22 February 2008


22 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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by Associate Spokesperson for Secretary-General

Good afternoon.

I understand that we have with us today students from Suffolk University in Boston.  Welcome.  Glad to have you around.

And after this, we will have a briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President, Janos Tisovszky, but first, we have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General concerning Turkey and Iraq.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Turkey/ Iraq

The Secretary-General is concerned by the latest escalation of tension along the Turkish-Iraqi border.  While conscious of Turkey’s concerns, he reiterates his appeal for utmost restraint, and for respect of the international borders between Iraq and Turkey.  He also repeats his previous calls for an immediate end to continued incursions by PKK [Kurdish Workers Party] elements carrying out terrorist attacks in Turkey from northern Iraq.  The protection of civilian life on both sides of the border remains the paramount concern.  The Secretary-General appeals to the Governments of Iraq and Turkey to work together to promote peace and stability along their border.

**Security Council

The Security Council, following yesterday afternoon’s consultations, issued a press statement, in which Council members condemned in the strongest terms the mob attacks against embassies in Belgrade, which have resulted in damage to embassy premises and have endangered diplomatic personnel.  Council members welcomed the steps taken by the Serbian authorities to restore order and protect diplomatic property and personnel.

The Council had received a briefing yesterday afternoon by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet about the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea.  Afterwards, the Council President told the press that Council members condemned Eritrea’s systematic violations of successive Security Council resolutions.

** Eritrea

Today, the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea says that UN peacekeepers in Eritrea are continuing to regroup in the capital Asmara.  The Mission says there were no attempted or perceived obstructions of this effort yesterday.  UN convoys en route to Asmara are moving troops, equipment and supplies from all sectors of the Temporary Security Zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea.


Concerning Darfur, the UN refugee agency said it was shocked at the level of destruction in the West Darfur town of Sirba, which came under a Sudanese Army attack earlier this month.  The attack also affected the nearby villages of Silea and Abou Sourouj, leading to the displacement of a large number of civilians.  The UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] statement comes at the conclusion of a humanitarian mission in the affected area.  Residents there told the UN team that fleeing into neighbouring Chad was too dangerous because of the ongoing conflict along the border, as well as banditry.

Continued insecurity in Darfur is also hampering the work of the World Food Programme (WFP).  The agency said it has lost 28 trucks to thieves and bandits in January and February alone.  And 14 WFP truck drivers remain missing.  While the agency has kept up its operations, it is now concerned that the increasing risks might restrict its ability to feed the up to 3.2 million people of Darfur, who rely on the 40,000 tons of food it hands out every month.  WFP appealed to the local warring parties to improve security and road conditions.

Meanwhile, in eastern Chad, a humanitarian convoy trying to reach the border from the Chadian town of Guereda was turned back earlier today because of military activity on the Darfur side of the border.

** Chad

Also on Chad, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says it is concerned by the reported abduction and detention of several opposition leaders and members of civil society organizations in the wake of recent fighting in N’Djamena.  While appreciating that the Chadian Government has faced a major crisis, the office has called for fundamental human rights and freedoms to be respected during the state of emergency.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme reports that it is distributing food aid to 20,000 Chadian refugees in northern Cameroon, who are being transferred by the UN refugee agency from a transit site near the border to a camp.

And in related news, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that nearly $5 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) was today set aside to meet the humanitarian needs of Chadian refugees in Cameroon.  And we have more details on that upstairs.

**Northern Uganda

Concerning northern Uganda, President Joaquim Chissano, the Special Envoy for northern Uganda and for the Lord’s Resistance Army-affected areas, remains in Juba where he reports progress is continuing in the peace talks.  We’ve been informed the parties have signed another agreement today -– a protocol on agenda item 2.  This agreement covers the issue of rehabilitation, recovery and development of northern Uganda and also the question of fair representation of that region in national Government and institutions including the army.  The parties are currently discussing a ceasefire and have indicated they may come to an agreement on that later this week.

**Secretary-General Appointment

Also on Africa, I do have an appointment to announce.  The Secretary-General has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Said Djinnit of Algeria as his Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA).  Mr. Djinnit will replace General Lamine Cissé who has been serving as Officer-in-Charge of UNOWA since September 2007, when the former Special Representative, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah of Mauritania, was reassigned to Somalia.

Mr. Djinnit is currently serving as Commissioner for Peace and Security in the African Union.  He has worked for the African Union in a number of senior positions, including as its Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs.  And we have more information on Mr. Djinnit in his bio upstairs.


