14 February 2008


14 February 2008
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 Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by Deputy Spokesperson of Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  I’m sorry I’m a little late.  I was waiting for some last-minute statements, of which I have many today.  I’ll start with an appointment by the Secretary-General.

**Secretary-General Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Ray Chambers of the United States as his Special Envoy for Malaria, who is joining us as our guest today.  In fact, he is already here so we’ll try get through this briefing quickly, as well as the General Assembly Spokesperson’s briefing. 

The Secretary-General attaches high priority to concrete action being taken to control and stop malaria, and Mr. Chambers will help the Secretary-General to raise the issue on the international political and development agendas.

Mr. Chambers is a philanthropist and humanitarian whose efforts have focused on at-risk youth.  He currently serves as Co-Chairman of ‘Malaria No More’, an organization which he has founded.  We have more information on Mr. Chambers in his bio upstairs.  And, as I said, he is waiting to come and speak to you. 

**Secretary-General Statement on Lebanon

I will start with a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Lebanon, which we issued just several hours ago.

On the third anniversary of the terrorist attack that took the lives of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others, the Secretary-General stands in solidarity with the families of the victims and with the people and Government of Lebanon.  He reaffirms the commitment of the United Nations to assist Lebanon in establishing the truth and in bringing to justice those who instigated, planned and executed this and other callous political assassinations and terrorist attacks in the country.  He continues with determination to prepare for the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, convinced that impunity must not prevail and that the tribunal process cannot be reversed.

This solemn anniversary comes at a perilous moment for Lebanon.  The Secretary-General believes there could be no greater homage paid to the memory of Rafiq Hariri than for the parties in Lebanon to redouble their efforts to achieve national reconciliation and to ensure the stability, security and prosperity for which Rafiq Hariri worked so hard during his lifetime.

**Secretary-General Statement on Special Tribunal for Lebanon

And regarding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, we issued a statement last night, in which the Secretary-General says the following:

The Secretary-General established the Management Committee of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.  This Committee, which will inter alia provide advice and policy direction on all non-judicial aspects of the operations of the Special Tribunal and review and approve its annual budget, is composed of the main donors of the Tribunal. 

The Secretary-General believes that this step, along with other steps announced in December of last year -– the selection of the judges, the appointment of the Prosecutor, the finalization of a headquarters agreement with the Government of the Netherlands enabling the Tribunal to be based in that country, and agreement on a building near The Hague to house the Tribunal -– are decisive landmarks in the process of making the Special Tribunal a reality.

The Secretary-General also wishes to announce that he has received indications that expected contributions to the Special Tribunal will meet the budgetary requirements for the establishment and first 12 months of operations of the Tribunal.  This will assist greatly in the effort by the Secretariat to establish the Special Tribunal in a timely manner as requested by the Security Council in resolution 1757 (2007).  The development, as well as the others previously set out, confirms the Secretary-General’s belief in the irreversibility of the establishment of the Tribunal.  Both statements are available upstairs.

**Secretary-General Statement on Relocation of UNMEE

And I now have another statement issued just right now attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the temporary relocation of personnel and equipment of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).

The temporary relocation of personnel and equipment of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), from Eritrea to designated relocation sites on the Ethiopian side of the border has begun.  Advance units of UNMEE started moving across the border, by road, on 11 February, while the main body started its relocation earlier today.  So far, some of UNMEE’s convoys have been allowed to cross the border without any obstruction, while others have been stopped and later allowed to cross or asked to turn back.

Yesterday, the Secretariat discussed with the Permanent Representative of Eritrea the arrangements for the relocation process.  UNMEE is also engaging the Eritrean authorities, in order to ensure that appropriate instructions are issued to the Eritrean troops in the Temporary Security Zone and officials at the crossing points, to facilitate the movement of our personnel and equipment.

The Secretary-General stresses the important conflict-prevention role UNMEE plays in promoting regional stability.  However, without the fuel needed to conduct its operations, the Mission has been effectively immobilized and rendered unable to carry out its critical functions.  The Secretary-General regrets that the relocation has become necessary despite the letter he addressed to President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea on 21 January seeking his urgent intervention to resolve the situation. 

And we have copies of this statement upstairs in the Spokesperson’s Office.

