DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
30 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, and Jan Fischer, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General
**Secretary-General Concludes Official Visit to Austria
I am going to start with the Secretary-General's visit to Austria. He began the final day of his official visit to Austria with a meeting with Amre Moussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States. At a press encounter afterwards, the Secretary-General said that Mr. Moussa had shared with him his impressions following his visit to Iraq, and that they had also spoken about the troubles in the Middle East, the fight against terrorism and, briefly, the situation in Afghanistan.
The Secretary-General then went to the United Nations Office in Vienna, where he met with senior management and then with members of the Staff Council.
After that, he had an informal meeting with about a dozen ambassadors, to discuss government support for UN programmes on drugs, organized crime, human trafficking, money laundering, nuclear safety and industrial development.
He then addressed some 3,000 assembled UN staff, telling them, “We must put modern management practices in place. We must enhance our enormous in-house talents and provide more and better opportunities for career development, while bringing in fresh, young people and skills that are the keys to the success of any enterprise.”
He and his wife Nane left the UN premises and went to the Town Hall for a briefing with the Mayor of Vienna, Michael Häupl, after which he had a meeting tête-à-tête with the head of the Austrian Government, Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel. The Chancellor then hosted a luncheon in his honor, to which Secretary-General Amre Moussa was also invited.
Returning to his hotel, he had a number of bilateral meetings in the afternoon, including with the Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Jan Kubic, and, at his request, former Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim.
Tomorrow the Secretary-General will fly to the Netherlands for a private visit before returning to New York on Sunday.
And here in New York, Hamid Karzai, the Chairman of the Interim Authority of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, met with 11 Afghan staff members working in the UN Secretariat and then addressed the Security Council meeting during a brief visit to UN headquarters.
Mr. Karzai briefed Council members on the political transition process under way in Afghanistan and presented his vision for what he called a prosperous, secure and peaceful Afghanistan. He noted that security is the foundation for peace, stability and economic reconstruction, but that the creation of a national police force and a national army would require some time.
The interim leader went on to say that the extension of the presence of the multinational force in Kabul and expanding of their presence to other major cities will signal the ongoing commitment of the international community to peace and security in Afghanistan. He said “We hope that you would authorize an extension and expansion of the mandate of those forces.”
Anil Kumarsingh Gayan, Foreign Minister of Mauritius, who presided over the Council meeting, read a statement at the closure of that meeting on behalf of all Council members.
Copies of both statements are available in the Spokesman's office.
Following this morning’s meeting on Afghanistan, which I just told you about, Council members began on open meeting on the situation in East Timor.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello addressed the Council. Vieira de Mello said 110 days remain until East Timor achieves independence. On that day, he said, “East Timor’s dogged and inspiring quest for self determination will have been completed.” He outlined a number of issues relating to the forthcoming independence, notably the mammoth amount of work already completed by the Constituent Assembly, which has reviewed and approved most of the draft constitution.
Vieira de Mello invited members of the Security Council to attend the May 20th celebrations. As you know May 20th is when East Timor is to become independent. “You visited once before, in most sombre times” he said. “We now very much hope that you can visit in altogether more uplifting circumstances.”
The full text of his address is available upstairs.
Also addressing the meeting were John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, and José Ramos-Horta, East Timor’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.
This afternoon, they will resume the open meeting on the situation in Africa, which took place yesterday. Seven speakers remain on the list from yesterday.
And around 5:30 p.m., Council members are expected to go into closed consultations to hear a briefing on the situation in the Middle East from UN Special Coordinator Terje Roed Larsen.
Mr. Larsen will be available at the Council stakeout following his presentation to Council members.
Yesterday late afternoon, we made available a letter which the Secretary-General had written to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, expressing his shock and deep grief at the news of the terrible loss of life that resulted from the massive explosions in Lagos on Sunday night.
He wrote, “Above all, my thoughts and prayers go to the families of those who lost their lives or were reported missing as a result of this tragedy.” He assured the President that the UN system in Nigeria is ready to provide any assistance it can.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that a three-person UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team is to be deployed tomorrow to Lagos, on request by the Nigerian Government, to determine the needs there. The Office has also authorized the disbursement of a $30,000 grant to assist with the recovery efforts.
The immediate relief needs will be determined once the populations have been settled in two camps that are being prepared to receive the military and civilian survivors, respectively. We still need to determine how much assistance will be required, but we expect that the needs will involve shelter, health, water, sanitation, food assistance, clothing and related safe cooking utensils.
Moving to the other side of the world, UN police in Kosovo have arrested three men for smuggling military weapons and explosives into Kosovo. A large quantity of illegal weapons, explosives and military equipment was also seized. According to a press release issued in Pristina, the UN mission in Kosovo says that a convoy of mules was intercepted by UN police supported by KFOR troops after it crossed into Kosovo from Albania last night in the Pec region. A press release for more details is available in our office.
We also have another press release available in which UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers and the newly appointed head of the Balkan “Stability Pact,” Erhard Busek, said today that long-term Balkan stability was linked to the fate of an estimated 1 million people who remain uprooted as a result of the region’s wars.
Moving closer to home, tonight at the Guggenheim Museum, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will launch its “Equator Initiative”, which seeks to highlight local achievements and foster the transfer of knowledge among countries in the equatorial belt.
