DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
10 November 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Shirley Brownell, Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General
Good afternoon. I would like to welcome Bill Paton to the briefing. He is the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Republic of the Congo -- a country we don't hear much from, but where the situation continues to be grave. He will be giving you an update on the situation there.
**Secretary-General Arrives in Japan; Scheduled talks on East Timor, Kosovo, World Economics
The Secretary-General arrived in Japan about nine hours ago. At Narita Airport, he told the awaiting press that on his agenda for talks in that country will be East Timor, Kosovo, the world economic situation and the World Trade Organization round in Seattle later this month. Asked about Chechnya, he said it was worrying that the civilian population has been caught in this tragic crisis. He was awaiting a report from the humanitarian mission he sent to the region, after which he would determine what further action to take.
We have the text of his comments in my office.
Tomorrow morning, the Secretary-General is scheduled to meet Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko before holding talks with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and Foreign Minister Yokei Kono.
He will also deliver a lecture at the United Nations University. We have copies of that speech embargoed until thirty minutes past midnight tonight, New York time.
He is expected to talk about Japan's contribution to the United Nations, including Japanese participation in peacekeeping operations. He is expected to urge Japan to contribute even more to the political work of the United Nations, saying that "the world needs Japan to take on a political role commensurate with its global economic presence."
Tokyo is the first stop on a tour of Japan, China and Turkey, as we have announced. And if you don't yet have a copy of his itinerary, you can catch it on the Spokesman's home page (www.un.org/news/ossg), by clicking on the Secretary-General's schedule. **Vendrell Addresses Security Council on Bougainville
The Security Council, in informal consultations this morning, heard from Francesc Vendrell, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on the situation in Bougainville.
As you know, since April 1998, the United Nations has maintained the United Nations Political Office in Bougainville (UNPOB), to monitor the implementation of the 1998 Lincoln Agreement, which established a permanent cease-fire between the Papua New Guinean Government and Bouganville rebels.
The President of the Council also reported about his informal meeting last week with Gabrielle Kirk MacDonald, who, as you know, is about to step down as President of the International Criminal Tribunals.
**ICT Chief Prosecutor del Ponte Addresses Security Council
After the informal meeting, the Security Council proceeded to a formal meeting in which it heard from Carla del Ponte, Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.
She told the Council that, after five months of investigation in Kosovo involving forensic specialists from 14 countries, the Tribunal has received reports of 529 grave-sites, including sites where bodies were found exposed. As of today, approximately one-third of those sites have been examined. To date, 2,108 bodies have been exhumed, and a total of 4,256 bodies are reported to have been buried in those sites.
She added that, in the sites that were examined, "steps were taken to hide the evidence. Many bodies have been burned." She said that the pattern in Kosovo is of "a large number of relatively small sites".
Her remarks to the Security Council are available upstairs in my office. In addition to her briefing in the Council, she will also brief you here at 2 p.m. today.
**Security Council Consultations Continue Tomorrow
Tomorrow, the Security Council is expected to hold consultations on Tajikistan, the situation in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and possibly on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Council will also have a working lunch with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, which is expected to focus on refugee problems in Africa.
**Special Envoy Holds Second Meeting with President Kabila in Kinshasa
The Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Moustapha Niasse, held a second meeting with President Kabila yesterday in Kinshasa, and it appears that progress has been made for the deployment of the United Nations military liaison officers. So they will go back out to the airport tomorrow, I understand.
**UNHCR/WFP Report 'Significant' Delays at Kosovo Border With Macedonia
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are reporting significant delays at the Kosovo border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
According to UNHCR, late last week, the FYROM authorities began requiring all humanitarian traffic, including those transporting food and shelter items to join the line of commercial trucks. Only KFOR trucks have been exempted from what has become a long line of vehicles. Normal delays at the border for trucks have been five to seven days.
The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, is following the situation very closely and other diplomats are working with FYROM authorities to address these concerns.
UNHCR and WFP are exploring possibilities of getting food aid in by rail.
You can see the briefing notes from Pristina for more information on this and other developments in Kosovo today.
**UN Releases Humanitarian Assessment Report on Nuba Mountains to Sudanese Government
The United Nations today officially transmitted the report on the findings and recommendations of its humanitarian mission in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan to the Government of Sudan and the leadership of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). Following this mission, for the first time ever, the United Nations humanitarian programme for the Sudan will include multi-sectoral assistance for populations in the Nuba Mountains. This programme, estimated at $10 million, will be included in the Inter-Agency Consolidated Appeal for the Sudan for the year 2000 to address the most essential humanitarian needs as well as the medium term recovery and rehabilitation needs.
See the press release, which we have available in my office, and which was also issued today in Geneva, and Khartoum, as well as in Nairobi.
