DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
5 September 2001
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Manoel De Almeida e Silva, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. Sorry for the eight-minute delay.
**Secretary-General in Sweden
After his visits to South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and a stopover in Kenya, the Secretary-General arrived in Stockholm, Sweden, at the beginning of the afternoon today, local time in Sweden. He was met by the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Hans Dahlgren, and the Executive Director of the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, Olle Nordberg.
Tomorrow morning, the Secretary-General is expected to meet the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Birgitta Dahl. Following that he is to meet the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Anna Lindh. The Prime Minister, Goran Persson, will host a luncheon in honour of the Secretary-General at midday tomorrow.
In the afternoon, the Secretary-General will go to Upsala, where he will deliver the Dag Hammarkjold Lecture. Later this afternoon we will be making available the text of his speech, which is considered a statement of the Secretary-General's views not only about his esteemed predecessor but also about the ways in which the world and the United Nations have changed.
That text, of course, will be under embargo until delivery time tomorrow.
Alvaro de Soto, the Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Cyprus, held a press conference today at the United Nations offices in Cyprus.
As you know, he had been on the island for consultations with both leaders -- separately -- and he went there, sent by the Secretary-General, following a meeting that the Secretary-General had with His Excellency Rauf Denktash in Salzburg last week.
In that press conference, Alvaro de Soto made a statement, which I'll read to you.
"I wish to announce that on behalf of the Secretary-General I have conveyed to His Excellency Mr. Glafcos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot leader, and His Excellency Mr. Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, an invitation to resume the search for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem under the Secretary-General’s auspices.
It is our hope that a new and reinvigorated phase of the Secretary-General’s Good Offices will begin with separate meetings of the Secretary-General with each of the two leaders on 12 September 2001 in New York.”
The World Conference Against Racism continues in Durban today. Progress continues to be made on the draft language of both the Programme of Action and the final Declaration.
The President of the Conference, South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has taken the lead in trying to find compromise language relating to the Middle East.
Available upstairs on the racks is a press release with details on paragraphs that have been approved in both the Declaration and the Programme of Action.
Earlier today, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary-General of the Conference, Mary Robinson, addressed a forum on the link between HIV/AIDS and discrimination and racism. Robinson told the panellists, which included UNAIDS Executive Director, Peter Piot, that this conference provides an opportunity to build on the achievements of the recent special General Assembly session on AIDS, which recognized the need to put human rights at the heart of the global response to the epidemic.
We have available upstairs the speeches made at the forum by the High Commissioner and Peter Piot.
Also in Durban, Peter Piot launched the “UNAIDS Compendium on Discrimination, Stigmatization and Denial”, which are reports based on case studies from India and Uganda. He said, ”We must continue to encourage people to break the silence and to combat the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS".
We have a press release from UNAIDS on this, which is available in the Spokesman's office.
**Expulsion of United Nations Staff from Iraq
Now about Iraq. On 2 September, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry informed the Office of the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq that it had declared five international United Nations staff members working in Baghdad persona non grata. And that wasbecause the Foreign Ministry claimed they were involved in activities that infringed on the national security of Iraq.
The Executive Director of the Iraq Programme, Benon Sevan, wrote to the Iraqi Permanent Representative to the United Nations and told him that in order to respond to these allegation it was necessary for the Secretary-General to receive all the details and evidence of the charges made against the staff members. No such information has been received.
In light of these developments it was decided that for their own safety that the staff members would leave Iraq as soon possible. Mr. Sevan took that decision in his capacity as United Nations Security Coordinator. Three of the staff members left Iraq and are currently in Amman. The others were not Iraq when the allegations were made. [At a press conference after the noon briefing, the President of the Security Council said that the Security Council will hold consultations on this issue tomorrow morning.]
**Office of the Iraq Programme
Still on Iraq, I have here a note on the regular weekly update of the Office of the Iraq Programme. And it says that the Security Council’s 661 sanctions committee on Iraq has not yet decided on the price of Iraq crude oil sold on the United States market during September.
The volume of Iraqi oil exports under the United Nations oil-for-food programme fell back to 13 million barrels in the week of 25 to 31 August, down from the previous week’s high of 16.8 million barrels.
The value of contracts placed on hold by the 661 committee rose to $3.76 billion, up from the previous week’s total of $3.58 billion.
The full text of the weekly update by the Office of the Iraq Programme is available in the Spokesman's Office.
The Security Council is meeting this morning in closed consultations to discuss its programme of work for the month of September. This is the first meeting under the presidency of Ambassador Jean-David Levitte of France, who, as you know, is the President for the month of September.
This afternoon at 4:00 p.m. the Council will hold a private meeting to hear from Sir Ketumile Masire, the facilitator of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue.
At the end of the meeting, Sir Ketumile will be available to you, either in this room or at the Security Council stakeout. Given the timing, I suspect it will be easier at the stakeout.
If any of you are interested in scheduling a one-on-one interview with him, please let us know and we will try to make the necessary arrangements.
Also, still on Council news, today, immediately following this briefing, Ambassador Levitte will be here -- in this room 226 -- to speak to you about the Council's programme of work for the month of September.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
In an incident we learned about after the noon briefing yesterday, military observers from the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) while on patrol on Monday encountered unidentified armed men in the eastern part of the country.
The armed men stopped a United Nations mission vehicle on the road near Bukavu and robbed the two military observers of their radios and $300.
A team of four military observers had arrived in Bukavu on 23 August. The MONUC teams in Bukavu and Uvira have been instructed to restrict their movements.
