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

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

5 November 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

Very quick introduction, ladies and gentlemen. Aminata Djermakoye is the new Chief of Protocol for the United Nations, replacing Nadia Younes, and we know her well. She was Chief of Staff in Geneva for many years, where she backed us up every time the Secretary-General visited Geneva. We're delighted to have her on the staff, and because the media often interact with protocol, I thought you'd like to meet her too.

**Sri Lanka

The following is a statement attributable to the Spokesman concerning Sri Lanka:

“The Secretary-General is very encouraged by the successful conclusion of the second round of peace talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam held in Thailand from 31 October through 3 November. He sincerely hopes that further rounds will lead to a lasting political solution to the internal conflict in Sri Lanka. The Secretary-General wishes to reiterate his appreciation and support for Norway’s facilitation efforts in this peace process.”

**Security Council Meets on Resource Exploitation of DRC

The Security Council is holding an open meeting on the recently issued report by the panel of experts on the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The report came out on 21 October, and Mahmoud Kassem, the Chair of the panel, presented the report to the Council three days later.

At 3:30 p.m., the Security Council Sanctions Committee concerning the situation between Iraq and Kuwait is scheduled to meet in Conference Room 7. The Chairman of that committee, Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby of Norway, is available to brief reporters after the meeting.

**Oil-For-Food Update

Today being Tuesday, we have our regular update from the Office of the Iraq Programme. They tell us that Iraqi oil exports jumped from the previous week’s low of 5.1 million barrels to 19.3 million barrels in the week ending 1 November, netting an estimated $430 million in revenue at current prices and rates of exchange.

The Office of the Iraq Programme, in their weekly update, notes that on 1 November, a United Nations team of five independent inspection agents arrived at Ar’ar crossing point at the border of Iraq with Saudi Arabia, to finalize

preparations for the establishment of a UN inspection site at this border crossing point.

The inspection site at Ar’ar, which will become fully operational on 8 November, will be the fifth authorized border crossing for the import of goods under the oil-for-food programme.

United Nations independent inspection agents at authorized points of entry confirm and authenticate the delivery of humanitarian supplies to Iraq under the oil-for-food programme only.

The full text of the OIP weekly update is available upstairs.

**Kosovo

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Michael Steiner, today addressed a donors’ conference in Brussels, telling them that making the right to return to Kosovo a reality is the greatest unmet challenge the international community faces there.

He said, “Members of Kosovo’s smaller communities have not yet returned to their homes, and most of those who stayed in Kosovo live in conditions that remain unacceptable”.

Against that problem, he noted recent accomplishments in Kosovo, including the rebuilding of more than 40,000 homes, the refurbishing of more than 450 schools, and massive improvements in the water and electrical supply.

We have copies of Steiner’s speech to the donors upstairs.

**UNHCR on Swiss Asylum Legislation

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, says he was concerned that an initiative to alter Switzerland's asylum legislation, if voted into law on 24 November, would transform the country's asylum system into one of the most restrictive in the industrialized world.

According to UNHCR, key elements of the proposed legislation include establishing a list of supposedly safe countries -– which would presumably include all of Switzerland's neighbours –- and then summarily rejecting anyone who has passed through such a country. In addition, it is proposed that most of the asylum seekers who remain in Switzerland would receive the barest minimum of assistance.

**Philippines

Francis Deng, the Secretary-General’s Representative on Internally Displaced Persons, will visit the Philippines at the Government’s invitation, starting tomorrow, for a week.

During the visit, which is his first to that country, Deng plans to visit several communities of internally displaced people in Mindanao, where he will also meet with regional and local authorities. We have more details on that trip in a press release.

**Meningitis in Africa

At the launch of an appeal for 10 million euros, the World Health Organization (WHO) today warned that the next outbreak of meningitis in Africa could be less than two months away. WHO, along with UNICEF, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Médecins sans Frontières, say the new funds are needed to provide the vaccine and drugs to prevent deaths and control the epidemic. The appeal comes ahead of a meeting of potential donors and countries in the “meningitis belt” in Africa, which is scheduled for Thursday of this week.

Meningitis has the greatest impact on children. Half of those infected, if not treated, will die, and even with treatment as many as 10 per cent of the patients will not survive. Those who survive are left with serious mental damage or deafness. Talks are under way with the manufacturers of the vaccine for this current strain, which is called W135, which costs from $4 to $50 a dose depending on where it is sold. The goal of the talks is to bring the cost of the dose to $1.

We have a press release on that.

