13 October 2006


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


And the spokeswoman for the General Assembly president


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General


Good afternoon.  And a welcome to my colleagues who are all spokesman or spokeswoman visiting from the Chinese Government, so welcome to this briefing.  Our guest today, Djibril Diallo, from the UN Office for Sport and Development, will provide an update on the preparations for the UN Global Youth Leadership Summit taking place on 29 and 31 of this year, here in New York.  After Djibril briefs, Gail will be here to talk to you on behalf of the President of the General Assembly.

**General Assembly Meeting on Next Secretary-General

The Secretary-General will attend and speak at the plenary meeting of the General Assembly, beginning at 3 this afternoon, on the appointment of the next Secretary-General.  The Secretary-General-designate, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, is also scheduled to be one of the speakers.

Gail will have more details for you about the scenario, this afternoon’s ceremony at the General Assembly.

After the meeting ends, the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General-designate will go out to the east foyer outside the General Assembly Hall, for a handshake which will be strictly a photo op.

Then, about half an hour later, after that event, the Secretary-General-designate, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, will hold a press conference in Conference Room 2, in the basement.  We expect that press conference to last no longer than 20 minutes.

Again, we will squawk a few minutes before that press conference starts, but that will be any time between 5 and 6 p.m. this afternoon and scheduled for about 20 minutes.

**Nobel Peace Prize/Statement

I have a couple of statements.  One, on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize:

The Secretary-General is delighted that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006 has been awarded to Professor Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, pioneers of the microfinance movement and long-standing allies with the United Nations in the cause of development and the empowerment of women.

He notes that, thanks to Professor Yunus and the Grameen Bank, microfinance has proved its value as a way for low-income families to break the vicious circle of poverty, for productive enterprises to grow, and for communities to prosper.  They have provided a powerful weapon to help the world reach the Millennium Development Goals by helping people change their lives for the better -- especially those who need it the most.  The statement is available to you upstairs.

**Timor-Leste Statement

I have another statement regarding Timor-Leste.

As part of the assistance being provided by the United Nations for the presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled to be held in Timor-Leste in 2007, the Secretary-General has appointed a team of high-level electoral experts to verify the satisfactory conduct of each phase of the electoral process.

The members of the team are Ms. Lucinda Almeida of Portugal, Mr. Reginald Austin of Zimbabwe and Mr. Michael Maley of Australia.  They will work independently of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, and will submit their findings and recommendations to the Secretary-General and the Timor-Leste Government.

The Secretary-General sees next year’s elections as an important step on the path to peace and stability in Timor-Leste, and reaffirms the determination of the United Nations to do its part in supporting a credible and transparent electoral process.

**Security Council

Turning now to issues regarding the Security Council.  After brief consultations on Georgia, the Security Council went into a formal meeting, in which it unanimously adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Mission in that country until 15 April 2007.  Among other things, the resolution also calls on the Secretary-General to explore with the sides, ways and means to build confidence, in particular by improving the welfare and security of the inhabitants of the districts of Gali and Zugdidi.

The Council then adopted a resolution extending until the end of 2008 the terms of 18 “ad litem” (or short-term) judges serving on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

The Security Council then held consultations to consider a revised draft resolution concerning the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Once those consultations have ended, the Security Council President, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan, said at the stakeout that he expects the Council to hold a formal meeting tomorrow, Saturday, to vote on that draft resolution on the DPRK, and that is expected to be held sometime in the morning on Saturday.

[The Spokesman later said that consultations on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been scheduled for 9:45 a.m. on Saturday.]

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

Turning now to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari arrived yesterday afternoon in Kinshasa for a three-day visit.  Gambari, who is in the country to lend UN support to the ongoing democratic transition, commended the Congolese people on their firm determination to see the transition succeed.

Earlier today, Mr. Gambari attended a consultative meeting on the elections and later met with representatives of the two candidates in the run-off presidential vote, planned for 29 October.

