5 November 2007


5 November 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 and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon all.

**Guest at Noon Today

Our guest at the noon briefing today is Ahmad Fawzi, spokesperson of the Darfur joint mediation, who will update you on the recently opened peace talks in Sirte, Libya.

**Statement on Pakistan

We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Pakistan.

The Secretary-General is greatly concerned about the recent developments in Pakistan and the imposition of emergency rule.  He expresses his strong dismay at the detention of hundreds of human rights and opposition activists, including the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

The Secretary-General urges the Pakistan authorities to immediately release those detained, to lift restrictions on the media and to take early steps for a return to democratic rule.  He appeals to the Government of Pakistan to hold the Parliamentary elections as scheduled.

** Pakistan

High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, today said she is alarmed over the suspension of fundamental rights and imposition of a state of emergency in Pakistan.

Arbour added that she’s concerned by reports that leading judges, lawyers and political and human rights activists – including the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, Asma Jahangir, have been detained or placed under house arrest.

Arbour called on the Pakistan authorities to clarify the status of those detained and ensure that no one is detained for the peaceful exercise of their political beliefs.  We have her whole statement upstairs.

**Secretary-General in Istanbul

The Secretary-General on Saturday addressed the high-level meeting on Iraq in Istanbul, and he expressed the hope that the effort by Iraq’s neighbours could be valuable in building regional confidence and strengthening cooperation.  He urged positive, concrete steps as a follow-up to the meeting.

“The objective of our conference is to capitalize on the progress made to date, consider tangible next steps, and establish a mechanism that facilitates communication and helps maintain a coherent direction,” the Secretary-General told the high-level gathering, which met in Istanbul.

He noted the exceptionally complex series of overlapping sectarian, political, and ethnic challenges facing Iraq but added that there was also a political opportunity to transform recent developments into a basis for broader national reconciliation.

At the conference, the Secretary-General held a series of bilateral meetings, including with the Prime Ministers of Turkey and Iraq, as well as with the Foreign Ministers of France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Syria, and with the US Secretary of State.  He also met with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.  In addition to Iraq, bilateral discussions focused on related regional issues, the Middle East, Myanmar, Darfur, Lebanon and Somalia.

**Gambari -- Myanmar

The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, arrived in Myanmar on Saturday, carrying a specific message for Senior General Than Shwe from the Secretary-General.

Gambari met today with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, U Nyan Win, for the second time in two days.  They discussed future cooperation between the Government and the UN country team.  The two first met on Sunday to discuss the Government’s response so far to the expectations of the international community following the recent crisis.

Gambari also met on Sunday with U Aung Kyi, Minister for Labour and Minister for Relations.  They had an extensive and detailed exchange on the latter’s discussions with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on an agreed framework for meaningful dialogue.

Upon arrival, at his request, Gambari met UN Resident Coordinator for Myanmar, Charles Petrie, who briefed him on the UN Country Team’s assessment of the situation, as well as the Country Team’s reaction to the letter from the Government concerning the Resident Coordinator.

Gambari conveyed the Secretary-General’s support for the Country Team and the Resident Coordinator and the important work they continue to do to improve the socioeconomic and humanitarian situation. 

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning heard a briefing in its consultations by Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen about the Secretary-General’s recent report on the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004), concerning Lebanon.

In that report, the Secretary-General says that political dialogue must enable the election of a new president before the constitutional deadline of 24 November.  He also expresses his concern at signs that most political parties in Lebanon are apparently preparing for the possible further deterioration of the situation.

Mr. Roed-Larsen will speak to you at the stakeout, and the Security Council President also intends to read a press statement on Lebanon.

** Sudan

We have as our guest Ahmad Fawzi, who just came back from Sirte where the Darfur peace talks process was launched.

The UN team in Sirte reports that discussions there are ongoing with the parties; today the focus was on power-sharing issues, and tomorrow, they are expected to start on wealth-sharing.

