14 November 2006


14 November 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, and Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, the Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General

**Secretary-General in Kenya

Good afternoon.  The Secretary-General arrived in Nairobi, Kenya this afternoon, where tomorrow he will address the high-level segment of the UN Conference on Climate Change.  Immediately after arriving, the Secretary-General went to the State House, the seat of the Presidency in Kenya, where he met briefly with Kenyan President Kibaki.

In impromptu remarks afterwards, the Secretary-General lauded Kenya’s relations with the United Nations, noting that two major UN agencies are based in the country.

He also spoke about the need for leadership and urgent action to deal with the problems posed by climate change, a topic he will again address tomorrow when he speaks to the Climate Change Conference.  And the Secretary-General is also scheduled to give a press conference in Nairobi tomorrow.  We will make his speech to the Climate Change Conference available today if that has not already been done.

**Security Council

Meanwhile, back here, the Security Council began its work this morning by receiving a briefing in closed consultations from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno, on recent initiatives by the Secretary-General on Darfur.

Guéhenno spoke to reporters afterwards and said that a week of intense diplomatic activity was underway, including the meeting in Addis Ababa on 16 November that we mentioned yesterday, to bring nations together on ways to help the people of Sudan.  He stressed that a real ceasefire in Darfur is as important in the deployment of a force there, and he warned that the intensification of military activity needs to stop.  Mr. Guéhenno said there is a need for “a solid political process, backed by a solid peacekeeping force”.

After a briefing by Guéhenno, Security Council members continued their meeting in closed consultations with a briefing by Juan Mendez, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide.

Mr. Guéhenno, by the way, had been scheduled to be the guest at the noon briefing, but that will not happen and I will have a brief note afterwards on the issue of mine action, which he was to speak to.

** Sudan

Also on Sudan, as part of these diplomatic meetings Mr. Guéhenno referred to, Hédi Annabi, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, arrived in Addis yesterday, where he participated in a meeting of the African Union and the UN and the Government of Sudan on Darfur, convoked by the African Union in accordance with the AU’s Peace and Security Council's decision in September.

He also held technical consultations with officials from the African Union Commission, on a draft Memorandum of Understanding required to enable the UN to deploy an initial light support package to the African Union Mission in Sudan, known as AMIS.

** Uganda

Meanwhile, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, met last night with the President of Uganda in the capital, Kampala, to discuss several issues, including the Cessation of Hostilities between the Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and his meeting with the senior LRA leadership in southern Sudan yesterday.

While agreeing with the President that the peace talks could not continue indefinitely, Egeland emphasized the need to maintain the Cessation of Hostilities, noting that there had never been a quieter period in northern Uganda.

Of particular importance was the need to improve conditions in the LRA assembly areas by ensuring basic services and a sense of security for the LRA as they gathered there, Egeland said.  Egeland is now en route to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to continue his trip to eastern Africa.

** Chad

Meanwhile, with new attacks reported daily in south-eastern Chad, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says it is extremely worried that the inter-communal violence there, which has left more than 220 dead recently, is spiralling out of control.

The UN refugee agency reports that a humanitarian assessment mission by the UN had to flee a recently-attacked village in south-eastern Chad yesterday, when it came under fire from gunmen.  And we have more upstairs on that.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

And from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN Mission in the country says that representatives of both President Kabila and Vice President Bemba have signed another agreement, called in French an “Acte d’Engagement” in which they pledge to respect the apolitical character of the Congolese Armed Forces, the National Police and other security services.

The Mission says both parties have agreed to respect strictly the chain of command of the armed forces and police, and to abstain from influencing these elements to act according to their political strategies, and to encourage their supporters to cooperate with the armed forces and the police.  The Mission also notes that this latest agreement is crucial in that in could help ease tensions ahead of the official release of the election results, which is now expected on 19 November.

** Iraq

And from Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, today condemned in the strongest terms, the kidnappings of dozens of employees and visitors at the Ministry of Higher Education.

Qazi said that the kidnappings were conducted in broad daylight, allegedly by uniformed perpetrators; he warned that this crime could hurt progress in a country that has long been known for its literary and scientific tradition.  He called on the Iraqi authorities to pursue those responsible, free the abductees and ensure the sanctity of higher education.  And we have his full statement upstairs.

**Deputy Secretary-General

Meanwhile, the Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, leaves tonight for Brussels, where tomorrow he will be participating in the first observance of the European Development Days.  The event is part of the follow-up to the new European Consensus on development, whose aim is poverty eradication.

While in Brussels, Mr. Malloch Brown will also address the segment on "Perspectives on Governance”, participate in a seminar on human security hosted by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and Mr. Malloch Brown will also meet with the Secretary-General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.  And he is expected to return to New York later this week.

