25 October 2006


25 October 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 Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by Spokesman for the Secretary-General

**Guest at Noon

Our guest today will be Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, who will brief on women, peace and security.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning met with the troop-contributing countries for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, after which they began consultations on Western Sahara.  Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, briefed Council members on recent developments there, and the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Peter van Walsum, presented the Secretary-General’s recent report.

After that, the Council expects to discuss Burundi, with a view to holding a formal meeting afterwards to consider a draft resolution on the mandate of a United Nations Mission in that country.

Then, starting at 3 p.m. this afternoon, the Security Council will hold first a closed meeting, and then consultations, on Côte d’Ivoire.

In the closed meeting, Council members will hear from Said Djinnit of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council.  Then, in the consultations, they will receive briefings from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire, Pierre Schori, and the High Representative for elections in the country, Gerard Stoudman.  The Secretary-General is expected to attend that closed meeting.  Schori expects to speak to you at the Council stakeout afterwards.

** Lebanon

Major General Alain Pellegrini, the Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), yesterday voiced serious concern over the increasing number of air violations over South Lebanon by Israeli planes, with nine occurring between Monday and Tuesday.  Almost all the UNIFIL battalions have reported air violations taking place in their area of operations.

“It is in the best interest of all the parties on the ground to respect the terms of Security Council resolution 1701 in letter and spirit,” Pellegrini said.

Also, the Lebanese navy and UNIFIL carried out a command amphibious exercise between Beirut and Tyre yesterday and today.  The exercise gives an opportunity for the United Nations Mission to explore various courses of action if the main supply roads in UNIFIL’s area of operation are destroyed due to any security incidents.

Meanwhile, on the humanitarian front, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) closed its office in Lebanon yesterday and United Nations agencies wrapped up their emergency relief operations.  The recovery and reconstruction phase, led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is now under way.


The chief of the Police Unit of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, Antero Lopes, said the situation in the capital Dili was now calm but tense after yesterday’s violence reportedly between youth gangs.

Lopes said a group of youths had attacked a camp for the internally displaced near the international airport and that the internally displaced persons in that camp had retaliated with stones and other weapons.  He said the prompt intervention of the United Nations Police had prevented greater and further violence.

The violence, he said, was contained after several hours.  No injuries among the United Nations police officers have been reported, but two Timorese have been confirmed dead.

Lopes said that the United Nations was in discussion with the Timorese Government to reopen the international airport.

**Gambari Travels

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, arrived in China yesterday, on the first leg of a three-nation trip that will also include stops in Japan and the Republic of Korea.

He is consulting with the three Governments on strengthening their cooperation with the United Nations in conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding.

In Beijing, he has had discussions with senior officials, including the State Councillor and the Foreign Minister, on issues including the Korean Peninsula, Myanmar, the Middle East peace process, Lebanon and Darfur.

Mr. Gambari also discussed China’s important role in contributing to peace and development in Africa, ahead of a leadership summit to be hosted by China in November with Heads of State and Government from countries throughout Africa.

**World Health Organization

The World Health Organization today released a new report on tuberculosis.

It says that most people in the world who have the disease or live in high-risk areas do not have proper access to rapid and accurate testing.  Improved tests could bolster international tuberculosis control efforts while, at the same time, responding to a significant market demand, the report adds.

**United Nations Day

Yesterday was United Nations Day, which marked the sixty-first anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Charter.

Since the United Nations happened to be closed yesterday for Eid Al-Fitr, the traditional United Nations Day concert will be held tonight.  The National Symphony Orchestra of Greece will perform at 7 p.m. in the General Assembly Hall, and the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan are expected to attend.

The Secretary-General issued a message to mark United Nations Day, which we flagged to you on Monday

**Press Briefings

At 2 p.m. this afternoon, Martin Scheinin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, will be here to brief you.

At 11:15 a.m. tomorrow, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) will hold a press conference with three peacebuilders from Timor-Leste, Burundi and Liberia who will be participating in tomorrow’s Security Council open debate on the role of women in peace consolidation.

At 1 p.m., Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, will be here to brief you.

Our guests tomorrow will be Nicholas Burnett, Director of Education for All Report of the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) and Peter Smith, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO, who will be briefing on the 2007 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, which will be launched tomorrow morning.  That is it for me, and I will take some of your questions.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Could you tell us what time Jan Pronk will be arriving today and whether he will be meeting with any United Nations officials?

