DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
6 February 2002
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. The Security Council is meeting today on Afghanistan.
In a public meeting that began at 11:15 today, the Secretary-General briefed on his recently concluded trip to Japan, Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as Iran and Qatar. We have made his remarks available to you.
The Secretary-General then introduced his Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, who briefed the Council for the first time since the transfer of power to the Afghan Interim Administration on 22 December.
On the issue of security, Mr. Brahimi said the recent clashes in the east, namely at Gardez, and in the north at Mazar-i-Sharif, demonstrate that the peace in Afghanistan is still fragile. At the same time, he said the presence of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has led to improvement of security in Kabul, and that this has generated increasingly vocal demands by ordinary Afghans, members of the Interim Administration and even some warlords, for the expansion of the force to the rest of the country. He said, “We tend to agree and hope that this will receive favourable and urgent consideration by the Security Council.”
In the medium and long term, he said, the creation of a truly national army and police will be critical to improving and stabilizing the security situation in the country. He welcomed the move by ISAF to train a National Guard battalion of 600 soldiers, beginning on 26 February.
Brahimi also reported on relief efforts, saying that they had gathered momentum and access to several areas that were only recently considered unsafe has improved. Despite these encouraging developments, insecurity is continuing to hamper relief efforts in many parts of the country.
He touched on the structure of the future mission in Afghanistan, which he described will operate with a “light footprint,” keeping the international United Nations presence to the minimum required.
The remarks have been made available to you.
The Security Council has now gone into closed-door consultations on Afghanistan.
Council members also have their monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General today.
**Avalanche in Afghanistan
From Kabul, we have just learned of an avalanche near the Salang Tunnel connecting the capital with the northern part of the country.
Details were sketchy but the United Nations spokesman in Kabul, Yusaf Hassan, told us by telephone that about 20 vehicles had been trapped and that the United Nations had received a request from the Interim Authority for assistance.
Hassan said that the United Nations did not have the necessary equipment to free or rescue the people trapped there, but that an ISAF team had gone to the area.
He said he had heard of no reports of casualties at this time. And there were no United Nations vehicles or United Nations personnel in the area.
At the invitation of Dr. Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee, the Secretary-General will travel to Salt Lake City tomorrow to attend the opening ceremony of the XIX Winter Olympic Games on Friday, 8 February.
This is the first time that a United Nations Secretary-General will be attending the opening of the Games at the invitation of the IOC. Mrs. Annan will accompany the Secretary-General.
In his letter to Dr. Rogge accepting the IOC invitation, the Secretary-General noted that the General Assembly’s adoption this past December of a new resolution on “Building a better world through sport and the Olympic ideal” was “a welcome reaffirmation of the value of the cooperation” between the United Nations and the IOC. He also said: “I am eager to join you in Salt Lake City to celebrate the commitment and the achievements of young people who are the true wealth of the Olympic Movement, and of the communities they represent.”
At the Games, the Secretary-General will be joined by his Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Adolf Ogi.
On Saturday morning, 9 February, the Secretary-General will make opening remarks at a forum on “Using support for development to build a brighter future for children worldwide”. The forum is being organized by Olympic Aid, an athlete-led non-governmental organization affiliated with the IOC.
A number of senior officials of the United Nations system, including Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO); Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Ruud Lubbers, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, are expected to participate in the forum at the invitation of Olympic Aid. Mr. Ogi will also be there.
The Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan will be back in New York on Sunday.
Representatives of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNTAET) and the Government of East Timor today held a press conference in Dili as part of an ongoing campaign to eradicate domestic violence.
“Domestic violence is not a problem for the police alone", the United Nations Civilian Police Commissioner Peter Miller said. "As a police service, we must recognize the devastating effect of domestic violence on our communities and we must take steps to address it”.
According to the Civilian Police’s Vulnerable Persons Unit there were 382 cases of domestic violence reported last year. However, this figure is believed to represent only 15 per cent of the total cases.
For more information, see the briefing note from Dili.
**Meeting between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
We have a statement upstairs on the latest meeting between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which took place yesterday.
Also yesterday, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court received two more ratifications, inching it closer to its entry into force. Portugal and Ecuador became the fifty-first and fifty-second States to have ratified the treaty, which is now just eight shy of the 60 ratifications it needs for entry into force.
Earlier today, Moldova signed both optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, becoming the ninety-fifth signatory to the protocol on children and armed conflict and the ninety-first to the one on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
**World Health Organization
As the flu season in the northern hemisphere reaches its peak, the World Health Organization (WHO) is scaling up its efforts to fight influenza, and today in Geneva, WHO recommended that four specific virus strains be used to decide the composition of next year’s influenza vaccine. The WHO is also strongly advising early vaccination as the best prevention for the disease, which infects as many as 100 million people in the northern hemisphere every year.
We have a press release on that.
**Department of Public Information Panel Discussion
Today, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in conference room one -- downstairs here -- there will be a special panel discussion on the media and sustainable development. It will be moderated by the Interim Head of the Department of Public Information, Shashi Tharoor. Guest panellists will include representatives from the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Turner Broadcasting, the BBC, Star TV and Brazil’s TV Globo.
And you're all invited to attend that.
The forty-fourth nation to pay its current dues for this year to the regular budget is Fiji, and that's with a payment of more than $44,000.
We have another World Chronicle programme to announce. It will be previewed today and will feature Dr. Pekka Tarjanne, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Information and Communications Technologies. And you can see that on in-house television channels 3 or 31 at 3:30 p.m. today.
And finally, this is the second announcement of this press conference. It will be held at 4 p.m. today. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is sponsoring a press conference on the launch of a United Nations report on Chernobyl, titled "The Human Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident: A Strategy for Recovery".
That's it for me.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Do we have any word on when the text is going to be coming out of the Preparatory Committee that's going on in the basement?
Spokesman: I don't have that, but I can check for you to see if someone in my office might know right after the briefing.
Question: You may have been asked about this, I apologize, but on the South Korean Han -- on his replacement as Foreign Minister and how that affects his post here at the United Nations.
Spokesman: We were asked that yesterday, and I didn't have the answer then. We did squawk it after the briefing. Apparently the former Foreign Minister
Dr. Han will remain as General Assembly President for the duration of his term.
Good. Thank you very much.
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