The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, completed today a new round of meetings in Jakarta with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda.  The discussions focused on ways by which the United Nations and Indonesia can work together more closely in support of the Secretary-General’s good offices role, including in the context of the Secretary-General’s Group of Friends on Myanmar.

Speaking to the press following the meeting, Gambari reiterated his strong belief that ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian Nations] countries have an important role to play regarding Myanmar and have made their position very clear both last September at the UN and also in November at the ASEAN meeting in Singapore.  The special envoy stressed that he will continue to engage ASEAN countries for consultations, as Myanmar itself is a member of ASEAN.  From Jakarta, Mr. Gambari will visit Singapore followed by Tokyo for further consultations.

** Iran

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, today circulated his latest report on nuclear safeguards in Iran to the Agency’s Board of Governors, which will discuss the report when it next convenes in Vienna on 3 March.  After the report was circulated, Mr. ElBaradei told the press that, in the last four months, in particular, IAEA has made “quite good progress in clarifying the outstanding issues that had to do with Iran’s past nuclear activities”, with the exception of the issue of alleged weaponization studies that may have been conducted in the past.

Otherwise, he said, the Agency and Iran have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including on the scope and nature of Iran’s enrichment programme.  He called on Iran to implement the Additional Protocol, which gives IAEA the additional authority to ensure that there are no undeclared nuclear activities.

** Iraq

Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, welcomed the decision of Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr to continue to suspend activities by the Jaysh ul Mehdi group.  He hoped that this development would help sustain the reduction of violence and reinforce progress towards national dialogue and reconciliation.  Mr. de Mistura appealed to all Iraqi parties to engage in a constructive dialogue and take mutual confidence-building measures.

** Lebanon

UN-HABITAT reports that it has now completed two operations in Lebanon, which involved the rebuilding and renovation of thousands of homes hit by Israeli air raids in July 2006.  The projects benefited more than 3,600 families in Beirut, southern Lebanon, and the Bekaa valley, and were funded by the European Union.  And we have more on that upstairs.

** Sierra Leone

The Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone today upheld the sentences of three former leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council.  Alex Tamba Brima, Brima Bazzy Kamara, and Santigie Borbor Kanu were convicted in June of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other violations of international humanitarian law.  Brima and Kanu each received sentences of 50 years, while Kamara received a 45-year sentence.

** Central African Republic

Thousands of women and girls have endured rape and other sexual violence in the conflict-torn north of the Central African Republic, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  In fact, sexual and gender-based violence strikes well over 15 per cent of women and girls in the region, OCHA adds.  Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes has called for those responsible to be brought to justice.

Meanwhile, the UN’s humanitarian partners in the region are providing rape victims with medical and psychological care, including HIV testing and counselling.  And we have a press release on that upstairs.

**Campaign to End Violence against Women

On Monday morning, the Secretary-General is launching his multi-year campaign to end violence against women.  The event is taking place as part of the opening of the fifty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women.  The Commission is meeting here at Headquarters through 7 March to discuss “Financing for gender equality and empowerment of women”.

The launch takes place at 10:30 a.m. in Conference Room 2.  And we have more information on that upstairs, as well as other events taking place Monday and a fact sheet on statistics concerning violence against women.

**UNDP/Gates Foundation West Africa Grant

A poverty reduction and women’s empowerment project, supported by the UN Development Programme in West Africa, has been awarded $19 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  That project is designed to boost the productivity and income of women farmers using low-cost, mechanized power.  And we have more information on that upstairs.

**Other Press Releases

We also have press releases upstairs on the following items:  a UN Environment Programme report called “In Dead Water” analyzes how climate change is emerging as the latest threat to the world’s dwindling fish stocks; UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] is providing more than $1 million in emergency supplies to roughly 70,000 Zambian families whose homes have been washed away during recent floods.

**Capital Master Plan

You had some questions about the Capital Master Plan.  In answer to those questions, Michael Adlerstein, Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan, has confirmed that you will be briefed by him on Monday, a week from now, in other words on 3 March. 

[After the briefing, the Spokesperson’s Office informed correspondents that the briefing has since been rescheduled to 6 March.]

**Week Ahead

We also have the Week Ahead upstairs.  A couple of things to flag on that.

