13 January 2012

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

13 January 2012
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the noon briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General arrived in Beirut earlier today.

He has been meeting separately with the Lebanese President, Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament, and should be holding a press conference just about now.  We’ll provide his remarks to the journalists about those meetings and a transcript of the press conference as soon as we can.


The United Nations refugee agency says it is increasingly concerned about insecurity in and around camps hosting hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees in the Horn of Africa.  UNHCR adds that the situation is particularly worrying in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya, where the threat of improvised explosive devices, kidnappings, vehicle hijackings and banditry remains high.

It says that the ability of aid agencies to deliver services in the largest refugee settlement in the world is being seriously curbed.  However, basic services are being maintained and UNHCR is also looking at alternative ways of delivering these services, including through larger involvement from the host community.

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, a security incident occurred near the Dollo Ado camps on Wednesday morning, when three armed men fired at a vehicle belonging to an international non-governmental organization.  No one was hurt and this was the first such incident in the Dollo Ado area, but aid agencies have temporarily restricted all but essential activities and movements in the camps.

** Iran

On Iran, yesterday we were asked about the Secretary-General’s reaction to the killing of a nuclear scientist in Tehran earlier this week.  This morning, the Secretary-General told media, and I quote, “Any terrorist action or assassination of any people, whether scientist or civilian, is to be strongly condemned.  It is not acceptable.  Human rights must be protected.”

** Haiti

In response to a question asked yesterday on Haiti, I can confirm that the Task Force is chaired by Anthony Banbury, the Assistant Secretary-General of the Department of Field Support, and is comprised of senior staff from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the Medical Services of the Department of Management, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) and DFS.  The scope of the Task Force’s mandate is to carefully study the findings made by the Independent Panel of Experts and make recommendations to the Secretary-General.  The Task Force continues to make progress on important issues that have far-reaching health, operational and financial implications.

**Secretary-General’s Appointments

I have two senior staff appointments to announce.

The Secretary-General today appointed Ms. Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen of Denmark as Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director for Management of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  Ms. Albrectsen will replace Mari Simonen.  The Secretary-General is grateful to Ms. Simonen for her dedicated service and commitment to the United Nations.

Ms. Albrectsen brings to UNFPA nearly 20 years of development and managerial experience, having held leadership positions in her Government and previously in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNFPA.

And my second announcement is about the appointment of Mr. Raisedon Zenenga of Zimbabwe as Deputy Special Representative (Political) in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

Mr. Zenenga brings over 28 years of service in the United Nations, Government and diplomatic positions, including more than 10 years at the management level in complex United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Full biographical details on both individuals are available in my office.

And that’s it from me.  Questions, please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yesterday, Saudi police killed a peaceful protester at short range in Eastern Province.  I am sure you heard this news.  Do you have any comment on this incidence?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No.  We have seen the reports, but we have no comments at this time.  Matthew?

Question:  Yeah, sure, I want to ask you, I mean, the first of all on this, and on this, these initial meetings that the Secretary-General has had in Lebanon, do you… can you say whether… there was a question was asked yesterday whether Roed-Larsen, the 1559 Envoy, was he present at these meetings, is he present with the delegation of Ban Ki-moon and, it is a matter of some interest over there, so it seems like now that the meeting has taken place, can you say whether he attended?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have that information, but we will check into it for you.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later confirmed that Mr. Roed-Larsen was indeed present at the meetings.]

Question:  How do you feel that the Lebanese went out protesting against Ban Ki-moon like he is a party, he is not the Secretary-General of the United Nations, like he is, and some of those are those who were in jail for four years for miscarriage of justice under instructions from the International Investigation Committee which was… Commission… which was investigating the death of former Prime Minister Hariri?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I am sorry, could you repeat the question?  I didn’t quite get it.

Question:  I said many of those protesters in Lebanon against Mr. Ban Ki-moon were the victims of miscarriage of justice; people who spent four years in jail in Lebanon and then turned out to be innocent under instructions from the International Investigation Commission which was investigating the death of Hariri.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is in Lebanon.  He chose Lebanon as his first port of call this year in terms of his travels.  It is an important country, obviously; there are a lot of things happening in that region.  With respect to the protesters, the Secretary-General accepts the fact that people have a right to peaceful protest and he respects that.

Question:  I have some South Sudan questions, but I wanted to just finish up on this Lebanon.  It has been, Al Hayat has reported that Derek Plumbly, former UK diplomat is, will be named the 1701 Special Coordinator for Lebanon.  Is that, can you confirm that, and separately — and you made these two announcements today — some have said that Angela Kane of Department of Management is also in consideration for the position.  I wanted to know, even if you won’t confirm that, does this five years, you know, in one post rule apply to her position at the Department of Management?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe that the Secretary-General’s Chief of Staff and Martin at this table have both said that the five-year plan, the five-year stipulation applies.  When we have something to announce we will announce it.  Right now, we have these two announcements which I have made this morning, and that’s all we have to announce.

Question:  A follow-up, Eduardo?  Is the Secretary [sic] actually, how many of, all together, the new appointments you are expecting to be announced, 20, 25?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have a figure on that.  We will be announcing them as the Secretary-General takes the decisions.

