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

26 August 2013

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

26 August 2013
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.

** Syria

As we reported to you earlier today, the first vehicle of the chemical weapons investigation team in Syria was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers in the buffer zone area this morning.  The team later returned to work in the area and visited two hospitals.  They interviewed witnesses, survivors and doctors and collected some samples.  The Secretary-General said that he has instructed his High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, to register a strong complaint to the Syrian Government and authorities of opposition forces to avoid any further incidents and ensure the safety and security of the investigation teams.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General has been heavily engaged in developments in Syria over the past few days, and has spoken to a number of world leaders.

The Secretary-General has also had meetings in Seoul with business leaders and development officials today, with a focus on women's empowerment and the Millennium Development Goals.  You will have seen the Secretary-General spoke at a press conference, and we've issued a full transcript of that.

Over the weekend, the Secretary-General attended the opening of the World Rowing Championships in his home region and visited his birthplace and the town where he grew up.

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General flies to the Netherlands and then travels later to Austria.  More details are available on those visits online.  He returns to New York this weekend.

** Lebanon

Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met with Prime Minister Najib Mikati this morning and extended his condolences regarding the two explosions in Tripoli last Friday.  He noted that, as the Security Council has stated, the important things in the present circumstances are self-restraint, bringing those responsible for the criminal attacks to justice and cooperating with the security forces.  He added that they also discussed the need to respect resolution 1701 (2006), adding that the events of last week across the Blue Line have generated concern.

**United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) deeply regrets to confirm that one of its staff members was shot dead by Israeli forces in an operation in Qalandiya refugee camp in the occupied West Bank this morning.  Credible reports say that he was on his way to work and was not engaged in any violent activity.  Another staff member of the Relief and Works Agency was shot in the leg during the same operation and is in a stable condition.  An UNRWA investigation is ongoing.

Today’s killing took place during an incursion into Qalandiya refugee camp during which three people in total were killed and about 20 injured, some of them seriously.  The UN Relief and Works Agency condemns the killing of its staff member and calls on all sides, at this delicate time, to exercise maximum restraint and to act in accordance with obligations under international law.


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says it is very concerned about the continued destruction of Palestinian homes and the forced displacement of men, women and children in the occupied West Bank.  Since the beginning of the year, more than 420 Palestinian structures have been demolished by Israeli authorities, forcibly displacing almost 800 people, around half of them children.  Such actions cause significant human suffering, raise serious concerns under international law and must be brought to a halt.

** Egypt

Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), denounced the deaths of reporter Ahmed Abdel Gawad and photographer Mosab al-Shami in Cairo on 14 August, and journalist Tamer Abdel Raouf at Damanhur in the north of Egypt on 19 August.  The Director-General called for a thorough investigation to determine the exact circumstances of the three killings.  These three deaths bring to six the number of journalists killed in Egypt this year.  There are more details in a press release from UNESCO.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

As you may have seen, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Mary Robinson, said in a statement issued over the weekend that the attacks on the town of Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as on the UN Mission (MONUSCO) forces, were unacceptable and that they should stop immediately.  Mrs. Robinson strongly urged all authorities in the region to observe maximum restraint, to ensure that civilian populations are protected and to minimize the risk of escalation of the situation.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Moustapha Soumaré, also strongly condemned the attacks.  Mr. Soumaré reminded all parties to the conflict that an indiscriminate or deliberate attack against civilians is a war crime.

** Somalia

At a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa today, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, gave a briefing on developments in the country.  Mr. Kay said that Somalia still faces many challenges, including the volatile security situation in southern Somalia and particularly Mogadishu.  He noted that the month of Ramadan saw a surge in security incidents as a result of the continued threat posed by Al-Shabaab.

The Special Representative said that successfully meeting the major peacebuilding challenges in Somalia depends primarily on the efforts of the country’s Government, adding that foremost among these challenges is the establishment of a well-functioning federal structure.  His full remarks are available online.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

And I have an appointment for you:  The Secretary-General has appointed Lieutenant General Maqsood Ahmed of Pakistan as the Military Adviser for Peacekeeping Operations.  Lieutenant General Ahmed replaces Senegal’s Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, whose tour of duty ended on 8 July.  Since February this year, Lieutenant General Ahmed has been a Corps Commander in Pakistan’s Armed Forces.  And we have more information on this appointment in our office.

