24 August 2007


24 August 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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, all.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the UN Interim force in Lebanon for another year, until 31 August 2008.  The new resolution calls on all parties to cooperate fully with the UN and its force in Lebanon and to abide by their obligation to respect the safety of the UNIFIL and other UN personnel.  It also calls on all parties to cooperate with the Council and the Secretary-General to achieve a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution as envisioned in resolution 1701.  And the Secretary-General is required to continue to report on the implementation of resolution 1701 every four months, or at any time as he deems appropriate.

** Sudan

The acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, Taye Zerihoun, is today in Addis Ababa for the African Union’s Peace and Security Council meeting, which is reviewing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south Sudan.

Meanwhile, humanitarian agencies are reporting that there has been a rise in the number of cases of jaundice reported in several camps housing internally displaced persons in South Darfur, and in West Darfur, the UN mission reports new arrivals at two camps of people fleeing recent tensions.

In addition, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that a flash appeal for victims of flooding in the Sudan was being launched simultaneously next Tuesday.  So far, the UN had allocated $13.5 million to aid Sudanese flood victims to respond to the most immediate needs, including clean water and emergency shelter.  But more funds would be needed to provide clean water for over 3 million people.

** Peru

On Peru, this morning, Margareta Wahlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian affairs, briefed you on the United Nations relief efforts in response to natural disasters.  She said that the number of events such as hurricanes, floods and heat waves had been impressive this year.  She also stressed the importance of preparedness and early warning systems in order to reduce the impact of natural disasters on people and economies.

Concerning Peru, she announced that a UN flash appeal would be launched on Tuesday.  An inter-agency mission is in Pisco today to assess the coordination structures that will be needed there.

The United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team has already been to five areas hit by the earthquake and identified that 200,000 people need shelter.  Around $5 million in funds from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is expected to go towards this.

**Climate Change

Responding to climate change in the next 25 years will require significant changes in the patterns of investment and financial flows.  That’s according to a new report by the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The report says that the additional amount of investment and financial flows in 2030 will amount to between 1.1 to 1.7 per cent of global investment.  It also says that additional investment and financial flows of 200 to 210 billion dollars will be needed by 2030 to return greenhouse gas emissions to current levels.

And those findings are slated to be discussed at the UNFCC meeting in Austria next week.

**United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

More than 180 young people from 85 countries will meet in Germany, starting Sunday, to discuss ways in which technology can be used to promote environmental protection.  The discussions will take place during the third Tunza International Youth Conference organized by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

This conference seeks to reinforce the links between a growing number of young people working with UNEP on various environmental issues.  It also provides participants with an opportunity to develop regional and global networks for joint implementation of environmental programmes.  We have a press release upstairs with details on this.

** Côte d’Ivoire

Some of you have been asking about the investigation of cases of sexual abuse in Bouaké.  Following allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by members of the Moroccan contingent of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, a joint investigation by Morocco and the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was launched in Côte d’Ivoire on 31 July.  The joint team, however, was unable to complete its work as it could not gain access to the alleged victims.  The Moroccan team discontinued its investigation and departed Abidjan.  OIOS remains on the ground and its investigation continues.

The United Nations remains determined to ensure full compliance with its zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse by its personnel in the field.  The United Nations will, therefore, review the substantial evidence gathered during the preliminary internal investigation it had earlier conducted and determine further appropriate measures that could be taken to address the issue.

This is all I have for you.  I also have “The Weak Ahead” upstairs, which you can have in my office.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Why didn’t the OIOS get access to the victims?  Was there a particular reason?

Spokesperson:  We asked them, actually the investigation continues.  The OIOS stays there to keep on having access to the victims.  But so far, they seem to have issues answering questions.

Question:  A couple of UNDP-related questions.  I guess you are familiar with the latest coming from a Member State, the United States, looking at this issue of the whistle-blower and whether to investigate, where things stand.  Both Ambassador Khalilzad and Ambassador Wallace have a like-minded approach to the issue, hoping that there will be a UN-wide situation in which the Ethics Office will have some weight and gravity and say, and they wouldn’t have this issue with jurisdiction.  Is that consistent with the Secretary-General’s position, first of all?

Spokesperson:  That he wishes to have one system-wide you mean?

