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DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

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

8 July 2002

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Hua Jiang, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jan Fischer, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.

Good afternoon.

We will be joined today by Celhia de Lavarene, the Special Adviser to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She will be talking about her work as the head of the Mission’s Special Trafficking Programme known as STOP. [Ms. de Lavarene’s briefing was issued separately.]

Secretary-General’s Speech

The Secretary-General is in Durban, South Africa, today, where he addressed the 38th Summit of the Organization of African Unity -- just one day before that organization will transform itself into the African Union.

He told the OAU delegates that tomorrow’s proclamation of the birth of the African Union was a tribute to the OAU’s success, adding, “It is an occasion to celebrate, and more important, an occasion for hope”. But he cautioned, “Let us not imagine that, once proclaimed, our Union will become a reality without further effort”.

Noting the difficulties that faced the building of the European Union, he told those gathered that a successful Union will require “great stamina and iron political will, combined with the readiness to accept seemingly endless series of negotiations and compromises”.

He said that Africa must build “a Union that will last”, which will not replace the sovereign States of which it is composed.

He added that Africa is gaining a new sense of respect, and that leaders “will respect us even more when they see us actually resolve the conflicts that disfigure our continent. And I do mean, resolve them. Managing them is not enough and will not be enough”.

Finally, he looked ahead at next month’s World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He said: “This time the stakes will even be higher. We have to trace a path for development that will not only be shared by all nations, but can be sustained and enjoyed by future generations. In this part of Africa”, he said, “already stricken by drought and menaced by famine, you need no reminder of the urgency of that task”.

He urged the crowd, “Let us apply ourselves, as Africans, to persuading the rest of the world to join us next month and start implementing the measures we all know are needed, if development is to be truly sustainable”.

We have copies of his speech upstairs.

Secretary-General’s Activities in Durban

Before addressing the summit earlier today, the Secretary-General had two meetings on the Middle East: one with Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States; and another with Farouk Kaddoumi, Representative of Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat.

On the sidelines of the Durban summit, the Secretary-General has a number of back-to-back meetings scheduled with African leaders. I have a complete list of the afternoon’s scheduled meetings, if you’re interested.

The Secretary-General began his stay in South Africa on Sunday morning with a one-on-one meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki. On Sunday afternoon, he held talks with Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi on the Horn of Africa, before meeting with the heads of UN agencies, programmes and specialized agencies attending the summit.

Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General

The following statement is attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General:

“The Secretary-General is deeply disturbed and saddened by the murder of Haji Abdul Qadir, Vice-President and Minister of Public Works of the Afghan Transitional Administration. He condemns this assassination in the strongest possible terms and has sent his heartfelt condolences to the family of Haji Qadir and to the government of Afghanistan. The Secretary-General urges the Afghan authorities to do everything in their power to conduct a thorough investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice. He recalls in this regard that the killing of then Aviation Minister Abdul Rahman remains unresolved.

The assassination of Haji Qadir is a graphic reminder of the fragile situation in Afghanistan -- less than a month after the successful conclusion of the emergency Loya Jirga. The Secretary-General appeals to the Afghan authorities in Kabul as well as in the provinces to strengthen ongoing efforts towards the achievement of security and stability in the country. Most importantly, the international community must remain fully engaged in the peace process to ensure that the Afghan people will not again be the victim of a senseless civil war. To this end, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) will continue to assist the Transitional Administration in the implementation of the Bonn Agreement and to support the Afghan people towards peace and reconstruction.

Afghanistan

Over the weekend, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan also expressed its deep concern at the assassination.

Security Council

This morning, the Security Council is holding a closed meeting during which Council members are being briefed on the political and economic situation in Guinea-Bissau by the Secretary-General’s Representative in that country, David Stephen.

The Council is to move into closed consultations shortly to be briefed on the latest meeting between the Secretary-General and an Iraqi delegation, which took place -- as you know -- at the end of last week in Vienna.

The Secretary-General’s Chef du Cabinet, Iqbal Riza, will provide the briefing.

AIDS Conference

Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, told the opening of the International AIDS Conference in Barcelona yesterday that the battle against the disease must be fought on the global political stage. He said that among the challenges will be mobilization of political commitment, scaling up AIDS prevention and treatment, development of a vaccine and finding $10 billion to fight AIDS.

“It is now clear that the AIDS epidemic is still in its early stages”, he said, “and let us be equally clear: our fight back is at an even earlier stage”.

He challenged the audience of researchers, advocates and government and community representatives to keep the promises that have been made for development assistance and increases in the amount of money to fight AIDS.

We have a press release, and the full text of Piot’s speech available upstairs.

Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General

And again, the following statement is attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General. It’s about Western Sahara.

“The 100 prisoners of war released by the Frente POLISARIO on 18 June were repatriated on 7 July by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Morocco. The Secretary-General welcomes this step and calls on the Frente POLISARIO to move towards an early release of the remaining 1,260 POWs.

Kosovo

Over the weekend, UN police in Kosovo arrested eight people suspected of involvement in a brutal attack on a Kosovo Albanian family in Glogovac last year, in which five members of the Hajra family were killed.

The arrests were carried out on Saturday morning by UN police, with all those arrested now in detention. Although three of those arrested were members of the Kosovo Protection Corps, the Mission, in a release, which is available upstairs, said that the suspects’ backgrounds “played no part in the arrests”.