That’s it from me.  Any questions, please?  Yes, Tim?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Can you… just to be sure on the details of the sniper attack; the lead vehicle was hit, or were other vehicles hit, and how many snipers, or sniper, were there?  And also, which world leaders has the Secretary-General spoken to?  You mentioned…

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, he’s spoken with a number of world leaders.  We haven’t given out the specifics of those calls, but he has been in touch with a range of people both in the region and more broadly outside of it to deal with issues concerning Syria.  Regarding the vehicle in that incident; yes, one vehicle, the lead vehicle, was shot by snipers.  It was hit in its tires and also in its front window.  Ultimately, it was not able to travel further.  That vehicle could not be used.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Yeah, a follow-up on that.  Was it hit from the front or from the back or the side?  How… were there any independent reporters escorting the convoy?

Associate Spokesperson:  There were a number of vehicles involved, but like I said, it was just the one vehicle that was hit.  I don’t have any details about the direction from which the shooting came.  The shooters have not been identified as of yet, although we certainly hope that the parties will help bring this issue to a close and prevent any further recurrence.  But, in any case, the team was able to return to the area and go about its work.

Question:  How about the reporters; were there any independent reporters with the team?

Associate Spokesperson:  I am not aware of any press travelling with the team, no.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Yes, sir, the Russian Foreign Minister had a lot to say about all this that has happened.  Did he talk to the Secretary-General today at all?  Was there any communication between the Russians and the Secretary-General?

Associate Spokesperson:  I’ll check and see whether there was any communication with the Russians and the Secretary-General.  I am not aware of any specific one.  He has had wide range of calls; we don’t know precisely all of them, but he has been in touch with a wide number of parties.  But, I’ll check whether he talked to Mr. [Sergey] Lavrov.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  I wanted to ask also on Syria.  There is, obviously, a lot of discussion of some type of… of mi… you know, military action, possibly a missile strike, and what I… I wanted to know… I… I… I know that the Secretary-General was asked this and so one of the questions seems to conclude with a… with a request for a comment on those discussions of a missile.  What is the Secretariat’s position on the legality of a… of a military strike, whether there is retribution or otherwise?  And… and whatever the position is, would the Secretary-General ask to be and would he, in fact, be told before such a strike took place, given that there is UN personnel in the country?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I don’t want to speculate on any such thing.  At this stage, we don’t really indulge in speculative comment.  What I would like to point out is that the Secretary-General has consistently called for the immediate cessation of hostilities in Syria and for all sides to work to achieve a political solution.  The task is to complete an unimpeded investigation as promptly as possible before speculating on any possible next steps.

Question:  But, would a strike be considered hostility?  Should we read that comment to say a caution to the countries considering, and I mean, openly discussing, that is why I am asking, it is not as speculative as you might make it out to be.

Associate Spokesperson:  It is a matter of speculation.  And certainly, we don’t… we wouldn’t entertain the possibility of… of speculative questions about what the future may hold.  What our hope is, we have been very clear about our vision of what the future should hold.  It should hold negotiations amongst the parties.  We are trying to set up a potential Geneva II conference.  Lakhdar Brahimi has been hard at work on that, and we continue to seek a diplomatic solution.  Yes, please?

Question:  There is a report in… very detailed report, in the German magazine Der Spiegel today about how the United States, more particularly the NSA [National Security Agency], has been bugging offices of the UN and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] in New York.  Do you have any comment on this or are you aware of it?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, we are aware of the reports, and we intend to be in touch with the relevant authorities on this.  What else I would like to say is that the inviolability of diplomatic missions, including the United Nations and other international organizations, whose functions are protected by the relevant international conventions like the Vienna Convention, has been well-established [in] international law.  Therefore, Member States are expected to act accordingly to protect the inviolability of diplomatic missions.  Yes, further on that?

Question:  Yes, the reports also they concern the UN’s internal video conferencing system.  Can you describe what sort of communications are dealt with in this system?

