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

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

7 October 2002

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

Good afternoon.

**UNRWA

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) sources on the ground at the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza say that at least 13 people have been killed in that camp today, including

10 killed when a rocket was shot at a crowd of Palestinians.

In addition, UNRWA says that because of the violence in Khan Younis, one of the UNRWA refugee camps in Gaza, students didn’t show up for school today and a local hospital was also shot at.

We think we will probably have a statement available some time later today.

**Security Council

There are no meetings of the Security Council scheduled for today.

The open meeting on “Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts”, which had been scheduled to resume today at 3 p.m., will be postponed until tomorrow at 10 a.m.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

The withdrawal process of more than 20,000 Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) forces from the Democratic Republic of the Congo that started on 17 September was completed over the weekend, when 1,152 troops crossed the border from the eastern town of Goma to Gisenyi in Rwanda.

The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo says it can confirm that all troops left with their personal weapons and a large quantity of ammunition, heavier weapons such as machine guns, rocket launchers, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and mortars, as well as a few armoured and other vehicles and anti-aircraft weapons.

The UN Mission will continue to monitor and verify RPA positions, and those of other foreign forces recently withdrawn from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

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

“The Secretary-General welcomes the resumption of high-level dialogue between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He hopes that the discussions by the United States Presidential Envoy, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly, and the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim Yong Nam, and other officials in Pyongyang helped both sides to better understand their respective positions and concerns.

“The Secretary-General is hopeful that this important development is the beginning of more regular exchanges by both sides with a view to resolving their differences, however serious. It is the view of the Secretary-General that the international community should continue its efforts to facilitate the encouraging trends in the Korean peninsula.”

**Bosnia

The UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina today congratulated Bosnia’s citizens on the successful general elections held over the weekend, which passed in a peaceful manner, with no serious incidents reported.

The Mission, in a statement, said, “This is strong proof of the maturity of the electorate when deciding on the political leadership for their country.” It also commended the local police for what it called “excellent” security measures.

**Oshima -- Ethiopia

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Kenzo Oshima today was in Addis Ababa, where he represented the United Nations at the launch of a joint UN-Government appeal for urgent food assistance on behalf of drought-affected Ethiopians today.

He said in remarks available to you upstairs: “The early warning signs of a large-scale humanitarian crisis are already visible. It is obvious to anyone that there has been a massive crop failure.”

The appeal states that over 6 million Ethiopians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Mr. Oshima said that 273,000 metric tons of food aid was needed over the next three months.

Tomorrow, Mr. Oshima will conclude his mission to Ethiopia and then fly to Asmara, Eritrea, to get a first-hand look at the effects of drought in that country.

**Sudan

The Government of the Sudan over the weekend lifted a restriction on the use of air space over a large part of southern Sudan and aid activities on the ground in those areas, allowing the resumption of routine relief activities.

However, the United Nations’ Operation Lifeline Sudan notes the continued use of other restrictions, and calls for all parties to recognize the principle of unhindered access to those in need.

**Afghanistan

Today was the first day of the launch of the Afghan new currency, the UN Mission in Kabul reported.

Different units of the UN system in Afghanistan have been supporting the process, which is seen as another transitional milestone and as an investment in the future and security of that country.

The UN Mission provided monitors at each of the currency exchange points that opened today.

The currency, still known as the afghani, was printed in Germany and Sweden in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000. The new notes are to be distributed to money exchangers in Kabul over the next few days and later to provincial capitals.

The new currency is signed by a UN Volunteer, Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady, a professional banker and professor who returned to his native country this year. His job as Governor of the Central Afghanistan Bank is to implement a new banking system in the country.

The currency reform, however, has taken most of his time. “We will be collecting all old banknotes and destroying them”, he said. “It’s a massive operation and it will last for two months.”

**Cyprus

Just for the record, the Secretary-General on Friday afternoon completed two days of intensive talks on Cyprus with His Excellency Glafkos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot leader, and His Excellency Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, in which, he said, he tried to crystallize for the two leaders a way they could push their discussions forward to narrow their differences.

**World Habitat Day

Today is World Habitat Day and the theme of this year’s observances is “City-to-City Cooperation”. In his message which will be read this afternoon by the Director of the New York office of UN Habitat, the Secretary-General said the city is becoming the “new habitat for humanity” as within the next two generations two thirds of the people in the world will live in cities. He said many cities had already joined together on issues such as global warming and air pollution, but there were other areas such as poverty and crime where cooperation could yield results.

He said that as cities are the collective future of mankind, “it is time for us to take collective responsibility for their future development” and urged local authorities and urban residents to seek out and share ways of achieving a sustainable habitat for all.

This afternoon at 2 o’clock in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium, there will be a panel discussion to mark the Day.

We have the full text of the Secretary-General’s message, as well as that of the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, and a press release in my Office.

**Health News

The World Health Organization (WHO) today urged donors and international partners meeting in Geneva to do more to help southern African nations avert a human catastrophe. The WHO warned that as many as 300,000 people may die in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho and Swaziland of diseases they would have been able to fight off had they been given the minimum of food and basic health care. The WHO says the southern African countries need only $3.40 per person to provide basic health intervention, but funding has so far amounted to only 35 cents per person. A total of $48 million is needed to ensure clean water, food and basic health services to save lives.

**Other Press Releases

Today, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report that looks at the effects of severe climatic events on the world’s stock markets and financial centres.

The UNEP is also launching a painting contest for children called “The Environment through the Eyes of Children”.

And finally, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS today warned that Asia has the most people living with HIV/AIDS outside sub-Saharan Africa.

There will be more information on all the items in today’s briefing in the highlights on our Web site, which will be available at 3 p.m. New York time.

Any questions before we go to Richard?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Do you have any idea why the Security Council meeting has been postponed?

Spokesman: I don’t know that. I’ll have to see if any explanation was given.

Okay, Richard?

**Briefing by the Spokesman for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

President Kavan chaired a meeting of the Ad Hoc committee of the Whole for UN-NADAF this morning.

And following that, the plenary of the General Assembly continues discussion on the follow-up to the Millennium Summit and the report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization.

The First Committee continues general debate on all disarmament and related international security items and the Special Political Committee discusses international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. The Third Committee discusses crime prevention, drug control and social development issues and continues general discussion of follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons: Second World Assembly on Ageing today.

Informal closed discussions continue today and later this week on draft resolutions related to drift-net fishing issues and the Law of the Sea Convention relating to Straddling and Migratory Fish Stocks.

That’s all I have today. Any questions?

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