DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
11 March 2002
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Jan Fischer, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon. The Security Council will meet in open session tomorrow morning on the Middle East and the Secretary-General will address that session. They are then expected to hold closed consultations on the Middle East. We'll give you the exact times of those meetings a bit later.
Today, the Council has on its programme two back-to-back meetings on Somalia. The first is a closed meeting, featuring a briefing by the Foreign Minister of Somalia, Yusuf Hassan Ibrahim. Members of the Council took the opportunity during this session to have a question-and-answer exchange with the Foreign Minister. The second is an open meeting on Somalia. In addition to the 15 Council members, seven other Member States, so far, are due to speak. Then we expect to hear from the President of the Council at the stakeout on the second floor at the end of the morning's session.
The so-called "Six Plus Two Group" on Afghanistan met at the ambassadorial level in Kabul earlier today. The United Nations mission described it as a historic meeting, as Afghanistan attended the Six Plus Two for the first time, represented by Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. It was also the first time that the meeting of this group was held on Afghan territory.
The group renewed the expression of their collective support to the Bonn peace process and to the Interim Administration under the chairmanship of Hamid Karzai. They appealed to the international community to make good on their pledges and provide the financial and material means the Interim Administration urgently requires for the huge reconstruction needs of the country.
The group expressed strong support for the work of the Special Independent Commission for the Emergency Loya Jirga, which it noted as being one of the most central elements of the Bonn peace process. The group also offered to lend its full assistance to the Interim Administration in combating the production and trafficking of illicit drugs.
On a related subject, we have a press release on a meeting in Vienna of donors, the European Commission, the Afghan Interim Administration and countries in the region on drug control efforts in Afghanistan. The meeting agreed on the need to develop an effective law enforcement and drug control agencies and mechanism, as well as the implementation of a strategy to free Afghan farmers from dependency on opium poppy cultivation.
We also have a copy of a transcript of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson's press conference, which took place yesterday in Kabul.
**Office of Internal Oversight Services
On the racks today is a report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) entitled, “Follow-up investigation into possible fee-splitting arrangements between defence counsel and indigent detainees at the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ITFY).”
The OIOS says it was pleased to note that both Tribunals have implemented most of the recommendations contained in its previous report and that both have also taken additional proactive steps to prevent abuses of the legal aid system established under their respective statutory authorities.
We have joint statement of the Registrars of both Tribunals, who are both here at United Nations Headquarters to meet with the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly to discuss the budget and their needs and priorities, and their strategy to complete the Tribunal’s work.
And that statement, which you can get in full in my office, I will read in part here:
“The report of the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services was discussed this morning by the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly.
“The report confirms and commends the implementation by the two Tribunals of the previous recommendations of OIOS on this matter and the strong and proactive measures that have been taken by the Registrars of both Tribunals to reform their legal aid systems. These measures include, at the ICTR, the recent discharge of a defence counsel, Mr. Andrew McCartan of the United Kingdom, by the Registrar for financial misconduct that violated the Code of Professional Conduct for Defence Counsel, stricter monitoring and limitations on gifts received by detainees, enhanced screening of current and potential defence investigators to ensure that none obtains a position or has engaged in activities incompatible with their status at the Tribunal, and the proposal of an amendment to the Code of Conduct for defence lawyers appearing before the Tribunal specifically prohibiting fee-splitting arrangements.
“At the ICTY, the Registrar of that Tribunal has prepared an amendment for the revision of the Code of Conduct for Defence Counsel appearing before that Tribunal to specifically prohibit fee-splitting and imposes sanctions for breaches. The revised Code will become effective on 1 April.”
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Michael Steiner, is in Brussels today where he is to meet NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and also address the European Union’s General Affairs Council. He will be urging NATO and European Union representatives to maintain their engagement in Kosovo, and he will be stressing the importance of continued international support on the political and economic levels to Kosovo and its institutions of new provisional self-government.
Tomorrow he goes to Berlin and then on to Washington for meetings on Wednesday with United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and members of the United States Government involved with the Balkans. On Thursday he will meet British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in London and on Friday he will be in Moscow meeting with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
**Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria today announced the 17-member Technical Review Panel. This panel will review all grant proposals and make recommendations to the Board for funding. The Panel includes experts in disease control and prevention, clinical care, health education and international development and have all worked in developing countries.
The first meeting of the Panel to review the first round of proposals will take place in Geneva from 25 March to 5 April and the Board is expected to announce the first grant awards at the end of its next meeting, which is scheduled for 22 to 24 April in New York. We have a press release with more details, including the names of the members of the Panel.
Two press releases to highlight for you today. One from Olara Otunnu, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. He will hold a press conference at the Headquarters of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) in Asmara, Eritrea, tomorrow. The press conference will be video-conferenced in Addis Ababa and in New York beginning at 10:30 a.m. New York time tomorrow morning. We have more details on that a little later.
And then, the second regards a major polio immunization campaign, which was started today in Zambia in response to confirmation of three cases of polio among Angolan refugees in the Kalabo District near the Angolan border. The campaign is being conducted by the Zambian Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund and the United States Agency for International Development. A second round of immunizations will take place in April. And you can see the press release for the details.
