22 February 2007


22 February 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, Ashraf Kamal.

Deputy Spokesperson for Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  Sorry I’m a little late.

**Visiting Journalists

I understand we have a visiting group of journalists from South Asia.  They are participating in the US State Department’s International Visitor Program.  Welcome to the United Nations and hope you’re learning a lot.


This is really for the record. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has announced that the Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, has circulated his latest report to the upcoming meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors on the Implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolution 1737 (2006) in the Islamic Republic of Iran.  That report is submitted in parallel to the UN Security Council and it covers developments since Mr. ElBaradei´s report of 14 November 2006.

The 35-member Board will consider the report at its next meetings beginning in Vienna on 5 March.  And the Security Council President has just met with the IAEA representative here in New York.

**Security Council

And the Security Council, just to give you an update here, they began consultations on a press statement on Iraq.  The consultations are now suspended and should resume shortly.  They are discussing a draft press statement on recent terrorist attacks in that country.

Earlier today, the Security Council held a meeting this morning on Timor-Leste, in which it decided to extend the mandate of the Mission in Timor-Leste by one year, until 26 February 2008.

**Secretary-General in Vienna

Now turning to the Secretary-General, he has begun his official visit to Austria today.  And we expect to have shortly this afternoon, the transcript of a joint press encounter he had with the Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik after having a meeting with her.

In response to questions on Iran, the Secretary-General told reporters that he is deeply concerned that the Iranian Government did not meet the deadline set by the Security Council.  The Iranian nuclear issue, he said, has great implications for peace and stability, as well as for the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  He urged that the Iranian Government fully comply with the Security Council as soon as possible and engage in continued negotiation with the international community to address and peacefully resolve this issue.

He also had a working luncheon hosted by the Foreign Minister, which was attended by a number of Foreign Ministers from the region.  And also on his schedule today is a meeting with the meet with the Austrian President, as well as the Federal Chancellor.  His visit to Vienna will continue tomorrow.

** Middle East Quartet

And last night, as you all know, there was a statement issued in Berlin and read by the Secretary-General, following the Middle East Quartet meeting.  In the statement, the Quartet expressed the hope that the dialogue initiated between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will continue in the framework of a renewed political process.

The Quartet reaffirmed its determination to promote such a process, in cooperation with the parties and other regional partners.  It also urged the parties to refrain from measures that prejudge issues to be resolved in negotiations.  And we have made that available to you last night.

** Sudan

And from Khartoum today, we have the latest Sudan Humanitarian Overview produced by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in collaboration with UN agencies and partner non-governmental organizations on the ground.

The Overview, which covers the month of January, indicates that new population displacements were registered weekly as attacks on villages, sexual violence and intimidation continued to force large numbers of people to move throughout Darfur.  An estimated 46,000 people were newly displaced throughout the region, according to the Overview.

It also indicates that generalized violence, attacks on humanitarian assets and bureaucratic impediments continued to affect humanitarian operations throughout Darfur.  And humanitarian access continued to be compromised as well.  And while access was regained in some long cut-off areas, key locations, such as Gereida, in South Darfur, remained out of bounds for most agencies.  And the United Nations Mission reports in its bulletin some more recent attacks in Darfur, which you can pick up a copy of in our office as well.

** Sierra Leone

Now, from Sierra Leone, the Special Court for Sierra Leone earlier today announced the death of Sam Hinga Norman, who was on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged leadership of a murderous militia during Sierra Leone’s civil war.  A verdict in the case was to have been delivered shortly.

Court officials say that Norman -- a former Sierra Leone Internal Affairs minister -- died at a military hospital in Dakar, Senegal, where he was transferred for routine medical procedures, which were performed on 8 February without complication.  Earlier today, however, Mr. Norman collapsed and, despite attempts to revive him, was pronounced dead about half an hour later.  There’s a press release from the Special Court upstairs in the Spokesperson’s Office.

**International Criminal Court

And on another court matter, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced earlier today that on Tuesday next week, and that’s 27 February, Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will submit evidence to the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber in connection with individuals suspected of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

That same day, the Prosecutor will also brief the press on this development.  And the Court informs us that interested correspondents can view a webcast of that press conference on the Court’s website.

