DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
25 September 2002
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General and Richard Sydenham, the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon. This morning, Benon Sevan, the Executive Director of the Iraq Programme, briefed the Security Council on the “oil-for-food” programme and presented a note, in lieu of the regular 90-day written report, reviewing the programme’s work.
In his written comments, Sevan told the Council that the oil-for-food programme has continued to face a number of difficulties over the past year, foremost among them a growing revenue shortfall stemming from the substantial reduction of Iraqi oil exports.
The level of oil exports has fallen from an average of two million barrels per day in the year 2000 to under one million barrels per day in recent months, leading to an estimated loss of some $3.2 billion in revenue from the beginning of June until mid-September. Over the past week, however, as we mentioned yesterday, there has been an encouraging development, with oil export levels averaging 1.9 million barrels per day.
Several factors have contributed to the drop in Iraqi oil exports, including Iraq’s periodic unilateral suspension of exports and the continued absence of an agreement between the Iraqi Government and the Security Council’s 661 Sanctions Committee on oil pricing.
The note presented to the Security Council reviews the health situation in central and southern Iraq, reporting a decrease in cholera, diphtheria, malaria, tuberculosis and other major diseases, as well as an overall improvement in water quality since 1997. Meanwhile, the preliminary results of a UNICEF-supported nutrition survey show a reduction in the rates of chronic malnutrition in children under five, compared to the year 2000.
On the other hand, access to and quality of education have declined significantly over the past decade, with dropout rates having increased by 5 per cent over the past five years.
We have copies of Benon Sevan’s note to the Security Council upstairs.
**Vienna Talks on Iraq
I was asked yesterday about the participants in the Vienna talks with Iraq. As you know, these talks are between Iraq on the one hand and, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, on the other.
IAEA, which is based in Vienna, will be the host of the talks, and its delegation will be headed by the Director General Mohammed ElBaradei. Hans Blix, the Executive Director of UNMOVIC, will head his delegation. And we have not yet received official word from Iraq on the names of those who will represent Iraq.
Last night, the Security Council adopted a six-month extension of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone.
Taking note of the Secretary-General's proposals for adjustments to the size, composition and deployment of the mission, the Council urges the mission to complete the first two phases of those proposals, including a reduction of 4,500 troops within eight months.
Yesterday afternoon, the Council held consultations on Somalia and Liberia. Members heard briefings by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tuliameni Kalomoh and agreed on two public statements, which were read out by Council President, Ambassador Stefan Tafrov of Bulgaria.
On Somalia, the Council expressed support for the reconciliation process sponsored by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
On Liberia, Council members called for an immediate halt in the fighting. They also called on the parties to work with the international community to promote the conditions for free, transparent and inclusive elections in the year 2003.
The Secretary-General’s new Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, is in Abidjdan, Cote d'Ivoire.
We just spoke with an aide traveling with him who says that Mr. Ould-Abdallah met yesterday with President Laurent Gbagbo during which the envoy urged moderation and dialogue as a means to resolve the situation in the country. Today, he also met with both Government and opposition leaders, including Alassane Ouattara and former President Henri Konan Bedie. He is meeting as many people as possible, including the UN country team and members of the diplomatic community.
On the humanitarian side, a team comprising UN humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations was in the process of assessing the number and condition of people displaced within Abidjan. The humanitarian community in Cote d'Ivoire planned to send similar missions to affected areas like Bouake and Korhogo as soon as security conditions allowed. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has reported that it was helping about 200 refugees, mostly from Sierra Leone and Liberia, whose homes were destroyed in Abidjan following last week's coup attempt.
In a statement last Friday, you’ll recall the Secretary-General unequivocally condemned any attempt to settle disputes through violence and reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations to continue to work closely with the Government and people of Cote d’Ivoire as they endeavor to restore peace, stability and progress in the country.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
We issued this statement attributable to the Spokesman late yesterday, concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“The Secretary-General welcomes the continuing withdrawal of the armed forces of Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Angola from the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He encourages the governments of Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Angola to continue with the withdrawal of their forces in accordance with the recent agreements and relevant Security Council resolutions and to share all information with the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or MONUC.
"The Secretary-General urges all parties in the DRC to work in good faith towards an expeditious resolution of the conflict that has caused so much suffering.”
