DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
27 November 2007
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon, all.
**Press Conferences Today
Our guest at noon is Claes Johansson of UNDP, who will brief you on the latest Human Development report on Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World. Copies of the report are available at the media documents centre and, from what I gather, also here, on this table.
Later today, at 3 p.m., there will be a press conference by Ambassador Nasser bin Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar on the Qatari draft resolution presented before the Third Committee of the General Assembly on World Autism Awareness Day.
The Secretary-General is currently attending the international meeting on the Middle East in Annapolis, and he will shortly deliver remarks pledging the UN’s full support for the renewed efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He is to say that we must abandon piecemeal approaches and address all aspects of the conflict. Final status negotiations must begin in earnest and address all the issues. He will also urge support to help the Palestinian Authority to rebuild, reform and perform, and stress the need for the situation on the ground to improve, rapidly and visibly.
Yesterday, in Washington, D.C., the Secretary-General met with the other principal members of the Quartet, which brings together the United Nations, United States, Russia and the European Union. The Quartet, in a statement issued afterwards, expressed strong support for the Annapolis Conference. It welcomed the commitment of the Israeli and Palestinians leaders to launch bilateral negotiations towards the establishment of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza and the realization of Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Regarding bilaterals, this morning the Secretary-General met with the head of the League of Arab States, Amre Moussa. Earlier on Monday, the Secretary-General conducted separate bilateral meetings with the High Representative for European Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. In all the various meetings, the participants discussed the preparations for the Annapolis meeting, and exchanged views on how to ensure that an effective follow-up process will be launched.
A seven-member Security Council delegation arrived in Timor-Leste today, as part of a four-day visit to underscore the international community’s long-term commitment to bring stabilization and development, and the need for continued support to bilateral and international partners aiding Timorese efforts towards self-reliance.
The delegation today met with various Government officials including the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Vice Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, President of the National Parliament, and the President of the Court of Appeals. They also met with senior officials of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste. In the meetings, they exchanged views on how to help Timor-Leste develop its capacity in the areas of security and democracy.
The Security Council will take up Sudan this afternoon. It will first hold an open meeting at 3 o’clock.
During that meeting, Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, will brief on the Darfur peace process, and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno will update Council members on the deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur. Following the open meeting, the Council will hold consultations on Sudan and other matters.
After consultations end, Eliasson and Guéhenno will head to the Security Council stakeout to take your questions. Of course, it will be announced over the loudspeaker.
Meanwhile, in Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Ashraf Qazi, met today with Vice-President Ali Osman Taha.
Discussions focused on the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the ongoing efforts of the National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the parties to the CPA, in order to resolve pending issues and revive their partnership.
Qazi then left today to Juba in southern Sudan for a two-day visit, during which he is expected to meet with First Vice-President and President of the Government of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, and other senior officials. He will also meet with SPLM Secretary-General Pagan Amoum.
He will discuss with the Government of Southern Sudan and SPLM leadership the way forward in resolving pending matters between the parties in order to ensure an early end to the current situation and to preserve the integrity of the CPA.
Still on the Sudan, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has announced the creation of over 7,000 jobs across Sudan through the Recovery and Rehabilitation Programme. The Programme is training thousands of Sudanese men and women, and helping Sudan in its effort to reach the first Millennium Development Goal to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. The programme runs projects in Abyei Area and nine other states.
Jobs have been created in construction, in the agricultural sector, and through microcredit loan schemes, as part of the largest recovery initiative across Sudan. You can read more about the Programme in today’s bulletin prepared by the UN Mission in Sudan.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reports that Micho Bizaboso, a top commander in dissident General Laurent Nkunda’s ranks, and 14 rebels surrendered last night to UN peacekeepers.
The 15 heavily armed men had earlier attempted, in defiance of UN peacekeepers, to take over a telephone tower on the hill near the town of Sake, in the North Kivu province. After several hours of negotiations, outnumbered, they agreed to be disarmed and taken into custody. They are expected to be transferred later today to a brassage centre in order to be trained and absorbed into the Government Army.
Nearly two weeks after Cyclone Sidr struck Bangladesh, an estimated 2.6 million people are still in need of immediate life-saving assistance, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The World Food Programme is now distributing high-energy biscuits to almost a million people; it has also started distributing rice. Meanwhile, UNICEF is providing blended food for children for three months. To date, the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund has disbursed nearly $15 million for emergency activities.
Also today, UNESCO announced that it is sending a mission to the country next week. It will focus on the Sundarbans mangrove forest, both in terms of safeguarding the site and helping the people who live there. There is more information in several press releases and the Geneva briefing note upstairs.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes today visited Ethiopia’s Ogaden region. There, he met with officials in Jijiga, the regional capital, to discuss the ways the UN and its partners can help the more than 640,000 people who require urgent humanitarian assistance. He also travelled to Kabridehar, where the UN recently established a field presence.