Next Monday, the guests at the noon briefing include Assistant Secretary-General Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, who will brief on the campaign to end violence against women; Captain Aimable Mushabe, a Rwandan military officer implementing measures to protect women against violence; and Todd Minerson, Executive Director of the White Ribbon campaign.

Also at 3 p.m. Monday, in the Economic and Social Council Chamber, the Deputy Secretary-General will take part in a special event on “How corporate philanthropy can contribute to advancing the Millennium Development Goals, particularly for sustainable development”.

On Tuesday morning, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, is scheduled to brief the Security Council on his recent trip to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as part of his consultations on the Middle East.

And next Friday, 29 February, will be the last day of Panama’s presidency of the Security Council.

**Correspondent’s Death

Before we go to questions and then to Janos, one sad bit of news:  I have to announce that, last night, one of our correspondents, Hans Janitschek, a 73-year-old correspondent for Kronenzeitung, an Austrian daily paper, appeared to have had a massive heart attack shortly after 7 p.m., while he was working on the third floor.  Three UN security officers who are qualified emergency medical technicians immediately performed CPR on Mr. Janitschek until the ambulance arrived.  The ambulance attendants continued CPR for a short time and then removed Mr. Janitschek to the ambulance and to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead at 8 p.m.

Mr. Janitschek had covered the UN at different times since 1998.  He had just returned a month ago as an accredited correspondent for Kronenzeitung and he was with us at the noon briefing yesterday.  We will shortly announce funeral arrangements for Mr. Janitschek, and our thoughts go out to him and his family.

Are there any questions before we turn to Janos?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Today, Israeli airplanes attacked Palestinian positions in the Occupied Territory of Gaza, killed two people.  Yesterday, they killed four people.  Has the Secretary-General taken note of that and reacted to that?  And the other thing that I wanted to ask about the Palestinian situation:  there was agreement that was made following the Annapolis talks between Israel and Palestinians that the Orient House in Jerusalem will be opened.  But it has been closed back again.  Does the Secretariat have any response to that?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have any comment on the Orient House issue, which is one of those that is being dealt with bilaterally between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.  As for the air attacks, the Secretary-General has repeatedly made it clear that he wants a halt both to the rocket attacks made by Palestinians against parts of Israel, such as Sderot, and to the attacks against the Palestinian civilian population.  And he continues to make that argument.

Question:  But the Orient House –- I just wanted to point out that the agreement -– and the United Nations is also party to the Quartet peace talks and the Annapolis talks, they were party to it.  He does not have anything to say about that?

Associate Spokesperson:  Not about the implementation at this stage.  The Quartet continues to monitor this, and the Secretary-General in his role as the member of the Quartet continues to be in touch with his other Quartet counterparts, but we would let you know the next time the Quartet speaks out on this matter.

Question:  Has the Secretary-General seen the IAEA report and does he have any reaction?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, in fact, the Secretary-General welcomes the continued dialogue between the Islamic Republic of Iran and IAEA reflected in the report on Iran’s nuclear activities issued today by IAEA.  The Secretary-General welcomes the progress achieved under the work plan agreed by both parties in August 2007.  At the same time, he stresses the utmost importance of the full compliance by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the relevant Security Council resolutions.

Question:  Mr. Ahtisaari was here this morning and met with the Secretary-General.  Is there a readout?

Associate Spokesperson:  No, there isn’t.  That was a tête-a-tête meeting.

Question:  Who called him to Headquarters?  Was it Ban Ki-moon, or…?

Associate Spokesperson:  This was a scheduled meeting between the Secretary-General and Mr. Ahtisaari.  They’ve obviously met many times in recent months over the Kosovo issue, but at the same time, like I said, this was a tête-a-tête meeting and there will be no readout.

Question:  I have a couple of questions on Kosovo, but I wanted to ask first about the incident with Hans, about his death.  I was here, and it seemed that even –- there was a statement filed by the Department of Safety and Security that said that it took 24 minutes for the ambulance to get here, in part because it was stopped by the gate, and they inspected the ambulance with mirrors, looking at the bottom of it.  So I wanted to know if you can confirm that.

Associate Spokesperson:  That’s not quite accurate, no.

Question:  Ok, how long did it take and what is the policy of the UN on letting emergency medical personnel on the UN property?