Question:  Yes, and I also have a couple of other questions.  Is indeed the Secretary-General okay with UNDP conducting its own investigation into this issue?  And there is a wider question as to who establishes the terms of reference for that UNDP investigation.  Is UNDP actually setting up its own terms of reference for an investigation of itself, and is there not room in such an investigation for abuse, let’s say, of the process and procedure in which an investigation would be carried out?

Spokesperson:  To the first part of your question:  The Secretary-General’s office discussed, as I said, with Ambassador Khalilzad no later than this morning about the whole situation.  Both of them agreed on the process set up by UNDP, which is an independent review that will take place to cover all the issues not covered by the OIOS investigation.  This is where it stands at this point, this is what I told you yesterday.  On your other question, about what the terms of reference would be and all this, we are expecting an announcement from UNDP about who is going to lead that review, and we will know more about what that frame of reference is.

Question:  We are actually hearing that UNDP has developed its own terms of reference.  [inaudible]  So if we can get an answer from you very soon...

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you should talk to UNDP about it, okay?

Question:  Can we get UNDP in here to talk about it?  Because...

Spokesperson:  You can certainly get in touch with them.  UNDP have their own spokespeople who can address the issue.

Question:  I am sorry to make a quip, but so it is not the Spokesperson’s jurisdiction to speak on behalf of the Secretary-General on behalf of reporters asking UNDP...  So, it is out of your purview?

Spokesperson:  I can certainly talk to that, but you can ask your own questions directly to UNDP.  That is what I said to you yesterday, that is all.

Question:  Can I just have one follow-up to that?  We are told that today, the Associate Administrator Ad Melkert is meeting with the press, but not here, and only in Dutch.  So I guess I want to emphasize that there have been a lot of requests here to ask about this, and I think it would be easier for you if someone came.  But since we can’t speak with them -- I get no answers from them -- we are told that in the terms of reference, the Administrator, Kemal Dervis, is the one that will nominate whoever the reviewer is.  So I am wondering -- I’ll ask them as well -- if you can get a confirmation or denial on that?

Spokesperson:  I think this is wrong.  I think what was said to us, what was said in the letter that you received -- that was distributed yesterday -- signed by the President of the Board, was that they would themselves name someone.

Question:  From what I heard about the terms of the reference they prepared, the Administrator nominates three individuals, and then the Executive Board chooses the one.  Is there a way to find out if, in fact, UNDP is the one nominating, you know, creating the shortlist?  It is just a factual question, I am not saying if it is right or wrong, I am just wondering [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  I don’t know, this is a matter for the Board to tell us.  Whenever they are ready to tell us, they will tell us.

Question:  A Ban Ki-moon question on this.  Yesterday, apparently, the whistle-blower wrote Ban Ki-moon and asked him to refer his case to the UN Administrative Tribunal for a legal ruling on whether the Ethics Office applies to UNDP or not.  So I want to know, did Mr. Ban get the letter, and is he going to turn that over to the Administrative Tribunal?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think he has gotten that letter.

Question:  A non-UNDP question.  There is enough of this conversation going on.  First of all, I want to find out from you on Iraq.  Is there...  Last time, when the United Nations submitted an Iraq report, it said they were not getting enough cooperation from Iraqi authorities on the casualties and the figures thereof.  Are the Iraqi authorities cooperating with the United Nations now?

Spokesperson:  You mean on the number of casualties?  I can find out for you if we have numbers.

Question:  And also, I wanted to find out about this website attack.  Were you able to determine who were the attackers and where this attack came from?  Who were the hackers?

Spokesperson:  As far as I know, we have not been able to determine it.  However, I think we have repaired most of the damage, all the damage.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  I don’t know.  There is certainly an investigation by security services on where it came from.  But we don’t have a result on that yet.

Question:  There are reports that it might be an inside job.  That is what is troubling.

Spokesperson:  Well, I have no information on that.

Question:  On a different subject, can you confirm or deny that the Secretary-General will meet with the President of Bosnian Presidency on Monday?

Spokesperson:  I can confirm that the Secretary-General will meet with the Chairman of the Bosnian Presidency on Monday.

Question:  Did the Secretary-General receive the second letter in succession to the famous letter before, which was only signed by two members of the Presidency, requesting more action from him?