The United Nations also has a team in Juba, which is working with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) to advance the Darfur peace process.

Ahmad can give you a first hand assessment of where these efforts stand in a few minutes.

Regarding the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the UN Mission in the Sudan reports that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, had met last week in Juba with the Sudan’s First Vice-President and President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, and reiterated the readiness of the United Nations to do its utmost to assist in ensuring a successful implementation of that agreement.

Salva Kiir is expected to be at UN headquarters tomorrow.  We are trying to get him to a media stakeout for you.

**Deputy Secretary-General in Addis Ababa

The Deputy Secretary-General, in Addis Ababa, appealed for a positive spirit of inter-agency collaboration and partnership in support of the African Union and NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

Speaking at the eighth regional consultation meeting of UN agencies and organizations working in support of the African Union and NEPAD, the Deputy Secretary-General said: “We must use all possible resources to support Africa’s development.”

She went on to say that: “When our many assets are brought into an integrated and more effective whole, the United Nations can better support post-conflict reconstruction efforts as well as the efforts of African States to achieve durable peace, sustainable development and human rights for all their people.”

**Democratic Republic of Congo

On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a major step in consolidating peace in the north-eastern region of the country, the UN Mission there this weekend transferred 16 former commanders of Ituri armed groups by special flight to Kinshasa

The former militia fighters include Peter Karim of the Front des Nationalistes Integrationnistes; Cobra Matata of Front de Resistance Patriotique en Ituri; and Mathieu Ngudjolo of Mouvement Revolutionnaire Congolais.

The 16 will receive training in Kinshasa while the majority of their disarmed fighters (about 300 men) will join the so-called “brassage” process in the town of Kitona.  Another 44 Ituri ex-combatants were flown by the Congolese Government to the Kitona brassage site on Saturday. 

** Nigeria

Today in Abuja, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UNDP are finalizing details of an agreement with the Government of Nigeria to start a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impact of oil exploitation in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta.

The assessment will be completed in late 2008.  The decision to launch it follows a request by Nigeria and is part of a broader government-led peace and reconciliation process in Ogoniland.  The UNEP teams will include both international and Nigerian experts, and will be assisted by Ogoni communities in the course of the project.

UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, explained in a statement that the project will identify, evaluate and minimize the immediate and long-term impacts of oil contamination on the people and ecosystems of Ogoniland.  We have a press release from UNEP upstairs.

** Afghanistan

On Afghanistan, the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan says that more than 1.4 million square metres of minefields were cleared in that country last month.  The Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan located and destroyed 485 anti-personnel mines, 17 anti-tank mines and more than 7,700 pieces of unexploded ordnance.  We have more details in a press release upstairs.

**Chemical Weapons Convention

In a statement to the twelfth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Secretary-General urged all Governments that have not yet done so to accede to the Convention without delay.  He also stressed that, in an effort to build a world free of cruel weapons, it is equally important for all States Parties to adopt and enhance national implementation measures as required by the Convention.

**Conventional Weapons Convention

The Secretary-General also congratulated the opening of the first conference of the High Contracting Parties [to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War], which kicked off today in Geneva.

In his statement, the Secretary-General said that the existence of explosive remnants of war is of no military benefit and that it is in the interests of all to ensure that their pernicious hazards to people and the environment are minimized and, where possible, eliminated.

**UNICEF -- Cluster Munitions

And on this first Global Day of Action on Cluster Munitions, UNICEF has issued an urgent call to Governments, encouraging them to develop a legally binding instrument prohibiting these weapons.

The agency notes that children make up a high proportion of casualties caused by cluster munitions.  Often unusually shaped and brightly coloured, they can prove fatally attractive to children and their natural curiosity.  We have more information on that upstairs.

**Guest at Noon Tomorrow

Our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, who will brief you on the Secretary-General’s plans to strengthen the Department of Political Affairs.