Tomorrow, Mr. Holmes plans to meet with senior Government officials in Addis Ababa. He says that, after today’s visit to Ogaden, he plans to bring up the issues of access and freedom of commercial activity during those meetings.
Later this week, Mr. Holmes heads to Sudan, including Darfur, and then on to Kenya. We have more information upstairs.
The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has confirmed the convictions of Aloys Simba for genocide and crimes against humanity. The Chamber also confirmed his sentence of 25 years in prison for these crimes.
Simba, a former Rwandan Army Lieutenant Colonel and Member of Parliament, was convicted two years ago for his part in the killing of ethnic Tutsis at a school in Kaduha Parish, in southern Rwanda, in April 1994. He was arrested in Senegal in November 2001. Simba remains in the Tribunal’s Detention Facility in Arusha, pending his transfer to a third country to serve his sentence. He will be given credit for time served since his arrest.
**United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, is urging Governments of West and Central Africa to do more to prevent children from falling victim to human trafficking. Addressing a meeting on this topic in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Costa warned that the threat posed by trafficking goes far beyond the suffering of the affected children; it also threatens the region’s hopes for a peaceful and prosperous future.
He stressed that drug treatment for former child soldiers is a key part of post-conflict rehabilitation. He also urged more attention be given to the plight of girls. He also appealed to businesses and consumers to make sure that they’re not supporting human trafficking or slave labour. We have more information upstairs.
**Information Technology and Climate Change
Today, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang addressed the conference on the positive impact of information and communications technology on the environment and climate change.
He said such technologies can help cut greenhouse gas emissions by modernizing mass transit. He added that they can also help to provide information on climate change and disaster management, monitor and assess air pollution, and manage water demand in agriculture through irrigation technologies. We have Mr. Sha’s full remarks upstairs. The Conference is taking place all day in Conference Room 4.
**United Nations Population Fund
As part of a 16-day campaign against gender violence, the UN Population Fund is shining a light on five under-reported stories. They are: first, the thousands of deaths each year in the Russian Federation that result from domestic violence; the prenatal sex selection in India that’s resulted in a gender imbalance, driving a greater demand for trafficked young women, who are forced into sexual slavery; the third story, the practice of female self-immolation in Central Asian republics; the fourth story, how gender-based violence is causing a rising proportion of women to become infected with HIV; and finally, the practice of “compensation marriages”, where girls are forced into arranged marriages to settle an inter-ethnic or family dispute.
We have more information upstairs.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
Tomorrow at 11 a.m., Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang will hold a press conference to launch the 2007 report on The World Social Situation: The Employment Imperative. We have more information on the report upstairs.
This is all I have for you. Any questions? Yes, Khaled.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Is there any update on that Brammertz report, when the Secretary-General is supposed to hand it to members of the Security Council?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has not received the Brammertz report yet. He will receive it later today when he comes back from Annapolis. In fact, the report has not been delivered to the building yet. It will probably be transferred to the Security Council tomorrow.
Question: There is a report out there that –- a press report –- that says the Brammertz report includes names. Can you deny, confirm or disregard…
Spokesperson: I cannot. I haven’t seen the report. No one here has seen the report, so it’s very difficult for me to say anything about it. I don’t have the report yet.
Question: Is it likely? Because in the past, Brammertz has declined to name names.
Spokesperson: Yes. That’s true. You’re right. He has not. Yes, Tarek?
Question: I was wondering about the response of the United Nations to a Dutch court that allowed the families of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide in 1995 to sue the United Nations, as it did not act enough to prevent the massacre of 8,000 lives. So, is there any response by the United Nations towards this?
Spokesperson: This question has been asked before. We don’t have any new information on it at this point. Yes, Mr. Abbadi.
Question: There are indications that Ethiopia has decided to increase its defence budget to meet its possible resumption of hostilities with Eritrea. Is the Secretary-General concerned about possible violence again in the area?
Spokesperson: There is no doubt, you know, that the Secretariat is very concerned about this situation. As you know, Mr. Lynn Pascoe went there recently. There is close attention paid to the region, yes. That’s all I can say. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Yes, Michèle, two questions. One, Côte d’Ivoire, and the other is about the Congo. On Cote d’Ivoire, there’s this report that the Messenger of Peace Alpha Blondy, a musician from Côte d’Ivoire… First, is he no longer a Messenger for Peace? He seems to have written an open letter saying that UNOCI has said that he no longer is, and he’s said that only the Secretary-General can make that decision. Are you aware of any change in his status as a messenger of peace?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of, but I can check on that for you.
