DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
19 June 2002
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
From Afghanistan, President-elect Hamid Karzai announced the key posts of his cabinet this afternoon. In his speech at the Loya Jirga, which lasted more than an hour, he named three vice-presidents and 14 ministers. The proposal was approved with a show of hands from the delegates.
The tribal council, which convened nine days ago, has fulfilled its main tasks set out in the United Nations-brokered Bonn Agreement, which were to elect a head of the State for the Transitional Administration and approve proposals for the structure and key personnel of the Transitional Administration.
In his speech, Mr. Karzai also highlighted several priorities for that Government, including education, reconstruction and security. Among the people he thanked was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Lakhdar Brahimi, who he proposed be given an Afghan passport as a token of thanks.
The Chairman of the Loya Jirga, Muhammad Qasimyar, congratulated the delegates for the election of the head of State and the successful completion of the democratic process.
As we speak, the Loya Jirga is about to reconvene again for an official ceremony after a short break.
**United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
The United Nations Development Programme is providing the Afghanistan Assistance Coordination Authority (AACA) with a Donor Assistance Database (DAD). Supported by the Governments of Italy, the Netherlands and the United States, the database will enable the Afghanistan Transitional Administration to track the flow of aid. It will also make it easier to assess how quickly donors have been able to deliver assistance against the pledges made at the Tokyo conference last January.
The Donor Assistance Database is being posted on the Internet, and can be accessed by the media, the public, and when Internet access improves, by the Afghan people themselves. [The prototype DAD can be accessed at http://aacadad.undp.org.]
The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Peace Process, Terje Roed Larsen, met with the Palestinian Authority President, Yasser Arafat, as well as other members of the Palestinian leadership today. He reiterated the United Nations position against all forms of terrorism and violence. They also discussed the political situation and the prospects for renewed dialogue.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jacques Klein, briefed the Security Council in an open meeting this morning on the latest developments in that mission area. Klein outlined to the Council a number of the mission's achievements, notably in the area of police reform and the creation of the State Border Service, which is one of the few multi-ethnic institutions that works.
Klein, however, did tell Council members that Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a "work in progress", which, like many countries in transition, faces major political, economic and social challenges. He also discussed the ongoing planning for the hand-over to the European Union Police Mission, which will take over from the United Nations at the end of the year. In conclusion, Klein told Council members that the United Nations was about to successfully wrap up the most ambitious police reform and reconstruction project ever undertaken by the United Nations. "We will finish this mission with our heads held high," Klein said.
The Council then moved into closed consultations for discussions on the renewal of that mission's mandate.
Hédi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed on the recent incident in Kisangani, which he reported to you yesterday. That's, of course, on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
We have an announcement regarding your request for a press conference with the Syrian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara. He will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. here in room 226 on Friday.
Yesterday, I mentioned that the United Nations mission in Kosovo had arrested four Kosovo Albanian men on suspicion of having committed serious crimes against other Kosovo Albanians in June 1999. Today, two more suspects in the same case voluntarily surrendered to United Nations police. With today’s arrests, all of the targets of this operation have been located and arrested. Until the charges are confirmed by an investigating judge, details of their names or affiliations will not be released by the Police.
Yesterday was a busy news day for most of you. Maybe that’s why we didn’t see much coverage of the Secretary-General’s letter to the Group of Eight (G-8) in which he welcomed the group’s focus on Africa and urged firm pledges of action. The letter is going up on the G-8 Web site today.
We would like to point out that, although the Secretary-General will be speaking at the summit, this letter is his major input into the G-8 summit taking place next week.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, arrived in the northern Caucasus yesterday following official meetings in Moscow. Mr. Otunnu met with the President of Ingushetia, Maurat Zayzikov and visited camps for internally displaced Chechens in Ingushetia, talking with children and their families. He also toured health centres, schools and sports facilities and was able to see first-hand the work of United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Today, he met with religious leaders in Grozny. Tomorrow he will visit a centre for child mine victims in Vladikavkaz and meet with heads of United Nations agencies. The main objective of his visit is to assess the situation of children affected by the conflict in Chechnya and to focus attention on their plight. We will have a press release with more details.
On Angola, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Africa, Ibrahim Gambari, has left Luanda at the end of a multi-agency technical assessment mission to Angola. The objective of the mission was to clarify the role that the Angolan authorities wish the United Nations to play in the country.
Gambari told reporters prior to his departure that the objectives of his mission were met. The Secretary-General is expected to submit his report on Angola, with recommendations regarding the future mandate of the United Nations Office in Angola (UNOA), in the first week of July.
