DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
2 August 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 Secretary-General last night received a letter from Iraq's Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri, inviting chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix and members of his team to Iraq "at the earliest agreed upon time" for a round of technical talks on remaining disarmament issues.
While he welcomes the letter, which is in line with the agreement to maintain contact, including continuing discussions on technical matters, the procedure proposed is at variance with the one laid down by the Security Council in its resolution of l999.
The Secretary-General promptly shared the letter with members of the Council and looks forward to discussing it with them when he meets with them over lunch on Monday.
The Secretary-General’s Representative for Angola, Mussagy Jeichande, and United Nations military observers attended a ceremony in Luanda today during which 30 former generals of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, known as UNITA, were formally incorporated into Angola's Armed Forces and National Police.
During the ceremony, a formal declaration of the extinction of UNITA's Armed Forces was read by Paulo Lukamba "Gato", the head of the Management Commission of the former rebel movement. Such a declaration, he added, resulted from the "historic moment" and was "a sign of the times".
The integration of the general officers and slightly more than 5,000 UNITA fighters into Angola's security forces was initially set for 20 June, but postponed because of delays in selection and registration.
Starting tomorrow, about 80,000 other rebel fighters are to be demobilized and aided in reintegrating into civilian life under the terms of the 4 April ceasefire that revived the 1994 Lusaka Protocol.
The Secretary-General and the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, met yesterday evening at the residence for about 45 minutes. They reviewed the political and the security situation in the Middle East.
The Foreign Minister also reiterated Israel's commitment to alleviate the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people.
He told the Secretary-General that the Israeli Government would fully cooperate with the United Nations on the ground, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process.
The Secretary-General said it was important to accompany positive developments on the humanitarian side with movement on the political track, as well.
**UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced today that its Goodwill Ambassador, actress Mia Farrow, will visit Angola for a week beginning on Monday. We have a press release with more information. The UNICEF also released a press release late yesterday marking World Breastfeeding Week, outlining some of the benefits of breastfeeding.
At the close of today's meeting between the Greek Cypriot leader and the Turkish Cypriot leader, it was agreed to begin a pause in the talks for evaluation, reflection and rest. They will resume on 27 August.
There are no consultations or meetings of the Security Council scheduled for today.
As of now, discussions on the programme of work for August are expected to take place on Tuesday.
Available on the racks today is a letter from the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Judge Navanethem Pillay, to the Security Council President, alerting the Council to complaints by Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte about the lack of cooperation from the Rwandan authorities.
Ms. Del Ponte, in particular, had described to Judge Pillay how the lack of availability of witnesses from Rwanda is likely to hamper the judicial work of the Rwanda Tribunal and hinder the Prosecutor’s investigations. Judge Pillay told the Security Council that three cases have already been postponed because witnesses living in Rwanda have been unavailable to show up for trials in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania.
She warns: "In the light of past difficulties, it is uncertain that the trials scheduled to resume in the coming sessions will be able to do so without the intervention of the Security Council." She suggested that the Council use such measures as it thinks are appropriate to ensure that the Tribunal can perform its mandate.
The World Food Programme (WFP), in a press release issued today, warned that serious food shortages are affecting millions of farmers and pastoralists in eastern, northern and southern Ethiopia due to exceptionally dry weather.
A monthly average of 2 million Ethiopians had already been identified to be in need of food aid for the second half of the year. But the poor performance of rainfall means a further 2 million will also need food assistance.
The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, meanwhile, said preparation and planning for the United Nations demining support to the demarcation project is ongoing, with the expectation of a United Nations Security Council resolution in the near future formally mandating the United Nations Mission to provide this support.
We have the WFP press release and the briefing notes from the United Nations Mission upstairs.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it has temporarily suspended its aid activities in Georgia's Pankisi Valley, which hosts some 3,800 Chechen refugees, following a request from the Georgian authorities.
The UNHCR says it hopes that the situation stabilizes so that the refugees can remain in safety and continue to receive protection in the Valley.