And those two candidates, as you know, are the President Mr. [Joseph] Kabila, and his Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba.  Gambari also met with senior members of the International Committee to Support the Transition, as well as officials at the Independent Electoral Commission.  And tomorrow, he will travel to the Equateu Province for meetings with civil society and local political leaders.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme says that a train carrying some 580 metric tons of food aid is en route to the Katanga Province, where the food will be distributed among internally displaced persons and refugees arriving from neighbouring countries.

**DPKO/Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

The Secretary-General has appointed a second Group of Legal Experts to study the best ways to strengthen the zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation and abuse, and to ensure that the Secretary-General’s Bulletin on this issue is binding on contingent members and that UN norms of conduct are applicable to all categories of peacekeeping personnel.

The Group is composed of four experts from Australia, Nigeria, Singapore and the United States, who will be working in close cooperation with the DPKO, as well as the UN Office of Legal Affairs, to develop recommendations to improve conduct and discipline in UN operations.

The appointment of these experts is part of a range of actions recommended by Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the Secretary-General’s Adviser on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeeping Personnel, and that report was adopted by the General Assembly in June 2005.

** Liberia

Meanwhile from Liberia, the UN Mission in Liberia reports that the Liberian Legislature, yesterday, received two grants from the UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF) to promote youth involvement in the democratic process and to help formulate an anti-corruption strategy.

Speaking at the signing ceremony earlier today in Monrovia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Liberia, Alan Doss, said that the grants are important in that they will help meet two key needs:  strengthening the legislature and thus the Liberian Government and democracy, as well as bringing youth to play a more active role in the country’s political life.  And we have a press release on that upstairs.

**Secretary-General Report on Question of Palestine

The latest report by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly and the Security Council on the question of Palestine is out on the racks today.

In it, the Secretary-General says that, as the current round of Israeli-Palestinian violence enters its seventh year, he regrets that the opportunity for the revitalization of the Middle East peace process he had hoped for last year has not materialized.  He notes the recent rise in violence, including worrying incidents of intra-Palestinian violence.

The Secretary-General deplores the killing of civilians, who, too often, have fallen victim to this violence because of a lack of adherence by the parties to their obligations under international law, the report says.

**WFP/Angola Cuts

A couple of other announcements.  The World Food Programme (WFP) says that a lack of funding has prompted it to wind down all its food aid operations in Angola by the end of the year after three decades of direct involvement in that country.

The Programme said its aim has always been to hand over responsibility for food assistance and development support to the Government of Angola, but the drop in donor support has spurred it to speed up the handover process.  We have a press release on that upstairs.

**Stand Up Against Poverty

Today is Friday, but unfortunately, we will all have to work this Saturday.  Despite that fact, we have the week ahead for you.  There is something I want to flag for you on Sunday.  There will be a global event called “Stand Up Against Poverty” in support of the Millennium Development Goals at multiple locations around the world.  The event in New York will take place Sunday evening in Times Square.  On Monday.  The “Stand Up Against Poverty” campaign will also hold an event on the North Lawn here at the UN Headquarters.

To mark this occasion, the Secretary-General says that we are standing up for the Millennium Development Goals to hold leaders to their promises until we meet the Goals.  We have more information on those events upstairs.

And on Monday, the Fifth Seminar of the Department of Public Information’s unlearning intolerance series, entitled “Cartooning for Peace:  The Responsibility of Political Cartoonists”, will take place this Monday in Conference Room 2.  The seminar will explore the rights, roles, and responsibilities of political cartoonists.  A number of cartoonists from around the world will be present and we do have this list upstairs for you.

The Secretary-General will attend and deliver opening remarks on Monday, and Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Shashi Tharoor will moderate.  Following the seminar, a travelling exhibit called “Cartooning for Peace”.  This will be inaugurated at 6 p.m. in the Visitors’ Lobby.  And the seminar is open to the public and, of course, to the media.