Question: He wrote an open letter, somehow saying that there were moves afoot to…
Spokesperson: Yes. I’m aware of the information; however, we don’t have any confirmation of that. I’ll try to get more for you.
[The Spokesperson later clarified that Alpha Blondy had been a “Musician for Peace” appointed by the United Nations mission in Côte d’Ivoire -- not a “Messenger of Peace” appointed by the Secretary-General. She confirmed that the United Nations mission had sent a letter to Alpha Blondy, saying that, in the context of new peace agreements in Côte d’Ivoire, the mission no longer needed the services of a special messenger.]
Question: Great. Thanks a lot. And on the… I wanted to ask this thing about the MONUC in the Congo.
Question: Is… It seems that the PAE, the company that has now the Darfur infrastructure contract, was named the winner of the [inaudible] field support contract for MONUC, despite not being the lowest bidder. They bid 35 million and an Australian company, Patrick Defence, bid 18. And now documents emerge showing that they were nevertheless selected. So it’s left me wondering, I guess, this is a policy matter. I understand you can’t get into the specifics. Is it the UN’s policy to choose the lowest qualified bidder, when they do a bidding operation, and if they don’t, why wouldn’t they choose it, the lowest…
Spokesperson: Well, it depends on the qualifications, also, of bidders. You can have a lower bid that does not fit the requirements that are asked for in this specific task. I don’t have any specifics on this issue that you mentioned, on that PAE contract. I can get more information for you on this. However, the policy is to get, of course the lowest bidder, but also someone who can actually properly carry on the contract.
Question: Also… because, I mean, it seems they were called “qualified”, but I understand maybe there’s some difference. There are only two things, as you look into that, I would ask you, if you could, which would be: one, did PAE -- there seemed to be some dispute in the middle of this year whether PAE would get the Congo contract or not –- to find out who has that contract, and if there’s any relation between that contract and the Darfur contract.
Spokesperson: I don’t think there is any relationship between the two, but I can get more for you on it. Yes.
Question: To follow up on that, in 2002, PAE was found, in an OIOS report, according to an ACABQ report to be… to have overcharged. The question is -- in MONUC, by the way, in the contract in MONUC -- the question is have they rectified that sufficiently to allow them to become a vendor again.
Spokesperson: They must have rectified it, if they can be a vendor again. Of course.
Question: You say, “They must have.” Is there any way to check that they have?
Spokesperson: I can try to get the information for you. You had asked me earlier to get you more information on procurement.
Question: And what did they have to do… and what exactly… and what…
Spokesperson: Okay. I will get you someone.
Question: Okay. And what it is exactly that they had to do in order to rectify it… what…
Spokesperson: We’re going to have to get someone from procurement to answer all those questions, both your questions and Matthew’s questions. We cannot have someone from procurement at this point, because as you know, it is being discussed in the Fifth Committee. As soon as that discussion is finished, you will have someone come here and answer your questions.
Correspondent: No, but this is something from 2002.
Spokesperson: Okay, well that will be part of questions we ask to procurement. Yes, Erol?
Question: Thank you, Michèle. Apparently, right now, a few minutes ago, there is news that the court in the Netherlands lifted the immunity of the United Nations, so the United Nations can be sued at that court by the non-governmental organization, Mothers from Srebrenica. Any comment on that? How well you are preparing yourself right now and do you know about that?
Spokesperson: The question was asked before you came…
Correspondent: I’m so sorry.
Spokesperson: I don’t have the information at this point. I cannot answer it at this point. I can try to get the information. Yes, Tarek?
Question: Do you have an update on the current talks in Baden, Austria on the final status of Kosovo?
Spokesperson: No. We don’t have anything on that. I checked today; we don’t have anything new on this. As you know, there is going to be a report coming to the United Nations, to the Secretary-General. We are waiting for that report.
Thank you very much. Janos is coming, and then you will have our guests.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Good afternoon. Good to see you.
**General Assembly President on Climate Change and ICT
Let’s start with the activities of the President. As you know, climate change is one of the topics that he’s very much interested in. It is the flagship issue for the sixty-second session, according to the President. Therefore, he took part this morning in a conference organized by DESA and the Global Alliance for ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and Development on the theme of “the positive impact of ICT on the environment and climate change”.
In the statement that he delivered to the participants this morning, the President stressed that information and communications technology built around environmentally friendly principles could push us towards a greener, more sustainable, low-carbon world.