Spokesperson:  From the information I’ve got, the second letter was signed by only one person.  It was not signed by the two members.

Question:  So, has that somehow influenced his decision to meet with Mr. Radko [inaudible], who didn’t sign the second time?

Spokesperson:  No.  It is, as far as I know, a courtesy call, which is requested by the Chairman of the Presidency.

Question:  What is the response of Mr. Ban Ki-moon to Israel yesterday violating the Lebanese airspace?  Eleven Israeli jets flew over different areas in violation of Security Council resolution 1701.  And also, what are his comments regarding the Amnesty International talking about Khartoum sending arms and weapons to Darfur in violation of a Security Council resolution?

Spokesperson:  About sending of arms and weapons, we don’t have any information in confirmation of that.  I am talking about the question you asked about Sudan.  We don’t have any independent confirmation of the nature of those arms deliveries, so we don’t have information at this point.  Your first question was about?

Question:  About Lebanon and the Israeli violation of the Lebanese airspace.

Spokesperson:  As you know, the Secretary-General and people dealing with the Middle East at the United Nations have been denouncing the violations of air rights for a very long time.  So, those are just additional ones, there are no specific reactions on these specific incidents yesterday.

Question:  I just wondered if there is any comment on this:  There is a report that a court in Morocco fined a journalist, Mustapha Alaoui, €1,800 and withdrew his weekly publication from being circulated, because he reported that Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General, had criticized the attitude of the Moroccan delegation during the Western Sahara negotiations.  Do you have any comment on that?

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t.  I read the press reports about it and we have the information.  However, I don’t have any comments on it.

Question:  Had the Secretary-General criticized the Moroccan delegation?

Spokesperson:  No, it was a spoof -- I mean, it was written in a sarcastic way, and the journalist had said that at the time of the trial.

Question:  On Sudan, there is pretty much confirmed reports that Sudan has expelled diplomats from Canada and the European Commission from Khartoum, so I am wondering if the UN system has any comment on the Al-Bashir Government expelling [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  We’ve asked that question to the UN Mission.  It told us that they were aware that letters requesting the Chargé d’Affaires of Canada and the European Union to leave the country had been issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  This is really all we know at the moment -- information we got from the UN Mission in Sudan.  You know, it is for the respective countries to react to the Government of Sudan.  We are just following the developments at this point.

Question:  I really don’t know what this...  On Tony Blair’s office as the Envoy of the Quartet -- what is going to be the UN’s role in paying the cost of that office?  Is it going to pay a quarter, is it paying all, is it paying none?  Where does that stand?

Spokesperson:  I’ll try to find out for you -- I don’t have that information.

Question:  And finally, this meeting with the [inaudible] of Rwanda that is taking place now -- I guess, I am just wondering what... he is going into it, whether a couple of topics have come up with Rwanda.  One, they’ve criticized the UNDP report that they spend too much on the military and say that they have to.  There is also this issue of the general -- they are trying to defend the general.  Are these among the topics for the meeting?  What is the meeting about?

Spokesperson:  Peacekeeping is certainly a major part of that discussion.  As you know, Rwanda has contributed a number of troops to United Nations peacekeeping forces.  So, definitely this is part of the agenda.

Question:  But the issue of the general, whose human rights record is contested -- is that coming up there?

Spokesperson:  That should be coming up, also.

Question:  Is there any update on Mr. Williams’ ongoing mission in the occupied territories and Israel?

Spokesperson:  No, we couldn’t get any more information about what was discussed.  I asked for you, and we couldn’t get more information on what was said, but Mr. Williams should be here on the 29th, I think, to report, so he should be at Headquarters at that time.

Question:  I have a question on Kosovo.  The Russian representative to the Contact Group on Kosovo, he was saying yesterday that no deadlines were set for solving the issue.  And he also explained that Ban Ki-moon set the deadline just for the talks.  [inaudible].  So, I am asking, what do we expect after this period of 120 days?  Do we expect a final solution for Kosovo, or just a report presented by the “troika” [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  At this point, it is in the hands of the troika to discuss this.  As you know also, it is a matter that the Security Council is concerned about, and is dealing with it, so at this point I don’t have any more comment to make on that issue.  After the 120 days, we will see what develops.

Question:  So we are just expecting this report and nothing more?

Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.

Thank you very much.

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