We’ll have your questions.  Let them be short, because we first have Janos, then we have our guest today, Ahmad Fawzi. Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Michèle, given that the situation in Pakistan is growing worse than what it is in Burma, Myanmar now, will the Secretary-General at any point in time think about appointing a special representative or a DPA representative to go to Pakistan to press upon the Pakistan Government to release more than 1,500 political prisoners and 500 human rights activists who have been detained?

Spokesperson:  I cannot answer that question at this point.  What I can say is that the Secretary-General is following very closely the situation -- he has been following the situation -- and he will continue to do so.  As for the decision to send someone -- a special envoy -- such a decision has not been taken yet.  Yes?

Question:  Do you know anything about the circumstances that the rapporteur was put under house arrest or what they were told -- anything more on that?

Spokesperson:  We don’t.  We do know about the arrest, but we don’t have any additional information.

Question:  How did you find out about the arrest?

Spokesperson:  We were informed by our people in Pakistan.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, has the Secretary-General personally spoken to General Musharraf since the imposition of emergency state to convey his concern?

Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.  Yes?

Question:  Michèle, General Musharraf has now, in fact, established a dictatorship and has proceeded to massive arrest of opposition leaders, as well as judges.  Why aren’t we hearing a strong condemnation coming from the United Nations?

Spokesperson:  I just read a statement about what the Secretary felt he should say at this point.

Correspondent:  That’s not a condemnation.

Spokesperson:  Well, I think those are very strong terms that he used.  Yes?

Question:  Does the Secretary-General call for General Musharraf to reverse the decision on declaring emergency rule?

Spokesperson:  Well, you can have the text of the statement.  You were not here when I read it.  And the statement…

Question:  Does it address the type of question I just asked?

Spokesperson:  He urged the Pakistani authorities to immediately release those detained. 

Question:  Right.  Okay.  That doesn’t really answer my question.  Does the Secretary-General call for General Musharraf to reverse his decision to declare emergency rule?

Spokesperson:  Well, he said he would like to see early steps for a return to a democratic rule.  That’s what he said.  And to hold parliamentary elections as scheduled, which is a return to constitutional rule.  Yes?

Question:  On this report from the DRC of people demonstrating outside a MONUC camp and one of them being killed.  They said they were there three weeks without any humanitarian assistance, at least that’s what a report says.  What, what…  How could that be, or…  They were outside a camp in North Kivu…

Spokesperson:  No one was killed.  That I can assure you.  No one was killed.  We checked with the mission this morning.  No one was killed.  I think there were shots fired in the air by the police and the report that there were multiple people wounded is also untrue.

Question:  Also on the Congo, does the, does the UN have any knowledge…  There’s supposedly the regional, Uganda, DRC, Rwanda and Burundi are meeting about Mr. Nkunda…  It’s like a process, a meeting this week, I suppose to decide what to do about it.  Is the UN part of that meeting?

Spokesperson:  I can clarify this for you.  I don’t have the answer.

[The Spokesperson later said that the United Nations is not aware of any such meeting.]

Question:  Yesterday they released three soldiers who had been picked up by the PKK.  Does the SG have anything to say about this release?

Spokesperson:  We don’t have anything specific to say about it, no.  Actually, I gave a statement on Friday about this, about the issue.  And we still stand on that statement.  Ah, yes?

Question:  Just on Sudan before we get to our guest:  In terms of satisfaction with attendance and other progress with talks so far, what is the Secretary’s stance on that, in terms of before we had lowered expectations before going into these talks and now that they’re…

Spokesperson:  You’re talking about the Darfur peace talks?

Question:  Yes, the Darfur peace talks…

Spokesperson:  Why don’t we just wait for Ahmad Fawzi to answer your question, which I am sure he will gladly do.  Yes?

Question:  Oh, I’m sorry I wasn’t asking a question. 

Spokesperson:  Very well.  So first, Janos, please.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

I’ve got a couple of things I want to flag for you.  First of all, good afternoon.