**Signings and Ratifications
Finally. Not finally, we have press conferences. Penultimately. Signings. This morning, Hungary signed both Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict now has 100 signatories and the one on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography has 93.
And a press conference to announce for tomorrow:
At 11:15 a.m., Joseph Chamie, Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, will brief on the Population Division's Expert Group meeting on "Completing the Fertility Transition", which will take place in New York from 11 to 15 March.
Anything before we go to Jan and the General Assembly?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Why did it take so long for the fee-splitting problem at the International Tribunals to be uncovered or to be corrected?
Spokesman: You have to ask OIOS that. I really don't know the time frame of their investigation, whether it took a long time, or why.
Question: What is the purpose for tomorrow's Middle East meeting of the Security Council for the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: It will be a chance for him to issue a personal appeal to the leaders of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to get the violence under control, to respond to United States pressure to get back to the negotiating table, and to see if we can't get a political process going again.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have a comment on Israel's apparent decision to permit Chairman Arafat to leave where they have been bottling him up?
Spokesman: I don't know that there is a specific comment on that. There may be a comment by him issued through me later today. Otherwise, his main message will be delivered tomorrow morning.
Question: Does the Secretary-General leave for Central America tomorrow?
Spokesman: No, he leaves for Central America on Thursday.
Question: I understand there was a reporter who ran afoul of the Spokesman's Office in claiming that he was going to write an article on one thing and wrote on something else. Can you tell us more about that?
Spokesman: That happens every day. You are talking about Penthouse? A reporter, representing al-Wasat, an Arab-language magazine based in London, asked for an interview with the Secretary-General a number of years ago and we gave him the response to questions he submitted in writing. The same reporter came back more recently, a few months ago, and again asked for an interview. This time, we had him interview Edward Mortimer, the Communications Director, saying that the Secretary-General was not available. We subsequently learned that both interviews were sold to Penthouse Magazine -- one several years ago, the first, and then the second one more recently.
We contacted the reporter, saying that we would have expected him to ask if he was going to do the interview for Penthouse, in which case we would have said no. He claims he has full legal rights to sell this interview to anyone and everyone. I don't know if his contract with al-Wasat would prohibit that, but that is a side issue between him and al-Wasat.
We told the reporter we considered his action to be unethical and we also informed Penthouse and al-Wasat what happened.
Question: So the interview with Mortimer was used…
Spokesman: …was used first as an interview with the Secretary-General in al-Wasat. We separately sent a letter when that happened, saying, you did not interview the Secretary-General, you interviewed Edward Mortimer. He replied there had been some misunderstanding with his editors. Seeing the Secretary-General's views, as expressed by Edward Mortimer, were accurate, we decided not to pursue that further with al-Wasat. Then we found out that that too had gone to Penthouse as an interview with the Secretary-General. In neither case did the reporter actually talk to the Secretary-General.
Question: Regarding recent developments in the Middle East, are you optimistic about returning to the negotiating table?
Spokesman: I don't think that events on the ground allow for optimism at this point. The fact that the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, agreed to waive his previous precondition for talking to the Palestinians -- that precondition being that there had to be absolute peace, not one stone thrown, for seven days -- is a positive development. The Secretary-General, all along, has said that it is when people are dying that you need to talk. It is also, I think, a positive development that Yassir Arafat's freedom of movement appears to be in the process of being restored.
The first step, of course, is to get ceasefire talks going again, but the Secretary-General also has been saying all along that those talks cannot succeed without a political framework. We are pleased that the United States is sending their Special Envoy, Ambassador Anthony Zinni, back to the Middle East. The ceasefire framework is already on the table. It is the Tenet understandings and the Mitchell Commission recommendations. That is the path to the ceasefire. The Saudi Crown Prince's proposal is one of a few proposals on the table that provide a political context. Gradually -- the elements are there -- our hope is that the two sides will now respond positively to both: the ceasefire framework and the beginning of political talks.
Question: Who asked for the Security Council meeting tomorrow, and is there going to be a resolution?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General asked for the meeting so that he could make a public appeal to the parties. I am not aware that there is any resolution being planned.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the General Assembly President
Good afternoon. The President of the General Assembly, Han Seung-soo (Republic of Korea), chaired the meeting of the Working Group on Security Council Reform this morning. Actually, the full name of this body is “The Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters Related to the Security Council”, but let us just call it the Working Group. It will meet throughout the week, and as far as I am aware it will be closed meetings. You may recall that the General Assembly discussed this issue on 30 and 31 October and on 1 November last year. The press releases covering those meetings are GA/9942 to 9945. There is much more information on the issue in general in the report of the previous working group, document A/55/47. The Working Group was established in 1993 by the 48th session of the Assembly.
This afternoon, the Assembly will meet on organizational matters related to the International Conference on Financing for Development. Regarding this conference, the President will speak at the summit segment in Monterrey, Mexico, later this month. A plenary of the Assembly is scheduled for Wednesday, and so far there are two items on the agenda: the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict;
and HIV/AIDS. The Journal lists the documents related to the two agenda items, and there are also two draft resolutions.
Also, in the afternoon, the President will first meet with Mr. Sadry, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). This is in view of the President’s visit to Sierra Leone next month. The President will then meet with the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New York and then with the Permanent Representative of Kyrgyzstan.
That is all I have for you.
* *** *
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|