Spokesman:  He will be arriving late this evening in New York and he is scheduled to meet first with the Secretary-General tomorrow morning.

Question:  A report out of Nairobi says that the Ethiopians now say that there have been thousands more “farmer militias” that have moved into the buffer zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Eritrean soldiers and militias now number ten thousand.  Do you have any information on it?

Spokesman:  That’s the first I’ve heard of it.  I will be happy to check with the Mission to see if they have an update on the activities in the Temporary Security Zone.

Question:  Do the Eritreans often have farmers that carry shovels and…?

Spokesman:  If you remember the Mission is still hampered by the United Nations helicopter ban, which greatly limits our ability to see what is going on in the Eritrean side.  And of the soldiers and tanks that were moved in recently into the Temporary Security Zone, the Eritreans did say that these were there to harvest crops.  But I will see if we can get more details on that situation.

[The Spokesman later added that the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea reported that there had been no significant developments regarding the recent incursion of the Eritrean troops into the Temporary Security Zone.  They remained inside the Temporary Security Zone.]

Question:  Regarding Jan Pronk, do you expect that he will be briefing the Security Council tomorrow?

Spokesman:  I don’t yet have anything formal from the Council Presidency.  It is up to the Council to see if they do request a briefing from him.

Question:  Any plan by the Secretary-General to appoint a new Special Representative to Sudan?

Spokesman: Not at all. As I have said the last couple of times, Mr. Pronk is and remains the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Sudan, with the full backing of the Secretary-General.  He is back here for consultations, so that is the focus, and of course, while this issue is ongoing, we are continuing with our work full-steam ahead in Sudan both in the South and in Darfur, and in assisting the African Union Mission.

Question:  The Sudanese Government says he is persona non grata, so how are you going to resolve this?

Spokesman:  He remains in his job.  We obviously deeply regret the Sudanese Government’s decision to ask for his removal, but as I said the Secretary-General continues to have full confidence in Mr. Pronk.  And as I mentioned on Monday, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, HédiAnnabi, met with the Sudanese Permanent Representative to protest the decision by the Sudanese Government.

Question:  Is [Peter] van Walsum going to come to the stake out?

Spokesman:  I don’t have any indication that he will.

Question:  Could you ask him to?  Because he never does and I would really like to talk to him.  The second thing is I have a question from the Secretary-General’s report on Western Sahara.  He said, and I quote, “he had thought that the Saharawi people were resigned to the fact that the Moroccans were going to be taking over Western Sahara”.  And this new report says, “These statements shed a somewhat different light on my personal envoy’s impression that there was a broad trench of resignation to the status quo with regards to the question of Western Sahara”.

The personal envoy went to nine places before this last report came out; and he went to another six places before this report came out.  The third paragraph of this report says that there was a release by Morocco of a number of prisoners who were demonstrating peacefully.  So I don’t understand how the statements that just came out recently now shed a different light.  Because, if you look at the chain of events, there has been protest going on over the past year, so why did he change his mind six months later?

Spokesman:  These reports speak for themselves, but I would be happy to sit down with you and see that they speak a little more clearly.

Question:  Also on Ethiopia, the Prime Minister was quoted yesterday as saying that Ethiopia is at war with Somalia.  Does anybody in the United Nations system have any comment on what it is now stated to be a war?

Spokesman:  The position of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia has been clear from the beginning, and that is for all the neighbouring countries to Somalia to play a constructive role at this time, and he has been in touch with neighbouring countries and with different factions in Somalia to try to resolve the situation.

Question:  The Secretary-General is supposed to have met this morning with nine permanent representatives.  What was the subject of the discussions?

Spokesman:  I would need to get a readout for you on that meeting.

[The Spokesman later announced that the Permanent Representatives had come to discuss the establishment of a rule of law assistance unit in the Secretariat, as endorsed by the Summit Outcome document and proposed in the Secretary-General's “In larger freedom” report.  The Secretary-General was also briefed on the recent discussion in the Sixth Committee on rule of law issues.]

Question:  On Mr. Pronk, could you be more specific on what time he is meeting with the Secretary-General and would he speak to the press afterwards?

