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

25 January 2002

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Associate Spokeswoman for the Secretary-General.

**Secretary-General Visits Kabul

Good afternoon.

The Secretary-General arrived in Kabul this morning to offer moral support to the new Interim Administration and to thank members of the UN staff in Afghanistan for their sustained effort to provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. UN deminers formed an honour guard for his arrival.

At the UN compound, he then thanked a gathering of about 200, mostly local, UN staff members, telling them “there is lots of support around the world for the work that you are doing here”.

An Afghan woman staff member then got up and said that during the war, women suffered the most. Now, she said, “they are enjoying their freedom and they’re enjoying the visible change that took place within the initiative of the United Nations.” “But they really need more attention," she added.

The Secretary-General then went to the Presidential Palace where he met privately, accompanied only by his Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, with the Chairman of the Interim Administration, Hamid Karzai. He also had a one-on-one meeting with Karzai. He then met with Karzai’s full Cabinet.

The Secretary-General asked Mr. Karzai about security in the country. Chairman Karzai called on his Defence Minister, General Mohammed Fahim, who said that while there were still Taliban and Al Qaeda elements in the country, the Afghan army, working with the US-led military coalition and the International Security Assistance Force, would eventually eliminate them.

Interior Minister Yunis Qanooni said that the security situation in the country was “not bad”. A national police force needed to be created, from representatives of all ethnic groups. He asked for the assistance of “peacekeepers” to assist in policing the provinces until the new force could be established.

The Secretary-General then visited a girl’s school, which is assisted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Girls from the age of six through 16 were preparing to resume their education after a Taliban-imposed break of five years. They held up handwritten signs in English and their language Dari saying “PEACE”.

The Secretary-General then visited the headquarters of the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force for a briefing by ISAF Commander Major General John McColl. Major General reported that ISAF troop strength was at 2,000 and could grow to 5,000 from 17 nations by the end of February. He described as one of his objectives the training of a battalion of Afghan National Guard troops drawn from all parts of the country.

In the afternoon, he and Mr. Karzai gave a joint press conference, that is the Secretary-General and Mr. Karzai. The Secretary-General took the occasion to announce the appointment of Nigel Fisher, the current Regional Coordinator for the United Nations Children’s Fund as the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan.

We should be getting the transcript of this press conference in Kabul shortly.

At the press conference, Chairman Karzai announced the 21 Members of the Special Independent Commission for the convening of the emergency loya jirga. We have that list available for you in the Spokesman's office.

Asked if the ISAF would be deployed outside of Kabul, Chairman Karzai said, “Yes, our feeling is if there is a need for that, they are welcome, and we will have them in those provinces.”

The Secretary-General landed in Tehran a short while ago where he will be visiting tomorrow.

**Afghan Sanctions

Also on Afghanistan, the Security Council Sanctions Committee for Afghanistan has issued a report, which is on the racks today, on its work during the past year, noting that, following the events after last September 11, it did not deem it necessary to convene substantive formal meetings in the last quarter of the year. However, it adds, the importance of the sanctions regime has been generally recognized in light of the September terrorist attacks.

I would also like to draw your attention to the Sanctions Committee’s removal of four entities from its list of individuals and entities whose funds are to be frozen in accordance with Resolution 1267 (1999). Those entities are the Afghan Export Bank, the Agricultural Development Bank of Afghanistan, Bank Millie Afghan and the Export Promotion Bank of Afghanistan.

A press release was issued yesterday afternoon on the removal of those bodies from the Afghan sanctions list, and the comprehensive list to date is available on the Web site.


The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) today issued its report on its investigation into allegations that refugees were asked to pay bribes in order to be resettled by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) branch office in Nairobi, Kenya. In that report, copies of which are available upstairs, the Office said it found that the extortion allegations had merit and appeared to be controlled by a criminal network that enabled refugees to emigrate, at a cost, to Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The Office relied on help from the Governments of those four countries and of Kenya to conduct an investigation, which resulted in the arrest by Kenyan police of three UNHCR staff members, two members of an affiliated non-governmental organization and four other people involved in the criminal enterprise. Criminal charges are pending in Kenya against all nine people.

The report, in its recommendations, urges UNHCR to change its management structure in Kenya; provide targeted information on refugee rights; establish a complaints procedure; conduct random spot checks of refugee interviews and interpreter services; and examine other UNHCR refugee operations.

High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers today accepted the report’s findings, saying he and his colleagues were “shamed and outraged,” and adding, “There is no excuse, no defence, for such contemptible behavior.”

Starting in January 2001, UNHCR has changed staff dealing with refugee protection and resettlement in Nairobi; deployed additional international protection staff to Nairobi; and established supervisory panels to oversee decisions on several types of resettlement cases.

The OIOS report contains an additional warning: the factors which existed in Kenya and led to this refugee-smuggling operation will appear “wherever the demand for resettlement by refugees who cannot, or will not, return home exceeds the ability or willingness of other Governments to take them.”


The distribution of food and non-food items is continuing in Goma and Sake. This first phase of distribution is expected to continue until the middle of next week, at which point it should have reached some 55,000 households.

Concerning infrastructure, as of today 50 per cent of the water distribution is back on line; the other half is expected to be operational within 10 days. In the meantime, the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with a number of NGOs, has distributed water bladders in neighbourhoods that remain without water.

