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DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

26 July 2004

Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good Afternoon.

**Secretary-General Heads to AccraSummit

As he mentioned in his press conference last week, the Secretary-General will be attending a summit on Côte d’Ivoire to begin this Thursday in the Ghanaian capital of Accra.

This meeting builds on the mini-summit that the Secretary-General hosted at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa earlier this month. But in addition to the nine heads of State that attended in Addis, the heads of State of all 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have been invited to Accra. It’s not yet certain how many of those will actually attend.

The purpose of the meeting is to assist the Government of the Côte d’Ivoire and the opposition to faithfully implement the peace plan known as the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement. It will be co-chaired by the Secretary-General along with President John Kufuor of Ghana, in his capacity as the chairman of ECOWAS.

The Secretary-General is expected to be back in the office at the beginning of next week.

**Security Council

The Security Council just concluded consultations on the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNIMOG). Hedi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed members on the latest Secretary-General’s report on Abkhazia, Georgia, and recent developments. Under “other matters”, Mr. Annabi also briefed on Kosovo.

In the afternoon at 3:00, the Council holds consultations on Iraq. Members are scheduled to hear a briefing by UN Controller Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, who is Chair of the International Monitoring and Advisory Board. The Board recently released an initial audit of the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), which was set up last year to take over management of the country's petroleum revenues.

**Sudan

As Security Council experts continue to discuss a draft resolution on Sudan here at UN Headquarters, in the field a joint verification mission -- made up of UN staff, Sudanese Government officials and representatives of concerned countries -- this morning travelled to a displaced persons camp near Nyala in south Darfur.

Organized under the auspices of the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM) set up after the United Nations and Sudan signed a communiqué on 3 July, the mission will remain in Darfur for three days to assess the security situation there.

Specifically, the mission will investigate locations where voluntary returns have taken place, review the security concerns of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and see whether the Sudanese Government is making progress on its pledges to disarm the Janjaweed. Heavy rains overnight are making access difficult for this group.

The mission will report its findings to the next meeting of the Joint Implementation Mechanism, scheduled for August 2. Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, is scheduled to attend that meeting.

**Sudan: Humanitarian Update

Amidst widespread reports of sexual violence and rape of women and children in Darfur, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced that it concluded a three-day training of Sudanese police officers designed to assist them in investigating cases of rape of children.

UNICEF also said that polio vaccination campaign, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), and covering all of north Darfur, will begin tomorrow.

Humanitarian agencies, meanwhile, remain seriously concerned about the increasing pressure by the Sudanese Government on the displaced populations to return to their villages or other relocation sites. The IDPs are being enticed by promises of food and supplies at such sites, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

**Afghanistan: 3.2 Million Afghan Women Register to Vote, UN Mission Reports

The UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reports that, as of last week, Afghan women broke the 40 per cent mark for voter registration, with more than 3.2 million women -- or 41 per cent of the total number of voters -- registered for the upcoming elections. We have more details in the Briefing Notes today from Kabul.

**Bangladesh May Face Humanitarian Crisis as Floodwaters Rise, WFP Warns

The World Food Programme (WFP) warns that Bangladesh could face a major humanitarian crisis as heavy rains there have prevented water levels from dropping, leading to continued flooding. WFP is particularly concerned about the upcoming high tide in the Bay of Bengal -- expected in early August -- which would considerably limit the outflow of floodwaters into the sea.

Flooding over the past few months has destroyed substantial parts of Bangladesh’s rice crop, as well as the food stocks of many households. WFP has just finished distributing high-energy biscuit supplies in three northern districts, and it’s preparing to hand out some 3,000 tons of rice in the country’s north and central regions.

**Eritrea

UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, says death rates are rising among more than 400,000 children in Eritrea living in extreme poverty due to the prolonged drought and the aftermath of the war with Ethiopia. UNICEF is calling for an additional $3.8 million to fund its projects there and to support children displaced by the crisis in the East African country for the rest of the year. We have more on that upstairs.

**Ethiopia

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that multi-agency assessment teams have agreed that basic supplies are urgently required in many locations throughout Ethiopia. Last month, some one million people in the eastern Somali region were receiving food assistance, while in all of Ethiopia the figure was close to seven million.

In addition, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with other partners, are seeking $6.9 million to help pay for new, more effective anti-malarial treatments. Malaria is a leading cause of death in Ethiopia -- currently, some 48 million people live in malaria risk areas.

**Burundi: Refugee Returns Update

Continuing on the subject of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), it also reports that as of last week, there’ve been almost 57,000 facilitated and more than 3,500 spontaneous refugee returns to Burundi in 2004.

**Secretary-General’s Message to Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Institute

In a message, the Secretary-General today said that media policy in Asia and the Pacific needs to be directed toward building truly open information societies that benefit and empower all people. That goal, he noted, is easier said than done. That message, delivered to the general conference of the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development taking place in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is available upstairs.

**ILO Study on Socio-Economic Impact of HIV/AIDS in India

The recent International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, highlighted that the ability to continue working provides a vital lifeline for people living with HIV/AIDS.

As of 2002, India is estimated to have some four million people living with HIV/AIDS. A new study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in India shows that household incomes of HIV/AIDS sufferers are depleted by one third, while average monthly expenditure on food and treatment increases substantially.

As a result of this, many households have to compromise on their children's education, with nearly 38 per cent of respondents reported being forced to send their children to work. More information is available on the ILO’s web site.

**New Uniforms for Tour Guides at UN Headquarters

Now for something a little closer to home: The UN is receiving a new donation of uniforms for its tour guides from clothing company Le Monti. Over the next two years, the New York-based firm is donating two full sets of uniforms for each of the 60 UN tour guides here at United Nations Headquarters. A signing ceremony will be held tomorrow in the Dag Hammarskjold Library penthouse. And we have more on this upstairs, and we also have a press kit for you.

**Press Conference

Finally, at 3:00 pm., this afternoon, Ambassador Phillippe Djangone-Bi, of Côte d’Ivoire will hold a press conference to talk about the latest developments in his country.

That’s all I have for you.

**Questions and Answers

Question: [Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Adviser on Latin American Issues] Diego Cordovez has just returned from Venezuela [where he followed the latest developments regarding that country’s recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez], but it’s been reported that the United Nations will not send observers. What’s the reason behind that?

Spokesman: First, I don’t think it was requested. And second, I believe that the CarterCenter and the Organization of American States (OAS) have a long-time involvement in that issue, and we are deferring to those two organizations that, as I understand it, have been asked to help monitor the referendum.

Question: The European Union has announced that it is analyzing the possibility of economic sanctions against Sudan. Do you have any reaction to that? What are the latest developments in the Security Council concerning Sudan?

Spokesman: I would not comment on the European Union’s actions over the weekend. Here, at the Security Council and UN Headquarters, I don’t think there’s been any change since Friday. There is a draft resolution circulating. I believe the sponsor of that draft, the United States, may be hoping for action on the resolution by the end of this week. But I think you should probably ask the Council President what the latest thinking is about the possible timing of a vote.

Thank you very much.

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