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

23 July 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 General Assembly President.

Good afternoon.

Noon Guest

It’s a pleasure to welcome James Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, to this briefing. Most of you will remember that he’s also been appointed by the Secretary-General as Special Envoy on the Humanitarian Crisis in Southern Africa. And he will be talking to you in just a minute.

**Middle East

Last night we issued a statement, attributable to the Spokesman, in which the Secretary-General deplored the Israeli air attack that took place in the Gaza Strip, reportedly leaving 10 persons dead and more than 100 injured, including women and children.

“Israel has the legal and moral responsibility to take all measures to avoid the loss of innocent life; it clearly failed to do so in using a missile against an apartment building,” the statement read.

The Secretary-General called on the Government of Israel to halt such actions and to conduct itself in a manner that is fully consistent with international humanitarian law.

The message goes on: “The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the possible consequences of this attack, and urges the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to do all in their power to restore safety and security for the civilian population on both sides.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson today added her voice to that of Secretary-General’s in deploring Israel's latest air attack in the Gaza Strip.

In her statement she said that “international human rights and humanitarian law absolutely prohibit the reckless killing of civilians, regardless of the military significance of the target being attacked."

Robinson went on to point out that Israel, as a democratic society, "must not abandon its core standards and values, even in the face of the serious security threat to its own civilian population".

"The current cycle of savagery must end," she said. "In the eyes of the world, this requires responsible action from both sides of this tragic conflict."

We have copies of both statements available upstairs.

**Security Council

The Security Council began its work today in a closed meeting on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The Tribunal's President, Judge Claude Jorda, Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and Registrar Hans Holthuis briefed Council members today as part of their continuing dialogue with members on their plans to complete the Tribunal's work.

Depending on the continuing cooperation of the international community, particularly in ensuring the arrest and transfer of indicted individuals and the financing of the Tribunal, officials for that body believe that its investigations can be completed by around 2004, and the first phase of prosecutions could be completed by about 2008 or 2009.

Judge Jorda will talk to you about the Tribunal's work at 2:30 this afternoon, in a press briefing in this room, and there will be English-French interpretation.

The Security Council is scheduled to discuss Western Sahara in consultations, the first of two consultations on the subject planned for this week.

And then at lunch they will have their monthly meeting with the Secretary-General.


According to the latest figures, Iraqi oil exports under the Oil for Food Programme registered their highest single weekly volume since the start of Phase XII on 30 May of this year.

The 9.8 million barrels of oil exported netted an estimated $240 million in revenue, bringing the overall estimated revenue for this phase to over $1.23 billion.


Thoraya Obaid, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), yesterday responded to the decision by the United States not to fund her agency this year with deep regret, and said she hopes that United States funding will resume and increase next year.

The loss of $34 million, which was to have been provided for this year by the United States Government, would be enough, she said, to prevent 2 million unwanted pregnancies and more than 77,000 infant and child deaths.

Obaid told reporters here yesterday that the UNFPA does not support or promote abortion anywhere in the world, and she said, in reference to United States objections over the Fund’s policies in China, “Abortion rates are actually declining in the 32 counties in China where we operate.”

She added, “UNFPA is strongly opposed to population control,” and does not support China’s one-child policy or take part in managing the Chinese Government’s programme.

We have copies of her statement upstairs as well as a UNFPA press release.


Kenzo Oshima, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, has added his voice to those who have expressed concern over the circumstances surrounding the recent closures of two camps hosting more than 2,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Znamenskoye, in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation, and the subsequent transfer of those persons to temporary accommodation centres in Grozny.

United Nations reports from the region indicate that this relocation cannot be regarded as entirely voluntary. Furthermore, these reports indicate that some of the IDPs were very concerned about the security situation in Grozny and the living conditions in the temporary accommodation centres.

He has called upon the Russian authorities to ensure that all actions are taken to preserve the right of the internally displaced to a voluntary return, in safety and dignity, and to comply with the assurances given to the United Nations in this matter.

**East Timor

In East Timor today, the peacekeeping force of the United Nations Mission handed over responsibility for the eastern district of Lautem to the East Timor Defence Force. This was the first such handover since the United Nations came to East Timor in 1999.

