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DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

4 January 2002

The following is a near-verbatim record of today's noon briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Afghanistan

Let's start with Mr. Brahimi in Kabul. Today in Kabul, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, met with all members of the diplomatic community accredited to the new authority.

The United Nations spokeswoman in Kabul said that Mr. Brahimi outlined the United Nations’ priorities, which, at this time, include the constitution of the Special Independent Commission, by 22 January, and that Commission, as you know, is tasked with convening the emergency Loya Jirga.

Mr. Brahimi stressed that, according to the Bonn Agreement, there must be “wide consultation” in the country to ensure representation of all areas and ethnic groups.

He also emphasized the urgency for financial support to assist the Interim Administration to meet its many obligations.

**Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan

On the humanitarian front, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that on Monday it would begin a food distribution operation to 250,000 of the most vulnerable in the city of Herat. This is the second such operation -- the first was in Kabul, which covered 1.3 million people who were in need of food assistance.

The survey team hired to do the assessment prior to distribution there -- in Herat -- is entirely female. The non-governmental organization World Vision hired 250 women to do the week-long assessment. Many of these women previously worked as teachers, doctors or staff for humanitarian agencies, while others have not worked in a long time.

Today, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said it will be providing supplies and learning materials to 1.5 million Afghan children when the new school year starts on 21 March. In the meantime, UNICEF is assisting home-based schools in and around Kabul that service 40,000 children -- most of them girls.

Meanwhile, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) continues to report on Afghans fleeing their country and trying to enter Pakistan at the southern Chaman crossing, as well at the Kurram border in Pakistan's north-west frontier province.

Unless the situation stabilizes in wider parts of Afghanistan, the UNHCR believes that there will be a continued outflow of Afghans to neighbouring countries, a scenario the agency had began to rule out when the trend of returns began following the change in regime in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, other Afghans continue to return home. Since the Interim Administration took over in Kabul, 20,000 Afghans crossed back into their country from southern Pakistan. Of course, that's just one area. The UNHCR is expecting 1 million Afghans to return home from Pakistan and Iran during this year. The briefing note from Kabul is already available upstairs and on the Web site.

**Security Council

Moving here to New York, the Security Council is holding its first closed consultations of the year this morning.

The five new members of the Council -- Bulgaria, Cameroon, Guinea, Mexico and Syria -- were welcomed by the other members.

The Council is discussing its programme of work for the month, as well as committee chair assignments for this year.

On a related issue, the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee has, as of yesterday, 3 January, received 113 reports from Member States on the steps they took to implement resolution 1373.

Also as of yesterday, the Committee had received 160 submissions from Member States giving the Committee designated contact points for matters covered in the resolution. The resolution also requested Member States, as you'll recall, to indicate the focal points in each Government and we have this very large number of replies. In fact, you should note it's a very, very high number of replies -- both 160 submissions and 113 reports -- since the resolution was adopted.

These reports from the Member States are presently being translated into all six official United Nations languages. Many, however, will not be available until late January/early February due to the large number of reports that arrived in the last few days.

All reports by Member States to the Committee will be available on the Committee’s Web site.

The next meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee is planned for Wednesday, 9 January, at 3 p.m.

The Chairman of the Committee, Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom, plans to hold a press briefing on Thursday, 10 January, at 10 a.m.

**Iraq

The Secretary-General has approved the distribution plan for Phase Eleven of the “oil-for-food” programme for Iraq, which began last 1 December and will continue through 29 May. The Iraqi Government had submitted the plan on 23 December.

The distribution plan is based on a foreseen budget of more than $4.4 billion for the humanitarian programme, spread over 13 sectors countrywide, including an allocation of $600 million for oil-industry spare parts and equipment and $310 million to meet the needs of especially vulnerable groups.

More than $1.27 billion are earmarked for food supplies, while $178 million are set aside to purchase medicines and medical supplies.

The Secretary-General’s approval letter and the plan will be posted on the Office of the Iraq Programme’s Web site.

**Somalia

The office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for Somalia today launched a new project to assist the authorities in Somalia to rebuild macroeconomic institutions, in particular by immediately establishing systems to legitimize financial remittance services offered by Somali money-transfer companies.