Associate Spokesperson:  And, as if by design, the feedback occurs right then.  [laughter]  I don’t want to be electrocuted here.  No, I wouldn’t really describe it; our video conferencing facilities are the same as for any office.  It enables people to talk to each other by video teleconference.  It is as simple as that.  Yes?

Question:  I have a follow-up.  The question is this is not the first time that this has been reported.  There have been reports, … sorry.  This is not the first report, this same matter has been reported before, but this is particularly detailed.  And I was wondering if the UN had done anything about investigating these reports, previously?

Associate Spokesperson:  Whenever we’ve received this sort of information in the past, we have taken it up with the relevant authorities, and we would do so in this case, as well.  Yes, please, in the middle?

Question:  Is the UN inspections team expected to make a return to that suburban Damascus site?

Associate Spokesperson:  The UN inspection team right now is back at its base, it is evaluating the material it has collected today; it was a very productive day.  And once it has made its evaluation, it does intend to continue its work tomorrow.  We are not giving the sites in advance of where they are visiting, but they do intend to continue their work tomorrow, yes.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, Farhan, in the past, the Secretary-General has put the responsibility on the safe keep of the chemical weapons on the Government itself.  Now that the opposition probably has other sources of chemical weapons, as it looked, they used them in Khan al-Assal, or at least the Russians have established that.  Does he still believe that the blame should be squarely on the Government for the up… for the safe keep of the weapons?

Associate Spokesperson:  We’ve never directed the blame solely to any party.  Our mission is to determine whether chemical weapons have been used by either side.  And of course, we would enjoin any party from using chemical weapons.  The Secretary-General has been very clear that any use of chemical weapons would be an outrageous breach of international law.  He maintains that, regardless of which side deploys such weapons.  Yes, please?

Question:  Hi.  I would like to have more details about the incident in Syria this morning, like how many cars were in the convoy, I think I read seven.  And were those… all vehicles had inspectors travelling with them?  What kind of protection, what time was the incident, how long it took them to come back — all that story?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, the details we shared in the note is as much detail as we are going to give on that.  For fairly obvious security reasons, we tend not to provide a lot of detail about the number of cars, the type of cars and so forth.  I believe that there was about a dozen inspectors who have been involved in today’s work overall.  And like I said, although they had to return back to their base after one vehicle had been rendered inoperable, they did go back to the area and they did… and they were able to get some samples and conclude some work.

Question:  How long it took them to come back?

Associate Spokesperson:  What?

Question:  How long it took them to come back?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have the precise amount of time, but they were able to get a good amount of work done before they had to return back.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Foreign Minister of the UK, William Hague, today gave a press conference and he says… he said a couple of hard words on the situation in Syria.  Particularly, he… at some point, he didn’t rule out a possibility of military action in Syria this week.  Can you… any… do you have any comment on this?

Associate Spokesperson:  Again, our focus has been, and continues to be, on a negotiated solution, on a diplomatic solution.  We believe… the Secretary-General has long believed, and has repeatedly said, that there has been too much fighting already.  What we are trying to do is do everything that we can to bring the fighting to a halt, and that’s where our focus remains.  Yes?

Question:  Sorry, I… I might have missed a bit, so I am not sure if you answered this, but you say that the chemical weapons inspectors are returning tomorrow.  Can you give us any kind of idea on how long this kind of investigation will take?  And can we also presume that you are in negotiations to extend the two-week mandate that you have right now with the Syrian Government?

Associate Spokesperson:  You can’t assume that just yet.  Obviously, if the inspectors need more time, we will request it, but for now, they are going about their work and will provide further details on the amount of time it takes once they have evaluated their material and see how much time that they actually need.  Yes, in the cameras?

Question:  Earlier today, the Secretary made a statement this morning from South Korea, talking about the instructions he has given to Ms. Kane to send a strong complaint to Syrian Government, as well as the authorities of the opposition; do we know if that document has been presented to the authorities and what’s the reception from both parties about that?  And also, he is asking for security to be provided to the investigators so this type of situation doesn’t happen again; do you know if there is anything in response from either party and what do you expect to see in the couple, next week or so?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, Ms. Kane will convey the appropriate messages to either side.  She, of course, remains in Damascus right now, and she is able to have the necessary contacts to allow the team to go about its work.  So, she will basically convey the messages and we expect that the parties will comply with their obligations, and allow the team to go about its work.  Yes?  Actually, no, you first.

