DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
8 January 2002
The following is a near-verbatim record of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The focus of the political meetings held in Kabul today by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, was on preparations for the appointment of the Special Independent Commission for the convening of the emergency Loya Jirga, which, as you know, is part of the Bonn Agreement. The Commission is to be formed within one month of the establishment of the Interim Authority -– that is, by 22 January.
Mr. Brahimi also met with the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), General John McColl, to discuss the security situation, in general, and also the convening of a joint meeting on Thursday of the Force, the United Nations and the Afghan Administration.
The Office of the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, meanwhile, said today that armed Taliban and banditry are hampering humanitarian work in southern Afghanistan. Insecure working conditions are creating bottlenecks for humanitarian efforts in Kandahar and in vast areas north and west of the city.
Today’s briefing notes on Afghanistan from the field include reports on the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) efforts to provide safe drinking water, a refugee update from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme’s food distribution in Herat in the north-west part of the country.
This morning in Conference Room 8 of this Building, the Secretary-General convened a meeting drawing together leaders from the business world, labour, civil society and academia, who, together, comprise the Advisory Council for the Global Compact.
He told the group, “What began as a speech in Davos three years ago has grown into a worldwide movement engaging the private sector, civil society and the United Nations.” The Global Compact, he said, is a tool to underpin the market with stable foundations and open the door to full participation by all people.
The Secretary-General and the 17-member Advisory Council, along with several ambassadors, who were there as observers, discussed ways to strengthen the Global Compact at a time when more companies are signing up to its nine principles of human rights, labour rights and environmental standards. The Secretary-General also pointed to some recent successes in working with the private sector on key issues, including the effort to reduce the cost of medications for AIDS in developing countries.
The meeting of the Advisory Council will continue this afternoon, and the members of that body will have a luncheon with the Secretary-General shortly. At 2:30 p.m. in this room, several members of the Advisory Council will talk to you in a press conference moderated by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Michael Doyle.
We have a note on today’s meeting and some biographical information on the members of the Advisory Council in my Office.
**The Secretary-General and Mr. Bloomberg
The Secretary-General will have a working dinner tonight with New York's new Mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
The discussions at the dinner, which will be hosted by the President of the United Nations Association of the United States, Bill Luers, will focus on the United Nations’ Capital Master Plan for renovation and consolidation of the United Nations' work space and other issues of mutual interest to the United Nations and New York City.
As you know, the Secretary-General and the Mayor are good friends, and the Secretary-General is looking forward to a warm and productive relationship with New York City in the years ahead.
The Security Council is meeting this morning in closed consultations to take up the Secretary-General’s report on Guinea-Bissau, as well as his report on the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahima Fall briefed on Guinea-Bissau, and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi will brief on Ethiopia and Eritrea. At the start of the meeting, United Nations Chief of Security Michael McCann briefed Council members on current security arrangements.
In the ongoing effort by the United Nations to assist the Government of Lebanon in demining the southern part of the country, a logistics base in Tyre currently used by the United Nations missionwill be handed back to the Government tomorrow.
The facilities will then be used as the coordination centre for Operation Emirates Solidarity for demining southern Lebanon.
The principal parties involved in the physical demining of southern Lebanon will be co-located at the coordination centre, so as to ensure good cooperation and the efficient exchange of information between them. A press release from the United Nations Information Centre in Beirut is available upstairs.
On Iraq, the Executive Director of the United Nations Iraq Programme, Benon Sevan, is scheduled to undertake a working visit to Iraq, beginning on 14 January 2002.
During the visit, Mr. Sevan will review, together with the Iraqi authorities, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Tun Myat, and representatives of the United Nations agencies and programmes, the implementation of the United Nations “oil-for-food” programme. Mr. Sevan’s last visit to Iraq was in August 2000.
In a letter dated 7 January, addressed to the Chairman of the Security Council’s 661 Sanctions Committee on Iraq, the Executive Director expressed grave concern at the unprecedented surge in the volume of holds placed on contracts by the Committee, with the total value reaching just under $5 billion.
In terms of Iraqi oil exports, in the week ending 4 January, a total of 15.5 million barrels of oil was lifted, averaging over 2.2 million barrels per day.