**Secretary-General in Washington, D.C.

The Secretary-General, as we announced earlier, is this morning attending a memorial ceremony for Congressman Tom Lantos on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  In his remarks the Secretary-General praised the Congressman’s leadership on challenges confronting humankind, from AIDS to Darfur, and for his work in building a better understanding of the United Nations in this country.  “We have lost a voice that binds us to the very reasons the United Nations was founded,” the Secretary-General said.

The Secretary-General is expected to meet soon with the Sudanese Foreign Minister. 

This afternoon he is expected to address the Model United Nations in North America, which is sponsored by the Georgetown International Relations Association.

The Secretary-General is also expected to meet with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later tonight.

**Secretary-General Statement on Signing of UNAMID Status of Forces Agreement

And just in connection with Sudan, we have another statement attributable to the Spokesperson on the signing of the Status of Forces Agreement.

The Secretary-General is pleased to announce the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the United Nations, African Union and the Government of Sudan, which was signed by the Joint Special Representative Rodolphe Adada and Sudanese Foreign Minister Deng Alor on 10 February.  The signing of this Agreement represents a positive step forward in our efforts to deploy the United Nations-African Union Mission, UNAMID, and the Secretary-General would like to congratulate all parties involved in the negotiations leading to the conclusion of SOFA.

**Security Council

And turning to events here, the Security Council, as you know, has scheduled a private meeting at 3 p.m. this afternoon on Kosovo.

And right now, Council members are holding consultations in connection with the attendance of members at this afternoon’s session.

** Iraq

At the Iraqi Parliament today, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, announced that the UN Mission there will help select the remaining eight directors of Iraq’s governorate election offices.  This follows the passing of new legislation calling for governorate elections before 1 October.

De Mistura’s announcement follows concerns raised by the United Nations and many Iraqi political leaders about how the previous selection of directors was conducted last September.  Qualified candidates will be able to apply through the UN Mission’s website, and the process should be completed in 43 days, depending on the number of interested candidates. 

Once the directors are appointed in a transparent and professional manner, the Independent High Electoral Commission in Iraq should be fully operational and ready for the much anticipated elections, according to de Mistura.  And there’s more on this in a press release from Iraq.

**Occupied Palestinian Territory

The Secretary-General today also sent a message to the 2008 Session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which is opening today.

In that message, which was delivered by his Chef de Cabinet, Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General said the decision by Israel to introduce a full closure of the Gaza Strip has cut off an already destitute population from vitally needed supplies, and the recent breach of the border between Gaza and Egypt showed the degree of desperation among ordinary Gazans.

He reminded Israel of its obligations towards the civilian population of Gaza under international law, including the laws of occupation, which continue to apply to the extent of Israel's control over the territory and its population.  There’s a full message upstairs in the Spokesperson’s Office.

In related news, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes today arrived in Ramallah, in the West Bank, to begin a five-day visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel. 

He said his visit was an act of solidarity with the people of the region, who have suffered great misery and insecurity.  He said many people in Gaza are hovering on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, while in the West Bank, closures are destroying economic life.  Meanwhile, in Sderot, whole communities are living in fear of rocket barrages.  The present situation cannot continue, Holmes said.

Tomorrow, he plans to visit two Gaza crossings which are currently closed and a Gaza hospital, whose ability to provide adequate medical care has suffered from reduced fuel, electricity, medicine and supplies.  We expect more on Holmes’ visit later this afternoon.

** Myanmar

And just to bring you up to date on yesterday afternoon’s meeting on the “Group of Friends of Myanmar”, as you know the Secretary-General convened the second meeting of the Group of Friends.  And member States welcomed the opportunity to meet and reiterated their full support to the Secretary-General for the implementation of his good offices mandate.

The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, is expected to travel to the region next week to continue his consultations with member States, including visits to China, Indonesia, Singapore and Japan.  Members of the Group expressed their hope that the Myanmar Government would invite the Special Adviser to return to Myanmar as soon as possible.


And at the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) this morning, leaders of Timor-Leste’s political parties reached a consensus on the three main areas, starting with a unanimous condemnation of the attacks on Monday.

In the meeting hosted by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, all leaders further agreed that strong action should be taken to apprehend the perpetrators and that a thorough investigation was required.  They also noted that any investigation should seek to unveil the motives behind the attack, identify the perpetrators, and bring the perpetrators to justice.  And there’s more on that upstairs.