More than 500 people witnessed the ceremony at which the United Nations flag was lowered and the East Timor national flag was raised to symbolize the transfer of power.

Kamalesh Sharma, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for East Timor, said the country would now be able to devote itself to meeting its developmental and social goals confident in the security provided by its own forces.

President Xanana Gusmão urged the battalion to draw on experience gained in the war of resistance that led to independence and “to transfer this experience into absolute commitment to build our nation and to nurture peace and development for all”.

The Thai peacekeepers who were stationed in Lautem will be redeployed to the Oecussi district.

We have more details in the briefing notes from Dili.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Michael Steiner, today announced that 10 investigators from Italy’s Guardia di Finanza, whom he called experts in "mafia-busting", will be working in the United Nations Mission in Kosovo to deal with the fight against financial crime and corruption there.

Steiner said the addition of the 10 investigators, who will be funded by the United Nations Mission’s budget, will reinforce the “zero tolerance” policy the Mission has in place for crime, and he added, “No one -– Kosovans or internationals -– will be beyond the reach of our crime-fighting effort.”

We have more in the press release.

**Refugee News

The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports today that it has resumed repatriation by sea of thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees keen to leave Liberia, where renewed fighting has uprooted tens of thousands of people over the past few weeks.

UNHCR says that a total of 4,500 Sierra Leoneans have signed up to go back.

According to the refugee agency, repatriation by sea is currently the only reasonable and safe way to bring the Sierra Leoneans home, as recent fighting has made overland movements unfeasible.

**Otunnu in Afghanistan

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, continued his mission to Afghanistan today with a visit to Central Afghanistan. At the Shomali Plains, he witnessed first-hand the destruction caused by the conflict and the rehabilitation work taking place there. Earlier in the day he visited schools for girls and boys and an orphanage in Kabul.

Yesterday he visited a project for street children in Kabul and met with Government officials, national and international NGOs and staff of United Nations agencies. Tomorrow he will go to Mazar-e-Sharif and on Thursday and Friday he will be in Kandahar.

**Noon Guest Tomorrow

At the noon briefing tomorrow, because of the large number of interview requests that we received yesterday for Sergio Vieira de Mello, we’ve convinced him to come and join us so that he’ll be able to take your questions then. He, in the meantime, is going through as many of those interview requests, speaking to as many of you as he can individually. But I think it will be impossible to do all of you. So please, if you’re interested, show up.

And then, two other press conferences tomorrow. At 11 a.m., Patrick Mizimpaka, the Special Envoy of the President of Rwanda, and Gerald Gahima, the General Prosecutor in the Rwandan Supreme Court, will be here to talk to you about the situation in Rwanda.

And then at 12:30 p.m., David Stewart, an economist with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will be here to launch the Human Development Report 2002.

That’s all I have for you. Any questions before we go first to Jan?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Do you have the figures on the oil of the Iraqis upstairs?

Spokesman: We have the full details in the weekly report. We have it upstairs, yeah. Anything else? Yes, Bob.

Question: Fred, the Secretary-General is meeting with [Czech Foreign Minister] Jan Kavan today. There’s a sort of mounting scandal in the Czech Republic that threatens to overshadow his new position. I am wondering if this is something that the Secretary-General and Mr. Kavan will talk about? Would you have any information about that?

Spokesman: I’ll have to look into whether we can get any read-out of that meeting for you. Liz?

Question: Were there any discussions among the Quartet members in light of this most recent incident regarding the Middle East, or has Annan spoken with Washington and what sort of communication has there been?

Spokesman: I’d have to check. As of mid-morning he had not made any phone calls to any of the other Quartet members. So, I don’t know whether he intends to. I’d have to check and then get back to you.

Question: Is there anything new or even old about how much the United States owes the United Nations, because there is a lot of talk in the corridors which I don’t know whether it’s true -- I doubt it sincerely -– that the United Nations is having trouble meeting its salaries this month. Is that true and what is the situation financially?

Spokesman: I’d have to check. I am not aware that we’re in such bad shape in terms of cash flow that we can’t meet salaries. There was the Secretary-General’s appeal to the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) yesterday to review the salary and benefits scale because over time United Nations salaries have become much less competitive. And so, he’s asked the ICSC to review the so-called Noblemaire Principle by which United Nations salaries are pegged to the best salaries in the national services and we hope that will happen this fall. Bill.