Associate Spokesperson:  First of all, there were emergency medical personnel on hand at the time.  As I just mentioned, three UN security officers who are qualified EMTs performed CPR on Mr. Janitschek, and there was no sign of life at the time.  A defibrillator was used to try to start his heart, to no avail, and appropriate medical protocols were followed.  The person who was with Mr. Janitschek, Mr. Casella, your colleague, had immediately called the UN operator, who called security, who then called the emergency responders, including a direct call to New York hospital.  The first responder was actually a fire engine truck.  They were not allowed in, because they could not provide the level of care needed, compared to the trained EMTs, who were there on site already, the three UN security officers.  An ambulance arrived 10 seconds later, and that ambulance and paramedics were let in directly.  Like I said, all of that was to no avail, ultimately.  Mr. Janitschek gave no sign of life throughout this process.

Question:  First of all, who decides whether to let in or not to let in a New York City fire truck?  And what is the policy of the UN in terms of this?  Does it automatically allow emergency or fire personnel without…?

Associate Spokesperson:  We have the protocol to call in emergency responders when there is an emergency in the building, and that protocol was followed.  As far as checking vehicles that come in, that is a standard security procedure, but that did not result in any significant delay.  Like I said, the ambulance and paramedics were let in directly.

[After the briefing, the Spokesperson’s Office confirmed that the ambulance was not stopped at the front gate at all.]

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have a view about whether a third round of sanctions is needed on Iran?

Associate Spokesperson:  Any questions on sanctions really are to be decided by members of the Security Council.  I just mentioned what the Secretary-General’s view was about this report, and that’s where we stand.

Question:  IAEA has given almost a good report on Iran’s promise and response to all demands and so forth.  Will the Secretary-General at any point recommend to the Security Council that -- they are going to impose more sanctions on Iran -- will he recommend that they hold on to the sanctions?  Or is that not his position?

Associate Spokesperson:  It’s ultimately up to the members of the Security Council to decide and to determine whether any further sanctions are needed.  Certainly, as they look into this question, they now have a new report from IAEA to examine and see how that factors into their own consideration of the issue.  To repeat what I just said a minute ago, the Secretary-General has stressed the utmost importance of full compliance by Iran’s Government with all relevant Security Council resolutions.

Question:  On Kosovo, first there is a quote by the Russian envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, saying that Russia could, essentially, there’s a threat to use brute military force.  Various people have asked for that to be retracted.  So does the UN have any response to that comment?

Associate Spokesperson:  We’ve made it clear in recent days that we would want all parties involved to avoid any rhetoric that could escalate the situation.  We are hoping to do as much as we can to avoid any violence, and we trust that all the other concerned parties will do their utmost to do the same.

Question:  We heard about this a few weeks ago and then I saw a comment on the news yesterday or the day before.  Does the UN have any comment -– or is there an ongoing investigation into these undersea cables that have been cut leading to Iran –- the Internet cables –- I’ve heard reports of five and then nine undersea cables have been cut?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have any information on that.  We can look into it, but I am not aware of that.

Question:  On Kosovo, I wanted to point out that, since Kosovo declared UDI, is the United Nations or the Secretary-General… If supposing something like that was done by Palestinians, what would be the situation?  Would the same position be taken by the Secretary-General that he is taking now in case of Kosovo, where he states it is up to Member States to decide?

Associate Spokesperson:  As far as that goes, we have made it clear throughout this entire process over the last few years that what is happening in Kosovo is a very special set of circumstances and should not necessarily be taken to imply any precedent for any other situation around the world.

Question:  On Kosovo, there is also a report that Serbs or some Serbs are not being allowed to cross the border into Kosovo and that UN police in Kosovo are on the border.  One, can you confirm that that is the policy and that UN police in Kosovo -– are they a part of that enforcing the policy if that exists?

Associate Spokesperson:  Just one second.  As far as that goes, our colleagues at the United Nations Mission in Kosovo tell us that it’s true that Serbs tried to cross the bridge in the divided city of Mitrovica, but the situation is calm and quiet now; order has been restored to Mitrovia.  It is not true –- some of these media reports had it incorrect -- that tear gas was used by UN police.  The wires who had said that in error have already corrected that.

Question:  On the Congo, there is a report that General Nkunda has ceased participating in the ceasefire commission set up by the Goma Conference, saying that the UN’s report of his alleged human rights violations means that he no longer wants to participate in peace until there’s a mixed commission to investigate it.  Is the UN aware of it?  Would the UN participate in the mixed commission and do you have any comment on that breaking down?

