DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
16 September 2002
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Richard Sydenham, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.
**Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
**Secretary-General Meets Naji Sabri, Foreign Minister of Iraq
On Saturday morning, the Secretary-General asked to address the Foreign Ministers of the League of Arab States, who were meeting in the building, on the subject of the Middle East and Iraq. "We meet at a critical time", he told the Ministers, "as governments are discussing war and peace". He said that he wanted to enlist their support for the return of United Nations weapons inspectors to Iraq as a means of strengthening efforts to restore peace and stability to the region. "Every effort must be made", he said, "to avoid another major conflict".
That afternoon he had a scheduled meeting with Amre Moussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, who informed him that the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri, would join that meeting. Together they discussed the matter of the inspectors.
**Middle East Quartet
As you know, tomorrow there will be a series of meetings involving the Middle East Quartet. The United Nations will be represented by the Secretary-General; the Russian Federation by Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov; the United States by Secretary of State Colin Powell; and the European Union (EU) by Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller of Denmark –- which hold the rotating EU presidency, and by Javier Solana, the EU’s High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, and Chris Patten the European Commission’s External Relations Commissioner. At 9, all of the above principals will meet for about an hour.
This will be followed by meetings with the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, and also the parties -- the Israeli and Palestinian delegations. A press conference by the Quartet principals will then be held in Conference Room 4 at 11:30. Please note that because of the press conference there will not be a noon briefing here, but we will be posting material on our Web site.
A couple of logistical issues you need to know about for this event tomorrow:
-- There will be a photo-op at the start of each meeting. Interested photographers and cameramen will need to report the liaison desk on the third floor outside of the General Assembly to be escorted into the meeting room.
-- There will not be any stakeouts outside of the meeting room. The Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab delegations will stop at the delegates' entrance stakeout after their meetings with the Quartet.
-- And finally, journalists will be able to have access to Conference Room 4, where the press conference will take place, directly through the basement without an escort. So if you go to Conference Room 4 via the basement, you will not need an escort.
We had originally said that Terje Roed Larsen, the United Nations’ Middle East Special Coordinator for the Peace Process, would be here at the briefing, but unfortunately, that cannot be. However, we do expect the report on the Palestinian Economy that he was going to introduce today to be available sometime this afternoon, and when it is, we will squawk it. We will try to have him come talk to you a bit later this week.
The following statement is attributable to the Spokesman on the subject of Sri Lanka.
"The Secretary-General warmly welcomes the opening of direct talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam” (LTTE) today in Thailand. He is pleased that the two sides have successfully implemented the provisions of their ceasefire, signed last February, and are now entering substantive peace negotiations. The Secretary-General hopes that these talks will lead to a political settlement of the internal conflict in Sri Lanka, which will preserve the country’s unity and integrity as well as take into account the needs and interests of all communities."
"The Secretary-General pays tribute to the facilitation role played by the Government of Norway. At the same time, he looks forward to enhancing the United Nations role in support of the peace process, especially regarding peacebuilding activities."
**New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)
The Secretary-General this morning opened the high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly on the New Partnership for Africa's Development, known as NEPAD. In his speech, he highlighted the need to combat HIV/AIDS and promote girls’ education. He said the two separate but related priorities are particularly central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which NEPAD adopted as the centerpiece of Africa’s development goals.
"What now remains", he said, "is for the principles of NEPAD to be converted into action, so that NEPAD makes a real difference for ordinary people in Africa". He went on to say, "Africa’s future will be determined by Africans. To build this future, to end the conflicts, cure the diseases and alleviate the multiple hardships that have held it back, Africa will need all the wisdom, political will and creativity it can muster. Africa will also need the support of the developed world", he said.
“In this age of globalization, even the richest and most powerful countries ignore the challenges and crises of other parts of the world at their own peril”, he added. We have the copy of his statement in my office.
**Exhibit on African Development
At 6:45 p.m. today, the Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Frechette, is scheduled to deliver remarks at the opening of an exhibition called "Poverty and Health: Challenges to Development in Africa", sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Public Information.
The exhibition in the Visitors’ Lobby will illustrate the link between poverty and health and show how disease has been undermining development efforts in Africa. We have copies of the Deputy Secretary-General's speech, embargoed until delivery, available in my office.