[The Spokesman announced at the end of his briefing that the United States owed the United Nations as of the end of June just over a billion dollars, and that the latest list of contributions of all Member States was available

upstairs. He also said he was not aware of any cash flow problems as yet but promised to double check that].

Question: Two things: One, any further communication of significance between the Secretary-General and the Cambodian Government over their disagreements and possibly renewing talks or relationships for the trial?

Spokesman: I have nothing new on that since whenever we might have told you while I was away. But I’ll check to see if there’s any update. [He later confirmed there was no change.]

Question: Also, what are the latest thoughts on the timing of the release of the Jenin/West Bank reports?

Spokesman: We understand it will be delayed another couple of weeks. Well, a week to two weeks.

Question: From? A week to two weeks from now, you mean?

Spokesman: Yes. So we expect it sometime in August, by or before the middle of August, I think is the current thinking.

Question: According to the problem in South Africa, do you have a time limit to finish or to solve it?

Spokesman: Which South Africa? The Congo talks in Johannesburg?

Question: Yes.

Spokesman: Well, we were pleased that there was some progress reported yesterday. We understand that some kind of tentative agreement was reached between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. We don’t have any of the details yet. So, I think we don’t want to comment until we find out what exactly was agreed. But it appeared to be movement forward. Jim?

Question: I just wanted to know whether the prison visit report on the Lockerbie suspects has gone to the two countries yet?

Spokesman: I’d have to find out. I don’t know. Thank you. [The report has been forwarded to the Governments of the United Kingdom and Libya.]

Okay, Jan what do you have on the General Assembly?

Briefing by the Spokesman for the General Assembly President

Thank you Fred.

This afternoon at 3 p.m., the General Assembly will meet in plenary in Conference Room 1. As Fred indicated yesterday, it is expected to approve the appointment of Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello as the United Nations’s third High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Following the Secretary-General’s recommendation, the Assembly is also expected to elect Ms. Anna Tibaijuka as Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, known as UN-Habitat.

The Assembly will then adopt draft resolution A/56/L.82, which will grant non-governmental organizations (NGOS) accreditation to the Ad Hoc Committee established to Consider Proposals for a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. Yes, that is the title of the Committee. Accreditation will be granted to NGOs that have consultative status with the Economic and Social Council and also to other NGOs on a non-objection basis. Accredited NGOs will be permitted to participate in the work of the Ad Hoc Committee.

So, they will not just be observers. They will actually be permitted to participate in the work.

There is also a draft decision, A/56/L.83, requesting the Secretary-General to make reasonable efforts to facilitate the participation by persons with disabilities in meetings and deliberations of the Ad Hoc Committee. Such efforts could include: facilitating entry for individuals assisting persons with disabilities, holding meetings in rooms that are more easily accessible, issuing documents in advance of meetings so that they can be converted into an appropriate format, and instituting measures which would enable persons with hearing disabilities to participate in the deliberations of the Ad Hoc Committee. You can find more information about the Committee in General Assembly resolution A/RES/56/168. I should also mention that this Ad Hoc Committee is scheduled to meet here at United Nations Headquarters from 29 July to 9 August.

Let me also take this opportunity to draw your attention to two documents which will be of interest to those of you who will be covering the next session of the Assembly. The most important of the two is the annotated preliminary list of items to be included in the provisional agenda of the fifty-seventh regular session of the General Assembly. That document is A/57/100. This almost 300-page-long document provides a wealth of information about the issues before the General Assembly. It gives you the agenda items, a brief summary of previous action, and references to resolutions, provisional verbatims and to other documents. In annexes, you will find lists of the Presidents of the Assembly, of officers of the Main Committees, of Vice-Presidents, of non-permanent members of the Security Council, of members of the Economic and Social Council and a list of the Member States and the dates they were admitted. The second document, A/57/150, contains an update on the agenda items. But the most important one is A/57/100.

That’s what I have for you. Any questions for me? Lee.

Question: When will that document be ready for us?

Spokesman for General Assembly President: I actually picked it up at the Documents Counter yesterday. So, it is available.

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