At 12:30 p.m. on Monday, there will be a press conference by one of the leaders of this seminar, the French cartoonist Jean Plantu of Le Monde, who will be here to talk to you about cartooning for peace, as well as to show you a number of political cartoons.

And lastly, on Monday at 1:30 p.m., Georg Kell will be here to brief you on the World Investment Report, and Kell is of the Global Compact Project.  That is it for me, I will take your questions.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  The Special Rapporteur on Torture has issued a report where he refers to the Spanish ETA prisoners as political prisoners.  That has caused a lot of bad feelings in Spain because they are accused of terrorism and many of them have committed killings.  First, if that reflects also the view of the Secretary-General and second, what happens if something is so universally contrary to what most sources [say]?

Spokesman:  If you are referring to the report of the Independent Rapporteur, these rapporteurs are exactly that -- they are independent.  They are named by the Human Rights Council, if I am not mistaken, but they act on their own authority and these reports come out periodically, but they are independent reports on which the Secretary-General has no comment.

Question:  But if they come back with a finding that is so contrary to what’s universal?

Spokesman:  I think, as a whole, these reports have always spurred debates, whether in a country that is the target of the report or within the human rights community, but beyond that I really have nothing to add.

[Later, the Spokesman’s Office announced that the independent rapporteurs were named by the now-defunct Human Rights Commission, and the Human Rights Council review their mandates by next June.]

Question:  Following the election of the new Secretary-General, wouldn’t Mr. Ban Ki-moon speak in his capacity as the Secretary-General designate or as the Foreign Minister of Korea?

Spokesman:  Designate.  But he will, as I think Gail has told you, he does not take the oath of office until late December.

Question:  Today the latest update says the Israeli check points and obstacles have increased and are making life very difficult for the Palestinians.  Does the Secretary-General have any comments on that?

Spokesman:  This is in line with what the [Office] of Humanitarian Affairs came out with yesterday and noted the concern in the increased numbers of checkpoints, and this is a situation the Secretary-General has often expressed his concern at, which is the very drastic and negative humanitarian situation, whether it is in the West Bank or in Gaza.

Question:  Congo and United States, two different questions.  One is on the Congo.  There is criticism of the Kabila Government replacing two ministers with military personnel, the Minister of the Interior and the Governor of Kinshasa.  I know Mr. Gambari is there.  On that or the previous things I’ve asked you on Mr. Bemba’s helicopter, has he spoken on these issues?

Spokesman:  The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a sovereign Government.  The helicopter is for the Congolese Government to settle.  It is my understanding that the helicopter was provided to Mr. Bemba in his capacity of Vice-President.  Obviously, Mr. [William Lacy] Swing has been trying to smooth the relations between Mr. Bemba and Mr. Kabila, but the issue of the helicopter is not one, as far as I understand, that we are getting directly involved in.  On the issue of ministers, once again, it is the prerogative of the Government to appoint its ministers.  The Congo is not a UN-administered territory.  On to the United States.

Question:  Earlier today, Russian Ambassador Churkin said a representative from Abkhazia was trying to come to the United States to attend today’s meeting and was told that the US Embassy in Moscow, did not give him a visa.  They tried to negotiate the language of the Security Council resolution in exchange for a visa.  Has the Secretary-General received any complaints?  Mr. Churkin said he is going to file with the Host Country Committee.  What does the Secretary-General have to say about a major Power conditioning a visa on Security Council language?

Spokesman:  Whether or not this visa has been conditioned is something that you said that there may have been reports on.  It’s obviously something that I have no information on and no comment on.  I’m not going to start to go into hypotheticals.  At this point, it seems to be a bilateral issue between the United States and the Russian Federation.  If the Host Country Committee sees, that is chaired by the Ambassador of Cyprus, if they ask the Secretary-General to get involved, then obviously we will do as we are asked, but at this point we have not been involved in this issue.