** Lebanon

A number of you have been asking me since yesterday about the response to the action taken in Lebanon, regarding the proposals that we sent to the Government of Lebanon last week about a tribunal dealing with the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

I can confirm that we have received a letter from the Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora.  The Secretary-General believes that the decision of the Lebanese Council of Ministers, approving the draft agreement and draft statute regarding the establishment of a tribunal of an international character, is an important step in fulfilling the Security Council’s mandate in resolution 1664.

**Human Rights Council

And in Geneva, the Human Rights Council will hold its third special session tomorrow to consider action on human rights violations emanating from Israeli military incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Beit Hanoun.

This special session is being convened following a request by the Ambassador of Bahrain, on behalf of the Group of Arab States, and the Ambassador of Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

**United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO)

And the Secretary-General has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Major-General Ian Campbell Gordon, of Australia, as the new Chief of Staff of the UN Truce Supervision Organization, known as UNTSO, which is based in Jerusalem.  Major General Gordon will replace Major General Clive Lilley, of New Zealand, who will relinquish his post at the end of this month.

Major General Gordon has served as the Deputy Force Commander with the UN’s Mission in Timor-Leste from 2001 to 2002.  And then prior to that, he served with the UN Mission in the Western Sahara.

** Kenya

And in eastern Kenya, UNHCR tells us that the recent floods have greatly hampered their efforts to settle thousands of Somali refugees, with rising waters destroying hundreds of homes in the camps near the town of Dadaab.  With normal overland supply routes cut off, UNHCR says it is planning an emergency airlift of supplies, including blankets and plastic sheets, in the coming days.

The World Food Programme is also reporting difficulties, with its food centres getting flooded and its trucks getting stuck in the mud.  And for its part, the World Health Organization is discussing with the Kenyan Government the response to flood-related cholera outbreak in that area.

**Mine Action

And lastly, the UN Mine Action Service, the UN’s children’s agency, UNICEF, and the UN Development Programme are releasing their Portfolio of Mine Action Projects 2007 in Geneva and New York today.

The report describes how landmines and explosive remnants of war affect some 29 countries and territories and shows that it will cost some $429 million to address these problems in 2007.

The Secretary-General has issued a message on the occasion of the report's release, calling it “timely and relevant”.  Copies of the message, the report and the press materials are all available in this room.  And some of my colleagues from the UN Mine Action Team are here, in the back, to answer some of your questions, if you have them, after the briefing.

**Guest at Noon Tomorrow

And truly lastly, our guest tomorrow will be Chris Burnham, the Under-Secretary-General of Management.  As you know, he is leaving the Organization and will be here to talk to you about his work during the year that he served as US Chief for Management.

That’s enough talking for me.  I will now take some of your questions.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  About the response from the Lebanese Government and [inaudible], does it mean that you recognize the Lebanese Government as legitimate, although most of the politicians and leaders in Lebanon have declared it illegitimate…, including the President?

Spokesman:  I think that your commentary on what Lebanese politicians have declared, I can’t answer to.  I think that our answers our pretty clear.  We believe that this letter is an important step in fulfilling the Council’s mandate in resolution 1664.  Obviously, it is the responsibility of the Lebanese authorities to take actions they consider appropriate, within the laws of Lebanon.  And it is not for the Secretary-General to comment on these internal matters.  So after the review of the draft statute of the tribunal by the Security Council, the instruments, the framework of the Tribunal, the papers will be sent again to the Government of Lebanon.  And the Lebanese authorities, at that point, will have an opportunity to review them, and follow the process required by their own laws.

Question:  Do you require the [inaudible]… of the President of Lebanon?

Spokesman:  As I said, we’ve seen the letter.  We think it is an important step in the process.  And we’ve accepted the letter at its face value and we’re acting upon it and will move quickly to bring this to the Security Council.

Question:  Steph, do you have any more details about the upcoming high-level meeting on Darfur?  Specifically, which foreign ministers will be attending?

Spokesman:  I do not have yet the full list of who will attend.  My understanding is that it will not always be at the foreign minister level.  It will be high-level representation.  My understanding is that we may have Andrew Natsiosfrom the US and other high-level representatives.  But I don’t yet have the full list of who will represent each country.

Question:  Now that the United States has vetoed this resolution on the Occupied Territories and the situation over there, they’re taking it up with the General Assembly.  Consequently, the Middle East peace process seems to be dead.  Will the Secretary-General be making a last ditch effort to somehow use his good offices to somehow bring about some sort of agreement?

Spokesman:  Whether or not it’s dead is an assessment that I would question.  The Secretary-General has been on the phone with a number of his interlocutors, foreign ministers and others.  It is a situation he is extremely concerned with.  On the ground, his envoy, Mr. de Soto, has been in touch with his Quartet partners.  And we are all obviously looking for ways for which we can move the process forward.