**General Assembly

The General Assembly began a plenary meeting this morning.  First it took action on the report of its General Committee, which was actually the third such report that it had.  And it accepted the recommendation of the Committee -- both recommendations -- without a vote.  They both dealt with the allocation of items.  One is the taking up of the Report of the Human Rights Council.  That has been allocated to the Third Committee -- and in fact the Third Committee will start discussing this item this afternoon with an introduction of the Report by the Human Rights Council’s President.

The other item is the allocation of the Peacebuilding Commission’s report to the Fifth Committee for the sole purpose of considering the question of financing field missions of the Peacebuilding Commission.  If you remember, the Peacebuilding Commission’s annual report was discussed by the plenary on 10 October -- and the report is A/62/137 -- and paragraph 43 of that report deals with field missions and it was this part, or based on this part, that this item is also allocated now to the Fifth Committee.

Once decision was taken on the General Committee’s report on the allocation of these two items, then the General Assembly took up two items.  One on the support by the United Nations system for the efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies.

And the other item is the situation in Afghanistan.  Both have relevant Secretary-General reports and both involve draft resolutions.  The first one, draft resolution L.9, the second, L.7.  The Assembly just finished the discussion on the democracy item and is looking at the situation in Afghanistan.  Both of those draft resolutions are on the racks.  I don’t want to go too much into detail.  What you must know is the issue on the democracy item is something that comes up every two years, and the situation in Afghanistan is something that has been with the General Assembly since 1980. 

**Main Committees

As regards the Main Committees.

The First Committee wrapped up its work last week.  I think I mentioned that already on Friday.  And it adopted 52 draft texts – 49 draft resolutions and 3 draft decisions.

The Second Committee is continuing its discussion on sustainable development.

The Third Committee might be something you’d be interested in.  It’ll start its work this week this afternoon, as I mentioned with the Report of the Human Rights Council.  But a lot of you were asking about draft decisions on various human rights items, and those are up on the web of the Committees’ website, as regards to the status of those draft resolutions.  While all of them are equally important – I’m only cherry-picking because some of you asked about specific items.  For example the one concerning the use of the death penalty – it’s actually out now in a document form on the racks, L.29.  You can pick that up.  Some of the others you’re interested in are not yet out in a document form.  They will be out very soon – probably later today or tomorrow.  These deal with the situation of human rights, for example, in the Islamic Republic of Iran or in Myanmar, or, for example, in the DPRK.  As I said, this is just in connection with the questions that you had – not, as regards to the importance as considered to other draft resolutions that are on the Committees’ agenda.

Fifth Committee is looking at the Administration of Justice and it is going to listen to an introduction and it will go into a general discussion followed by informal consultations.  The thing I want to flag on that for you is that there are two important reports.  One that has been out for quite some time,  it’s A/62.294 and in the summary of that report – right at the very beginning – it gives you the most important aspect of the Administration of Justice.  If you remember, the General Assembly, in a resolution, Resolution 61/261, decided to establish a new, independent, transparent, professionalized adequately resourced and decentralized system of Administration of Justice for the United Nations.  And the new system is to be implemented no later than January 2009.  So, that’s the basis on which the Fifth Committee is now looking at this issue.  It also has a relatively lengthy 40-page report from the ACABQ out, which you can pick up on the racks – it’s A/62/7/add.7.  It has a very good annex part that gives you a lot of details as regards how this new system is supposed to look.

Please also remember that the Sixth Committee is looking at the same issue:  Administration of Justice.  But it is looking at it from a legal point of view. 

So that was the Fifth Committee.  The Sixth Committee is continuing its discussion on the report of the International Law Commission.

I’ll stop right there and any questions you may have I’ll try to answer.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Actually, on the Fifth Committee, I thought it was…  There was this budget…  The budget for UNAMID, the Darfur mission, was supposed to come up today, or this week?  And I didn’t see it in the Journal.