He also noted that climate change had a huge impact on the way the United Nations pursued its objectives in development, peace and security, human rights, and the rule of law. Inevitably, ICT would be more integrated into our future work.
He also pointed out that ICT were clearly important tools, catalysts, and instruments that can contribute to the preservation of our environment and the stabilization of the world’s climate. But, like all tools, success depended on how they were used and who had them. His full speech is available for you upstairs, and it’s also on the website.
**General Assembly Plenary
Yesterday, the Assembly plenary finished its meeting on a number of items, including the debate on “revitalization of the General Assembly”. As you know, the work on this item will continue in the framework of the ad hoc working group. The two co-chairs of that working group were named yesterday, as the Permanent Representative of Poland and the Permanent Representative of Paraguay. That ad hoc working group will do most of its work in the first part of next year. Also, there was a debate yesterday on the role of diamonds fuelling conflict. That resulted in the adoption of a draft resolution that welcomed the contribution, in this regard, of the Kimberley Process. There was also action taken by the Assembly on the report of the International Criminal Court. You may remember that there was also another action taken on another draft resolution that designated 20 February as World Day of Social Justice.
The Assembly next will meet on Thursday. It will take up two items: the Question of Palestine and the Situation in the Middle East.
As regards the Main Committees, as anticipated and as I mentioned yesterday, the Fourth, that is the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, wrapped up its work for the whole session. It took action on 11 remaining drafts that it had before it. All together, it adopted 26 draft texts in the course of its work in this session.
That brings the total number of Committees that have finished their work to three: The First Committee, as you know, did that weeks ago; it had 52 draft texts adopted; the Sixth Committee also finished a couple of weeks ago; it had 20 draft texts adopted.
Today, the Third Committee is meeting and is expected to finish its work, so it has all the remaining draft texts on its schedule. We’ll see whether it’s able to go through them.
The Second Committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow. It wants to finish its work this week.
Fifth Committee, as I mentioned, is continuing for the next couple of weeks. That is the only Committee that has resumed sessions next year. Today, the Fifth Committee is meeting in the format of informal consultations as regards the programme budget for 2008-2009, and also on the proposed budget for UNAMID. For those of you who have a schedule of their work, then you would also notice that the capital master plan is also on the Committee’s schedule, but that’s in the form of so-called informal informals. That’ll be late in the evening.
That’s about all I have. Any questions, before we go to our noon guest? Rhonda?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I just wanted an update about Security Council reform. What is happening? Do you know of any timeline in terms of when that might come up with the General Assembly?
Spokesperson: I don’t have anything new to add, as apart from what we had last week, when this item wrapped up in the plenary. As you remember, the idea was for continued consultations with Member States, and then to see which way things are going as regards continuation of the ad hoc working group, or maybe to move into some other format of intergovernmental negotiations.
Question: There is no time set to make a decision…
Spokesperson: Not in the sense that I could give you a deadline, but what I can say, based…on what we could all detect from the way that this was handled by Member States, was that there is a definite urgency on the part of Member States, as well as on the part of the President, to take this issue forward and basically come up with the right format for continuing this work, so it is going to happen very soon. The moment I have something, I’ll let you know. Mr. Abbadi.
Question: On the revitalization of the General Assembly, yesterday the President indicated he would like to have the Assembly be more efficient and action oriented, and he has established, or the Assembly established, now, another ad hoc committee to look into that question. What precautions is the President taking to avoid another ad hoc committee working for more than 11 years to revitalize the Assembly?
Spokesperson: I did mention yesterday that this has been an item that has been on the agenda for the past 16 years. This is not the first time that this item is dealt with in the format of a working group. Working groups, ad hoc working groups, have been established on the same issue of revitalization of the GA. This in particular has been called for by a resolution adopted last year, or sorry, by the last session of the General Assembly, so the sixty-first session, but it was adopted, actually, at the end of August, a resolution asking for the sixty-second session to establish once again a working group to deal with this issue. So the working group format is not new. If we deduct from the debate what Member States were saying, then we can see that it’s one of those issues that have been with us, and where Member States would like to see some movement forward. You could see two, sort of, fields. One where it’s more of a question of format, procedural issues, and the other where the push is more for substance.
What I tried to stress yesterday is that, as far as the President is concerned, his view on this is that the revitalization is best proven if the Assembly can show that it can take substantive action on various different issues and, especially, in the five priority areas that he has. So that’s, I think, what he would be looking at. I don’t know whether he has any guidance, any specifics for the working group itself.
This working group format, the new one, is going to begin in the next couple of weeks. As I said, the two co-chairs have just been nominated: the Permanent Representatives of Poland and Paraguay, so the work is just going to begin. As I mentioned, the bulk of it will be done early next year. So I don’t have any specific guidelines at this moment, apart from maybe an overall notion as to the importance of substantive advancement on key issues. Yes, Matthew.