The current suspension of activities is the most recent in the region, where security concerns and lawlessness have prompted short-term suspensions of aid a number of times in the past. The UNHCR says it hopes to resume work soon. Recent distribution of food and other aid items have provided the refugees with sufficient supplies through mid-August.
The UNHCR briefing note also includes an update on the needs for shelter assistance for the coming winter for the 1.6 million Afghans who have returned home so far this year.
Tomorrow, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Michael Steiner, will meet the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Paddy Ashdown, and the Special Coordinator for the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, Eberhard Busek, to discuss how to strengthen regional cooperation.
The informal meeting, which is taking place in Salzburg, Austria, is to include on its agenda trade liberalization, the fight against organized crime, energy, the return of internally displaced persons and media developments.
There's a press release.
**The Week Ahead
And we have the Week Ahead for you in my Office.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Going back to the Secretary-General's reaction to the Iraq letter, when you quote him as saying that the procedure is at variance with the one laid down by the Security Council, the procedure for what?
Spokesman: The resolution in question, 1284, in paragraph 7, describes the procedure for establishing what remains to be done in the disarmament area. It says that Iraq would first agree to readmit the weapons inspectors, they would conduct on-site inspections for a period of 60 days or within 60 days, they would then report back to the Security Council with a proposed programme of work, which the Council would have to then approve. So that is the path laid down by the Council.
Question: In discussing the issue on Monday during the luncheon, is it the Secretary-General's view that the Security Council needs to make the decision on this as to whether Blix could go -- that they're going to have to formally give him instructions to do this since it doesn't fall in line with the procedures, or will he separately seek their guidance and then make his own mind up afterwards?
Spokesman: I think as the statement or what I've already said suggests, because this invitation is at variance with the Council resolution, he needs to bring it to the attention of the Council and they'll discuss it on Monday. I don't want to say who's going to decide what after that discussion.
Question: On that basis, would you say he's declining this invitation or of a mind to decline it, because it is at odds with the Security Council resolution?
Spokesman: He is calling it to the attention of the Council because they're the ones that prescribed the formula for the resumption of inspections. I don't think you want to say he's predisposed one way or the other. He wants to show it to them and get their reaction.
Question: In Vienna, the Secretary-General said that technical talks could continue. What does the Secretary-General see between the difference of what's been requested here and the technical talks that he said could continue after the Vienna talks?
Spokesman: I don't quite understand that.
Question: What's the difference with what the Iraqis are asking for here as far as ongoing negotiations or discussions and the technical talks that the Secretary-General himself said could continue in Vienna? Why does this have to be looked over?
Spokesman: I'm sorry. I don't understand the thrust of the question.
Question: The Secretary-General in Vienna, after that said he would not have high-level talks with the Iraqis, but he opened the door to the continuation of some form of technical talks. In describing the offer in this letter, the Iraqis said this would be a continuation of technical talks. So the Secretary-General is on the record as saying he will allow the continuation of technical talks. They're putting this in the context of technical talks, so why wouldn't this be acceptable?
Spokesman: You have to study the text of the letter. I believe it's to be circulated as a document. You can then look at what it is the Iraqis are saying that they would like to discuss. I think when you get into that you'll get the answer to that question.
Question: The letter says that Iraq would want to conduct a round of technical talks between Iraqi experts and the Chairman.
Spokesman: Read on.
Question: You want me to read the whole thing? It goes on for a while.
Spokesman: I'm trying not to answer the question.
Question: Is it the fact that the venue is Baghdad that puts it at variance with the Security Council's instructions?
Spokesman: No. It's what is to be discussed. Look at the letter.
Question: What sort of technical talks did the Secretary-General have in mind in Vienna when he said technical contact should continue?
Spokesman: The kinds of discussions that had taken place in really the first three rounds, but particularly in the second and the third rounds in New York and Vienna where high-level experts on both sides discussed aspects of disarmament, where it was primarily Dr. Blix who was explaining how UNMOVIC would work and how it intended to carry out its inspections, in the hope that any fears on the part of the Iraqis that these inspections would be abused for purposes they weren't intended for could be dispelled. So he said if you want to have more talks on that, please feel free.