**Occupied Palestinian Territories

From the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), there’s a press release saying that rising unemployment and poverty in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, coupled with economic suffocation, are posing acute challenges to food security in the occupied Palestinian territories. Many families have become totally reliant on outside assistance, and vital sectors of the Palestinian economy are under threat.  And you can read more about that in a press release upstairs.


And today, we also have upstairs for you a statement by the Deputy-Secretary-General, who was at the 2007 Session of the Special Committee on Decolonization, in which she highlighted the responsibility of the international community to bring about a speedy, successful and sustainable solution for the total eradication of colonialism.

And that’s what I have for you today.  Any questions for me?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Quick kind of housekeeping question.  When will there be copies of Mr. ElBaradei’s report?  I understand it’s on some website, but some people have looked and can’t find it.  I’m obviously a couple hours away from my own computer.

Deputy Spokesperson:  As far as I know, what I just read to you was that the IAEA has given, that Mr. ElBaradei has given the report to the IAEA Board and to the Security Council.  It is not an official document and will not come out as an official document today.  So whatever copies that will be circulating are unofficial.  And, yes, I’ve heard reports that it has already been posted on a website, but that was not the UN website.  

We will let you know when Security Council members receive it.  As of -- when I walked down here, they had not yet received it and the Security Council President had just met with the IAEA representative, who handed him the report.

[She announced later that Security Council members had received copies of the IAEA report.]

Question:  The situation in Guinea is getting very tense, with the stress continuing and violence continuing.  It has been announced that the Secretary-General will send a goodwill mission there.  When would that happen?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I can confirm that the Government of Guinea has requested the Secretary-General to send an envoy.  And, as of now, the Secretary-General has not excluded any possibilities.  All options are on the table.  At the same time, we want to make sure that, if sent, our mission should add value to ongoing regional efforts and work in synergy with them.  So, it is under consideration.

Question:  Since the Secretary-General is in Europe, there is a major development going on, I would say, of concern -– the installing of the rocket shield that brought some strong criticism from Moscow, and even threats from some Russian general.  My question, I guess, is in that direction.  I asked all last week and the previous week, whether the Secretary-General is concerned that the cold war is returning or how he will address this issue in Central Europe, which is of concern, of course.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think what you are referring was your request for the Secretary-General to respond to some remarks.  I don’t think he has directly responded to them.   Today, he obviously is in Europe as you mentioned, and he did have a working luncheon with foreign ministers of the region.  Just to give you an idea, these were the Foreign Ministers of Hungary, Slovenia, Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic and Poland, and a number of issues covering the region’s concern were discussed there.  So that’s all I can tell you about that.

Matthew, did you have a question?

Question:  I did.  The first one was on envoys.  Is Joaquim Chissano, the Special Representative for the talks in Northern Uganda, is he in the region?  Has he said anything as the talks have been breaking down?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have a recent –- I don’t think he’s in the region now, but let me double check.  And I think I heard something about his giving a briefing of some sort.  So, let me look into that and let you know afterwards, because I can’t remember right now.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that Mr. Chissano is in the region, currently in Kinshasa and planning to go to Kampala; Addis Ababa, to meet with the African Union; and Sudan.  The objective of his mission is to explore ways of getting the parties back to the conference table.  He should be in New York at the end of his mission and hopes to brief the Security Council.]

Question:  And also, there was an AP story last night about this letter from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the Secretary-General, denouncing the audits by UNDP in North Korea.  Has the letter been received and is there any reaction or response to it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General did receive a letter from the DPRK.  I believe it was on the 13th, or dated the 13th.  I think the request in the letter was to circulate it among Member States, which, normally if that’s the case, any Member State is entitled for that to happen.

Question:  So it will be one of those letters –-

Deputy Spokesperson:  You can check up with the General Assembly later to see when that’s done.

[She later announced that the letter is out as a document.]

Question:  Just as a quick follow-up on that, you mentioned that he met with the regional foreign ministers.  Do you know if the issue that I’m asking for came under the agenda of that meeting?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t know, but it broke up a while ago, so we can follow up with the delegation and see if we can get a readout.

[She later added that the topics discussed at that meeting were Iran, Kosovo and the Middle East Quartet.]

If there are no other questions, I’ll turn to the General Assembly Spokesperson.  Thank you.

Spokesperson for General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

**President’s trip to Italy and Germany

The Assembly President is leaving for Italy and Germany this afternoon.  She’ll be meeting with the President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Italy.  She will also be meeting with the Pope, and she will address the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies in Italy.   And she’ll meet with the Foreign Minister of Germany and the Minister for International Cooperation and Development.

