DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
8 March 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General:
Those of you who use the documents racks on the third floor might have noticed some new signs to make those racks easier to use. Robin and Nina have been reorganizing the presentation of the documents. I hope you appreciate that.
After 10 years of complaints, we've finally put some signs up indicating where you'd find the ladies' rooms, so I hope that will be an additional convenience.
**International Women's Day:
Good afternoon. International Women's Day is observed today all over the world. Here in New York, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, or UNIFEM, is hosting a videoconference that links New York with Mexico City, Nairobi, New Delhi, and Strasbourg. The videoconference showcases strategies to eliminate violence against women, and that includes domestic violence, dowry death, honour killings, female genital mutilation, trafficking in women and girls and wartime violence, including rape and forced prostitution.
In his message at the videoconference, the Secretary-General said: "Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace." A complete text of his message is available upstairs.
In addition to what was put out last Friday, we have in room S-378 a series of messages for International Women's Day, from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and a joint communiqué from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat).
**Death of Emir of Bahrain
We put out a statement over the weekend concerning the death of the Emir of Bahrain, His Royal Highness Amir Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa, and if any of you missed that statement, you can get it from my Office.
The Security Council is holding consultations today on Sierra Leone. Francis Okelo, the Special Representative, is briefing the Security Council
now. If he finishes on time, which at this point doesn't look likely, he'll join us in this room, otherwise we'll arrange for him to talk to you at the stakeout.
**Sierra Leone: Troop Contributors' Meeting
There was a troop contributors' meeting along with members of the Security Council on the mission in Sierra Leone at 9:50 this morning. That preceded the consultations in the Council.
The next round of talks on East Timor start tomorrow here in New York at 3 p.m. at the senior official level, and then will continue on Wednesday morning [first at the senior level and then] at the ministerial level from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Foreign Ministers, Ali Alatas of Indonesia, and Jaime Gama of Portugal, will meet with the Secretary-General during those ministerial-level meetings. Then on Thursday, the Ministers continue, meeting with Jamsheed Marker, the Personal Representative, and following that they have a working luncheon with the Secretary-General and are expected to continue their talks into the afternoon.
**Arlacchi Cancels Visit to Demilitarized Zone in Colombia
Following the announcement that the Colombian authorities had found the bodies of three United States citizens murdered in Colombia on 5 March, Pino Arlacchi, the Executive Director of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, decided to cancel his visit to the "demilitarized zone" that was scheduled for Sunday. He said in Bogota: "I took this decision pending further clarifications on the barbaric and revolting murder of three U.S. citizens found in Río Arauca." The complete text of his statement is available in my Office.
**Iraq: 661 Sanctions Committee
The so-called 661 Committee that oversees the sanctions against Iraq will meet in closed session today at 3:30 p.m. in Conference Room 7. The Committee has 15 items on its agenda, including the question of the financing of Haj pilgrims. The Chairman of the Committee, Ambassador Peter van Walsum of the Netherlands, will brief the press on the proceedings of the Committee outside the conference room, following the briefing of delegates.
**UNICEF on HIV/AIDS
The UNICEF says that women and girls are becoming more and more the victims of HIV/AIDS in the developing world and calls upon industrialized nations to act now to help prevent an incipient holocaust. The agency offers recent statistics on the radical increase in HIV infection among girls and women in developing countries. The information is contained in a press release timed to coincide with International Women's Day. Copies will be available at the noon briefing.
**Visit of Deputy Secretary-General
Louise Fréchette, the Deputy Secretary-General, is back in town from meetings organized in Lebanon by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), and then in Kenya, where she chaired a regional coordination meeting. On Friday, the last leg of her visit, she chaired a meeting in Nairobi of 23 United Nations agency representatives working in Africa in order to discuss ways of coordinating at the country, regional and subregional levels.
There's a new report on the racks today from the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) concerning procurement-related arbitration cases. The report deals with cases related to peacekeeping operations established in the early 1990s, when there was a sudden surge in peacekeeping missions. The OIOS found that, during that rapid expansion, the United Nations did not have the necessary expertise and human resources to provide sufficient support to peacekeeping operations. It's recommending that peacekeeping missions, especially in the early stages, be staffed with experienced procurement and contract personnel, as well as legal advisers. You can check out that document.
**New Document on Terrorist Financing
Another document I'd like to flag for you is a draft international convention for the suppression of terrorist financing (document A/AC.252/L.7). It's submitted by France to a committee which will meet here at Headquarters from 15 to 26 March. This is the same committee that successfully negotiated the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1997.
In addition to starting negotiations on a treaty against terrorist financing, the committee expects to conclude its work on a treaty against nuclear terrorism. The committee will meet in closed session, but we'll do our best to keep you informed of developments.
**Kosovo and Ogata's United States Trip
In southern Kosovo, where fresh fighting is being reported in several villages, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is still trying to reach some 200 displaced people who have been trapped on a mountainside in makeshift plastic shelters now for six nights in a row in sub-freezing temperatures.