Question: Just for the record, how did the United Nations inspection agency today handle this letter? Did they have formal meetings and what's their current status should things suddenly escalate about bringing inspectors in?
Spokesman: Of course they discussed it. Dr. Blix discussed the letter with his senior people and he also discussed it with the Secretary-General.
Question: Does this relate, for example, Blix has said that he cannot conduct comprehensive review until inspectors are back on the ground and evaluating what's been going on there since 1998. So, therefore, if the Iraqis are asking for a comprehensive review when he goes there, he couldn't possibly do that because he needs to get the inspectors on the ground first. Is that the procedure that the Secretary-General ...?
Spokesman: You're going in the right direction.
Question: The United States and Richard Butler, the former weapons chief, have speculated that this is stalling. Would you have any comment that Iraq is still playing for time?
Spokesman: You'll have to ask the Iraqis what's on their minds, but we're not speculating about that.
Question: Are you planning to make Hans Blix available or is he planning to make himself available at some point during the day to answer questions from us?
Spokesman: I don't think so. He has his own spokesman, as you know, Ewen Buchanan, whose phone has been ringing off the hook all morning. You're welcome to try and get through to him. I'm sure he's grateful I said this now on the record.
Question: On the issue that it calls for talks in Baghdad, what does that raise as far as concern on the Secretary-General's part as far as going forward? Is that a sort of procedure that you would follow to go to Baghdad?
Spokesman: I don't want to get into that. The matter is now being handed over to the Security Council for consideration. The Secretary-General will discuss it with them on Monday. And then I hope you'll hear from either the Secretary-General himself or the Council.
**Briefing by the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly
In letters A/ES-10/187-188 dated 1 August, addressed to the President of the General Assembly, Oman and South Africa have requested a resumption of the tenth emergency special session to consider agenda item 5, entitled "Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory". The purpose is, of course, to discuss the Jenin report. South Africa and Oman sent the letters in their capacity as Chair of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement and Chair of the Arab Group, respectively.
In response to this request, the office of the President has sent -- or is about to send -- letters to all missions informing them that the emergency special session will reconvene for the ninth time on Monday at 10 a.m. in Conference Room 1. There will also be a meeting in the afternoon.
Consultations are going on regarding a draft resolution which is expected to be adopted at the end of the meeting. When I checked this morning, there were 17 speakers on the list for Monday.
Before the last two resumptions of the tenth emergency special session, I gave a bit of background to the session, but in case anybody missed out I will repeat it.
The tenth emergency special session dates back to 1997, when Israel began construction of a new settlement south of East Jerusalem. The Security Council met twice on this issue, but failed to adopt two resolutions. Using the "Uniting for Peace" formula, a special emergency session of the General Assembly was convened in April and again in July and November of 1997. It also resumed in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001.
On 20 December last year, resolution A/RES/ES-10/8 on the issue was adopted with 124 in favour, 6 against and 25 abstentions. Another resolution on the applicability of the Geneva Conventions was adopted with 133 in favour, 4 against and 16 abstentions. The Assembly heard some 20 speakers.
You may recall that just before the special session on children was about to start here in May, this tenth emergency special session reconvened on 7 May following the disbandment of the Jenin team. During that meeting, we heard 35 speakers and saw the adoption of resolution A/ES-10/10 which, among other things, requested the Secretary-General to present a report on the events that took place in Jenin and other Palestinian cities. That resolution was adopted with 74 in favour, 4 against and 54 abstentions.
In case you're interested in emergency special sessions, I have a list of them that I'd be happy to give you. If you want to check back to the previous two meetings, there's more information in Press Releases GA/10003 and GA/10015.
That's what I have for you. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: You say 17 or 70 speakers?
Spokesman: 17 -- but we're still expecting to add some more which means that it will go into the afternoon, as well.
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