have any sense of their whereabouts or what they’re doing before 3:30 when they meet in the Council?

Spokesman:  They will be meeting with the Secretary-General, I believe, at 2:30.  As for their other meetings, you’d have to check with the Qataris and the League of Arab States.

Question:  [Talk over]

Spokesman:  I’d be happy to get you a read-out Benny.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:   On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I’m tempted to ask four questions but I’ll keep it to two.  One is that Human Rights Watch in Kinshasa has spoken of wide-spread chaos at counting centres and the possibility of significant tampering with the election.  I don’t know whether it should have been in your introduction.  What is MONUC (the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) or the UN, which had a lot to say in the run-up to the election, have to say at this time?

Spokesman:  Well, I think, obviously, this election is a humongous challenge for the Congolese people, for the international community.  The UN and its partners are working hard to make sure the counting is done in a calm or as calm as possible atmosphere.  And I think the message would be to urge patience until the final results are announced.

Question:  The second one is that there was a report to the Security Council by the Group of Experts on the sanctions against the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in it it discussed, among other things, uranium being mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and taken out.  There’s a report in the last two days by a South African newspaper saying that the uranium was bound for Bandar Abbas in Iran.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo has denied it all, but what I’m asking you about is there is a UN spokesman called Jean-Tobias Okala that said -– it’s not exactly clear what he can’t confirm.

Spokesman:  Sounds like my kind of spokesman.

Question:  I don’t know if you can confirm it at this moment, but if not, if you can set the wheels in motion.  It seems like it’s a UN report.  It seems strange that a UN spokesman would –-

Spokesman:  Well, these monitoring groups report to the Security Council.  I think, if they have more details on it, you would have to ask them.  MONUC, as part of its mandate, cannot monitor and does not monitor the exports of resources in the DRC.  The issue of illegal exports of all of the DRC’s natural resources has been a great problem over the course of the civil war in that country and has meant a loss of huge amounts of financial resources for the country.  But as to that specific incident, I have no further information.

Yes?  All the way in the back.

Question:  With reference to this Qana investigation, I know it’s in a strange area, but is there anyone at that collapsed apartment block in Qana, and for that matter at the destroyed UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organization) base in Khiyam guarding it to see that, and forgive me for sounding like I’m talking about some TV crime programme, to see to it that it is guarded, to make sure that nobody tampers with the evidence or takes any of the evidence and just carts it away.

Spokesman:  As for Qana, this would be the responsibility of the Government of Lebanon.  As for the UN Observer Post, it remains under the responsibility of the United Nations.

Yes, Benny?

Question:  First of all, I neglected in my first part to congratulate you on coming back.  I’m trying.  Secondly, you said that the vast majority of casualties on both sides have been civilians.  According to this report, all the casualties on the Lebanese side have been civilian and only a fraction of the Israeli casualties have been civilians.  How do you discern on the Lebanese side, where there’s no recruitment numbers or uniforms, how do you discern which are civilians and which are combatants?

Spokesman:  I think it is clear to anyone that there have been a large number of civilian casualties on both sides.  I’ll leave it at that. 

Let me go back.  Masood?

Question:  I had asked yesterday about the situation in Palestine and [Ahmad] Fawzi had said he would get back to us about what is happening over there, especially the repair of this particular power plant which Israel had also said that it would help repair.  What is the update on that?  And what has happened [inaudible] because he used to give us an update.

Spokesman:  I haven’t been able to get one today, but I will try to get something for you before the end of the day.

Question:  On this particular question about the repairing of this power plant [inaudible].

Spokesman:  OK.  Yes, Sir?

Question:  My question is about the meeting with the League of Arab States today.  Now, the League of Arab States is a grouping of Sunni-led governments that have Shia minorities and in some even majorities.  My question comes back to my previous question, that if it doesn’t make sense to try to hear what the Shia have to say, because after all, the Shia minorities in other Sunni countries could also, at some stage, stage their own Hezbollah situation because they’re also socially deprived and they are in the same kind of misery.  It’s very hard for a western mind to conceive that the [inaudible] farms situation, which has nothing to do with what actually hurts the Shia in Lebanon, has become one of the main issues to fight for and to keep a solution from being promoted.  Which means that talking directly to Hezbollah and not just to the Lebanese Government, which is not Shia, which is part of the League, which is part perhaps of the situation that the League could lead to fighting to the last Shia and the last Christian in Lebanon for purposes that have nothing to do with Lebanon.

Another Correspondent:  We don’t have to listen to this, you know.

Spokesman:  Let’s get to the question, please.

Question:  I asked this question [inaudible].  This is a very basic question, and I’m asking why does the Secretary-General, after having talked to Nasrallah on 20 June 2000, not pick up the phone now and call Nasrallah and try to be helpful by actually talking to the contender on the other side?

Spokesman:  I appreciate the length of your question, but I believe I answered it when you asked it the first time around.

Correspondent:  At least [talk over] --

Spokesman:  I really have nothing further to add.  Yes, Richard?

Question:  Welcome back.  For broadcast purposes, could you tell us the Secretary-General said the other day –- a week ago, two weeks ago -– that he was dismayed at the pace of Council reaction?  Now, there could be chances this resolution could be stalled a bit, more adjustment, more language, the war goes on.  Does he believe John Bolton is right when he says, we’re not going to get a perfect agreement, we’re not going to help everyone, but we’d got to get moving toward a greater solution, the way we stand today, if there is even further delay?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General continues to believe that we do need a resolution, we need a cessation of hostilities as soon as possible in order to alleviate the suffering that we’ve seen of the civilian population on both sides.  And right now, the diplomatic discussions are intense.  There are a lot of things to be worked out.  I think the Council will hear from the Arab League delegation this afternoon.  The Secretary-General will hear from them this afternoon as well.  The discussions will go on, but we do hope we see a resolution soon.