**Solomon Islands

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) will assist the Government of the Solomon Islands to assess the socio-economic impact of proposals for constitutional reform and decentralization, following the official signing today by the country’s Prime Minister, Allan Kemakeza, of the UNDP-funded project.

As part of the project, a widespread information campaign is intended to inform the people of the Solomon Islands about the ramifications of any proposed changes to national governance.

We have more in a press release from UNDP.

**Other Press Releases

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today a new partnership for the improvement of cassava, an important source of nutrition in tropical countries. Thirty leading experts in cassava research have established the Global Partnership for Cassava Genetic Improvement to increase the nutritional content of a food, which 600 million people in Africa and Latin America depend on for food and income.

India has made its first donation to the World Food Programme (WFP) by pledging 1 million metric tons of wheat for Afghanistan. The pledge is the largest single donation to WFP and the first tranche of 40,000 metric tons will be used to make high-energy biscuits for WFP's school-feeding programme in Afghanistan.

A new report on maternal mortality in Afghanistan will be launched tomorrow by the United Nations Children's Fund at UNICEF House at 11:30 a.m. The findings indicate that almost half of all deaths among women aged 15 to 49 resulted from pregnancy and childbirth, and that 96 per cent of the women who died were illiterate.

**New York Marathon

Yesterday when we updated you on the results of UN staff members in the New York City marathon, we failed to mention that the second best UN time belongs to Stephanie Hodge of the UN Development Programme. She clocked the race at 2 hours and 59 minutes and was the 21st woman to cross the finish line. We extend congratulations to her.

**Press Conference

And finally, a press conference tomorrow at 11, Kamal Hossain, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, will be here to brief you.

Thank you very much. Any questions before we go to Richard?

Question: What do we have on findings in regard to the involvement of IPTF members in Bosnia in trafficking or using the services of escort houses?

Spokesman: I think the latest is the OIOS report that found that there was no involvement of United Nations personnel in trafficking. There may have been involvement of United Nations personnel patronizing prostitutes, which is against the rules, and any that are caught doing that are disciplined immediately.

You're maybe just a day late because the head of the Anti-Trafficking Programme in Bosnia, Celhia de Lavarène, who used to be a journalist here at the United Nations, was just through here yesterday, and she never passes up an opportunity to tell about her programme in Bosnia, basically to free from forced prostitution any women who are trapped in that situation, and to verify that women who do work as prostitutes, do so voluntarily.

That programme, which has been under way for a couple of years now, has been very successful, and she would love to tell you about her success stories. If she's already left New York, we'll try to get her phone number for you.

Question: It would be expeditious if somebody from your office would announce that she was around.

Spokesman: I think the time before last that she was here, we actually brought her to the briefing so she could describe her efforts to you, but we'll try to put you in touch with her.

Question: Do you have any readout from yesterday's meeting of Ambassadors Negroponte and Weston with the Secretary-General?

Spokesman: No, I really don't. I will mention to you that the scheduled meeting yesterday afternoon with U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte was not on Iraq as many of you suspected, but was on the subject of Cyprus, and we're in a crunch now on the Cyprus issue. Everyone feels that the year 2002 presents a real opportunity. Whether it can be seized or not is really up to the two parties, and the Secretary-General, with a lot of support from Member States, is trying to maximize the chances of success in those negotiations by the end of this year. It's too early to predict how it will come out, but yesterday's meeting was just one more step in those efforts.

Question: I understand that the two ad hoc committees that had been announced 4 October have not started working yet. Do you have anything on their status?

Spokesman: No, I actually don't, but we can call his office and let you know after the briefing.

Okay, Richard?

Briefing by Spokesman for General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

The 2002 Pledging Conference for Development Activities is taking place this morning in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, and the General Assembly Plenary is meeting in open-ended informal consultations on agenda item 25 (a), Oceans and the Law of the Sea, followed by informals on strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.

The Special Political and Decolonization Committee holds a general debate on UNRWA.

The Second Committee discusses integrated follow-up to major UN conferences and summits in the economic and social field and the Third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries.

In the Third Committee, the meetings are on Human Rights questions, hearing introductory statements by Special Rapporteurs and Special Representatives presenting reports: Abdelfattah Amor (Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief), Asma Jahangir (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions), and Theo van Boven (Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment). This afternoon, the Committee will be hearing from Andreas Mavrommatis (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq), John Dugard (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories), and Peter Leuprecht (Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia).

Tomorrow the Third Committee will hear from Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Sudan and Burundi.

The Fifth Committee considers human resource management issues and the Sixth Committee, among other items, discusses measures to eliminate international terrorism.

Any questions? Thank you.

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