Spokesman:  He will meet with him in the morning.  The schedule is not yet finalized.  We are very aware of your need to speak to him, of your desire to speak to him, and we trying to arrange something that is workable for all of you.

[The Spokesman later announced that the Secretary-General would be meeting Mr. Pronk tomorrow at 11 a.m.]

Question:  There are these reports out of Haiti that United Nations peacekeepers have had shooting battles and have killed in one report, one person, and in another, three persons.  I wanted to know why nothing about this has been said here, and what is the standard for getting something spoken about here?

Spokesman:  I will check with the Mission.  Nothing has been reported to us.  If the Mission has something to report, we will ask them, and if these incidents did take place, we will report on them.

Question:  On the World Food Programme (WFP) process, we have heard that there is a shortlist.  Is that true?  Who is on it?

Spokesman:  I have said all I have to say on that, and we expect an announcement in the next couple of weeks.

Question:  When the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) selected Mr. Guterres they did actually say who was on the shortlist.  Is that not going to be done in this case?

Spokesman:  The process here is slightly different because as opposed to UNHCR this is not an appointment that goes to the General Assembly.  This is an appointment that is made jointly by the Secretary-General and the Director General of the FAO.

Question:  Will it be a five-year appointment?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that it will be.

Question:  Mr. Ziegler, what exactly is he doing at the United Nations today, and what are we expecting tomorrow?

Spokesman:  I believe, and I am speaking off the top of my head here, the Special Rapporteurs traditionally come at this time to brief the Third Committee.  They often ask to speak to you and I think most of you are interested in speaking to them.

Question:  One more question about Mr. Ziegler.  He is the Vice-President of the Qaddafi…. I can’t remember what is the name of the organization.  What is the United Nations position on Rapporteurs’ affiliation with…?

Spokesman:  The Special Rapporteurs are not appointed by the Secretary-General.  They are independent and serving in their personal capacity.  These are all appointments carried out from the old Commission on Human Rights.  As to the [Human Rights] Council, it is meeting this year and among the things they will review are all the special mechanisms, including the work and the mandate of the Rapporteurs.

Question:  When will that come to a head?

Spokesman:  Those are discussion going on in Geneva, and you should ask the Presidency of the Human Rights Council.

Question:  Is his affiliation with the Qaddafi Award under review?

Spokesman:  Again, he is appointed by the Council.  I cannot speak for him.

Question:  What is the United Nations Secretary-General’s position concerning the arrival on the international stage, thanks to Sirius Radio, of the king of all media, Howard Stern?

Spokesman:  None, whatsoever.

Question:  We are talking about somebody who can provide a good laugh?

Spokesman:  I appreciate you trying to get us to comment on Howard Stern, but I think I commented on the Beach Boys on Monday and I’d leave my pop culture comments to that.  Thank you

Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President

The plenary of the General Assembly will meet this afternoon at 3:00 pm to resume balloting to elect the fifth non-permanent member to the 2007 Security Council. 

In news of activities of the Committees: the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) on Monday took action on 12 draft resolutions aimed at strengthening disarmament measures and reducing the global threat of the use of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons.  Among the drafts approved on Monday were two on the Middle East; one on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone, which was adopted without a vote, and another on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.  The draft on nuclear proliferation would have the General Assembly reaffirm the importance of Israel’s accession to the Treaty on Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.  The text was approved by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 4 against, with 6 abstentions. 

The Committee also approved without a vote a draft on measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring measures of mass destruction.  The draft would have the Assembly appeal to all Member States to consider signing and ratifying the International Convention for the suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, in order to bring about its early entry into force.  It also approved a number of nuclear weapons related texts concerning missiles, a United Nations conference to identify ways of eliminating nuclear dangers in the context of nuclear disarmament and a draft on nuclear disarmament, all by recorded vote.  Today the Committee is expected to take action on another 22 draft resolutions.

In the Third Committee [Social, Humanitarian and Cultural] discussions focused on human rights, in particular the use of torture, religious freedom, judicial independence, internally displaced persons and Human Rights Defenders. Special Representatives of the Secretary-General and Special Rapporteurs -— experts in their fields -— addressed the Committee on these various subject areas as it considered the issue of promotion and protection of human rights.