Yes, Linda?

Question:  Regarding the Qana report, I’d just like a little clarification.  When the Secretary-General says he supports the calls for a more comprehensive investigation, is that in the context of just Qana or is that also investigating Israeli civilians?

Spokesman:  You really have to read that paragraph.  And I’d be happy to read it for the fourth time: “The effects of the current conflict on civilians in Lebanon and Israel rise to a level of seriousness that requires further gathering of information, including violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.  And, “accordingly, I support the calls for more a comprehensive investigation”.  And that is all in one paragraph.  Obviously, as I’ve said, we very much look forward to hearing from the Council on their views on the next steps.

Question:  If I just may follow-up on that, it sounds like when that paragraph is read as one, he’s talking about civilians in Israel being killed as well as Lebanon, is he not?

Spokesman:  That’s clearly the case.

Question:  So he’s asking for a comprehensive investigation of the entire conflict?

Spokesman:  What he says in the report is that there is a broad context of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and the suffering of civilians on both sides of the border.

Question:  A reference to a question asked yesterday about the GBU-28 depleted uranium bunker buster bombs that have coming in from America through Israel to be used in Lebanon.  And now the Government of Cyprus has been put on alert because this has gotten into the atmosphere and it seems to be spreading, which I can only assume that it will spread into Israel eventually as well.  Is there anything that the Security Council or the Secretary-General has been doing or an environmental agency at the UN, about this issue?

Spokesman:  As far as the Department of Disarmament Affairs, they’ve told us that the UN does not have a clear position on the use of depleted uranium ammunition.  The need to investigate the impact of DU-munitions in post-conflict situations has been done in the past, as we’ve seen in Kosovo and Bosnia, but that is done in a post-conflict situation.  I do not have any comment or confirmation or anything regarding these shipments of arms that you are referring to.

Question:  Are the Israelis scheduled to speak this afternoon?

Spokesman:  Yes, I believe –

Correspondent:  And who else?

Spokesman:  The Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the Foreign Minister of Qatar, will speak.  The representative of Israel will speak, and the representative of Lebanon will also speak.

Yes, Erol?

Question:  Regarding that paragraph that you mentioned for the fourth time, what is the opinion of the Secretary-General on the observation of Louise Arbour?  She recently mentioned that the actions in Lebanon should be under the observation in regard of breaking international humanitarian law and –-

Spokesman:  You know, the Secretary-General’s position is in that paragraph, in that report.  I really have nothing -– I don’t want to add on –-

Question:  What is his position on her observation?

Spokesman:  I haven’t seen -– I’d have to take a look exactly at the wording of what she said before I respond.


Question:  While you were away there were reports of Ethiopian troops entering Somalia.  Repeatedly from the podium your colleagues would say, the United Nations doesn’t know if this has taken place, or Lonseny Fall hasn’t asked.  So I wonder, can you find out if Mr. Lonseny Fall, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, has asked Ethiopia about this incursion?  There’s also a new report of two cargo planes from Kazakhstan flying weapons into Mogadishu.  So maybe you could ask about that as well?  And yesterday, after the briefing, your colleague said that the fact finding mission to Mogadishu ended Tuesday, but there was nothing more on it.  What does the UN know about Somalia as things seem to get worse daily?

Spokesman:  I will try to get you an answer on the update, on the humanitarian update on the mission --

Correspondent:  What about the troops?

Spokesman:  And the troops as well.  But I doubt I will have anything more to say then what has been said here from the podium.

Yes, Kabbaj?

Question:  The Security Council will meet tomorrow at the ministerial level?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of any ministerial meeting tomorrow.  I think we have to get through today before we know what happens tomorrow on this resolution.


Question:  On the oil spill, another spokesman compared it to the Exxon Valdez spill.  Now you’re saying that you don’t have data on the size of it.  Could you tell me [talk over]?

Spokesman:  I believe that was corrected after the briefing.  I think if you and I can remember what I just said, I think I did give a figure on the length of the coast line that was affected, about 140 kilometres I believe. 

Question:  So do you concur with the comparison to the –

Spokesman:  No, as I said, I believe that comparison was later corrected.  Yes, ma’am?

[The Spokesman’s Office later announced that according to UNEP, in the worst case scenario, and if all the oil contained in the bombed Jiyyeh power plant leaked into the sea, the Lebanese oil spill could well rival the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.]

Question:  When classes begin in September, does the United Nations have a back-up plan for children in Lebanon [inaudible]?

Spokesman:  That is the sort of issue that I am sure UNICEF would be looking into and working with the Government of Lebanon, the Government of Israel, if it so requests and I can check with them if there is anything going on.  But obviously in these situations, when we hope that by the time we get to September we will see a situation of people returning to their homes, the effect on children is always very great.  And trying to get back to school is a big part of getting normalcy back to the children.

Yes, Masood?

Question:  On the forgotten Iraq.  We have not had any update at all on Iraq, although the fatalities and the killing fields over there have gone on for a long time.   In June and July alone almost 12,000 people were killed.  Has there been any update [inaudible]?

Spokesman:  It remains a situation -– the civilian deaths continue to be a situation of great concern to the Secretary-General.  There was, I believe about ten days ago, a human rights report from Mr. Qazi’s office, which had contained quite a lot of information.

Question:  It appears that there’s been no update at all.

Spokesman:  No, but we’ll see what we can get from them.  Yes, Sir?

Question:  Could you please comment on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank?

Spokesman:  As I said, I will try to get a fresh update.  I was not able to get one this morning, but I will try to get one for you.

Thank you.

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