Associate Spokesperson:  The only real comment I have on this for now is that we are looking into the reports that General Nkunda’s faction is threatening to suspend its participation.  You are aware of our statement that we issued following the agreement on the Acts d’Engagement, and part of what we had insisted on was that all the sides continue to implement the Acts d’Engagement in good faith, and we would continue to do that.

Question:  What is the latest with the situation in Eritrea?  Are all the peacekeepers pinned down in Asmara?  Are they going to pull out to Addis Ababa?

Associate Spokesperson:  I think I mentioned earlier that our efforts to regroup peacekeepers in Asmara are continuing.  There weren’t any perceived obstructions of that effort yesterday, but we are continuing to do that.  That process is not yet complete.  The regrouping process is continuing.

Question:  Does that mean that there is no more monitoring of the ceasefire in the zone by the UN Mission?  Since you are now regrouping to Asmara, the UN peacekeeping has ceased to exist in the zone.

Associate Spokesperson:  On the Eritrean side of the zone, you are right that our presence there is now impeded.  Basically, what’s happened is that fuel restrictions have prevented us from doing our job effectively, and so now the presence on the Eritrean side of the Temporary Security Zone has now been hindered.  At the same time, as we mentioned in several statements last week, we are urging the parties not to go into the Temporary Security Zone, but certainly this is a serious problem for the Mission and it’s up to the Security Council to review what it wants to do with that situation.

Question:  So can we say that the UN has stopped working or carrying out its mandate in that zone?

Associate Spokesperson:  It hasn’t entirely stopped carrying out its mandate in that zone.  It’s trying to carry out its mandated activities as much as it can, but clearly there is very little that we can do.  So much of our mandated activities have been hindered, yes.

Question:  How about mandated activities on the Ethiopian side?

Associate Spokesperson:  Some of that is continuing.  We haven’t faced a similar level of obstruction on that side.

Question:  There is a report that the Security Council yesterday called for the Secretariat to prepare an emergency report on options, I guess.  When is that going to be ready?

Associate Spokesperson:  We are working on these things right now.  Even today, I believe there is an informal briefing of troop contributing countries to UNMEE to let them know what the options ahead are.  And we are continuing to keep them posted regularly about what the options on the ground are.

Question:  Can we get a readout of that meeting, or some kind of media access outside the room?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t know.  I’ll see if there can be some form of update later on… Like I said, we gave you an update just at the top of this briefing, but if there is anything further to say, we’ll say it.

Question:  Will DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] announce whether they have received helicopters for the Mission in Darfur, or do they continue to be lacking?

Associate Spokesperson:  We continue to lack air assets, we’ve made a point of that even recently, this week.  We have pointed that out.  If you look at the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNAMID, it’s got the relevant information.

And with that, I will turn the floor over to my colleague, Mr. Tisovszky.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President

Good afternoon, good to see you all.  Let me give you a short update on what is happening as far as the General Assembly is concerned, based on some of the past questions you have had, some of the interests you have shown in certain aspects of the work of the General Assembly and of its President.  Let me start with the President.

**General Assembly President

Earlier this week, we had a press statement out, which announced that President of the General Assembly Srgjan Kerim had to postpone his Latin American trip due to medical reasons.  The President is getting better; he is recovering and is expected back in the office next week.

**General Assembly Activities

As regards the work of the Assembly, let me flag two things that have happened just recently.  Yesterday in the afternoon, the Ad Hoc Working Group on General Assembly revitalization had its first meeting.  The Working Group was established on the basis of a decision by Member States during the sixty-first session -– for those of you who are into resolution numbers, it is resolution 61/292.  The Working Group is co-chaired by Paraguay and Poland and, as I said, this was the first meeting yesterday afternoon.  The focus is on implementing the relevant resolutions of the Assembly on revitalization.  Some of you may know that this issue has been on the agenda of the Assembly since 1991.  The two co-chairs of this Working Group will continue to work with the membership leading the consultation process and leading the work of the Working Group and ultimately will report back to the sixty-second session of the Assembly on what they have achieved.

**Independent Audit Advisory Committee

Another “first” for an entity is the first meeting of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee.  This is also something that is listed in the Journal.  This Committee has been meeting since Wednesday and is wrapping up its first meeting today.  This is a body that was established by the General Assembly, emanating from a resolution from its sixtieth session (60/248 -– for those of you who are into numbers).  This is an expert advisory body designated to assist the General Assembly in fulfilling its oversight responsibilities.  We do have a press release on that –- A/ORG/1491 –- this is available on the website.  It gives details on what this Independent Audit Advisory Committee is about, and it also gives you the name of the person, who is the acting Secretary of the Committee, and she would be your contact person as far as the details of this Committee are concerned.  For those of you who are a little bit more into it, let me flag another resolution that was passed by the previous session of the Assembly, so the sixty-first session -– that would be resolution A/RES/61/275.  That resolution contains the terms of reference as far as this Audit Advisory Committee is concerned.