At a donors’ meeting in Amman, Jordan, today, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East –- or UNRWA -– responded to questions from donors about the diversion of its humanitarian funds because of Israel’s security regime in Gaza and the West Bank, by noting the additional costs it has incurred because of recent security measures.
Among those costs, the Agency has paid more than $2.5 million in additional port and storage charges because of Israeli security measures. It has been forced to spend hundreds of thousands more to repair buildings damaged during the recent military operations, and has submitted a claim for $535,000 to Israel, just to cover the cost of damaged buildings.
Costs have also been incurred because of lost working days among the Agency’s teachers and health workers, caused by restrictions on movement, and by the need to accommodate staff in hotels when they have been trapped by curfews.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen told the donors that the Agency finds charges levied by Israel to search consignments of food and medicine, destined for the occupied Palestinian territory, to be unreasonable. He said, “This amounts to a tax on humanitarian aid”. We have a press release with more details.
**Tenth Anniversary of Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free zone
Following statement attributable to the Spokesman concerning Mongolia:
“The Secretary-General welcomes the message of the President of Mongolia, dated 25 September 2002, addressed to him on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of Mongolia’s declaration of its nuclear-weapon-free zone and notes with gratification his appreciation for the United Nations’ active involvement in promoting that status.
"On the occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of Mongolia’s unilateral declaration of its territory as a nuclear-weapon-free zone on 25 September 1992 and in view of the fact that, on 3 February 2000, the State Great Hural (Parliament) of Mongolia adopted legislation defining and regulating its nuclear-weapon-free status, the Secretary-General would like to commend Mongolia for these concrete actions. He also notes the joint statement made by the five nuclear-weapon States in October 2000 on security assurances in connection with the above-mentioned unilateral declaration.”
**Defence Spending and Arms Transparency
There has been unprecedented increase in transparency in defence spending and international arms transfers, the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs says in a press release.
Since the year 2000, two decades after the United Nations Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures was established by the General Assembly, the number of governments which report their defence spending has increased by over 50 per cent. A total of more than 100 States have reported at least once so far, while 77 States have submitted their annual reports this year.
The UN Department for Disarmament Affairs also says that there has been a significant increase in the participation level for the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.
In the year 2001, 120 governments have submitted reports, which is the highest level recorded so far, representing more than a 20 per cent increase over the last two years.
Two reports of the Secretary-General came out on the racks today.
One is on “Reducing nuclear danger”. The report outlines a number of events that have contributed to the implementation of the recommendations by the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters. The Secretary-General has concluded that the time is not yet ripe for convening an international conference to identify ways of eliminating nuclear dangers, as proposed in the UN Millennium Declaration.
The other report is on “Small arms”. It reflects recent initiatives taken by the Security Council in arms embargos and conflict prevention. It also identifies areas where further action by the Security Council is required in addressing this global scourge.
In about an hour from now, the Secretary-General will attend the annual luncheon of the Dag Hammarskjöld Memorial Scholarship Fund at the West Terrace of the Delegates Dining Room, where he will congratulate this year’s three memorial scholars and briefly discuss the extraordinary challenges the United Nations is facing.
He is to tell the journalists present that they can help to create the will and determination to make the world a better place, by telling the truth and making it harder for people to look the other way and do nothing. I expect some of you will be at the luncheon, but for those of you who will not, we’ll have copies of his remarks upstairs and UN TV will broadcast them later in the afternoon.
Also, this evening, the Secretary-General will attend the United Nations Association of the United States (UNA-USA)/Business Council for the UN Global Leadership Award dinner at the Sheraton New York Hotel. And we expect to put his remarks at the dinner out later this afternoon.
**New Endangered Species
The United Nations Environment Programme says that the hairy kneed camel, the Blind River Dolphin and the Great White Shark, made popular in the “Jaws” movies, are three of the endangered species that have been added to the lists maintained under the Convention on Migratory Species. The tri-annual meeting of the parties to the Convention, which ended yesterday in Bonn, Germany, assessed the situation of 36 species and added them to the appendices to the Convention.