The High Commissioner, Sadako Ogata, meanwhile, is beginning a 10-day visit to the United States. She will be in New York later today until tomorrow morning, and then she'll return to New York on Thursday to attend consultations with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to discuss new guidelines on the protection of refugees. She is available for interviews, but you should make your arrangements through UNHCR New York.
She's on the Secretary-General's programme for, I think, 6 p.m. today.
**Law of Sea Hearings
Finally, today was the first day of hearings for the first case ever brought to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The case deals with a dispute between Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Guinea over the arrest of an oil tanker in October of 1997.
We have a press release in our Office with more details. You can also get information on the Tribunal's website. We'll give you the website address if you ask us.
**Tibetan Woman Issue
This just came in, going back to the women's issue and the question raised last week concerning a Tibetan. This morning at the session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Angela King, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, apologized for the decision by the Division for the Advancement of Women that had prevented Ms. Losang Rabgey, a national of Canada, from speaking in the dialogue following the panel on Women and Health. Ms. King added that with the Commission's approval, Ms. Rabgey would be most welcome to make her statement at the Health Caucus. She ended her statement by saying that she had instructed her staff to ensure that this situation does not occur again. The complete text of the statement will be made available later today.
Question: What's the Secretary-General's reaction to the capture of [Cambodian Khmer Rouge leader] Ta Mok, and does he think he should be tried by an international tribunal?
Answer: Before the Secretary-General says anything on Cambodia, he will have a meeting, probably on Friday this week, with the Foreign Minister. A national trial could, of course, be conducted even if there were an international tribunal, as is the case with Rwanda and Yugoslavia, but the Secretary-General wouldn't go public with his view on this, certainly not at this time.
Question: At his last press briefing here, Mr. Arlacchi recognized the importance of talking to the Colombian authorities on the trafficking of drugs between Colombia and the Caribbean. Is his visit postponed or cancelled?
Answer: He's in Colombia, so it was just the visit to the "demilitarized zone" that was cancelled. I think you should look at the full text that we have upstairs and any questions you can either ask Myriam or we'll give you Arlacchi's spokesman's number in Vienna.
Question: Inaudible [Are there any references] in that procurement report on a judgement regarding Skylink or anything mentioning Skylink in its relationship to the problems of '93 or the benefits of Skylink?
Answer: I don't know. As you know, the settlement talks are going on now, and we'll not have anything to say until they're completed. We have to just take a closer look at the report.
Question: On the woman who was barred from speaking, were United Nations rules violated in not allowing her to speak at that forum?
Answer: You just have to look at the statement by Angela King. The thrust of that statement is that someone on the United Nations side made a wrong call.
Question: Is there anything new on Lockerbie? Has the Secretary-General been in touch with the Libyan side or even the Egyptians or anybody else on this matter since the weekend?
Answer: He continues to follow it very closely. I think over the weekend he had a telephone conversation with the Egyptian authorities, and so we're just waiting for a decision by Libya. Nothing has changed.
Question: Does he think a three-month delay is acceptable?
Answer: I haven't been able to talk to him since the wires carried that idea mid-morning about a three-month delay. He has said that he hopes that the decision would be made in a decent amount of time. He did not quantify that in days, weeks or months.
Question: One of the three people killed in Colombia I know is a prominent leader in United Nations gatherings regarding indigenous people. Is there any way that the Spokesman's Office or someone might know after this briefing if she appeared speaking at the August events or any other site where there might be video of her or something?
Answer: I'll look into that.
Question : Why was the decision made to delay the summary of findings of the panel on Cambodia?
Answer: As I said on Friday, it was at the request of the Cambodian Foreign Minister who wanted the opportunity to first discuss the report face to face with the Secretary-General.
Question: Inaudible. [Might this meeting influence the summary when it's finally released?]
Question: What is the status of the money the United Nations international peacekeepers received for winning the  Nobel Peace Prize? Is there something official regarding monuments, statues or how the money will be allocated? Was it really new news over the weekend or was it based on Mr. [Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Alvaro] de Soto's comments?
Answer: Well, actually we had something but I don't have it with me. I'm sorry, I was given something to read to you on that. There it is; the old "if asked" pile. A project indeed exists to erect a memorial to those who have given their lives in the service of the United Nations in the field. The proceeds of the 1988 Nobel Peace Award will be used for this purpose.
Norway and Sweden have been asked to assist the United Nations in this project because of their role in the award. The United Nations hopes that the design would be original and striking with the theme of sacrifice in the cause of world peace. The memorial would bear a simple inscription, but would include no names of persons, countries or field operations.
In response to your earlier question, I'm told there's no reference to Skylink in this OIOS report that I've mentioned.
Question: Is it true that the United Nations will send a peacekeeping mission to East Timor?
Answer: I think it's much too soon to talk about that. Let's see how these talks go, and there will be ample time to discuss a potential United Nations presence if all the parties want one.
Question: The Secretary-General last week said there is no search on to replace Mr. [Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) Richard] Butler, but isn't time running down? Surely he's talking to certain people whether they'd be interested in the job.
Answer: I have nothing on that.
Question: Does he have any meetings planned with Richard Butler this week? Because we always hear about them after the fact, I thought I'd ask ahead of time.
Answer: I'd have to ask. We only get his appointments a day at a time.
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