ICTY

Today in The Hague, the Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Hans Holthuis, decided to withdraw the counsel and other legal support previously assigned to one of the accused, Zoran Zigic. After an investigation into his financial status, the Tribunal concluded that Zigic has sufficient means to pay for his defence, although he had earlier claimed that he was indigent.

The Registrar’s office had studied allegations that the suspect had split fees with members of his defence team, which allowed him, his family and his associates to acquire substantial means of approximately $175,000. The Tribunal reserves the right to file for recovery of funds against the accused.

We have a press release with more details.

Budget

Uzbekistan today became the 85th Member State to pay its 2002 regular budget contribution in full with a payment of more than $122,000.

That’s all from me today. Any questions before we move on to Jan?

**Questions and Answers:

Question: Has the Secretary-General received a reply from the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell to the letter that the Secretary-General sent last week?

Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have any information on that, I’m afraid, but I can find out for you after the briefing. [It was later announced that the Secretary-General had not received a reply.]

Question: Is there any read-out on the Secretary-General’s meetings with Amr Moussa and the Arafat emissary?

Deputy Spokesperson: We haven’t got it so far. But I’ll try to get them for you after the briefing.

Question: And also, is there any official word yet on the next meeting of the Quartet?

Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, contacts are on the way between the parties on a possible Quartet meeting. But as regards to the details -- the venue, the dates and who is going to participate -– all this is still under discussion.

Question: Is there still a possibility that the Quartet would meet next week here?

Deputy Spokesperson: As I have just said, all the details regarding the dates and venue are all under discussion at the moment.

Question: The total casualties in Afghanistan -- do you have any account on that?

Deputy Spokesperson: We haven’t got the report yet. But I know that we have sent an investigation mission to the area. But I have not seen any report on that yet.

Question: Another question concerning the eight people who have been arrested in Glogovac. Had they been in families recently or previously?

Deputy Spokesperson: Did I give you that detail just now? I have to check that after the briefing for you. Okay, Jan?

Spokesman for President of General Assembly

Thank you. Good afternoon.

This morning at 11 a.m., the General Assembly met in plenary in the Trusteeship Council Chamber and adopted draft resolution A/56/L.80 under agenda item 60, that is, Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly.

The draft resolution said that the President and the Vice-Presidents of the General Assembly and the Chairpersons of the Main Committees should be elected three months before the opening of the General Assembly and that, for this year only, elections should take place at least two months before the start of the next session. As not all Vice-Presidents and Chairpersons were known at the moment, however, the President of the General Assembly orally amended the resolution to say that they should be elected “as early as possible”.

Based on the endorsement of the Eastern European Group, the Assembly then proceeded to elect Jan Kavan, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, as President of the 57th session. The election was by acclamation, and Mr. Kavan will assume the presidency on 10 September. The President-elect of the 57th session, Mr. Kavan, then addressed the plenary, whereupon the Chairpersons of the regional groups briefly offered congratulations.

The plan was to hold meetings of the Main Committees immediately after the plenary to elect the Chairpersons, but this was postponed to a later date, as were the elections of the Vice-Presidents. We don’t have a date for that yet.

Tomorrow at 10 a.m., the Assembly will again meet in plenary to endorse the Monterrey Consensus. There is more information in draft resolution A/56/L.81. General Assembly President Han Seung-soo is expected to preside over this meeting which will again be held in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.

A couple of you have already asked me about a biographical note of the future president of the General Assembly, but I am afraid I don’t have one yet. I think, since he’s only going to assume office on 10 September, the best way to obtain information about Mr. Kavan will be to contact the Czech Mission.

Question: Do you have any details at all, about this gentleman? How old he is, where his home is, what his job is?

Spokesman for the General Assembly President: No, no. And I am not his spokesman.

Question: I understand that. But he was elected today.

Spokesman for the General Assembly President: He was elected today to assume office on 10 September. And in due course, we will get the usual press kit with photographs, details, backgrounds, previous presidents and, you know, what the role of the General Assembly is. You all know the press kit that comes out in early September. But until then…

Question: It’s now that we need it.

Spokesman for the General Assembly President: Until then, try the Czech Mission. Since he’s the Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, they are bound to have a Bio Note of him. Jim?

Question: I know you just said that the meeting is going to be delayed for Chairs of the committees. Is this short-term? Is it going to be in the next few days or is it…

Spokesman for the General Assembly President: The only plenary I am aware of is tomorrow and I would be very surprised if they have identified the Chairpersons and the Vice Presidents by then. So, it will be at a later stage. There are also a couple of other things that the General Assembly will have to take up within probably the next couple of weeks -- for instance, setting the dates for an African meeting in September and October. The NAFAD (New Agenda For the Development of Africa) meetings.

Question: So, I assume then, I know what the answer is going to be to my next question. Then you don’t know how soon the committees would start meeting after the general debate?

Spokesman for the General President: The draft resolution that was adopted today also says that the Chairpersons of the committees should be elected as early as possible as amended by the General Assembly President. And the bureaux of the Main Committees should be established within the first week of the new session. So, we should within the foreseeable future at least get the Chairpersons of the Main Committees. But the full bureaux of the six committees will only be known within the first week of the next session.

Thank you.

Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General: All right. Let’s welcome our special guest -- Celhia.

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