Today, in Sierra Leone, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Ministry went to the Lungi Disarmament Camp to address a group of ex-combatants. On Monday, unrest broke out at the camp when dissatisfied former rebels looted the hospital, demanding the speeding up of their demobilization process. The calm was re-established by United Nations Military Observer patrols. Between 1,400 and 1,600 former rebels are currently in the Lungi camp with their dependants. The camp was reopened last July.
**Joint Humanitarian Needs Assessment Team Meets in Sierra Leone
Still in Sierra Leone, a joint mission to make an assessment of humanitarian needs and composed of representatives of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as well as donor countries, is underway.
Yesterday, they had a series of high-level meetings on the issue of demobilization, demilitarization and reintegration. The mission also visited the Murray town amputee camp in Freetown and the Lakka Children’s interim Care Centre. Today, they travelled to Kenema where they will visit a camp of internally displaced persons and hospitals supported by United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations. The mission is expected back in New York early next week.
**Secretary-General Appoints New UNIKOM Force Commander
We have a couple of letters to the Security Council and a response to the Secretary-General that are in the pipeline; I don't think they are on the racks yet. But they say that the Secretary-General has appointed Major General John Vize of Ireland as Force Commander of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM). That takes effect on December 1. He succeeds Major-General Esa Tarvainen of Finland, who will be returning to his country's service.
**ACC Releases Statement on Safety and Security for UN Staff
As you know, at the twice annual meeting of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), held the weekend before last, one of the items that they explored was the security and safety of United Nations personnel. They have now produced a statement that lists a series of decisions that they agreed on at that meeting. We have the text available for you in my office.
**Temporary Information Officer Named for Jessica Jiji
Those of you with eyes in your head have noticed that there is an increasing bulge in Jessica JiJi's tummy. Yes, she is expecting a child next month. She goes on maternity leave next week and we are lucky to have recruited one of you as her temporary replacement. Farhan Haq, of Inter Press Service, changes hats and becomes a spokesman starting today. I'm sure he'll give you the same excellent service that you've come to expect from Jessica.
**Manoel de Almeida to Timor for Thanksgiving: Temporary Deputy Spokesman Wanted
On a related matter, Manoel de Almeida, my Deputy, left for Japan yesterday to accompany the Secretary-General on this trip to Asia. The Secretary-General will be back just before Thanksgiving but Manoel will not. He is going on to East Timor to work with Sergio de Mello there for a few months -- so we're looking for a temporary replacement for him. In East Timor, he has a few slots in the information component of our Mission there, so if any of you have interest in that, please let us know.
**Spokesman's Field Office Jobline
While I'm on that subject, I might as well tell you about other field missions desperately looking for people with journalistic experience to work as press officers or spokespersons.
Francis Okelo, the Special Representative in Sierra Leone, is looking for a spokesman -- P-4 level -- not bad.
Jacques Klein, the Special Representative in Sarajevo, needs a spokesman. That could be a P-4 or P-5, something like that.
Our mission in Georgia is in desperate need of a spokesman. There hasn't been one there in a long time.
So if you are interested in any of those vacancies and you don't mind the hard life in the field, let us know and we'll tell you how to apply.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
The last item on my agenda is to announce a press conference tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. in this room: Marjorie Newman Williams, who is the Deputy Director of the Programme Division for UNICEF, will be discussing the Convention on the Rights of the Child -- what has been achieved and what needs to be done.
Any questions before we go to Shirley?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Since you've mentioned all these openings at the spokesman level throughout the United Nations system, I think this would be the right opportunity to bring some Africans here with whom we can relate. Can you convey that to the Secretary-General since he himself is African?
Spokesman: Will do.
Question: The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said today that Chechnya will no longer be treated as an internal matter. I know that the Secretary-General is going to the OSCE meeting next week. Does he concur with that? Is he going to advocate more international involvement in Chechnya?
Spokesman: The international involvement that he has advocated is humanitarian, and it's been undertaken in thorough consultation with the Russian Government. So, I don't think it implies whether this is an internal or an international situation because it is undertaken with the cooperation of the Government. I don't know what's going to come up at the OSCE. Presumably, there'll be a full range of issues that he will have an opportunity to explore there. I haven't heard that this is going to be specifically discussed, but it could be. But of course, what I thought was interesting that he said today on his arrival in Japan, is that he'll wait to see what this team of his own -- that has already been there and already assessed the situation -- has to say before he takes any further action. I don't know what he might be contemplating.
Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President
The General Assembly is taking action, this morning, on four items. At the time of the briefing, the Assembly was hearing the last of the 17 speakers inscribed, before voting on a draft resolution entitled “Bethlehem 2000” (document A/54/L.20). Introduced by the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the draft would have the Assembly welcome the impending arrival of the global, historic celebration in Bethlehem of the birth of Jesus Christ and the onset of the third millennium as a symbol of the shared hope for peace among all peoples of the world. The Assembly would also call on the international community to accelerate assistance and engagement to ensure the success of the Bethlehem 2000 project.
[The resolution was subsequently adopted by consensus, with statements after the vote by Israel and the observer of Palestine.]
The Assembly is then expected to take note of a letter by the Secretary-General (A/54/531), informing it that, pending the completion of consultations for a successor to the current Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, whose term of office expires on 14 November, he had requested Hans Corell, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, the Legal Counsel, to oversee the Office of Internal Oversight Services.
Also this morning, the Assembly is expected to adopt two resolutions. The text on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development (A/54/L.16), to be introduced by Chile, emphasizes the need for revitalized economic and social development within a framework that places people at the centre of development and aims to meet human needs rapidly and more effectively. Much of the text deals with next June’s special session to review and appraise implementation of the recommendations of the 1995 World Social Summit, and the preparatory process.
By adopting a resolution on follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons: a society for all ages (A/54/L.6/Rev.1), to be introduced by the Dominican Republic, the Assembly will note with satisfaction the successful celebration of the Year and resolve to maintain the momentum created; urge Governments to take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on age; entrust the Commission for Social Development with revising the International Plan of Action on Ageing and elaborating a long-term strategy based on new developments since 1982; and request the Commission to adopt a recommendation on the desirability and feasibility of convening a second World Assembly on Ageing in 2002.
The Assembly President, Theo-Ben Gurirab, announced that the informal consultations on item 20, on strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance, will take place at 3 p.m. on Friday, 12 November, in Conference Room 9.
Tomorrow, the Assembly will hold a special meeting to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There will be statements by the Assembly President, the Deputy Secretary-General, the Chairmen of the five regional groups and the United States as host country.
Immediately following the commemoration, a special event will be held in the General Assembly Hall. Chaired by the Assembly President, the participants will be: the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, Ms. Carol Bellamy; the Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human rights, Mr. Bacre Waly Ndiaye; the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Mr. Olara Otunnu; the Acting Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Ms. Marilia Sardenberg; and the President of the Economic and Social Council, Mr. Paolo Fulci. All are invited to attend.
Yesterday, as you know, the Assembly adopted a resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba. The vote was 155 in favour to 2 against, with 8 abstentions. However, there was some confusion regarding the votes of the delegations of Cameroon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saudi Arabia, which said they had voted in favour of the resolution but that this was not reflected in the tally. General Assembly Affairs has informed me that in such situations, the vote stands and that a footnote in the official record will reflect the statements by the delegations concerned.
At two meetings today, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) is continuing its discussion of human rights questions and situations. The discussion concludes on Thursday. The Committee will hear the introduction of a draft resolution on the rights of the child (A/C.3/54/L.49), and will take action on five texts: follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (A/C.3/54/L.54); preparations for the special session entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century” (A/C.3/54/L.55); measures to combat contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (A/C.3/54/L.26); the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination and the convening of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (A/C.3/54/L.28/Rev.1); and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (A/C.3/54/L.50).
This afternoon, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) takes up the item on the effects of atomic radiation. In the related report (A/54/46), the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation says it is aware of widespread concern about radiation exposures and the possible health consequences of earlier practices or events, such as the testing of nuclear weapons and the Chernobyl accident. It points out that everyone is exposed to radiation from natural background sources, and that when this is understood, useful perspective is gained in viewing exposures to man-made sources. The Committee says it is evaluating all such radiation exposures in detail and will publish, in 2000, a comprehensive review of radiation issues.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) is continuing its section-by-section discussion of the proposed programme budget for 2000-2001, taking up sections 21 through 27, at two meetings today.
Regarding the appointments of Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab, he is presiding over this morning’s plenary meeting. Throughout the day, he will be meeting, separately, with the Chairmen of the Eastern European States, the Asian States and the Arab States, to discuss the Millennium Assembly/Summit as well as Security Council reform. At 3 p.m. today, the President will be in the UNCA Club to present certificates to three scholars of the Dag Hammarskjold Memorial Scholarship Fund. All UNCA members and donors are invited to attend.
Question and Answer
Question: Yesterday was the third time that the Assembly adopted a resolution on the need to lift the embargo against Cuba. The representative of the United States said that the embargo would not be repealed. As an African, can the President of the General Assembly issue an appeal?
Answer: As a matter of fact, the Assembly has been adopting resolutions on this question since 1992. I will convey your question to the Pre
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