DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
17 February 1999
The following is a near verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Fred Eckhard:
Good afternoon. I'd like to welcome to the briefing Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, who will be briefing you on the situation in Sierra Leone and on his upcoming trip to Africa.
The group of Kurdish demonstrators who were occupying a room of the Palais des Nations in Geneva since yesterday morning left the premises peacefully at about 3:40 p.m. local time today.
Following contacts between the Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Vladimir Petrovsky, and the Permanent Representative of Switzerland to International Organizations, Walter Gyger, the group agreed to leave the premises peacefully with the understanding that their demand for "procedures and fundamental principles of law will be fully respected concerning Abdullah Ocalan be made public". A press release containing the demand distributed in Geneva is available upstairs in my office.
A separate incident involving another 18 Kurdish demonstrators who forced their way into the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva this morning, and occupied a corner of the third floor of the building, ended peacefully about two and a half hours later after their demands were made public.
The UNHCR spokesman told reporters that the group demanded a conference on the Kurdish people, safety guarantees for Ocalan and for United Nations Headquarters to look into Kurdish issues.
Kurdish supporters of Ocalan, meanwhile, continue to demonstrate outside the United Nations offices in Geneva and Yerevan, Armenia, today.
**Appeal by Special Rapporteur on Torture:
Sir Nigel Rodley, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, appealed last night to the Turkish authorities for clarification of the circumstances of Abdullah Ocalan's detention. Sir Nigel also called upon the Government to ensure that Mr. Ocalan be granted immediate access to legal counsel and that an independent monitoring system be put into place to see that his human dignity is respected. Copies of the complete statement are available upstairs.
The Security Council is holding consultations on Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone. Ibrahima Fall, the Assistant Secretary- General for Political Affairs, briefed the Council on the first two subjects; Hédi Annabi, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, will brief them on the third.
Under other matters, the draft of a presidential statement on the Central African Republic is expected to be introduced.
On Angola, the Secretary-General received a letter from President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola on Friday. This was a response to the Secretary- General's earlier letter to the President regarding the continued presence of the United Nations in Angola.
The Secretary-General shared the letter with Security Council members on Friday, even though the original is still being awaited and the shared copy was an unsigned, unofficial translation of the letter.
In his letter, President dos Santos indicated that his Government did not see any reason to maintain the presence of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Angola. As for the continued presence of United Nations agencies, it had no objection to them. The Angolan President also noted they were not objecting to the idea proposed by the Secretary-General to have his Special Representative for Angola based in New York.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Angola, Issa Diallo, is meeting with the Secretary-General at 12:45 p.m. today for consultations, and the Security Council is expected to take up Angola tomorrow.
You'll see in today's Journal the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court is meeting in working groups today. One working group is dealing with the Court's rules of procedure and evidence; the other is discussing the elements of crimes.
The Court's Statute set out which crimes it covers, but it left the question of the specific elements to the Assembly of States Parties. The PrepCom is preparing recommendations for that Assembly. It is considering, for example, what makes murder, rape or sexual violence a war crime.
On Monday, the PrepCom will begin to discuss aggression, which the Statute left to the Assembly of States Parties to define.
**Drug Control and Crime Prevention Office:
Pino Arlacchi, the head of the Vienna-based office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, arrived in New York today. During his stay, he'll have working meetings with various United Nations officials, and he'll brief Permanent Representatives on issues such as narcotics, drugs and money laundering. We've invited him to brief you as well, and we'll let you know as soon as we have a firm date.
On Sunday, he'll go to Washington, D.C., where he's scheduled to meet with United States government officials and members of Congress, as well as diplomatic representatives of countries confronting pressing drug issues. He'll return to Europe on 24 February.
We have copies of the report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) for 1998. Press kits are also now available at the third floor documents centre. The report is under embargo until Tuesday, 23 February, and is available in six official languages.
On Monday, 22 February, at 11:15 a.m. in this room (S-226), there'll be a background briefing on the report by a member of the Board, Ambassador Herb Okun. For any additional information between now and then, please contact Tim Wall of the Information Department on extension 3-5851.
A weekly update on the implementation of the oil-for-food programme in Iraq is available in our Office. Since the beginning of the current 180-day Phase V period in December last year, Iraq has exported 143.84 million barrels of oil, for an average export rate of 2.07 million barrels per day. The revenue raised by oil sales so far is about $1.231 billion.
Arrivals of humanitarian supplies last week included combine harvesters, printing materials, electrical equipment, spare parts, and truck-mounted crane and other trucks, medical books, pesticides, as well as food and medicines -- so pick up the report.
**World Health Organization/Influenza:
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that influenza epidemics are a major public health concern and a major drain on economic productivity, as sick employees take time off work.
In an opening meeting today of over 300 leading international experts at WHO headquarters to mark the fiftieth anniversary of WHO influenza surveillance, the Director-General emphasized that there is still much that can and should be done to reduce the toll that influenza exacts around the world.
We have a press release and fact sheet available to you upstairs. And, my sympathies to all those who went to Davos, Switzerland, with the Secretary- General who picked up the Davos flu, including the Secretary-General himself.