A third road passage between the eastern and western parts of town is expected to be carved out of the lava today. The United Nations has also financed the purchasing of a number of speedboats to aid the transport of goods between east and west Goma.

Local officials in Goma decided this morning to reopen the airport but only for light airplanes, while engineers continue to study the state of the runway.

We just received the transcript of a press briefing from Geneva by Ross Mountain, the Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator who was sent to Goma by the Secretary-General, and who returned and gave a briefing in Geneva earlier today.

**Security Council

Here at Headquarters, members of the Security Council are meeting today in closed consultations to discuss the UN Observer Mission in Georgia. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Chief of Mission, Dieter Boden briefed the Council and introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report, in which he requested a six month extension for the mission.

Yesterday afternoon, during a private meeting of the Council with countries contributing troops to the mission, Boden said that the finalization of a document on the distribution of power between Sukhumi and Tblisi constituted a major step forward.


A new report by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) says that Somalia’s private sector and civil society are playing crucial roles in the reconstruction of the political, social and economic systems.

The UNDP Human Development Report for Somalia, launched yesterday in Nairobi, says that the growth of the private sector has been one of the major changes in Somalia over the past decade, and the private sector has helped to provide social services in the absence of a national government.

However, the report says Somalia is still near the bottom of world rankings in human development, with a life expectancy of 47 years, the death of nearly a quarter of all children before the age of five, and basic literacy for only one out of every five Somalis. Less than a third of Somalis have access to health services and more than three quarters have no access to clean water.

We have a press release from UNDP upstairs for your information.

**Reports and Press Releases

Among the documents out on the racks today is the Calendar of Conferences and meetings for 2002. It lists meetings in the economic, social and related fields taking place this year.

On Monday we have a number of press conferences scheduled. At 10:15 a.m., Ambassadors Shamshad Ahmad of Pakistan and Ruth Jacoby of Sweden, the co-chairs of the International Conference on Financing for Development, will hold a press conference to discuss negotiations for that Conference, which will be held in March in Monterrey, Mexico.

At 11 a.m., Lowell Flanders, Assistant Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, will announce the opening of the World Mandala Exhibit in the public lobby of the Secretariat which will take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. that day.

At 12:45 p.m., Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme and Francesco Frangiallo, the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization will brief the press on the launch of the International Year of Eco-tourism 2002.

And at 2 p.m. Nitin Desai, Secretary-General of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Dr. Emil Salim, Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Summit, will discuss the goals of the Summit, the Preparatory Committee and the Secretary-General's report on the implementation of Agenda 21.

And the Secretary-General's Acting Special Adviser on International Assistance to Colombia, James Le Moyne, will be in New York on Monday for consultations and we have asked him to come to the noon briefing and we will let you know on Monday whether he will be able to do so.

The week ahead is available as usual upstairs. I want to flag two things for you, on Tuesday, the 29th, the Security Council will hold a private meeting with Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Security Council then intends to hold a public meeting on the situation in Africa, at which Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette and High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson are expected to speak.

And on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. there will be a briefing by a senior United Nations official concerning the Secretary-General’s appearance, scheduled for 4 February, at the World Economic Forum meeting in New York. That is a background briefing here in room 226.

That is all I have for you today.

**Questions and Answers

Question: On the refugee smuggling report. What is the nationality of the three UNCHR staff and do you know the name of the NGO?

Answer: The NGO is the African Refugee Training and Employment Service, an affiliated NGO organization. And the three UNHCR staff members were Kenyan. I would like to refer all questions on UNHCR regarding this investigation to the UNHCR press person who can be reached on 963 4215.

Question: Is it really appropriate to have the subject of the investigation, the UNHCR, responding to questions about the report? It seems a little strange to me that the Secretary-General would not respond to this. Also, apart from the people who were prosecuted, was there any disciplinary action taken against senior management officials for their lack of ability in knowing what was going on in their own offices?

Answer: I will have to check that for you from the report. The report was launched in Geneva today, and we do have a transcript of that press conference. I will get back to you on that. What I meant about the UNHCR side was that if anyone wanted to talk to UNHCR about their reaction to the report, a press person has been made available specifically for that purpose.

[It was later announced the report recommended significant changes be made in the staffing of the Nairobi branch office in order to refresh and revitalize the office. Almost all UNHCR international staff in Kenya are new and nearly all national staff dealing with protection and resettlement have been changed since January 2001.]

Question: Are the Afghan Bank entities that have been taken off the sanctions list now under the control of the current government?

Answer: From what I understand, the objective of eliminating from the list is so that the funds can be released now to the government.

Question: You mentioned the 2,000 peacekeepers in Afghanistan and that the number might reach 3,000. To whom was that reported?

Answer: This was in a meeting today between the Secretary-General and the head of the international Security Assistance Force in Kabul. When they met, Major General McColl briefed the Secretary-General on the current status of the British-led force. We have the complete transcript of the day's activities available upstairs.

Question: Do you know when Mr. Brahimi will return to New York?

Answer: I don't have the exact dates but I believe it will be in the beginning of next month.

Question: What is the situation in Colombia?

Answer: As I mentioned earlier, the Secretary-General's acting representative will be arriving over the weekend, and we hope to get him to brief you on how his efforts and the situation on the ground are progressing.

Thank you very much. Have a nice weekend.

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