Question:  What kind of action?

Spokesman:  That’s as far as I can go at this point.

Question:  You say that it’s not up to Secretary-General Annan to comment on the internal political matters in Lebanon.  I understand that the issue there is to try and form a unity government.  It is Secretary-General Annan’s hope that there will be a unity government in Palestinian territories.  Can you explain why the difference?

Spokesman:  I don’t believe there’s really a difference.  What we are not commenting on is the questions raised on the letter we’ve received from the Lebanese Government.  We’ve received a letter from the Prime Minister and we’re acting upon it.

Question:  You don’t have any opinion as for whether there should be a Unity government in Lebanon?

Spokesman:  As a general rule, it is fairly clear that the Secretary-General would like to see stable political situations in just about every country.

Question:  Kenya’s declared no flights back and forth with Somalia.  And a UN plane was detained by Kenyan authorities.  So I guess, I mean, this is taking place.  I talked with Yves about it yesterday.  My question is, is there any further information about the UN plane being detained and how is Mr. Fall’s office and UNDP and others that serve Somalia out of Nairobi going to continue to serve it if they can’t fly?

Spokesman:  It’s a good question.  I don’t have an answer from this podium for you.  But I will check after the briefing with my colleagues.

Question:  Maybe you’ll have an answer to this one.  The wires have reported on the Somalia Sanctions Monitoring Group’s report and among other things, have said that Somali soldiers went to South Lebanon and fought during the recent conflict there.  And I’m wondering if UNIFIL would be aware of that and has any comment on it, given that it’s a UN report?

Spokesman:  The report, I don’t know if it has gone to the Security Council or not.  It is a report to the Security Council on the monitoring and we’d have to see the report before we could comment on it.

Question:  [inaudible] Will DPKO, when it goes to the Security Council, either say they’re aware of that or they’re not aware of it?

Spokesman:  We’d have to see the report and then we can see what they can speak to.

Question:  [inaudible]… a local Kenya issue.  If you talked about this yesterday or today, I apologize, I didn’t hear it.  A Kenyan diplomat arrested for alleged child abuse in New York.  Was the immunity waived?  Were there meetings?  Can you tell everything that the UN knows about or is involved with?

Spokesman:  As far as I am concerned, we are not involved in this issue.  This would be between the Kenyan authorities and the US, the host authorities, here in the US, as this person is not an official, contrary to what some newspapers reported, he is not an official of the United Nations.  He works for the Kenyan Government.  So at this point it’s an issue between the Kenyan Government and the US authorities.

Question:  I understand that the Secretary-General’s representative in Lebanon has been meeting the leaders of the Lebanese.  Did he file any report on these meetings and the outcome on their points of view regarding their situation there?

Spokesman:  Yes. Mr. Pedersen, as it is his mandate, has been meeting with a number of Lebanese leaders on all sides of the aisles in Lebanon.  He meets with every member of the Cabinet.  And he does report back to Headquarters.  But those are obviously reports that are for our own consumption.

Question:  Has there been any reaction by the Secretary-General about Sunday’s vote of independence in South Ossetia and/or statements that the resolution of Kosovo’s final status can be looked at as a precedent for Abkhazia?

Spokesman:  No.  Thank you.  On that note… Yes Matthew?

Question:  Yesterday, we had a presentation by James Traub, the biographer of Kofi Annan, upstairs.  And among other things, he said, on Zimbabwe, he said that he spoke with Kofi Annan about it and Kofi Annan said he was waiting for the South African President to take action, which is why he didn’t take action.  I’m wondering if this… given that now, what he deferred to, Ben Mkapa…, that’s a process widely described as never having taken place… dead in the water.  Was Mr. Traub’s statement of Kofi Annan deferring to Thabo Mbeki is that an accurate statement of Zimbabwean politics?

Spokesman:  I would have to look at the quote.  I think the Secretary-General spoke extensively about his concerns for the situation in Zimbabwe and his efforts.  But I’m not going to comment on what was in Mr. Traub’s book.

Question:  He actually said it but do you anticipate Mr. Annan doing it before he leaves office?  Taking any further action of any kind?

Spokesman:  I can’t speak to that.  Thank you very much.

Briefing by Spokeswoman for President of General Assembly

Good afternoon everyone.  The Assembly on Monday focused its attention on strengthening UN coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance as well as the question of cooperation between the UN and regional and other organizations.  Opening the discussion, the President of the General Assembly Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said the world had been fortunate this year to be spared from major natural disasters.  This, she noted, created the opportunity for the UN to focus on activities in several areas prone to natural disasters and to consolidate humanitarian reforms initiated during the 2005 World Summit.  She said that the humanitarian community faced three main challenges: first, the number of on-going emergencies which needed to be urgently addressed such as the drought in the Horn of Africa; second, access to populations in need of humanitarian assistance such as the 3.6 million people in need of relief supplies in Darfur; and third, addressing gender based violence, which she stressed Members States have a prime responsibility for preventing.  “Our common efforts to strengthen the coordination of the humanitarian and emergency response system”, she emphasized, “should aim to reduce suffering and improve chances of survival in times of emergency.”