Question: One question on the ICT event that you mentioned, down in the basement…
Spokesperson: Conference Room 4, yes.
Question: I went down there and it’s… various high-tech companies have their… you know, tables, promotional materials… not all high-tech companies, but some. So I’m just wondering… it led me to wonder, how do the companies that are presenting in this formal way, there, did they pay for that? Is there some… how were they selected? Were all companies invited? Are they members of the Global Compact? Things like that. Are you aware?
Spokesperson: All I know is that this is a meeting organized by DESA. I know that there’s a background press release out on the website that details the participants, but I don’t know the procedures as far as how the selection is, how DESA organized this, etc., but we can certainly look into that. I can follow up on that. Yes, Benny.
Question: Speaking of revitalization of the Security Council ways of work, could you just refresh us as to the difference between informal informals and plain old informals?
Spokesperson: I don’t know about the Security Council work, but…
Question: I mean the General Assembly.
Spokesperson: The General Assembly, okay. What we’re talking about here is the Fifth Committee, and actually what you refer to is what I’ve mentioned with the capital master plan on informal informals. I mentioned this a little bit yesterday when Matthew was asking about the work of the Fifth Committee. At that time, what I mentioned was that when there’s a subject, let’s say capital master plan, and it is introduced into the Fifth Committee, it is done so in an open session. Then there is a back and forth; there is discussion, debate. Once that element, that part is done, then the Committee moves into what is called informal consultations. This is done in the format of having the coordinator for that particular item, in this case the capital master plan, working with the representatives of Member States, trying to put together a draft resolution that everybody agrees with on that particular item. It is done in a form of closed session with interpretation.
If it is so decided, or so seen, that there are contentious parts of the draft text, in this case we’re talking about the capital master plan -- which, as far as I know, has about forty-odd paragraphs –- and there might be a couple of paragraphs where there are serious, let’s say, debates or differences between various Member States, then the decision is taken to go into so-called informal informals, which means there is no interpretation and it’s basically just a head banging amongst the Member States to try to iron out the differences. That’s, as far as I know, the way this works.
Question: Would it be fair to say that if a proposal is in trouble, they go to informal informals?
Spokesperson: I don’t know whether you would characterize it as trouble. I would certainly not use that. But it definitely indicates that there is more work to be done on it.
Question: This is a follow-up to the issue of the revitalization of the General Assembly. Does the President of the General Assembly believe there is a link to this issue with the issue of reforming Security Council?
Spokesperson: I think the way the President approaches revitalization is that he feels that if you have an active General Assembly that is able to take forward in a substantive way various, different key items, then that basically strengthens the overall work of the United Nations. And that is basically what this President is interested in: in the strengthening of the overall work and importance and role of the United Nations. That’s what he believes in. Rhonda?
Question: Just an aspect of that, and then I had a different question. Some of what I heard was that there were people who felt that the General Assembly has diminished its role and its power in terms of the UN processes. Is that going to be part of what gets looked at with the revitalization? How to… I mean, is that an aspect of the revitalization?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t really want to cherry pick as regards what various Member States said, but if you listened to the debate, and there’s a relatively good write-up of that amongst the press releases, then you could see that various different countries had various different approaches to the revitalization, including some countries who talked about encroachment; countries talked about the diminishing role, as you mentioned, of maybe the Assembly as vis-à-vis, let’s say, other organs.
I think all of that basically comes together in the next phase, and that’s the whole idea of having co-chairs, so-called facilitators, in the working group process, and bringing in a variety of different Member States to try to come up with both substantive, as well as procedural aspects of the work that can help to underscore the notion that basically the Assembly’s work is up to par with expectations. So all of that, again -- as we just talked about with Mr. Abbadi -- goes back to the fact that this is something that has been with the Assembly for the past 16 years. It’s not an easy subject, but it’s something that Member States definitely want to carry on. This is what has come out of the debate.
Question: The other question was a follow-up on the ICT…
Spokesperson: But that’s the last question because I don’t want to take so much time away from our noon guest.
Question: …and that was just that, I guess something that I’ve heard is that there’s no funding for ICT-related things, and so I wondered if that leads to business, or corporations, being the main bodies that will then be invited to do things. I just wonder if there’s some underlying reason this is so corporate-oriented, rather than… it’s a broader issue.
Spokesperson: I don’t have the answer for that. It’s something we have to check up with DESA, how they organized this. What’s the rationale behind involving these companies? I’ll look into it and try to get something for you.
Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
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For information media • not an official record
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