Still in Africa, on Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs in the Sudan, Tom Eric Vraalsen, Kenzo Oshima, and the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, are scheduled to travel to Sudan starting Saturday.
During their week-long mission, Vraaelsen and Oshima will visit both Government and rebel held areas and press for unconditional humanitarian access to millions in need of assistance in the war-torn country.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), some 2.9 million are targeted to receive food aid.
Moving now to the Pacific. The United Nations Electoral Observer Mission in Fiji is currently consolidating its data on the independence, impartiality and professionalism of the electoral authorities during the voting in that country that took place from 25 August until 1 September.
To date, the United Nations Observer Mission has observed no problems significant enough to compromise the overall integrity of the voting process. The vote was conducted in a transparent manner, and national electoral officials worked with dedication to conduct the vote under severe logistical constraints.
As it observes the counting process underway in Fiji, the United Nations Mission expressed appreciation for the cooperation it has received from the Fijian people and officials and said it looks forward to the realization of the return to democratic rule in that country.
And still in that part of the world, today in East Timor, the Independent Electoral Commission announced the final results in the 30 August voting for the districts of Manufahi and Baucau, completing results for 12 of East Timor's 13 districts.
The Fretilin party won a majority in the polls in both Manufahi and Baucau. Today's briefing notes from Dili have a detailed breakdown of the voting in those two districts.
The final voter turnout in the 30 August elections amounted to 384,227 voters, or 91.3 per cent of those eligible to vote. Chief Electoral Officer Carlos Valanzuela took the opportunity to congratulate the people of East Timor for having come out massively to cast their vote.
**Estimated Budget for the International Criminal Court
There's a report out on the racks today that we thought interesting to bring to your attention, in which the Secretariat presents an estimated budget for the first year of operation for the International Criminal Court (ICC).
If the Court does not have any situation referred to it and it holds its major meetings in The Hague, the report says, its estimated costs for its first year would be more than some $15.7 million. If a situation were referred to the Court during its first year, however, its costs would rise to more than some $30.1 million.
Its costs could be reduced by about $109,000 over its first year if its meetings are held at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
As I said, this is from a report which is available upstairs on the racks.
Today, both Algeria and Sri Lanka are expected to sign the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, bringing the number of signatories to 100.
There are two which I wish to bring to your attention. The World Health Organization (WHO) today launched an urgent appeal for $2.9 million to combat an outbreak of yellow fever in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Cases have been confirmed in half of the communes in Abidjan and suspected cases have been reported elsewhere. WHO is assisting the Ministry of Public Health to make plans for an immunization campaign requiring three million doses of vaccine. WHO says it is crucial to begin immunization as soon as possible as there is a seven to ten day period necessary for protective immunity to develop.
And another press release, this time from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), which announces that a group of three independent experts today began a ten-day visit to Somalia, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is the second of six planned visits to conflict areas to assess the impact of armed conflict on women, and women’s role in peace building.
[Following the briefing, the Spokesman's Office informed correspondents of a press release from the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) on the establishment of a board of inquiry into allegations of misconduct.]
Finally, I have here two announcements on the Special Session on Children. First, at 1:15 p.m. in conference room 1, there will be a briefing on the logistical arrangements for the twenty-seventh special session of the General Assembly, on children.
Secondly, at 5:30 p.m. today, at UNICEF House -- more specifically at the Danny Kaye Visitor's Center, which is on the first floor of UNICEF House, just across the street -- is a briefing by the UNICEF media team about the special session on children. It's an informal press briefing, where drinks will also be served. Nice touch.
Thank you very much. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Is there any comment from the Secretary-General on the expulsion of workers in Iraq?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, there is the letter from Benon Sevan, and that is the Secretariat working on the issue. We have not yet received what we thought was necessary; that is the reasons given by the Iraqi Government as to why they took that decision. We need that.
Question: Are the five people that were expelled staffers?
Deputy Spokesman: These are people who work in data collection.
Question: Rauf Denktash has already apparently said "no" to the invitation to talks here. What happens next? Is Mr. de Soto going to stay in Cyprus to try to persuade him to change his mind?
Deputy Spokesman: No, Mr. de Soto is no longer in Cyprus. We have seen the media reports that you have alluded to, but we have not heard directly from
Mr. Denktash. We remain hopeful that His Excellency Rauf Denktash will find it possible to come to New York on the date for which he and His Excellency Glafcos Clerides have been invited.
Question: What are the nationalities of those expelled?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, they are Nigerian and Bosnian. We'll have to check back with you, but I think Nigerian and Bosnian. But, please check back in the Office after the briefing.
Question: Is the Secretary-General involved in any way in the efforts to salvage the Durban Conference? Is he making phone calls?
Deputy Spokesman: The Secretary-General is in regular contact -- well, at the Conference, as you know, when he was there, he was in very direct contact with the different heads of delegations that were negotiating language. He's been in contact with Mary Robinson, but as you know, Member States have to come up with language that is agreeable and acceptable to all. We do hope that delegates will agree on more temperate language in the final documents.
Question: Do you expect the Secretary-General to come into the building on Friday upon his return?
Deputy Spokesman: I doubt it very much, because he only lands in mid to late afternoon.
Question: How many countries are involved in the Durban conference?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't have the exact number in front of me. We can check upstairs in the Office. But I think it's most of the membership of the United Nations. The exact number I don't have in front of me.
[The Deputy Spokesman later announced that 170 countries are attending the World Conference Against Racism.]
If there are no more questions thank you very much for coming in large numbers. Have a good afternoon. Thank you.
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