Today the Committee is expected to hear presentations by the Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and on violence against women, as well as the Independent expert on the effects of economic reform policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights. The Committee is also expected to hear the introduction of draft resolutions on trafficking in women, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. 

Meanwhile, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) is focusing its attention on peacekeeping operations.  The general debate has attracted a number of speakers who spoke on issues ranging from the need for close cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations to the question of increased efforts to improve the security and safety of United Nations peacekeeping personnel.  Today it will consider a number of draft texts relating to outer space and conclude its comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations in all its aspects.

The General Assembly President Sheika Haya Al Khalifa will attend this evening’s concert sponsored by the Mission of Greece to the United Nations to mark the sixty-first United Nations Day commemoration.  In her statement to mark the occasion she calls on the United Nations to continue its mission “to promote peace and security, eradicate poverty and remain a beacon of hope for millions around the world”.  Sheikha Haya appeals for the evening to be a time to “celebrate the power of music in transcending all economic, social and religious barriers; building bridges of love, peace and understanding among peoples of the world.”

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Regarding the election of the non-permanent member to the Security Council this afternoon, there are indications that Venezuela has withdrawn in favour of Honduras.  Can you confirm that?

Spokeswoman:  I am aware that there are a number of press reports that are giving various positions on that.  I had not heard about Honduras, but we have nothing formal as yet.  As I understand it the GRULAC is meeting at the moment.  They were supposed to have a meeting at noon.  I am told that they are trying to find a compromise candidate that the group can agree on.

Question:  Do you have any further information at to where the meeting is being held?

Spokeswoman:  It is a private meeting.  I have not been told where the meeting is being held but my assumption is it will be somewhere in the building.

Question:  Are there any rumblings that there might be a compromise?

Spokeswoman:  The only rumblings are the ones I have heard from various sources and the newspapers.  But there is nothing official.  What I do know is that they are looking for a compromise candidate and there is hope that they would do so before they start this afternoon.  I don’t know whether that will happen or not.  But I think that is the hope.

Question:  About Jean Ziegler, the group United Nations Watch has called for his resignation because he was the co-founder of the Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize, does the General Assembly have anything to say on his appointment by the Human Rights Commission?

Spokeswoman:  On that I will have to get back to you.  I am aware of it, but I don’t have an official position for you.

Question:  The Third Committee Special Rapporteurs, some have had press conferences, some have not.  Is it up to them?

Spokeswoman:  If you have a particular interest in hearing from one or more of them and you want me to feed that back, I can certainly do that.

Question:  There was Mr. Pinheiro, reporting on Myanmar.  This is in a write up of Friday’s meeting:  He said recommendations have been repeated like mantras, but without follow-up.  What is the point of a Special Rapporteur making recommendations?  There have been all these reports, but what is actually done on the things that are said, like the North Korea report, and the torture report?  What are the steps on all these reports?

Spokeswoman:  The idea is that the Rapporteurs report to the Third Committee, because remember the Third Committee is going to consider many of these issues when they look at the question of human rights.  When it comes to draft resolutions, some of what the Rapporteurs have said will inform the resolutions that are put forward.  The hope is that whatever the Special Rapporteurs recommend will find its way into the resolutions and recommendations of the Committee.

Question:  Is Mr. Pinheiro still in New York?

Spokeswoman:  I can find out if he is still around.  If you want to meet with him, I can ask.

Question:  I wanted to go back to the resolution calling upon Israel to join the NPT; could you give us more information on who tabled the resolution and which were the four countries that opposed it?

Spokeswoman:  It is easy; it is in the press release (GA/DIS/3333).  I have it here.  Israel, the Federated States of Micronesia, Laos and the United States voted against it; and there were six abstentions: Australia; Cameroon; Canada; Ethiopia; India; and Tonga.

Question:  What time does Mr. Ziegler give his speech today in the Third Committee?

Spokeswoman:  They start at 3 p.m.  I am not sure what specific time he is speaking, but that is fairly easy to ascertain.  So if you give me a call after lunch, I will have that for you.

Question:  How many rounds do we have on the Venezuela-Guatemala voting?

Spokeswoman:  Thirty-five.  And we go back to unrestricted voting.  When we left off last week, the last round was the first unrestricted ballot, and you know there are three in a row; so we will go back to an unrestricted ballot.

Thank you very much.

* *** *

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