Question:  Just to confirm, so the inspectors are going back to the same site that they went to today tomorrow, or are they… so they are planning?  And also, can you give details on what kind of sample they collected; blood, soil…?

Associate Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t give any details on that just yet.  They took a number of relevant samples, they feel very satisfied with the results of their work, and we will see where they go tomorrow.  We will try to provide a further update once they have travelled onwards.  But, they are going to continue their onsite work tomorrow.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Yeah, Farhan, will there be any comparison between the chemical used in this instance if there were, and with other countries’ chemicals, because there was a story in January this year that some Libyan chemical weapons were con… transferred to Syria by the rebels, and were… if… if these che… if these are real.  Will there be any comparison in chemical components?

Associate Spokesperson:  The team contains a number of experts who deal with the issue of chemical weapons and they will evaluate and analyse the material as appropriate.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  I have a couple of non-Syria questions, on DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] and Sri Lanka.  I just wanted to ask… on Syria, I wanted to just make sure that it is to… that… that I am clear that the mandate of the… of these inspectors is simply to determine that, whether chemical weapons were used that they would, that they are not going to opine on who used them.  I am… I am asking because Mr. Se… it was said that the team wouldn’t speak to the media and Mr. [Åke] Sellström spoke to a Swedish news agency, TT.  What’s the sort of planned protocol for them reaching a conclusion?  Are they going to convey it to the Secretary-General?  Does he then make it public?  Does he go to the Security Council?  What’s the… what… what… what… what sort of are the steps in place for the… the findings to be conveyed?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, okay, first of all, the team will collect all available information to determine whether chemical weapons, agents or substances were used during the attacks of 21 August.  It has never been the mandate of the mission to investigate and determine responsibility.  At the same time, however, what I would like to add is, first of all, about the team, the team will complete its scientific analysis as soon as possible, and the mission will seek to reconstruct an evidence-based narrative of the alleged incidents and other information in accordance with its guidelines.  Yes, in the back?  Behind Peter, yes?

Question:  Can you… do you have any comment on the Security Council meeting later this afternoon, and whether or not they will discuss a possible resolution to take action in Syria?  Or is that closed?

Associate Spokesperson:  No.  We will have to see what the members of the Security Council discuss once their consultations begin.  Yes, Peter?

Question:  Yes, so has the chemical weapons team gotten to the Khan al-Asal site or the other two unnamed sites yet?

Associate Spokesperson:  Their initial priority has been to investigate the site of the 21 August attack.  We will provide information about all the sites that they have visited once they have completed their various travels, but I don’t have any comment on all of the specific places that they have been to so far.  Yes, way back?

Question:  Has the Syrian Government been fully cooperative with the investigation team?