The Equator Initiative Awards will be presented at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa later on this year. Five communities that have shown extraordinary achievement toward reducing poverty through the use of biodiversity in the equatorial belt will receive awards. More information can be found at www.EquatorInitiative.org.
Right about now, Estonia is to deposit its instrument of ratification to the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court. That ratification would make Estonia the 50th country to ratify the Statute, which needs to be ratified by 60 countries before it can enter into force. So we’re now just 10 ratifications away from making the International Criminal Court a reality.
Yesterday afternoon, Guatemala became the 113th country to sign the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
Estonia today paid $52,000 to the UN regular budget, becoming the 39th Member State to pay its regular-budget dues in full for this year.
**Security for World Economic Forum
Now some housekeeping. As you know, the World Economic Forum will open at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel tomorrow. And the host city enforcement authorities have informed us that, beginning this morning, they are enforcing street closing and some other restrictions from today to Monday, 4 February.
The traffic restrictions, near this building, during this period will include the closure of First Avenue to vehicles, from 42nd Street to 47th Street. Cars will still be permitted through the underpass at that section of First Avenue.
Still on this issue of the World Economic Forum, I would like to remind you that, at 3 today, here in this room, a senior UN official will give you a background briefing about the Secretary-General’s speech to the World Economic Forum, which will be delivered on its last day, next Monday.
Today, at 3 p.m. as I already mentioned there will be a background briefing by a senior official.
And tomorrow there are two of them. At 10:15 a.m. the World Bank is sponsoring a press conference on the public opinion views on sustainable development in the run-up to the Johannesburg Summit. There will be three speakers: Doug Miller, President, Environics International Ltd; Ian Johnson, World Bank Vice-President of the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network; and Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank Director of Environment.
At 2:30 p.m. the Department of Economic and Social Affairs is sponsoring a press conference by NGOs participating in the Johannesburg Summit to call on governments to address globalization and trade issues. There are five speakers listed. They are Daniel Mittler, President, Friends of the Earth International, Barbara Gemmill, Environment Liaison Centre International in Nairobi, Scott Hajost, Executive Director, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Kathleen Rogers, President, Earth Day Network, and Shao Loong Yin, Third World Network.
This is all I have for you. Are there any questions before we go to Jan?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Will there be a Security Council resolution after the Timor debate?
Answer: I think that there will be a resolution later on in the week.
Question: And that would just be about the continuation of the mission until independence?
Answer: We will have to see what they decide.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly
I don't have much for you today, I am mainly here in case you have questions.
This morning General Assembly President Han Seung-soo met first with the Bureau of the Working Group on Security Council reform, and then with the Bureau for the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session on Children. This afternoon, in his capacity as Foreign Minster of the Republic of Korea, he will be on a quick trip to Washington to meet with senior United States officials.
Tomorrow, after a meeting with the permanent members of the Council, he will preside over a plenary of the General Assembly, during which he is scheduled to launch the Olympic Appeal for the upcoming Winter Games.
The plenary will also take up draft resolution A/56/L.71/Rev.1 on the “digital divide”, stating that the United Nations should play a leadership role on this issue. If adopted, it will decide that the General Assembly should hold three plenary meetings in June devoted to bridging the digital divide. These meetings would also be in preparation for the World Summit on the Information Society, which will be held in Geneva in December 2003.
The Assembly is also expected to adopt a draft resolution which will fix the schedule for the Special Session on Children and the round tables.
Finally, there are two draft resolutions on crime prevention and criminal justice, with the respective document numbers A/56/L.69 and A/56/L.70. Following the adjournment of the plenary tomorrow, the working group on Security Council reform will have an organizational meeting. You should know that the plenary tomorrow will start at 10:30 a.m., not at 10 o'clock, which is usually the case.
That is all I have for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: You mentioned that the President of the General Assembly has met with the President of the Security Council to discuss Security Council reforms. What are the latest developments in that area?
Answer: There is a very thick report out from the last working group, it is A/55/47; I cannot summarize it, but it is an ongoing matter. It has been on the agenda of the General Assembly for a long time and it probably will be for a bit longer. We are hoping that they will be making some progress.
Question: This is in reference to the resolution regarding problems with the host country, parking and such. I notice that this question has come up again. Are relations better with the new Mayor? Also, in this resolution they speak about travel restrictions of staff that have not yet been solved. Have these problems of travel restrictions been solved?
Answer: I have not followed the Committee on Relations with the host country. I don't think the parking issue has been solved, and it probably will not be solved. It is a very congested city we are in, and the missions do tend to have a lot of vehicles. I really don't see that one being solved.
Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General: I have not seen the resolution you are talking about.
Question: I am talking about the travel restrictions that have been imposed on certain countries and certain staff. We know that in the past there have been problems with diplomatic missions, but we did not know that staff were not permitted to travel under a Headquarters Agreement.
Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General: I would have to look into that, to get the facts and precise information to share that with you. I don't have that right now.
Assembly President Spokesman: Are you talking about new restrictions?
Question: I am referring to the resolution of the General Assembly 56/84 where they talk about restriction on staff members and request that the host country consider removing such travel control of staff.
Answer: We'll look into that.
Have a nice afternoon.
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