Concerning Madagascar, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that it has just started to distribute emergency food aid to urban centres in Madagascar, to help feed some 35,000 malnourished children affected by the current political-economic crisis. WFP notes that the cost of rice -- the staple food of the Malagasy people -- has increased by 375 per cent, pushing it beyond the reach of most families.
Further aggravating the precarious situation is the critical lack of fuel in the country, preventing the commercial flow of food items between provinces, and making it impossible for farmers to transport their products to existing markets. To compound the problem, a cyclone passed over northern Madagascar in mid-April, causing extensive damage and flooding to the island's main commercial port.
**United Nations Volunteers Programme
The United Nations Volunteers Programme (UNV) and one of the world's leading chemical companies, BASF, have launched a cooperation agreement to promote the services of corporate volunteers in developing countries. The first volunteer under the new arrangement has taken up an assignment to support partnerships between the United Nations system and the private sector in Panama. We have a UNV press release with more details.
**International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
At the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha today, the prosecution and defence completed their closing arguments in the case of Laurent Semanza, former Bourgmestre of Bicumbi, in the Kigali Rural Prefecture.
Semanza was charged with 14 counts of genocide, direct and public indictment to commit genocide, complicity to commit genocide and crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions. The date for the delivery of judgement will be set later. We have a press release on that.
**World Refugee Day
Tomorrow is World Refugee Day. This year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is paying special tribute to the courage and determination of refugee women. We have two press releases from UNHCR on that.
**Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace
Today is the final day of the meeting of Messengers of Peace and Goodwill Ambassadors. There were two closed meetings this morning and there will be a press conference at 12:30 right after this briefing.
This afternoon, Nane Annan, wife of the Secretary-General, will deliver remarks at the closing ceremony for the two-day meeting, which starts at 3:15 p.m. in the West Terrace of the Delegates Dining Room.
[The Spokesman's Office later announced that Mrs. Annan would not be speaking at the closing ceremony, but would be attending the working lunch of the Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace.]
Some of the Messengers and Ambassadors will take part in a penalty shootout. Those of you who follow soccer will know what that is. I'm not quite clear -- I think it has to do with kicking the ball into the net. That's to mark the “Say Yes for Children World Football Days”, which are taking place today and tomorrow. The Celebrity team will take on the Diplomatic team at 3:30 today on the North Lawn. If you want the lists of the two teams, they're in today's Journal.
A little bit more about this press conference. Five Goodwill Ambassadors who are taking part in this programme will meet with you here at 12:30. They are Roger Moore, Danny Glover, Goedele Liekens, Mechai Viravaidya and Angelina Jolie. I think you're familiar with most of them. So those five people will be here in just a few minutes to tell you about their two-day experience here at the United Nations and to take any questions you might have.
Do you have any questions for me?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Regarding the provisional interim Palestinian State -- do you any reaction from the Secretary-General on that?
Spokesman: No, he is staying very close to that process. I think he's made his view known to the various members of the Quartet, but until there's an announcement made by the United States of their proposal, he won't have anything to say.
Question: Could you elaborate on the United States withdrawing from peacekeeping missions?
Spokesman: That's a matter that's before the Security Council right now. I don't want to comment on the United States position until they've presented it to the Council, and the Council has taken a decision or responded to the United States proposal.
I understand the United States is putting forth a draft resolution on the status of peacekeepers vis-à-vis prosecution by an international court, or some other authorities other than the national authorities of the peacekeepers.
I really don't have any more to say about that.
Question: The South African authorities yesterday expressed some concern about the small number of industrial country leaders who are planning to go to the Johannesburg summit. Is the Secretary-General also worried and is he going to twist any arms at the G-8?
Spokesman: The information that I heard today was that the number of heads of State of developed countries is picking up rapidly. I don't think we know yet how many there will be, but I don't think that's a major concern of the Secretary-General.
He would, of course, encourage as many heads of State as can go to attend this summit, which is the last in a series of three major international meetings this year. We've always seen them as a package and we'd like to round it off with a very successful summit in Johannesburg with maximum participation at the highest level.
Question: These personalities -- the three vice-presidents and other ministers that have been chosen by Karzai -- are they a continuation of the Interim Authority or are they the final officials in the Government in Afghanistan.
Spokesman: Just read the Bonn Agreement. It calls for a transitional government until there can be elections for what could be the final government. So this is a traditional government that has been put in place through the Loya Jirga.
These people will now run the government until the fully elected government can be put in place in -- is it 18 months or two years time? Two years. So this government will be put in place for two years. It's a transitional government.
Question: Is it elected by a special party?
Spokesman: They were proposed by Hamid Karzai and approved by the Loya Jirga today.
Anything else? Okay, we'll see you back here in about five minutes for the celebrities.
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