The UNDP project, called the Somalia Watching Brief, intends to bring Somalia’s money-transfer companies eventually under internationally established banking rules and regulations. In addition, the project will try to gather macroeconomic statistics that can be used to formulate economic policy and to carry out household surveys.

UNDP Somalia is immediately putting up $30,000 to start work on formalizing the remittance sector and it is working with other partners, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Somali authorities. And all of them together will be carrying out this project.

There's a press release upstairs with more details on that.

**Central African Republic

In his latest report on the Central African Republic, which is out on the racks today, the Secretary-General notes the dispute that developed since last November between President Ange-Félix Pattasé and his former Army Chief of Staff, General Bozizé. He says that, in order to find a peaceful end to that dispute, he supports all subregional initiatives to restore calm and stability to the Central African Republic.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Peace-Building Support Office in the Central African Republic and United Nations agencies continue to try to give refugees who fled the recent fighting in that country every assurance so that they can return from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. So far, the Secretary-General says, only a trickle has returned.

The Secretary-General also says that the Bozizé affair has slowed down the process by which the country had been gradually returning to normal, and adds that a meeting between President Patassé and the leaders of the opposition would help to reduce tension and encourage national reconciliation.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

Still on Africa,out on the racks is a letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council, informing him that he plans to renominate Ambassador Mahmoud Kassem of Egypt as the Chairman of the Expert Panel on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Three other panel members will be renominated and two new ones will be appointed.

In the letter, the Secretary-General writes that he expects the Panel to reconvene in New York or Nairobi later this month.

As you'll recall, last month the Security Council adopted a presidential statement, which extended the Panel’s mandate by a further six months and requested an interim report after three months.

**East Timor

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, has written to the Speaker of East Timor’s Constituent Assembly to make several recommendations to strengthen and clarify human rights aspects of the draft constitution that is currently being debated.

In her letter, the High Commissioner welcomes the primacy given to protection of human rights in the draft text and recommends that the constitution provide for an independent national institution to protect human rights.

So far, the Constituent Assembly has passed 85 of the 151 articles of the proposed constitution.

The briefing notes from Dili are available upstairs with more details on that.

**Global Compact

I'm approaching the end of the briefing here to tell you that the Secretary-General will convene a meeting next Tuesday of senior business executives, international labour leaders and civil society organizations who together will comprise an Advisory Council for the Global Compact.

He is convening the Advisory Council –- a list of the members is available upstairs –- to focus renewed attention on the central questions of governance and strategy, to strengthen the Global Compact, which, you will recall, is designed to bolster support for nine key principles of labour, environmental and human rights.

One of the Advisory Council’s key tasks will be to propose better standards of participation in order to improve the Compact’s effectiveness and safeguard its integrity.

Following their deliberations next Tuesday, some key members of the Advisory Council will brief you -- the press -- here in room S-226 at 2:30 p.m.

If you want further information or would like to interview any members of the Advisory Council when they’re here next week, please talk to Tim Wall, in the Department of Public Information. His extension is 3-5851.

**The Week Ahead

As always, and keeping the good practice of last year, this being the first Friday of the year, we have the Week Ahead, where you will be able to find activities involving the United Nations during the week that starts on Monday.

Are there any questions before I wish you a happy weekend?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Can you confirm that Michael Steiner of Germany will replace Hans Haekerrup in Kosovo?

Deputy Spokesman: No, I cannot. I saw media reports that his name was going to be put forward. I don’t know. It's something that has to come from the German authorities if it's coming from the Government. But the decision belongs to the Secretary-General, who, of course, will be looking at the candidates, consulting with those concerned, and he'll be making his decision. But I cannot confirm any names at this point.

Question: When will the decision be made?

Deputy Spokesman: I don't have a timeframe for that either.

Question: There are rumors, Manoel, that this might be your last day. Can you confirm that?

Deputy Spokesman: No, it's not. But it's very close to my last day before what is expected to be a longer mission to Kabul, Afghanistan.

Any other questions? If not, thank you very much. Enjoy your lunch and your weekend. Thank you.

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