**International Atomic Energy Agency
In a message to the forty-sixth General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which opened in Geneva today, the Secretary-General underscored that “nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation remain unfinished tasks”, and “effective measures are also needed to reduce the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists”. He urged the IAEA to continue its initiatives to safeguard nuclear material against non-peaceful uses, and to do its utmost to address the real concerns about safety and waste. His remarks were delivered by Jayantha Dhanapala, the head of the United Nations' Disarmament Department.
In his opening address today, the Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, said that the IAEA “has been unable to draw any conclusion or provide any assurance regarding Iraq’s compliance with its obligations under the Security Council resolutions” since their last inspection in December 1998. “Resumption of inspections is therefore a crucial step towards providing assurance to the international community that Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme has been neutralized and is not being revived”, he said.
Also in his speech, Mr. ElBaradei pointed out that major challenges still exist in ensuring security around the world against the threat of nuclear terrorism. He also made comments on the North Korean nuclear programmes, global nuclear safety, and IAEA’s worldwide activities on using nuclear technology in developing countries. We have both those texts in my office.
The fourth meeting of the States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction opened today in Geneva.
In his message to that meeting, the Secretary-General noted that the Convention now has 122 States parties, while three more countries have submitted their ratification instruments. However, he said, “many countries have not joined and others that have joined will face serious difficulties in meeting their four-year deadline for stockpile destruction or their mine-clearance commitments”. He pledged that the United Nations would continue doing its part to turn the Convention into a truly universal prohibition on anti-personnel landmines.
Last Friday, Afghanistan became the latest country to complete accession to the anti-personnel mine ban Treaty. The country has about 150 to 300 people injured or killed by mines every month. Afghanistan has now committed to destroy stockpiled mines within four years, and destroying mines in the ground within 10 years. The United Nations Mine Action Programme has allocated $50 million for Afghanistan in the year 2002, with an employment of over 6,000 Afghan nationals.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
The signing of the recent agreements between the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the governments of Rwanda and Uganda, while an important step towards peace, is only the beginning of the process which will depend first on the commitment of the parties and second the decisive support that the international community will be willing to provide. That is the conclusion of the Secretary-General’s special report to the Security Council on the implications of those two accords.
The report examines some of the challenges the United Nations mission in the DRC will face in implementation of the agreements. These will be mostly in the three areas: disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and resettlement, as well as reintegration of foreign combatants; withdrawal of foreign troops; and the restoring of security in the north-eastern part of the country.
In order to fulfil its obligations, the mission’s concept of operations for phase III of its deployment has been adjusted. An outline of this new concept is included in this report and it includes the creation of a forward mission headquarters in Kisangani to enable the mission to shift its centre of gravity towards the eastern part of the country.
The Secretary-General also recommends the creation of two robust military task forces to be stationed in Kindu and Kisangi comprising 1,700 soldiers each. Other support units, such as a reserve battalion, aviation and riverine troops, would also be needed. This would require raising the total authorized troop level to 8,700, up from the current authorization of 5,537.
The Pretoria agreement called for a “third party” –- defined as the Secretary-General and South Africa –- to verify actions taken by both the DRC and Rwanda, as called for in the agreement. Earlier in August it was decided to establish a secretariat for this third party, which would be based in Kinshasa, and would include, on the United Nations side, the deputy head of mission for the DRC and the deputy force commander of United Nations troops in the DRC.
The full report, which came out on Friday, is out on the racks and will be taken up by the Security Council some time next week.
Wrapping up a two-week mission to southern Africa, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in that region, James T. Morris, today announced that an additional 1.6 million people in the region are in urgent need of food aid and other humanitarian assistance over the next seven months.
Morris said the number of people who will suffer food shortages ahead of next year’s harvest has now risen from 12.8 million in May, to 14.4 million. In every country visited, the Special Envoy’s team was confronted by a devastating mix of extreme hunger and severe shortcomings in agriculture, health, sanitation and institutional capacity. In mid-July, the United Nations requested $611 million in food and non-food support for southern Africa. To date, the World Food Programme (WFP) has confirmed 36 per cent of the $507 million for food aid. On the non-food side, however, only $12 million has been pledged.
Together with the team's findings, particularly regarding the enormous impact of HIV/AIDS, the assessment results announced today will prompt the humanitarian agencies to review their current appeals and re-strategize operations and resource needs. We have a press release with more information.
There are no meetings of the Security Council scheduled for today. Tomorrow, the Council is scheduled to hold consultations on Burundi.