**Payments to United Nations:
Payments -- Namibia today became the forty-first Member to pay its dues in full with a check of over $72,000. That compares with 34 Member States paid in full last year on this date.
Press conference tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. in this room, sponsored by the United States Mission. A press conference to announce a major international conference to fight organized crime and corruption through civic education. The Civitas Palermo World Congress will be held from 18 to 22 June of this year. Italy's Education Ministry, as well as the city of Palermo, and the United States Information Agency are key supporters.
At tomorrow's press conference, the speakers will include the Mayor of Palermo; the Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, the General Assembly President, and the Chairman of Civitas International. Ambassador Betty King, the United States representative to the Economic and Social Council, will moderate.
World Chronicle TV programme to be aired today will feature Joseph Connor, the Under-Secretary-General for Management. You can see it at 2:30 p.m. on in-house channels 6 and 38.
And, finally, UNCA (United Nations Correspondents' Association) has asked me to announce to you that Vaiju Naravane, the Director of Public Relations of the World Health Organization in Geneva will brief the UNCA Club today at 4 p.m. and you're all invited to attend.
Question: On Angola, you said that the Government was happy to pick up the Secretary-General's recommendation that the Special Representative be based in New York. It seems to me that wasn't the request from the Security Council that I thought he was writing about -- that the Special Representative and a small team similar to MONUA, a multi-disciplinary team, the resolution said -- was to be based in Luanda, and the New York thing was in his report, which I thought was superseded by the Security Council resolution. So, did he not respond to that resolution?
Spokesman: I think I better get guidance before trying to answer that question. His proposal was for a special envoy based in New York.
Question: But, that's not the Security Council proposal. If you're going to have a small group of multi-disciplinary people based in Luanda, you would need the Special Representative there. I assume none of this is going to happen.
Spokesman: Why would you assume you need the Special Representative there? The Special Representative would have a political mandate ...
Question: This was a political team, security people, that the Council wanted.
Spokesman: Alright. Well, let me try to get guidance before I try to answer your question.
Question: Do you have any confirmation yet that the letter of assurances to the Libyan Government has been sent? The Secretary-General said he was sending it today, but has it actually gone?
Spokesman: No, I think that could happen in the next hour or so.
Question: Can we check back to make sure that it actually indeed has ...?
Spokesman: Yes, please.
Question: I know you don't want to talk too much about security, but it's been hard not to notice this tremendous security since yesterday. Could you give us some idea of the level of security, whether it's increased since the Kurdish protests?
Spokesman: I saw the same vehicles on First Avenue that you did. I assume some of them may be there for our benefit, others may be there for the benefit of certain Missions that are on First Avenue.
Question: So, it's not a United Nations thing, it's an NYPD (New York Police Department) thing?
Spokesman: Well, yes, but, of course, we would work in close coordination with them. I assume it's the New York Police Department that's taken the initiative to have the vans and the vehicles on First Avenue, but I won't comment further on the reason for that.
Question: Could you give an update of the situation in Sierra Leone?
Spokesman: I don't have those details. If you come by my Office -- a general question like that -- come by my office and we'll give you a full briefing.
Question: Are they going to discuss also Eritrea and Ethiopia because they are still fighting?
Spokesman: The Security Council?
Spokesman: Not on the agenda, unless it comes up spontaneously under other matters, but they didn't expect it to come up when we spoke to them this morning.
Question: The Secretary-General was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize again this year. Can you tell us who nominated him and exactly what for?
Spokesman: First of all, are those nominations public or did they leak? And, second ...
Question: It's widely leaked.
Spokesman: We don't have a clue. It wasn't me.
The following is a summary of the briefing by Jadranka Mihalic, spokesman for the President of the General Assembly:
**General Assembly President to Japan:
The President of the fifty-third session will leave New York to travel to Japan over the weekend for a five-day official visit, at the invitation of the Foreign Ministry of Japan. He will be in Japan from 22 to 27 February and he will return to New York in the second part of March. During his visit to Japan, the President will meet the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs and other leading figures in the Government of Japan for an exchange of views on issues relating to the United Nations.
**Revised General Assembly Schedule:
The plenary will meet tomorrow afternoon -- this is rescheduled from today -- and, it will consider the fourth report of the General Committee which, as you will recall, recommended last week the inclusion of an additional item, on the observer status in the General Assembly for the Custom Cooperation Council, which will then, if approved, become the 169th item on the agenda for the current session.
In addition, the plenary is scheduled to take up several items relating to elections and appointments, including the confirmation of the appointment of the Secretary-General of UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) for an additional four-year term. The Assembly will also consider the question of the closing date of the current session and the opening date of the fifty-fourth session.
Following the adjournment of this meeting the Open-ended Informal Consultations of the Plenary on United Nations Reform: Measures and Proposals will resume to look into the issues relating to the Millennium Assembly.
Spokesman: Perhaps at least in partial response to your question on Sierra Leone, Olara Otunnu will give you some details. Olara?
* *** *
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|