Associate Spokesperson:  Both sides have pledged their agreement.  You will have seen the statement that we put out over the weekend, where we got the agreement necessary for the team to begin its work in the area of the Ghouta attack.  So, we are proceeding on the basis of the understandings that we have reached, and we are happy to have had those understandings.  But, of course, it remains to be seen every day in execution how the parties comply with the understandings that have been reached, and we hope and trust that the team will be able to go about its work without any further interference.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, thanks.  You said the UN will be in touch with relevant authorities about the Der Spiegel report regarding the teleconference system.  Are those UN authorities, or are you going to be reaching out to the United States in this case?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, to the United States, yes.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Yeah, I just, my point is, while the Syrian thing is going on, the Middle East… what do you call, the Middle East peace process has come to a halt after the Israelis killed four Palestinians over there.  Before that, the building of the settlement stalled the process; now the latest killing of the Palestinians has again stopped this process.  What does the Secretary-General have to say about that?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has not made a statement about this yet.  We are still, of course, trying to get information about the incident that happened at the Qalandiya camp.  I have already told you what the UN Relief and Works Agency has said about this; they have condemned this attack, and they have a full press release that you can look at.  But, we are also trying to see what the circumstances were and we may have a further reaction down the line, if needed.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask on… on… in… on the DRC.  This… the killing of a… two civilians or protesters on 25 August, there are some that are saying that it was the… the, I mean, and saying this, that… that it was an… a protest of the Uruguayan battalion in Goma and that the Uruguayans fired into the crowd.  Is there some… where does the UN respond to that in terms of… was… is… was… was there a firing into the crowd?  And also, there… there has been reference to ethnic tension there, including in a US State Department statement, and I wanted to know:  what’s MONUSCO doing?  Is it, as some people describe it, mobs targeting Rwanda-phone residents of Goma, and what is being done to protect them?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, the point of what the Mission is doing right now is to support the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) in protecting the civilian population of Goma, which means the entire civilian population of Goma.  And they will continue to go about its task to make sure that the civilian population cannot be shot at, will not be in the firing line from outside forces, such as the M23 [23 March Movement].  At the same time, yes, we have been working also to make sure that the parties can resolve their tensions through a diplomatic framework.  In other words, through the Framework Agreement, and Mary Robinson is going about her work, and you will have seen the statement that she put out over the weekend.  Regarding your question about the incident in which people had been shot at, I believe that the UN Mission, MONUSCO, has an inquiry under way, and we’ll await the results of that inquiry.

Question:  And can I… I just want to ask one follow-up on that, and it’s just… it’s kind of a… a… a… I really appreciate your answer to this.  I mean, the idea is that MONUSCO is there to protect civilians, but there are some civilians there that feel that the FARDC is… is part of the problem, and I’ll point to the… the rapes in Minova, but there are other ones, as well, including there… the reports of civilians hit by FARDC attack helicopters in the last few days.  So, I am wondering, is there any gap… I mean, does MONUSCO have a duty to protect civilians from the FARDC?  That’s my question.

Associate Spokesperson:  Its duty is to protect civilians.  If there are problems with the FARDC, as you have seen in past incidents, we try to investigate those and try to make sure that there is follow-up, so that the Congolese Armed Forces are also not part of the problem.  But, at the same time, our basic focus is just to make sure that innocent people will not be fired upon.  In this case, you have a very large city, Goma, that has been put in harm’s path again, and the entire point is to keep them out of the line of fire.  And that is what the UN mission is trying to do.  Yes?

Question:  One more on the chemical weapons, thank you.  Can you confirm that Khan al-Assal is still on the agenda of the chemical team?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.  Yes, it is.  All of the places that have been on the agenda remain on the agenda.  Basically, the areas of daily investigation need to be predefined to allow for coordination, particularly to ensure that there is a cessation of hostilities, as well as cooperation from the opposition forces on the ground.  So, that helps to determine which areas are investigated on which days.  But yes, we had a previous agreement on visiting three sites, Khan al-Assal and two others, and that agreement still stands.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, Farhan, in the past, the Turkish authority spoke about two kilograms of poison gas were… were seized by the authorities in Turkey a few months ago.  And that story seems to have been forgotten or not followed up on with regard to the investigation.  Serious material like poison gas in the hands of Al-Nusra, which is categorized as a terrorist organization, sure is in order in this… in such an investigation, wouldn’t it be?

Associate Spokesperson:  If we can receive verifiable information, useful information from any party, we would appreciate receiving that so that they can be evaluated.  We would need to receive information from one side or another about…

Question:  Did they ask the Turkish authority to provide such information?

Associate Spokesperson:  Dr. Sellström and his team have been in touch widely with people even before they got on the ground, as you know.  I don’t have any specific details about the information that they have collected so far.  As you are aware, they are accumulating evidence, accumulating information, and then they will report on that in due course.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, thank you.  Some countries say that the days that passed from the accident of last week, I guess now about five days, is too late, like they consider it has been compromising the result of any investigation.  Do you… does this… does the UN inspector agree with this assessment?