Out as a Security Council document is a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin, dated 11 September, on issues relating to the combat of terrorism. It was circulated at the request of the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations.
Poor people in Bangladesh are put at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with police and the judicial system, with most Bangladeshis simply being “priced out of the justice system”, a new report issued today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says.
The UNDP report, entitled “Human Security in Bangladesh: In Search of Justice and Dignity”, says that, with nearly 72 per cent of Bangladeshis earning less than $2 a day, many people prefer to go to informal courts rather than face the frequent delays and lack of access to legal aid presented in the formal judicial system. An estimated 60 to 70 per cent of local disputes are settled through traditional courts. The report also finds violence against women –- including the throwing of acid, murder, rape and trafficking -– is a serious problem requiring urgent attention. The report also finds that 90 per cent of preventive detention cases by the police took place without lawful authority and that police are "most responsive to influential members of the community".
**International Ozone Day
Today is the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today that the summary of a new report on the ozone layer is now available. It suggests that the concentration of ozone depleting substances in the ozone layer is now at or near its peak. Despite good signs of recovery, the report says, the ozone layer will remain vulnerable for the next decade or so, even if countries comply with international agreements to protect it.
The Secretary-General in his messages urged all countries to meet their commitments under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. He said failure to comply with the Protocol would delay or even prevent the recovery of the ozone layer. The summary of the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion is available on the UNEP Web site. And we also have a press release upstairs with more details.
The United Nations special rapporteur dealing with the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Juan Miguel Petit, today began a visit to South Africa, where he is to investigate in particular rape and sexual violence against children, and any connection between such abuses and HIV/AIDS. He will present a report on his visit to the Commission on Human Rights next March.
We have a press release with more information, as well as one on the new special rapporteur dealing with racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, Doudou Diene of Senegal.
Today, Barbados became the 101st Member State to pay its 2002 regular budget contribution in full. That is a payment of about $99,000.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today that Luciano Pavarotti will be among the opera stars participating in a concert as part of this year’s TeleFood campaign. The concert, called “Pavarotti canta Verdi” will take place in Monaco on 12 October. Earlier this year, a 12-hour concert took place in Johannesburg to raise funds for the TeleFood campaign and to raise awareness of hunger and malnutrition. We have a press release with more details.
We also have a press release from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on a report on HIV/AIDS in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, which is embargoed until Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.
Two treaty-signings today. Costa Rica became the 18th country to sign the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court, and this afternoon Botswana will become the 166th country to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
Finally, press conferences tomorrow. At 10:30 a.m. in this room, Georg Kell, Senior Officer in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, will launch this year's World Investment Report, which focuses on the role of transnational corporations in the export competitiveness of developing countries. The report also examines the drop in worldwide foreign direct investment (FDI) flows last year.
At 3 p.m., Foreign Minister Luvsangiin Erdenechuluun of Mongolia will be here to brief you on the substantive preparations for the Fifth International Conference on New and Restored Democracies, which will be held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, from the 18th to the 20th of June 2003.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Could you tell us what the Secretary-General and the Iraqi Foreign Minister will be talking about this afternoon, and will he be accompanied by anybody from the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC)?
Secretary-General Spokesman: I will have to check who is scheduled to take part in that meeting. The Foreign Minister had asked for this meeting.
It was at the time, I think, considered a rather routine meeting. But in light of the Secretary-General's appeal to the Arab Foreign Ministers on Saturday -- and I think you might have seen a number of public statements made by a number of Foreign Ministers or from their capitals -- calling on Iraq to allow United Nations weapons inspectors to return, we are kind of waiting to see if there might not be some movement on the Iraqi position. I am not predicting it, but I have to assume that the return of the inspectors is the first item on the Secretary-General's agenda for that meeting.
Question: Did the Secretary-General see any kind of movement based on the Secretary-General's meeting on Saturday with Mr. Sabri and Mr. Moussa. Can you give any more of a read-out apart from the printout?
Secretary-General Spokesman: I think he gave the Foreign Ministers an assignment and it is clear they are all doing their homework.
Question: And when the Secretary-General met with Mr. Sabri in his own office on Saturday afternoon?
Secretary-General Spokesman: That again had been a previously scheduled meeting, rather a routine meeting, until the Secretary-General of the Arab League said, oh and I would like to bring along the Foreign Minister of Iraq.
Question: Was this a suggestion by Mr. Moussa that he should team up with the Secretary-General to press Iraq to make some progress?