Question:  But not the number?  You don’t have the number?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have the number, no.

Question:  Okay.  And can you sort of confirm or predict, whatever, that anybody from the Western Balkans of the countries of former Yugoslavia are going to be in the group that needed to be announced by letter of Secretary-General also?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we will see what the Secretary-General decides, and after he has decided, and after it is announced, I will speculate.

Question:  Okay.  Just the last one, what is the last day for whole thing to be announced?  What do you expect?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We don’t have a last date.  The Secretary-General will make his decisions as time goes on, and early in his second term, and we will be announcing these decisions as they come due.  Masood?

Question:  So maybe you have been asked this question earlier, sorry for being late.  Yesterday Martin promised us that there will be a reaction to the killing or the assassination of the Iranian, uh, and it did not appear on the network.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I read a statement before you came in.  Basically, uh, what I, I’ll repeat it again for you:  Yesterday we were asked about the Secretary-General’s reaction to the killing of a nuclear scientist in Tehran earlier this week.  This morning, the Secretary-General told media, and I quote, “Any terrorist action or assassination of any people, whether scientist or civilian, is to be strongly condemned.  It is not acceptable.  Human rights must be protected”.

Those are the Secretary-General’s words to the media in Lebanon this morning.

Question:  Revisiting the issue of Saudi Arabia, the recent reports from the Human Rights Council were very critical of the human rights record of Saudi Arabia.  With this incident, do we expect any new statement from the Human Rights Council, or from the Secretary-General himself, condemning these killings of the demonstrators, or the peaceful protesters of Eastern Province?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I have said before, I have nothing on that now.  We will have to see what happens.  Matthew?

Question:  Yeah, I wanted to, in the DRC, I mean, there is a lot of back and forth here about the elections and then, and I think MONUSCO is saying that they should take, you know, a close look, particularly at the legislative results.  Now the Catholic Church in the DRC has said that the Electoral Commission should either admit its errors in the vote counting or resign.  But I am wondering, does the UN have any, is there any follow-up to what was, I mean, reported by most observers as highly irregular elections, or has the UN just stopped either looking into or speaking on that issue?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, MONUSCO is still there and I think Martin has reported to you previously what MONUSCO’s position is, and that stands.

Question:  I wanted to ask you, yesterday Martin had said and this is, you know, he had acknowledged that it is a serious issue, this issue of the helicopters in South Sudan and the fact that they didn’t, that since mid-November the Russians had said that they would not fly, and he said to me, you know, “you are going to learn more about that”.  So I have been waiting to know why it was reasonable for the UN Mission in South Sudan to remain without helicopter service and not seek outside help from the middle of November until the incidents took place in Pibor.  Do you have anything?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as Martin said yesterday, we do not comment in the middle of negotiations with contributing States, and I don’t think much has changed from yesterday to today.  Masood?

Question:  He also, he said, I think…

Deputy Spokesperson:  I am sorry, Matthew, we are going to go to Masood.

Question:  I am just asking, [inaudible], he said yesterday, he said, I think, “you will be able to learn more about that”.  What, how, how so?  I mean, I am waiting, whether it is DFS… what I… I will ask you a factual question; it is not negotiations with Russia.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Have you talked to DPKO?

Correspondent:  Yes, I have.  I have talked to Ms. Malcorra herself and she said she is going to say something, and I am waiting to hear what it is.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, when she says something we will let you know.

Question:  But, I mean, I guess my question to you is, this is an incident people say that the lack of helicopters played a role in the number of people killed in Pibor, and the UN has refused to count the number of people killed and people in Pibor as well.  So I want to highlight to you, I guess, I want to ask you, does the UN yet have an estimate of the number of people who were killed in the violence in Pibor?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I can tell you that to date UNMISS patrols have found only 15 bodies in and around Pibor town, and no local witnesses have offered evidence to support claims that the dead range from 1,000 to over 3,000.

Correspondent:  I’m glad for that statement.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m glad I made you glad.  Masood?

Question:  Yeah, of this incident of urination, which was reported yesterday and the day before, by the US troops on the bodies of Taliban, some of the bodies in Afghanistan have said that they want United Nations to hold inquiry into this incident although United States has said that it will hold its own inquiry, but they are asking for United Nations to get involved.  Is there any reaction from the Secretary-General’s Office or a Spokesman’s Office about this incident at all?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, to the best of my knowledge there has been no request from the Afghan authorities for the UN to investigate it.  So I think we’ll leave it at that and let the current investigations take their course.  Sir?  Yeah?

Question:  Okay.  Eduardo, just to follow up a little bit of your answers regarding the nominations.  So if you can put a little bit more light how it actually goes, whether the Secretary-General now is in the process of getting nominations from the Government, or from some of his inner circle here in New York.  How it goes actually?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General takes a look at the positions he wants to change; he takes a look at the possible candidates out there and he takes a decision based on that.  More than that, I can’t tell you.  Each situation is perhaps a little bit different from the others.  Anything else?

Okay, thank you.  Have a good weekend.

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