**International Atomic Energy Agency

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it deployed a team of nuclear safety experts to Nigeria last year.  At the request of the Government, they secured and transported several potentially hazardous used radioactive sources that had been used for cancer treatment and insect irradiation.  IAEA notes that it makes trips like this almost every month to recover disused radioactive material that could be inappropriately used.  There’s more information on this upstairs.

**Other Press Releases

We also have updates on recent efforts to assist victims of heavy floods and rains in Bolivia.  And we also have a UN Population Fund (UNFPA) release on a new fund aimed at boosting global efforts to reduce the number of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth.  And we have a FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] press release on world cereal production.

**Women’s Expedition to Mt. Everest

And just two more items.

From UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], we have an item saying that a group of 13 women representing a range of Nepal's castes and ethnicities will attempt to climb Mt. Everest in the spring of 2008, aiming to draw attention to the effects of climate change in the Himalayas, as well as encourage and empower women and mountaineering.

This will be the largest female expedition team to date, organized exclusively by women, including the coordination executive, technical experts, kitchen staff and mule drivers.

UNDP and the World Food Programme (WFP) have together raised nearly one quarter of the $200,000 needed to finance the expedition.  The women’s group is currently in the process of fundraising and hopes to begin their ascent in early spring.

**Investor Summit

And here at UN Headquarters, the 2008 Investor Summit on Climate Risk is taking place.  More than 450 institutional investors, Wall Street leaders and CEOs from around the world have gathered to consider the scale and urgency of climate change risks, as well as the economic opportunities of a global transition to a clean energy future.

In a message in today’s session, the Secretary-General stressed the need for a comprehensive, global response to climate change.  “No single organization or any one country can win this battle on its own,” he said.  The Secretary-General noted that the shift towards a greener future is still in its infancy.  The ability of the financial community to determine investment flows gives it great influence over the pace of innovation, technological change and adaptation in this area.  He urged those gathered to join with the United Nations in crafting a forceful yet flexible response to climate change.

**Press Conference Today

In connection with this Summit, institutional investors from Connecticut, Florida, California and the British Telecom Pension Scheme are holding a press conference here at 1:45 p.m. today to announce the Investor Action Plan.  And there’s more information on this at the Media Documents Centre.

That’s all I have for you.  I have Janos here, who will talk about the General Assembly.  And I have the new Special Envoy for Malaria.

So, quick questions?  Ok, let’s start with Masood.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I hope once and for all we are able to put this issue to rest.  It’s about the helicopters for Darfur.  It’s been going back and forth that we have requested at the United Nations, that DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] has requested, but they have not gotten the helicopters.  The United States says that they haven’t received any request.  Mr. Guéhenno said that the requests have been made.  Where does it stand?  Has the request for helicopters made to the United States been written?  Is it in writing?  Or was it just verbal?

Spokesperson:  I have nothing further than what we’ve said on this issue.  As you know, the United Nations, from the Secretary-General on down, has been on a vigorous quest for these helicopters.  And the last, I think, Mr. Guéhenno spoke to you at the stakeout, and the Secretary-General, himself, I think he mentioned a potential contributor.  And I think that’s where things stand.

Question:  But the thing is that from what the United States is saying, there were no requests made.

Spokesperson:  Masood, the United Nations, as I said before and I’ll say it again, has approached every country that can be a potential contributor on this and continues to do so.  So far, we are desperately lacking in this vital asset. 

Question:  But this issue…

Spokesperson:  Can we go around because I’m really running out of time.  Can I give everyone one question?

Question:  On Gaza, the Secretary-General has issued a statement on the Palestinian issue.  Has the Secretary-General been in touch with any Israeli top officials like the Prime Minister or Defence Minister?

Spokesperson:  As you know, he has been and he continuously is.  I don’t have any calls from today.  He just has flown down to Washington.  He’s now in a luncheon with the Sudanese Foreign Minister.

Question:  Just a follow-up on Darfur and regarding the Agreement you mentioned that was signed with the Government of Sudan.  Can you confirm that after signing this Agreement that the restrictions imposed by the Government of Sudan on the composition of UNAMID and on the operation of the helicopters when they are available are dropped now?

Spokesperson:  Well, SOFA itself is a public document.  So you’re free to look at it.  We have copies of it upstairs.  As you know, SOFA is an agreement that is important agreement between the UN, in this case the AU, and the Government of Sudan for the operation of the Mission.  In terms of the composition, the composition issue is outside the framework of this operational agreement.