Spokesperson:  That’s right.  That has been postponed.  The report of the SG on the (UNAMID) budget itself is out.  You have seen that, I think we talked about that.  It’s the ACABQ report that is not out yet.  Once that’s going to be out, available in all languages, it’ll be taken up by the Committee.  Yes, Laura?

Question:  Do you have any more information about when the death penalty resolution may come to a vote in the GA?

Spokesperson:  No, it can come anytime between now and, I guess, the end of November, when the Committee is supposed to finish its work.  It depends on the various discussions amongst the Member States.  It took -- as most of you know -- it took considerable time, I think even amongst the Member States, in informal informals to get this draft text together and there may be more discussions and one hears of rumours of various, possible amendments.  So it depends on how that is going to go.  And if you remember that when it was discussed, I think, during the fifty-fourth session, the same scenario played out – that it took an extensive amount of time to discuss the draft that was there at the time in front of the Committee, which was not on moratorium, but was on abolishment (of the death penalty) and in the end, as a result of those discussions, in fact what happened was that the sponsors decided to withdraw their draft.  I’m not saying this is going to happen here by no means.  But what I’m trying to say here is that probably we’re looking at extensive discussions on this issue.

Question:  What reasons were given, with respect to not readying the new justice system until 2009?

Spokesperson:  What was the reason for not having the Administration of Justice -- the new system -- only available, only introduced from 1 January?

Question:  2009?

Spokesperson:  2009…  I think it’s simply a case of just preparations, working out the new system.  As you see, even now it will take – just based on what one has heard already in the Sixth Committee, and if you read the ACABQ report then you will see that there is considerable discussion as regards both to the legal and to the administrative and budgetary aspects.  So it’s just a simple question of, I think – simple as in quotations – working out all the details.  And that will take considerable time.  Okay, last question then, because…

Question:  I think this may be the last day to ask this…  Friday and today there was a big, in the, in the, in the General Assembly…  There seemed to be some kind of contention around whether to send this Human Rights Council Report to the Third Committee or direct to the plenary.  And some, some delegations said they hadn’t been consulted, or didn’t feel there had been enough process.  So I’m wonder, one…  I mean it wasn’t your normal debate…  There was real contention there…  Did the President of the Assembly consult with all of these…  I think it …  You know it was Switzerland…  A variety of them said they weren’t part of the discussion…

Spokesperson:  That’s correct:  Switzerland, Lichtenstein, I think it was also Sweden, Mexico and…

Question:  What, what, what, what was his view, in terms of the import of sending this Human Rights Council, instead of the plenary, only to the Third Committee.  Did he see that as a bad precedent to the Human Rights Council?

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t think it’s seen as a bad precedent or a precedent at all.  If you remember, last year there was a discussion, a considerable discussion already on how to allocate this item.  And there it was split allocation between the plenary and the Third Committee.  Some countries, even at that time, it was discussed – if I remember – it was verbally definitely mentioned that this should not be considered as a precedent for future discussions, which again is another issue – and let me just put a sidebar here:  you can always put that in writing or you can always raise that verbally to say that this is not a precedent, but we all know at the same time that the General Assembly, with all its committees, is a master of it’s own deliberation.  So there’s probably not even really a need to raise this issue – this does not constitute a precedent – because the Assembly and the Member States can decide whatever they want at whatever point, basically.  But the point here is that maybe for some Member States, it was considered to be seen as some sort of precedent – that you have this split allocation.

When this session began – the sixty-second – there were already discussions whether this was the way it was going to go.  And it took considerable time to discuss with Member States how to work with the Human Rights Council report.  And ultimately what was decided, was to have it allocated to the Third Committee.  Some countries, obviously the ones that took the floor this morning, were not necessarily comfortable with it or not necessarily all happy with it as they voiced in their statement.  But some were, as you listen to Egypt, Egypt was.  But they, at the same time, also decided not to block consensus.  That’s why it was adopted without a vote.  What’s going to happen next year, again, we don’t know. 

Let me stop right there.  Thank you very much.

* *** *

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