She had a meeting yesterday with a group of ambassadors representing the larger membership of the UN to consult on the way forward regarding the proposals of the Secretary-General on the restructuring of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department for Disarmament Affairs (DDA).

In Friday’s informal meeting of the plenary, some Member States requested that the process of considering these proposals with a view to arriving at two framework resolutions should be conducted in an open, transparent and inclusive manner, under the guidance of the President of the General Assembly.

The Secretary General had also asked the President to guide the process.

And in view of this, and while there is agreement that Member States need to assist the Secretary General in discharging his duties, and help him succeed in his endeavour, the President sought the views on the possible process for considering this issue.

At the meeting yesterday, it was decided that two facilitators for each of the two issues under consideration will be appointed.  The two facilitators on each issue will conduct open, transparent and inclusive consultations with the entire membership on the two issues.  Any further information or clarifications, if needed by Member States, will be provided by the Secretariat upon the President’s request.

Member States were encouraged to present to the facilitators their ideas regarding the content of each of the framework resolutions.  The ownership of this process is that of the entire membership.

Upon her return from her trip, the President will take stock of the progress made in this regard.  She also underlined to everybody that she represents all Member States and intends to tackle all concerns.

On the Open-Ended Working Group on Security Council reform -- the first round of meetings will end tomorrow, and the President will meet with the facilitators upon her return to decide on the next step.

Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  You said a [inaudible] group of ambassadors met with the President.  Does that mean Group of 77 or is it a mixed group?

Spokesperson:  Exactly 11 ambassadors, including the Chairman of the Group of 77.  Let me read to you the list, this way we don’t miss anybody:  Pakistan, Cuba, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Senegal, the US, Russia, Norway, China and Japan.

Question:  Is the President aware of the new proposals worked out by the G-4 Group?  Has she received a copy of the new proposal?

Spokesperson:  I’m not sure.

Correspondent:  I mean reforms of the Security Council?

Spokesperson:  On reform of the Security Council, yes, she gets briefed by the facilitators.  On the reform of the Security Council or on the restructuring of the Secretariat?

Question:  On the reforms of the Security Council, there are indications that the Group of Four have worked out new proposals for the restructuring of the Security Council.  Has the President been informed?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think they were formally submitted.  Not yet. 

Question:  But is she aware of that proposal?

Spokesperson:  I’m not sure.  I’d have to check with her and get back to you on that.

Question:  Just to follow-up, what kind of briefing, what kind of feedback had the President received from the facilitators on Security Council reforms?

Spokesperson:  Well, they basically tell her about how many ambassadors spoke, which points they stressed, what is the direction of each regional group on every single issue that the facilitators are handling.  But then you get a better picture once all the facilitators give a final report on the first round.

Question:  In March?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Regarding the proposed informal thematic debate on dialogue on religions and cultures, has the President established a date on when it’s going to be held and what preparations are being made in this regard?

Spokesperson:  Yes, it’s in early May.  If I’m not mistaken, it’s the 10th and the 11th of May.  And yes, preparations are under way for the panels, for the moderators.

Can I forestall your question, Matthew, and tell you, no, we have not been informed of that letter officially?

Correspondent:  OK.  No, no, exactly. 

Spokesperson:  It’s a different question?

Correspondent:  But I’ll wait a couple days for you to get that.  No, the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial killings, Philip Alston, has issued a report about the Philippines.  A lot of the press coverage in the Philippines seems to say whether the report will be adopted by the General Assembly or somehow if it’s going to the General Assembly.  I don’t know if you can explain what the Special Rapporteur does.  I know that he reports some to Geneva and the Human Rights Council.  But do they have some reporting function to the General Assembly and, if so, how would it play out in this instance?

Spokesman:  Well, everything ends up in the General Assembly.  If it was a mandate by the Human Rights Council then it would end up in the Human Rights Council.

Question:  Right.  But there’s an article saying that he reports every two years to the General Assembly and annually.  So I’m a little unclear.  I don’t know if you’ve seen this, it’s kind of a -- he was sent on a ten-day mission to look at killings.

Spokesperson:  Explain it to me later and then –-

Correspondent:  OK.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Anything else?  Thank you.

* *** *

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