When the floor was opened for comment, many delegations also noted the serious challenges facing the UN humanitarian response mechanisms.  They agreed on the need to strengthen the Organization’s coordination and disaster relief capacity and enhance cooperation with regional organizations in disaster prone areas.  Speakers from small island regions also highlighted the need to create adequate early warning systems and improve global disaster response and reduction mechanisms.  The Assembly also took up the Secretary-General’s report on assistance to the Palestinian people.  Acting without a vote, it adopted a number of resolutions on cooperation between the UN and regional organizations, including the Council of Europe, the Economic Cooperation Organization and the League of Arab States.  The Assembly will meet again on Thursday to hold elections and make appointments to a number of committees and commissions including the Joint Inspection Unit.

Meanwhile, the Third Committee on Monday approved by consensus a draft resolution on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  The resolution calls on the Assembly to adopt the Treaty and open it for signature, ratification and accession.  Seventeen draft resolutions on the elimination of racial discrimination, the right to self-determination and other human rights issues were also introduced.  The International Convention for the Protections of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance co-sponsored by some 103 Member States will recognize the rights of persons not to be subjected to enforced disappearance, regardless of circumstances.  It also recognizes the rights of victims to justice and reparation and would commit States who become parties to it to criminalize enforced disappearance, thereby allowing those responsible to be brought to justice and at the same time having states take measures to prevent it from occurring.  The Committee, that’s the Third Committee, on Wednesday will continue its introduction of the remaining draft resolutions and take action on others.

The President of the Assembly this afternoon will address the New York Academy of Science event titled “Science in the City”.  Commending the New York Academy of Science and the UN Millennium Project for establishing the “Scientists without Borders” initiative, she is expected to say that this initiative offers a unique global forum for scientists, both public and private, to have a stronger voice in global public health and to deliver more for the poorest and most vulnerable.  She will express the hope that their work would foster closer ties between communities of academia, teachers and students in both the developing and developed world.  She will also ask that the group keep the General Assembly up- to-date on its work as it progresses.

Questions and Answers

Question:  The resolution on the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances -- in the write-up of the meeting they said that China complained that it was mistranslated in Chinese.  I don’t know if there’s some --

Spokeswoman:  The comments of China?

Question:  No, not the comments.  The actual draft resolution was… it’s in the meeting write-up.  How do they pass it with different versions floating around?

Spokeswoman:  If it is just technical errors, then it means that those can be easily corrected before it becomes an official document.  That’s all that will happen.

Question:  This protection of people from enforced disappearance -– does that apply to things like the idea of “extraordinary rendition”?  Like the idea of people being picked up and taken to other countries -– how is it not already against human rights law “to be disappeared”?  What’s different about this?

Spokeswoman:  About this particular resolution?  That I don’t have the answer to, but I can certainly find out for you.

Question:  How it would apply to [inaudible] extraordinary rendition, where people are picked up, mostly by the United States, and taken for interrogation to other countries?  Is that what this one would apply to?  Or is this meant to be…?

Spokeswoman:  I am not quite sure that this goes that far.  I don’t want to comment on it when I’m uncertain.  I’ll check and get back to you.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokeswoman:  Not at the moment.  Usually we wait until the work of the Committee is completed before they begin scheduling when the resolutions will be before the Assembly.  Don’t forget the Third Committee still has a number of resolutions to consider.  But I would assume soon because usually the Assembly would want to start looking at resolutions by the first week in December.  [The Assembly has a tentative date to complete its work by 12 December.]  So I would imagine that soon we would have a timetable, and as soon as I know when that is, I will let you know.

Question:  This is more procedural.  With all the resolutions that have been introduced in the Third Committee, there’s Belarus saying the United States has a bad human rights record; there’s Iran saying Canada does; there’s ones going the other way.  Who decides?  Do all of those go to the floor of the Plenary?  What is the process?

Spokeswoman:  Everything that leaves the Committee will go to the Assembly.  If you notice, we talk about first that the resolutions are introduced.  Then once they are introduced, if they are approved, within the Committee, the Committee sends all the resolutions [in a report] to the General Assembly.

Question:  So, a vote is held in the Committee on everything that is introduced?

Spokeswoman:  Yes.  There are some that are voted upon and others that they do pass without a vote, or by consensus.  [Please note that once a resolution is adopted in the Committee, it will be recommended to the Assembly for action.]  Anything else?  Thank you.

* *** *

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