The Committee will report to the General Assembly membership on an annual basis with report on its work, but it also has the possibility to draw the attention of the Assembly at any time to whatever it considers as important as regards oversight issues.

**Upcoming Meetings

Two things coming up next week.  I have mentioned this when we talked about the Sixth Committee (Legal) of the General Assembly, that that Committee, when it ended its work last year, convened three Ad Hoc Committee meetings:  one on counter-terrorism; one on criminal accountability of UN officials and experts on mission; and one on administration of justice, for the spring.

The first of these -– the one on counter-terrorism -– is going to meet next Monday.  It is expected to have plenary meetings on 25 and 26 February and then it will reconvene to wrap up its session on 6 March.  In between those dates, it will have consultations.  This is an Ad Hoc Committee that was established by the Assembly in 1996 and currently it is entrusted with drafting what is called a comprehensive convention against terrorism.  So it is discussing that issue, as well as another issue on its agenda –- and that is convening an international conference on terrorism.

There is also another committee tied to the Sixth Committee (Legal), and that is the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization.  That’s also listed in the Journal and that Committee is going to meet next week, starting on 27 February.  One of the issues -– someone asked about sanctions, so I am flagging it -– that it will be discussing is a Russian-proposed item entitled “Basic conditions and standard criteria for the introduction and implementation of sanctions imposed by the UN”.  So that might be something that you may want to follow.

**Mandate Review

The first informal consultations on mandate review since the appointment of the two facilitators of the mandate review process for the sixty-second session, Namibia and New Zealand, will be held on Wednesday, 27 February, in the morning.

**Security Council Reform

Security Council reform –- I know this is something that interests you.  There are no new developments as far as the General Assembly or the President is concerned.  Some of you, who may be following this with the help of Member States, will know that some Member States are pretty active and are consulting among themselves and working on this issue, but so far nobody, no Member State has approached the President with any kind of proposal or initiative for a meeting.

**Fifth Committee

One other thing that I know most of you are following is the Fifth Committee [Administrative and Budgetary].  From 3 to 28 March, the Fifth Committee will be meeting for the first part of its resumed session.  The tentative and provisional programme of work for this first resumed part of the sixty-second session of the Fifth Committee will be on the website of the Committee, probably as we speak now, but within the course of the day -– definitely.  But let me also note that this is the tentative and provisional programme.  The actual programme will be approved by the Committee on Monday, 3 March.

That’s about all I have.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On this convention against terrorism, since 9/11, Member States have been grappling with… trying to decide what is the acceptable definition of terrorism.  Has there been agreement or consensus on that?

Spokesperson:  No.  One of the issues that is, in fact, being discussed as regards this draft convention relates to the definition.  For those of you who are interested in the draft text of what is being discussed, let me guide you to one of the earlier reports on the work of the Ad Hoc Committee (A/57/37).  I am mentioning this, because that has a draft text of the convention, on the basis of which discussions are going on.  Article 2 of that draft relates to a possible, suggested definition, but there is also article 18, and that is what is currently being discussed in more detail, or will be focused on by the membership within the Ad Hoc Committee.  Article 18 is about the scope of the convention, or to put it in more layman terms, what are the exceptions to the possible definition.  So this is where the issues are as far as this draft comprehensive convention stands.  But you may also know that there are a number of existing conventions that tackle particular aspects of terrorism, where there is actually a definition of what that particular act might be, whether it is financing of terrorism, or whether it’s nuclear terrorism.

The third issue that is important to note on terrorism related issues is that, of course, as of 8 September 2006, the United Nations membership does have a global strategy countering terrorism, and that is basically a practical tool, whereby Member States were willing to go around the issue of coming up with a legal definition of terrorism and basically look at the practical aspects of what kind of actions can be taken.  I am mentioning this because this global counter-terrorism strategy is going to be reviewed by the membership within the framework of the sixty-second session, at the beginning of September.

Question:  So now there is no…

Spokesperson:  There is no comprehensive definition of terrorism accepted by the membership, but it is on the agenda and it is being discussed.