Associate Spokesperson:  Despite the passage of a number of days, the Secretary-General is confident that the team will be able to obtain and analyse evidence relevant for its investigation of the 21 August incident at Ghouta in Damascus.  He believes that the investigation of this incident will benefit greatly from the fact that the investigation team is already on hand and prepared to go on site immediately.  Hold on; in the back?

Question:  Will Dr. Sellström’s group’s findings be turned over to anyone else to determine accountability for these attacks?  And if not, then what is the value of confirming that chemical weapons were used?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, Dr. Sellström will, first and foremost, share the information with the Secretary-General.  After that, it is our evaluation to see how we can usefully… how we can make use of the evidence that has been collected, but it is clear that they are already gathering valuable evidence.  They will be able to report back and then they will be able to present their findings to the Secretary-General.  Yes?

Question:  But, I guess, but to what end?  If we are not going to find out who performed these attacks, then what’s the value of them?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as I just said, the mission will seek to reconstruct an evidence-based narrative of the alleged incidents and other information in accordance with its guidelines.  Yes?

Question:  Many of the reports coming out give the impression that the Syrian Government is hostile to the investigation team in Syria.  Is that accurate in any way?

Associate Spokesperson:  We have gotten the agreements that we need to allow the team to proceed about its work, and we hope and trust that the team will be able to actually carry out its work as per the agreements.

Question:  Regarding hostility?

Associate Spokesperson:  There are hostilities all over the country; it’s a country that has been at war.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, great, thanks a lot.  I want to ask about USG [Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey] Feltman and then about Sri Lanka.  On Mr. Feltman, I know it was said that… Eduardo [del Buey], on his last day, said that… that… that… that USG Feltman met with, or saw or met with the Muslim Brotherhood, but there continue to be stories from their spokesman that they weren’t reached out to and more, weren’t met with.  So, I… I wanted to know if you could say who he met with, and I also wanted you to confirm that he is on his way to… to Iran and know what his… what his… what his objectives are there.

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, one of the stops on his itinerary is, in fact, Iran.  And while in Iran, the Under-Secretary-General does intend to discuss the broader situation in Syria.

Question:  Okay, what about this Mus… Muslim Brotherhood question, is it possible to know how far?  It seems kind of important…

Associate Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have anything to add to what Eduardo said Friday.  He gave the details that we had.  Yes?

Question:  In his itinerary, Mr. Feltman will stop by Lebanon, too?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have a Lebanon trip to confirm at present.  If we have further stops to mention, we will let you know at the time that becomes… at the time that we have that information.

Question:  On the question of Lebanon, do you know who will be briefing the Council on this… these coming days, on UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon]?  Will it be Mr. [Derek] Plumbly?

Associate Spokesperson:  No.  No, Mr. Plumbly just got back to the ground in Lebanon, so he is in Beirut today.  I believe it will be someone from the Secretariat, but closer to the date, we will be able to figure out which precise official it is.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask, the… the… the… Navi Pillay is in Sri Lanka, and there are reports of the… of a protest at the UN facilities there of her visit, and I wanted to know, is that true?  What do you have to say about that, and also just to close the… the… the… when… when… when Mr. Ojea… [Tomas] Ojea Quintana was in Myanmar, there seems to be… I understand your Office put a statement saying that… that it… it would be legitimate to protest, but it shouldn’t be violent.  I just wanted to know what the final kind of readout is now, the Government of Myanmar said that there was no attack on… on… on Mr. Quintana whatsoever, it was an attempt to deliver a letter, and he, as a UN Special Rapporteur, continues to insist that his car was mobbed, so I know that there two… there are sort of on the topic of the protection of human rights officials, when they visit these countries, but what can you say about the Sri Lanka, one is it… and is there any more on Myanmar in terms of what actually happened?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have any comment on the Sri Lanka, one; I suggest you check with Ms. Pillay’s office.  Regarding Mr. Quintana, Mr. Ojea Quintana and any officials, we, of course, would ask any… would ask all parties to refrain from attacks on officials as they go about their work.

[The Associate Spokesperson later added that Ms. Pillay was not in the vicinity of a peaceful protest at the United Nations compound in Colombo.]

That’s it.  Have a good afternoon.

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