Question:  It would just be nice to know, we understand that the Secretary-General asked Jean-Marie Guéhenno to go with him to Washington.  Can you just confirm that that has happened?  Why has he been asked to go? 

Spokesperson:  It’s because, as I just mentioned, he’s having a working luncheon with the Foreign Minister of Sudan.  And the discussions there are expected to focus on the implementation of SOFA, which we just mentioned, and on UNAMID operations there.  And for that, of course, the top peacekeeping official would be a vital adviser.

[Later, the Deputy Spokesperson clarified that Jean-Marie Guéhenno was here in New York to participate in meetings but that there was an official from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in Washington, D.C.]

Question:  In connection with the statement of the Secretary-General on the third anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon, he said that “we reaffirm the commitment of the United Nations to assist Lebanon in establishing the truth and in bringing to justice those who instigated, planned and executed this and other callous political assassinations and terrorist attacks”.  Could you be more specific about the other incidents that could be investigated? 

Spokesperson:  I have nothing beyond this statement that we read for you today.

Question:  The threat by Egyptians to shoot any Palestinian crossing in the Gaza Strip, what’s the position of the United Nations?  Do you have any reaction to that?

Spokesperson:  I have not seen the reports, but, if there are press reports, I have not seen them yet.  Ok, let’s start with Rima and then go to Benny and then Matthew and then if we can wind up so we can get our guest.  Thank you.  Ok, Rima?

Question:  I had asked this question on Tuesday, but I didn’t receive a response from the United Nations Spokesperson’s Office.  President Bush is coming back from a number of peacekeeping operations in African countries.  Has the Secretary-General offered any comment on that issue?

Spokesperson:  As you know, the Secretary-General is in Washington today.  He will be meeting with a wide range of leaders there, including members of the Senate and House who deal with funding issues of the UN.  So let’s see if we can get you a read out on some of these meetings.  Benny?

Question:  A couple of questions.  First of all, is the name of the envoy to Afghanistan going to be on the itinerary of the Secretary-General in Washington?

Spokesperson:  I have nothing on the naming of the new Special Representative for Afghanistan.  I’m sure Afghanistan will figure in the talks that he’s going to have down there.

Question:  As to follow up on the question on the others in the Hariri case, which is a Security Council resolution, of course, that other related assassinations should be investigated by the UN.  Does the UN plan to investigate the assassination of Mugniyah?

Spokesperson:  I have nothing beyond the statement today, Benny.  The Security Council, as you say, the mandate stands.  I have nothing further on this today. 

[The Spokesperson later clarified that resolution 1757 (2007) states that the mandate of the Special Tribunal is to prosecute persons responsible for the attack of 14 February 2005 resulting in the death of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and in the death or injury of other persons.  According to article 1 of that resolution, if the Tribunal finds that other attacks that occurred in Lebanon between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005, or any later date decided by the parties (Lebanese Government and the UN) with the consent of the Security Council, are connected in accordance with the principles of criminal justice and are of a nature and gravity similar to the attack of 14 February 2005, it shall also have jurisdiction over persons responsible for such attacks.  This connection includes but is not limited to a combination of the following elements:  criminal intent (motive), the purpose behind the attacks, the nature of the victims targeted, the pattern of the attacks (modus operandi), and the perpetrators.]

Question:  Arsenio Ramos-Horta, the brother of the shot President of Timor-Leste, has said publicly that the UN force there did nothing to help his brother and stood by the roadblocks.  This has been reported all over the Australian press.  What is the UN’s response to the questions now raised by the brother of the President?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think I have anything immediately on what you’re probably reading in press reports.  But I think we’ve been saying there is an investigation under way and I’ll have to find out the results of it.  But as we’ve been mentioning to you, the Mission did not have direct responsibility for the security, as you know. 

[The Spokesperson later added that, according to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and contrary to press reports, UN Police (UNPOL), along with Timor-Leste’s national police, had responded immediately to a call that there was shooting near the President's residence at 7.  Two UNPOL units arrived at the scene at 7:18.  She noted that the President's residence was at least 15 minutes away from the police station and that international close protection had been removed at the President's direct request.  Regarding the Prime Minister, DPKO added that UNPOL had actively engaged shooters with long arms, and that UNPOL’s actions had allowed the Prime Minister to escape unharmed.]