Question:  Actually, I had a question about a resolution.  It has to do with a dispute about a so-called internal justice council that was supposed to be set up under resolution 62/228.

Spokesperson:  I don’t have everything on my radar screen.  You said, 62/228?

Question:  228.  Whether this council is required to be set up by 1 March, or 1 May.  There seems to be… in the compact of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, it says 1 May, but the GA resolution seems to say 1 March.  So people have raised this and, one, could you look into it and sort of opine on what the resolution says and also whether anyone has asked the General Assembly to get involved in this controversy.

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of anybody asking about this particular issue because, when you raised it, it is the first time that it is on my radar screen.  Had it been an issue, I am sure we would have discussed it, but I will definitely look into it, and I will get back to you on this.

Question:  You are right that the Fifth Committee programme of work is online.  It seems to list strengthening of the Department of Political Affairs as being considered in March, but from the wording, I can’t –- is the strengthening of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs -– is that going to be considered in March, or not?

Spokesperson:  If you look at the tentative programme of work, you will see that it is supposed to be on the agenda.  If you remember that one of the budget resolutions did, in fact, ask for the reforms on the development pillar to come from the Secretary-General, initiatives on that, and to be included as part of the first resumed session.

Question:  So this is called development-related activities?  That is strengthening DESA?

Spokesperson:  Yes, that would be the one.  Because the resolution talks not about DESA itself, but about the development pillar, the development related activities, and it does include DESA and, I think, it includes a couple of other entities.

Question:  Following the three-day climate session, what does the President of the General Assembly intend to do with what came out of that?

Spokesperson:  A couple of things.  Obviously, what you are looking for is what concrete thing is going to be next.  He did mention that he is going to have two focused special meetings on climate change –- one on climate change and private sector, and the other on climate change and vulnerable countries.  In fact, the Office of the President is in the process of organizing those two follow-up meetings.  So those would be more focused meetings on the effects of climate change as regards the private sector and as regards vulnerable countries.  That’s one aspect.

The other aspect is -– and this we’ve mentioned, and I think the President has also mentioned it to you -– that climate change, as the flagship issue of the sixty-second session, is going to trickle into the way the Assembly and the way the President is pursuing other issues on the agenda, whether it’s the MDGs -– and on that, let me also flag here that one of the next big meetings, along the lines of what we had for climate change, will be on three Millennium Development Goals -– one of them related to poverty, the other to health, and the third to education -– will be on 1 and 2 April.  And climate change aspects will feature into that.  Also, financing for development –- another priority issue for the sixty-second session -– again, climate change aspects will feature into that.  So, in that sense, climate change will remain on the agenda.

Question:  It is sort of related to the Fifth Committee, but it is wider.  It says that, on 3 March, the Fifth Committee is going to get a briefing on safety and security, along with one on the Capital Master Plan by Mr. Adlerstein.  In the safety and security briefing, does it have anything to do with the bombing of United Nations premises in Algiers in December?  And whether the GA has any involvement in the investigation that is supposed to be taking place of that incident?

Spokesperson:  The GA has, as far as I know, no role in the investigation itself, because that, I think, is through the independent investigative panel that the Secretary-General is putting together, of course.

Question:  Has that been constituted?

Spokesperson:  For that, you have to ask Michèle and the Spokesperson’s Office for the Secretary-General.  As for this particular briefing on the third in the Fifth Committee, I can certainly try and find out what will be the focus and what triggered it.

Question:  The next day, there is one called on the accountability architecture.  And I am wondering if those briefings of the Fifth Committee -– are those open?

Spokesperson:  I’ll find out, I’ll definitely find out.  I think you have been covering this quite extensively for some time, and you were there…

Question:  It is much easier if you are in the room.

Spokesperson:  Of course, it is easier.  I don’t know to what extent, when in the tentative programme it says briefing, whether these are, in fact, closed consultations, or whether these are open (on further follow-up it was clarified that the briefings will be closed).

Question:  Has the President of the General Assembly weighed in on this cartoon controversy?

Spokesperson:  No, no he hasn’t.

Question:  Will he?

Spokesperson:  We’ll follow up.  I can certainly check.  But if you remember, he did weigh in heavily when it comes to the dialogue among civilizations, religions and cultural tolerance issues.  There was a high-level debate on that issue last October (General Assembly High-Level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace).

If there are no more questions, then thank you very much for your attention and I wish you all the best for the weekend.

* *** *

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