Question:  Is there any scheduled press conference for tomorrow if there is a decision of the Security Council about the DPRK?

Spokesman:  No doubt the Security Council stakeout will be up and running.  It will be a safe bet to say that a number of ambassadors will probably be happy to speak to you.

Question:  When will Nicolas Michel report on the tribunal for Lebanon?

Spokesman:  He is due to report to the Security Council at some point before the end of the month, if I am not mistaken, and we will try to check and see if we can get a better update.  Thank you very much.

Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President

Since many of you have been calling us to ask us both about the Assembly, about what’s happening this afternoon, and the Security Council elections on Monday, we just thought that we would share with you.  If you have any questions, I’m open to them. But, there are very changes to what I gave you yesterday, to what’s going to happen this afternoon.  Everything is going to start at 3 p.m.  The President of the General Assembly will cite the letter of the President of the Security Council on the nomination of the Secretary-General.

The President of the Security Council will then make a statement.  The Assembly will consider and adopt the draft resolution on the appointment and, upon invitation by the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General-Designate will be escorted by the Chief of Protocol to the General Assembly Hall, from the Chinese Lounge through the central aisle to the platform.

Statements will then be made by the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General, the Chairpersons of the five regional groups, the representative of the host country, the representatives of the Group of 77 and China, and the European Union.  And these will be followed by a statement by the Secretary-General-Designate.

We have a note upstairs giving more details.

And then on Monday, 16 October, the General Assembly is scheduled to meet in plenary to elect five non-permanent members of the Security Council.  The declared candidates for the seats are as follows:  Indonesia, Nepal and South Africa, for two seats designated for the African and Asian States; Guatemala and Venezuela, for one seat designated for the Latin American and Caribbean States; and Belgium and Italy, for one seat designated for the Western European and other States.

The five newly elected members will replace the members retiring from the Council at the end of this year, namely Japan, United Republic of Tanzania, Argentina, Denmark and Greece.

So, that’s the latest.  If you have any questions?

Questions and Answers

Question:  The list yesterday included also Korea as part of the Asian candidates, but then it says that they withdrew.

Spokeswoman:  They have withdrawn, yes.

Question:  Can you give us a little on the reason for this withdrawal?  Is this connected to the fact that Mr. Ban Ki-moon is going to become Secretary-General?

Spokeswoman:  I have no idea.  Mr. Pincas?

Question:  When did they withdraw?

Spokeswoman:  That I can check for you, when exactly they withdrew.  But they have withdrawn, that’s for sure.  And according to the established practice, you have one seat that’s filled by the African countries and one by the Asian countries, these are now being contested.

Question:  When is the Security Council election?  Is that Monday?

Spokeswoman:  It is Monday at 10 a.m.

Question:  Two things about Georgia that came up about the General Assembly.  One was that the Ambassador of Georgia just said that Georgia raised to the Third Committee the plight of Georgians in Russia being interrogated by the Government of Russia and sent back to Georgia.  Is there some way to know, where does that go?  He said clearly that they raised that to the Third Committee.  Where does it stand?  What is the process?  If you can somehow get back on what the Third Committee does with that kind of testimony?  And also, Russian Ambassador Churkin said today at the stakeout that they intend to raise to the Host Country Committee of the General Assembly an issue of an individual of Abkhazia, that the US denied a visa to recently, in order to come to today’s meeting.  And he said they’ll definitely be raising it to the Committee.  When they do raise it, if you could announce it here and if they don’t raise it, maybe say that it wasn’t raised or something.

Spokeswoman:  I will certainly do that.  Usually we do know when the Host Country Committee meets; they met just about a week ago, as you remember.

Question:  What happened to that -- the JFK airport situation?

Spokeswoman:  That I will have to get back to you.  We knew that they met, but we didn’t really hear what had come out of the meeting.  I’ll try to get a read-out on that, as well as to find out what is happening with the Third Committee.

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