Question:  I also wanted to ask about Sudan.  On this large procurement contract for the infrastructure, and the infrastructures for UNAMID, is it the case that contractors are being convened to a meeting in Darfur on 17 February in order to bid on a new contract?  And, if so, what is the size and length of the contract?  What are the nationalities of the companies bidding?  Is Lockheed Martin one of the bidders?

Spokesperson:  Let’s see if we can get you something on that.  Ok, last question?

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have a confirmation from UNMIK [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] about plans to announce Kosovo’s independence on Sunday?  And if it is done, how would it impact on UNMIK’s operations?

Spokesperson:  We don’t have anything further on Kosovo today other than the fact that the Security Council is taking up the issue this afternoon.  Obviously, in terms of the UN’s operation in Kosovo, the Secretary-General is monitoring the operation very, very closely.

So, on this note -- I’m sorry I had to rush you -- I’m going to turn to Janos so we can get the Secretary-General’s new Envoy on Malaria. 

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.  Good to see you.

I have three things for you.  One is the wrap up of the climate change conference.  The second is the beginning of the review sessions for the Financing for Development review conference in Doha.  And the third thing is an announcement on a trip to a number of Latin American countries by the President of the General Assembly.

I don’t have anything new on Security Council reform, so if you’re staying for that, I won’t have anything.  I don’t have anything also on the Fifth Committee, apart from what is on the website and what I have said before.

So, on those three things, let’s start with climate change.

**Thematic Debate on Climate Change

Last night, for those of you who stayed until the bitter end, at 9 p.m., the General Assembly did wrap up its informal thematic debate on climate change.

All in all, there were a total of 115 speakers.  The breakdown of that is 107 of those were Member States, 19 of them were on the ministerial level and seven on the vice-minister level.  There were eight observers addressing the session.

The meeting was convened by General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim to give support to the Bali road map process and to stimulate the UN system to create synergies and institutional support for the Bali road map process.  The focus was on triggering partnerships and creating a strategic approach to climate change.

In summing up the three days of discussions, the General Assembly President, in his closing remarks, stressed that the debate had clearly underscored the importance and the urgency of taking immediate practical action to address climate change.

He noted that “over the last three days we have heard some compelling reasons why the United Nations should promote integrated partnerships and approaches with all interested stakeholders, in particular the private sector and local authorities, to successfully overcome the threat of climate change, which presents a threat to our way of life”.

He called on the United Nations Secretariat to respond with policy solutions that could help Member States answer some of the questions posed during the debate, such as how to mainstream climate change into nationally owned development strategies, close the implementation gap and help developing countries adapt to climate change’s inevitable impact, as well as how to stimulate financial flows for adaptation, mitigation and climate-resilient development, and also to strengthen the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or rather, that regime.

In this regard, he proposed to continue the dialogue between Member States and the Secretariat, and asked the Secretary-General to provide, in due course, the General Assembly with a more detailed briefing on efforts to strengthen and coordinate the United Nations activities on climate change.

As part of concrete follow-up actions, President Kerim said that he would hold two additional meetings to consider the specific aspect of climate change.  One would look at the implications as regards vulnerable countries, and the other would focus on corporate responsibility and sustainability.

**Financing for Development

Let me also note that, as regards the outcome of those three days of discussions, it will also feature and will also be fed into the process that the General Assembly and the President of the General Assembly have in preparation for the review conference on financing for development, and also in preparation for the various activities that are linked to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  And with that, let me jump into the second issue that I wanted to raise, and that is financing for development.

The General Assembly today is holding the first of its six review sessions on each chapter of the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development -- this is in preparation to review the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus which is going to be held in Doha, Qatar, from 29 November to 2 December 2008.

Today’s session is looking at mobilizing domestic financial resources for development.  Tomorrow’s session is going to look at chapter two, which is on mobilizing international resources for development.  The other four review sessions will be at a later date.  And I will mention them to you, as well, when they come.

President Kerim noted in his statement this morning to the meeting that the review sessions should focus on progress made to implement the financing for development commitments, and also, the new challenges and emerging issues.  He noted that the summaries of the sessions should prepare the ground for the Doha draft outcome document and that he would circulate this to Member States by the end of July.