The United Nations planning team for the Sierra Leone Special Court has begun a two-week long visit to that country to discuss with the Government practical arrangements for the establishment and operation of the Court.
Led by Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Ralph Zacklin, the 15-member team will focus its work on locating premises for the Court, on provision of local personnel and services, and on launching the investigative and prosecutorial process. A press release on the mission is available.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), meanwhile, said today that it has temporarily suspended convoys ferrying Sierra Leoneans returning home from Liberia, after a sharp drop in the number of those going back. At the same time, Liberians from Lofa and other counties continue crossing into the Kailahun district of Sierra Leone, fleeing fighting in north and central Liberia. There are more details in today’s briefing note from the UNHCR.
**International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia
Tomorrow in The Hague, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia will hold a pre-trial hearing for former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, to consider his trial on charges stemming from the Kosovo conflict in 1999. Among measures that are likely to be raised at tomorrow’s hearing are the number of witnesses that are to be called and the number of statements and transcripts that are to be admitted.
We have some more information in today’s weekly press briefing notes from The Hague.
Finally, one press conference to announce for tomorrow. At 4:40 p.m.,
Mr. Costa Simitis, the Prime Minister of Greece, will discuss his official trip to the United States. He will be accompanied by Mr. George Papandreou, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Christos Protopappas, the Minister for Press and Mass Media. Also with him will be Mr. Elias Gounaris, the Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations.
That’s all I have for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Was there any reaction from the Secretary-General about
Mr. Parameswaran’s resignation in East Timor?
Spokesman: I did speak this morning with Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the United Nations mission in East Timor. It was Mr. Vieira de Mello who recruited Param, as he’s known, and considers Param an old and trusted friend. Yes, he did submit a letter of resignation here to the Secretary-General, effective three days before the end of his contract.
Sergio told me this morning he was very pleased with Mr. Parameswaran’s contribution to the mission, his close relations with the neighbouring States, and particularly the trust he developed among the militia in West Timor, which facilitated the national reconciliation process.
As to Mr. Parameswaran’s charge that the mission had become overwhelmingly white, or whatever it was he said, Sergio said that, as a result of the downsizing of the mission, there’s been a certain geographical imbalance that has developed. It wasn’t intentional, it was haphazard. He intends to work hard to restore geographic balance in the months ahead.
By the way, there are no hard feelings between Sergio and Param. Sergio is hosting a farewell party for him at his home on Friday.
Question: Will Mr. Simitis be seeing the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: I did not mention a meeting. We’d have to see the programme tomorrow, or I’d have to find out for you by the end of today.
Question: The Prime Minister of Turkey is also coming. I hear he is coming for one day. That’s why I’m trying to find out the programme.
Spokesman: If you check with me at the very end of the day when we get the Secretary-General’s programme for tomorrow, I’ll let you know.
Question: Concerning the dinner tonight between the Mayor and the Secretary-General, I have a couple of things. Where is it going to take place, what issues relating to the capital plan are on the Secretary-General‘s mind and what else is on the agenda?
Spokesman: I’m not going to tell you where it is. You can ask the Mayor’s Office or the United Nations Association of the United States. I don’t think it’s for us to give out the location. As far as we’re concerned, it’s a private dinner.
The Capital Master Plan involves, as you know, renovation of this structure and consolidation of the work space which now is spread out all over the east side, or certainly around Turtle Bay. Among some of the options being considered are building additional structures here on our property or building additional structures in the neighbourhood.
Other issues of concern? I think it’s probably just generally the relationship between the United Nations and New York City. It’s a lot more complex than just parking tickets. I think they’ll have lots to talk about.
Question: Do we know who will be the speakers at the press conference at 2:30 for the Global Compact?
Spokesman: I gave them out yesterday. There are five names. They’re posted on the bulletin board.
Question: Do you have readout on the meeting yesterday between the Secretary-General and Mary Robinson?
Spokesman: No. We did say after yesterday’s press briefing that she was passing through New York after having stopped in Boston, I think, on a speaking engagement. Her meeting with the Secretary-General was just a routine meeting. But, we can always try to get a readout for you, and I will try after the briefing.
Question: You said this press conference with Mr. Simitas was at 4:40 or 4:30?
Spokesman: I said 4:40. That’s an unusual time, but that’s what they asked for.
Okay, thanks very much.
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