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

11 December 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.

Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.


We'll start with Iraq today, not surprisingly. Today an UNMOVIC team visited the Al Fatah factory of the Al Karama State Company northwest of Baghdad. The factory is a new site, which began operations in 1999 and is concerned principally with the manufacture of mechanical parts for the guidance and control system for missiles as well as certain aspects of T-72 tanks.

Meanwhile, another UNMOVIC team visited the Al Razi Medical Research Center, located some 25 km west of Baghdad. IAEA continued simultaneous inspections in several parts of Iraq today. At Tuwaitha, a team completed inventorying nuclear materials left over from Iraq’s previous nuclear programme.

The team on the western border of Iraq had finished inspections of Iraq’s capability to extract uranium from phosphates at Al Qaim. The uranium extraction plant was destroyed in 1991 and the site has been under IAEA monitoring ever since. Another IAEA team went to the Ibn Sina Company some 40 km north of Baghdad. This site was formerly known as Tarmiya and was the site of a uranium enrichment plant that was destroyed in 1991.

A fuller report of the inspector’s activities is available upstairs.

Yesterday, after the Security Council lunch, UNMOVIC’s executive chairman, Hans Blix, said he expected, as a best-case scenario, to be able to share with the full Security Council on Monday a working version of the main part of the Iraqi declaration.


Consultations took place yesterday in Cyprus on the revised proposal put forward by the Secretary-General. Unfortunately, the Turkish Cypriot leader, His Excellency Rauf Denktash, was unwell and not able to see the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor, Alvaro de Soto, in the afternoon. Mr. de Soto met instead with Mr. Denktash’s adviser, Ergun Olgun. Mr. de Soto spoke to Mr. Denktash by telephone last night. Mr. de Soto is now in Copenhagen. His Excellency Glafcos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot Leader, is also in Copenhagen.

In his letter to the two leaders on 9 December, the Secretary-General invited both sides to be available in Copenhagen should that prove necessary –- which, in light of yesterday’s inconclusive consultations, it clearly is, if the opportunity that is at hand is to be seized.

**State of the World’s Children 2003

The United Nations Children's Fund launched its State of the World’s Children 2003 report, saying children must be given more of a voice in decisions affecting them. The report explores the issue of child participation and shows that tens of millions of children around the world feel disconnected from political institutions and lack trust in their governments.

“Authentic, meaningful participation prepares children for their stake in the future”, the report says. “With all the understanding it brings to the children involved, participation is a keystone for cohesive societies, which, in turn, are the keystone for peace in the world.”

Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, launched the report in Mexico City today, where she also participated in an inter-generational dialogue bringing children and national leaders together.

“In a world wounded by conflict and divided by poverty”, she said, “it is absolutely essential that children be embraced, listened to, and given a role in crafting a better future for themselves.”

Copies of the report are available at the Documents Counter on the Third Floor.

**Security Council

There are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled today.

At 3:30 p.m. in Conference Room 7, there is a scheduled meeting of the Security Council Sanctions Committee concerning the situation between Iraq and Kuwait. The Chairman of that Committee, Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby of Norway, is expected to be available for a briefing to the press following the meeting.

Tomorrow, the Council is expected to have informal consultations to consider presidential statements prior to the three formal meetings it is planning for the day: the United Nations mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United Nations mission of Observers in Prevlaka, and the situation in Somalia.

**UN Relief and Works Agency

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) confirmed the death of one of its staff members last week, in an incident in which a UNRWA school attendant, Maher Saqallah, was killed in Tulkarem by an Israeli soldier when he opened the door to his house during an Israeli undercover operation. The circumstances of his death remain unclear.

Maher Saqallah’s death, which took place on 3 December, was the fourth of a UNRWA staff member over the past three weeks, with two staff killed last Friday in Gaza and the camp project manager in Jenin killed on 22 November.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

In an effort to bring food to the hungry and to boost agricultural production, the Food and Agriculture Organization has embarked on a project to rehabilitate small roads in parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The work, which includes repairing major damage and rebuilding bridges, will focus on about 300 kilometers of small roads around large population centres such as Kinshasa, Kisangani and Goma, and is set to be completed by June of next year.

Making these roads passable year-round will give people access to the main food markets in the region. This will not only increase food security but will also improve access for humanitarian assistance.

We have a press release from FAO available upstairs with more information.

**Secretary-General on Reinventing Government

The Fourth Global Forum on Reinventing Government began today in Marrakesh, Morocco, and Mervat Tellawy, the Executive Director of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, delivered a message on the Secretary-General’s behalf that, to make progress on building a better world, “we will need to pay much more attention to democracy, public administration and sound systems of governance”.

The Secretary-General's message said that the United Nations is deeply engaged in the global effort to “reinvent government”, particularly in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, by providing advice and sharing knowledge among nations.

We have copies of his message upstairs.

**UN Foundation

Later today, the Secretary-General will attend a luncheon to mark the fifth anniversary of the creation of the United Nations Foundation. He is scheduled to deliver some remarks at the lunch and we will make those available as soon as we have them.

Immediately following my briefing, Ted Turner, the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Foundation, along with Tim Wirth, the President of the Foundation, will be in this room to talk to you about the partnership between the UN and the foundation.

