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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

8 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.

Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.

**Middle East

This morning in Geneva, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, met with Israel’s Ambassador to Geneva, Yaakov Levy, and handed him a letter for Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres expressing extreme concern over the deaths of at least 14 Palestinians in Gaza yesterday.

In his letter, Mr. Vieira de Mello said the killing was an unacceptable loss of civilian life which appeared to constitute violations of the Geneva Conventions and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a party. He asked for assurances that Israel would fully, impartially and transparently investigate the killings and take appropriate action against those responsible.

You’ll recall that yesterday afternoon I read out a statement by the Secretary-General deploring the Israeli attack on the town of Khan Younis. The text of that statement is still available upstairs.

**Iraq

The weekly update from the Office of the Iraq Programme shows that for the week that ended 4 October, Iraqi oil exports averaged 1.4 million barrels per day and generated an estimated 258 million dollars in revenue.

The Government of Iraq has budgeted the humanitarian expenses for the current phase 12 of the “oil-for-food” programme at over 5 billion dollars. In order to make this amount available to the programme, after the necessary deductions under relevant Security Council resolutions, Iraq would need to export about 7 billion dollars’ worth of oil during the current phase.

However, because of the reduced levels of oil exports, Iraq’s total revenue for the phase is now expected to reach 4.2 billion dollars, leaving about 3 billion dollars to be made available to the humanitarian programme -- and that is a $2 billion shortfall. We have the full text of the report available upstairs.

**Prevlaka

The Secretary-General, in his latest report to the Security Council on the United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka, says he believes that the closure of another chapter in the tumultuous recent history of the Balkans is within reach, with Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia about to take another step toward normal relations.

He says he is encouraged by the commitment of the two Governments to resolve their dispute over the Prevlaka peninsula, and adds that it is apparent that the parties are working in good faith to reach an interim agreement aimed at normalizing the situation on the ground.

The Secretary-General is convinced that the parties will be able to narrow their differences in the near future to the point where the small United Nations Mission in Prevlaka is no longer needed. He recommends that the Security Council extend the Mission’s mandate for two months, until 15 December, with the Mission to prepare for its withdrawal after that, to be completed by the end of December.

If Croatia and Yugoslavia reach agreement before 15 December, he adds, he will discuss with the Security Council the possibility of shortening the timeframe for the withdrawal of United Nations peacekeepers.

The report is out on the racks. The Council has scheduled consultations on Prevlaka for this Thursday.

**Security Council

The Security Council is wrapping up its open meeting on “Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts”. There are 12 speakers, and the Council will adopt a Presidential Statement at the end of that meeting.

Council members also have their monthly working luncheon with the Secretary-General this afternoon.

**Students Demonstrate in Kisangani

The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today reported a series of incidents in Kisangani involving United Nations personnel and vehicles that began with the reported robbing of a university professor by elements of the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement.

Following the incident, students of the university demonstrated by blocking the road to the airport. They were demonstrating against the United Nations Mission for not providing enough protection to the civilian population.

A minibus carrying United Nations civilian police en route to the airport was stopped by the students and set on fire. A truck carrying Uruguayan peacekeepers was also stopped by students, who threw stones at the vehicle before letting it pass. United Nations troops later dispersed the students, who tried to set a second truck on fire.

We have a press release with more details upstairs.

**UNHCR

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it remains concerned at the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, where a United Nations inter-agency humanitarian team, which travelled to the country to assess the situation, was turned back at the outskirts of the administrative centre, Abidjan, for security reasons. UNHCR reports that the demolition of houses continues in Abidjan, affecting thousands of people, including refugees.

UNHCR today also drew attention to renewed fighting in Liberia’s Upper Lofa County, which last week drove some 3,000 Liberians into neighbouring Sierra Leone. The new arrivals bring to about 16,000 the number of Liberian refugees living in precarious conditions in border areas of Sierra Leone, with most of the refugees women and children in poor physical condition.

Last, UNHCR reports that, following renewed tensions between the Sudan and Eritrea, the agency has been forced to suspend its plans for the voluntary repatriation of thousands of Eritrean refugees currently living in Sudan.

**Secretary-General on NEPAD

African Parliamentarians are meeting today in Cotonou, Benin, to discuss the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Secretary-General, in a message delivered by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Associate Administrator Zephirin Diabré, wishes the Parliamentarians success. We have copies of that message upstairs.

**Other Press Releases

In addition to the theme of “City-to-City Cooperation” in yesterday’s observance of World Habitat Day, UN-Habitat also launched a “Water and Sanitation Trust Fund” aimed at halving, by 2015, the number of people who do not have access to basic sanitation or clean water.

**Budget

Trinidad and Tobago finished paying its full balance for this year’s regular budget with a payment of just over 2,600 dollars, making it the 105th Member State to have paid its regular budget dues in full (for the year).

**Press Conferences

Jayantha Dhanapala, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, will be with us at noon tomorrow to launch the United Nations Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education. Miguel Marin Bosch, Chairman of the Group of Governmental Experts which produced the study will also be joining us. For those of you who are interested, the Secretary-General's report on the subject is available on the racks under the symbol GA/57/124.

We'll also have a press conference tomorrow at 10:30. Ambassador Djessan Philippe Djangone-Bi of Côte d'Ivoire will be here to brief you on the situation in his country.

**UNCA Meeting

And finally, the United Nations Correspondents’ Association (UNCA) Executive Committee will be meeting today at 2:00 in the UNCA club.

**Questions and Answers

Question: What did the Secretary-General think about President Bush's speech last night?

Spokesman: Like many other people, he was watching that speech and studying it. I don't think he wants to comment, except to say that he was speculating with me when he came in this morning on the reactions of different Member States to the speech, and the possible impact it might have on the deliberations that he expects will get underway soon in the Council on a draft resolution on Iraq. But I can't share with you his inner thoughts beyond that.

Question: According to some Chinese media, the Chinese Government announced yesterday that the Secretary-General was going to visit China from October 13 to 16. Do you have any information about his trip to China and why is Mr. Kofi Annan going to China at this critical moment? We know that in the Security Council there is an intensive talk about (the) Iraq issue, and the Secretary-General works very closely with the Security Council members. Is his trip related to any situation in the Middle East or Iraq?

Spokesman: First, we haven't announced any trip or any travel plans for the Secretary-General. We did see the announcement out of Beijing, I think it was just today. We have no comment on that, and nothing to announce concerning travel plans at this time.

Question: Is there any resolution from the Security Council?

Spokesman: No.

Question: Is there an indication that the Council will pass a resolution?

Spokesman: Well, I think what we're all waiting for is a piece of paper to start circulating in the Council. To my knowledge, that has not yet happened, so I didn't mean to imply that it has happened.

Spokesman for the General Assembly President

The General Assembly concludes its consideration of the follow-up to the Millennium Summit, and the report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization in the joint debate this morning. And at the conclusion of that debate, the Assembly is expected to decide to take note of the report of the Secretary-General.

The Special Political and Decolonization Committee discusses international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and the Third Committee continues discussion on the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and other social development issues, and follow up to the International Year of Older Persons' Second World Assembly on Ageing.

Following Fred's announcement today, following tomorrow's briefing, the Department of Disarmament Affairs, at 1:15 in Conference Room 4 tomorrow, will launch the study on disarmament and non-proliferation education. Among the speakers will be Under-Secretary-General Jayantha Dhanapala of Disarmament Affairs and Mr. Miguel Marin Bosch, Chairman of the Group of (Governmental) Experts. Media are invited, and the study will be presented in the First Committee tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. in Conference Room 4.

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