In his speech, the President also drew a close linkage between progress on financing for development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  He drew attention to two key challenges:  the need to translate economic growth into human development that creates opportunities and benefits for all -- because growing inequality and the sheer scales of global poverty would create a destabilizing economic and political pressure in many countries.  As the other challenge -- and this goes back to what I was saying just before -- he stressed that climate change was a major threat to long-term prosperity.  In this regard, he noted that the financing for development process, therefore, had a special responsibility to support those countries most affected to adapt to climate change, and, to create incentives for investment in climate-friendly energy production, energy efficiency and new technologies.

He concluded by stressing that addressing the twin challenges of inclusive and sustainable globalization and global warming would require an unprecedented degree of international cooperation and goodwill.

The full text of his speech is available for you upstairs.

If you want more information on the whole financing for development preparatory process, it’s available on the UN website if you go to www.un.org/esa/ffd.

**General Assembly President’s Latin America trip

Finally, let me flag the trip of the General Assembly President to Latin America.  President Srgjan Kerim will begin a five-nation Latin American trip on Saturday.  The five countries on the list are:  Brazil; Argentina; Uruguay; Chile; and Peru.  The focus will be on the priority topics of the sixty-second session -- especially climate change, financing for development, the Millennium Development Goals and UN reform.  During the two-week visit, the General Assembly President will meet with key Government officials, foreign policy experts and UN country team members.

As regards Uruguay, let me just mention that it is important to note that this is one of the eight pilot countries of the UN’s system-wide coherence efforts -- so the President is going to see this aspect of UN reforms, how it is playing out in concrete format, in practice, on the country level.

One final thing on the Latin American trip that might make it interesting and may be good for you to note.  Some of you may know this already; others, it’s good to keep in mind, is that the next President of the General Assembly is supposed to be coming from the Latin American and Caribbean region.

As I said, I don’t have anything new on Security Council reform, apart from the fact that Member States are continuing their consultations, and they have not approached the President’s office about any new developments.

For the Fifth Committee, please check the website.  What we know is that they will be meeting in resumed session from the 3 to 28 March.  All new developments will be featured on the website, including the actual agenda, etc.  That will probably be in at least a week’s time or more.  That’s all I have.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Do you think Hugo Chavez will be the next General Assembly President?

Spokesperson:  That’s an interesting proposal.  I have not heard any names being tossed around yet.  But, as you know, this is up to the regional group.  It is up to them to come up with a presidential candidate that they feel would best represent their regional group, that would get the support of their regional group, and would be an individual that would work best with the Member States and would get the support of the Member States because, ultimately, it is through the General Assembly that the President is elected.

Question:  I’d like to know the cost of General Assembly meetings, like yesterday until 9 p.m.  Does it go by hourly cost?

Spokesperson:  I’ll come back to you.  I know you have asked this before, and we have asked General Assembly affairs to look into this, and we have been asking them.  The moment I get something from them, I’ll come back to you.

Question:  Just to follow up on costs.  On this forthcoming trip, is this entirely UN and GA business?  And what is the cost of the trip and the size of the entourage, etc.?  Is there any hybrid nature to the trip, and is he doing anything else for the (inaudible) or like the Naples trip to Florida?

Spokesperson:  This is an official trip based on invitations by the five countries.  As I think I’ve mentioned to you at least on a one-on-one, that when it comes to official trips of the President, these are covered by the budget of the Office of the President, which is roughly about $280,000 per year, or per term (approved by Member States).  This is administered through the UN Secretariat through the Department of General Assembly affairs (Department for General Assembly and Conference Management -- DGACM).  Now, when it comes to official visits, often what happens, of course, is that the President is invited, and some of the costs may be covered by the host.  So, in that sense, if you’re looking for the word hybrid, the hybrid may come in that context.  Part of the cost is covered by the host, if that in fact is the case.  It’s a very small entourage.  It means the President and one staff member from the President’s office.  That’s what we have.  And he will get all the support that he can get from the hosts, plus the various UN entities on the ground.

Question:  Just on this particular trip, if we can get it, whether you have, whether at the end or at the beginning, or in the middle, the actual information on the hybrid nature?

Spokesperson:  As the five stages develop, I will try to brief you on the substance because, to be quite honest from our point of view, that’s a little bit more important than the actual cost.  I understand that, from your point of view, you’re looking for transparency.  You want to see where every dime and nickel is spent.  But I’ll try to get that for you, both the substantive part, and also the cost part.

Thank you very much.

* *** *

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