**New Judge at Law of the Sea Tribunal
In Hamburg, Germany today Lennox Ballah of Trinidad and Tobago was sworn in as a judge of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea. Judge Ballah was elected to the Tribunal in April following the death of Judge Edward Laing, to serve the remainder of his term and to serve for a further nine-year term beginning on 1 October. Judge Ballah has a long history of involvement in Law of the Sea and his most recent appointment was as his country’s representative to the International Seabed Authority. We have a press release on that.
**Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia near polio-free status
The United Nations Children's Fund and the World Health Organization said today that Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan were one step away from being certified as polio-free. So far this year only two cases have been reported in Somalia and no cases in the other two countries. UNICEF said it must continue to finalize the mass polio immunization campaign to ensure there are no more new cases and has launched an appeal for $50 million for the period 2003 to 2005 to immunize 22 million children.
The campaign to rid these countries of polio is part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative which has succeeded in reducing the number of countries in which polio is endemic from 125 in 1988 to just 10 at the beginning of this year and the number of cases from 350,000 in 1998 to 483 in 2001. We have a press release on that.
**New Children and Armed Conflict Web site
The Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict announced today the launch of a new Web site. The new Web site has comprehensive, detailed and easily accessible information on issues surrounding children affected by wars. The Web site features multimedia technology and includes a special “Youth Zone” aimed at children. We have a press release on that.
Signings today. Jamaica this morning became the seventh country to ratify the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Seabed Authority.
**September 11 Exhibition
This afternoon at 4:00, Nane Annan, the wife of the Secretary-General, will visit a special memorial tribute for the victims of the September 11th attack on New York, accompanied by New York firefighters and their families.
The exhibit, displayed in the Visitors Lobby here in the General Assembly building contains artwork from all over the world sent to the United Nations following the attack and includes glass-engraved portraits of fallen firefighters, a quilt made by women in Idaho and drawings from children from all over the world.
Press conference this afternoon, shortly, 12:45, Tom Koenigs, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Guatemala, will be here to brief you on the situation in that country.
Press Conferences tomorrow, 11:15, Rubens Ricupero, the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development and Kamran Kousari, the UNCTAD’s Special Coordinator for Africa, will present the latest report on economic development in Africa called: “From Adjustment to Poverty Reduction: What is New”? For those of you who are interested, embargoed copies of the report are available at the documents counter on the third floor and for more information you can call Tim Wall at 963-5851.
Our guest at the briefing tomorrow will be James Morris, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the humanitarian situation in southern Africa and he has just returned from that region and will be talking to you about the situation there.
That’s all I have. Anything before we go?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Ivory Coast. You may have mentioned something I may have missed in the briefing. What is the level of UN involvement in that country’s internal problems at the moment, in UN personnel, in helping humanitarian lives? I mean, what’s the overall picture for the UN side?
Spokesman: You might not have heard the item I read on that. So I said that the new Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, arrived in Abidjan yesterday. I gave his appointments yesterday and today and I mentioned that on the humanitarian side, UN humanitarian agencies and NGOs are working on an assessment of the situation in Abidjan and they’ll move to Bouake and other areas once the security situation permits. I’ll give you the text afterwards.
Okay. Richard, welcome.
Spokesman for the General Assembly President
Thank you. This morning President Kavan chaired the Ad hoc Committee of the Whole of the General Assembly for the final review of UN-NADAF (the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s) which continues its work today. The working group of the Sixth Committee on an International Convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings continues its work today, also in closed session, and the Fifth Committee held its first meeting on election of vice-chairs and rapporteur, organization of work and scale of assessments this morning.
Tomorrow, Ms. Carolyn Hannan, the Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs will hold a briefing on reports submitted to the fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly under agenda items 104, advancement of women, and 105, implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled: "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century". The briefing will take place, as I said, at 1:15 p.m. tomorrow in Conference Room 3.
On Friday the General Assembly will meet in plenary session at 10 a.m. on the admission of Timor Leste, that is the official name in all languages, please excuse my pronunciation if it is incorrect. After the admission, the General Assembly will take up the item on the election of five non-permanent members of the Security Council. After the adjournment of the morning session, which is estimated around 11:30 to 11:45, the flag-raising of Timor Leste will take place outside the delegates entrance.
Thank you. Any questions?
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