Secretary-General Spokesman: It is fair to say that the Secretary-General has been enlisting the help of just about anyone he can to get Iraq to accept the return of the inspectors as a way of avoiding, as he said it, another major conflict in a region that is already unstable.
Question: Apart from the mentioned public statements, has the Secretary-General received any expressions of support from Arab foreign ministers since Saturday?
Secretary-General Spokesman: I don't have the record of the people he might have spoken to, but a lot of people have been talking to a lot of other people. The building has been buzzing on this issue. We just have to see if it produces any results.
Question: Has the Secretary-General received any encouragement or advice from the Security Council concerning the inspectors?
Secretary-General Spokesman: He has spoken to some individual members. I think that is just in the general context of what had been going on in the building over the weekend.
Question: Can we expect anything more than the standard read-out after this meeting, any stake-out comments or access to any of the participants?
Secretary-General Spokesman: It is up to you to try to catch the Foreign Minister when he leaves the building. The Iraqi mission had not told us that the Minister has any plans to speak with the press, but you should check with them. We will try to get you a read-out, but our read-outs tend not to have too much bite.
Question: What concrete steps does the United Nations contemplate in the promotion of NEPAD?
Secretary-General Spokesman: Can we have an hour-long discussion after the briefing about that?
Question: Are there any other meetings planned between the Iraqi Foreign Minister and the Secretary-General during the remainder of the General Assembly?
Secretary-General Spokesman: No, there is just this one, scheduled for this afternoon, and then we will just have to see where it goes from there.
[Later it was announced that the scheduled meeting between the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister of Iraq has been cancelled.]
Question: Did Minister Sabri indicate that there was going to be a new strategy, was there any time frame?
Secretary-General Spokesman: I have nothing to say about the substantive contents of their discussions.
Question: Will the conference between the Secretary-General and the Quartet take place before the 11 o'clock press conference or after that?
Secretary-General Spokesman: I told you that the meeting starts at 9 a.m. and that it ends with a press conference, I think I said at 11:30. Starts at 9, series of meetings, first the Quartet, then additional meeting or meetings -- details have not been firmed up -- with neighbouring countries and the parties.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any comments on the statement of President Bush last Saturday about the United Nations having to show some "backbone"?
Secretary-General Spokesman: I don't read that statement as being addressed to the United Nations Secretariat. I assume the President was talking about the Security Council, which includes the United States.
Question: Has the Secretary-General received any input from the five permanent members of the Security Council (P-5) about a possible new resolution on Iraq? Do you have a timetable when the Council can take up the issue?
Secretary-General Spokesman: That is primarily taking place among Council members. To my knowledge, the Secretary-General has not been briefed on the thoughts of any individual members as to what such a resolution might look like. I think it is very early in the process.
**Briefing by the Spokesman for the General Assembly President
President Jan Kavan this morning opened the high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly to consider how to support the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). In his opening remarks, President Kavan said that “UN-NADAF has played a very positive role in focusing the attention of the international community on various aspects of development in Africa. With the NEPAD initiative, a new approach was set in motion. For the first time, development needs and objectives were identified and defined by African countries themselves. The NEPAD initiative, incorporating a complex matrix of key social, economic and political priorities, is a collective pledge by the leaders of Africa”.
The President's statement is posted on the General Assembly President’s Web site.
At the end of the debate this afternoon, the General Assembly is expected to vote on the revised draft resolution: United Nations Declaration on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. (A/57/L.2/Rev.1). Copies of this are available in the Spokesman’s Office.
Also this afternoon there will be an informal panel discussion on the theme: The international community’s partnership with NEPAD. The panel will consist of representatives of Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Senegal and Egypt. Accredited media are invited to attend.
I would like to draw your attention to the statement by the President of the General Assembly on the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, today. In his message, President Kavan said that while some success has been achieved through the Montreal Protocol to ban or phase out certain ozone depleting substances, he notes that, “for the foreseeable future, the international community must vigorously tackle all possible threats to the ozone layer including new substances that have a high potential to deplete the ozone
layer and illegal trade in these substances”. This message is also available as a press release and on the General Assembly President’s Web site.
Tomorrow, the General Assembly is expected to resume the general debate.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Do you have a room number for the panel discussion this afternoon?
Spokesman for the GA President: Yes, the panel is held in the Trusteeship Council from 3 to 6 o'clock.
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