**Human Rights

Ambeyi Ligabo, the special rapporteur for the UN Commission on Human Rights on freedom of opinion and expression, along with the senior experts dealing with freedom of expression for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Organization of American States (OAS), issued a declaration condemning attacks on journalists. The joint declaration issued by the three experts also notes that the concentration in ownership of the media and the means of communication might challenge editorial independence. We have copies of that joint declaration upstairs.

Also, we have upstairs a message issued today by the special rapporteur dealing with the human rights of migrants, Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro, saluting the adoption yesterday by Timor-Leste of the Migrant Workers’ Convention.

**Press Releases

We have a couple of press releases to highlight for you today.

A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals the harsh realities faced by older persons caring for their HIV-infected children and their families. The report, “Impact of AIDS on older people in Africa”, is based on a case study in Zimbabwe. It reveals that the contribution of older persons in caring for their adult children infected by HIV and for their orphaned children, largely in poverty, is generally ignored by society. The press release has more details.

We also have another press release from WHO, embargoed until tomorrow, on the launch of the International HIV Treatment Access Coalition, which aims to improve the access to anti-retroviral drugs in poor and middle income countries.


Some budgetnews for you today. The United States today made another large contribution. This time, more than $88 million, to the peacekeeping budget.


Signings, a couple of them. Luxembourg today became the forty-ninth country to sign the Protocol on firearms supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.

This afternoon, Australia is scheduled to sign the Protocol on trafficking in persons supplementing the same Convention.

**Press Conferences

Two press conferences to highlight for you tomorrow. At 11:15, the International Year of Freshwater will be launched by Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. He will be joined by Alex Matthiessen, a Hudson River Keeper. Also there will be Gourisankar Ghosh, Executive Director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council. We have handouts on tomorrow's activities surrounding the launching.

Later at around 12:30, or at the conclusion of the morning session of the Security Council on Bosnia and Herzegovina, the members of the Bosnian Presidency -– Mirko Sarovic, Presiding Member, with Dragan Covic and Sulejman Tic, will speak to you in this room. The members will be accompanied by Dragan Mikerevic, the Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

**UNCA Announcements

And finally, an announcement from the correspondents’ association. UNCA elections are now in progress. Please take a few minutes to fill out a ballot next to the UNCA Club. You have until 5 p.m. today, as well as tomorrow and Friday from 10 to 5.

A second UNCA announcement. The Mission of Germany invites you to a briefing today at 3 p.m. in the UNCA Club. The occasion is the commemoration of the twentieth Anniversary of the Convention of the Law of the Sea.

The briefers are Ambassador Tono Eitel. Some of you may remember Prof. Eitel when he was Germany's Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1995 to 1998. Also present will be Christoph Linz of the International Foundation of the Law of the Sea.

Anything else from you before we turn to Richard on a slow news day?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Will the Secretary-General be going to Copenhagen?

Spokesman: As of now, he has no plans to go. So, nothing has changed since yesterday.

Question: Let's do some housekeeping. This is a slow news day. Tomorrow there are three Security Council meetings and three press conferences. Is there any way your office can do something about this imbalance?

Spokesman: We don’t have much control over Governments or organizations requesting press conferences. We sometimes advise them if they ask for a day when other press conferences were already scheduled. But they usually have their own reasons for wanting it on the requested day. Sorry.

Question: Do you think the Security Council will meet on Cyprus issue in the coming days?

Spokesman: Not at this time. I don’t know.

Question: Do you have a schedule of meetings in Copenhagen? Do you have an idea who’s going to represent the Turkish Cypriot side?

Spokesman: We don’t have a programme, and we don’t know who might represent the Turkish-Cypriot side, if, as expected, Mr. Denktash would not be able to travel to Copenhagen for health reasons.

Question: Do you have anything on last night’s meeting between the Secretary-General and Mr. Erdogan?

Spokesman: I think he spoke to reporters in Turkish as he left the building. You have to ask some of your Turkish colleagues what he said. He and the Secretary-General of course reviewed Turkey’s relations with the European Union. They talked a lot about Cyprus, obviously, and UN-Turkey relations. That’s about all I can say.

Question: There might not be much you can say about this, but is there any reaction from the Secretary-General about the seizure of scud missiles from the North Korea vessel?

Spokesman: I don’t think we know enough about what took place there to comment.

Question: How concerned would the Secretary-General be if in fact missiles like these were seized while on their way to this tense part of the world in the context of the battle or war against terrorism?

Spokesman: I think the UN angle to the story, if there is one, will be whether or not the missiles were intended to go to Iraq. There’s a Security Council resolution prohibiting that. But as I understand it, the Government of Yemen said this morning that the shipment was destined for Yemen. So, I don’t think there’s a Security Council angle.

Question: Originally, that same Government had denied that the missiles were in fact intended for Yemen, so I wonder whether there is any contact the United Nations is trying to make, relative to this within the context of the missile control regime or otherwise?

Spokesman: Not that I’m aware, and I don’t know the missile control regime you’re talking about, apart from the Security Council resolutions as they apply to Iraq.

Question: On the Cyprus issue. Do you have any indication that both sides are willing to reach a final agreement in Copenhagen?

Spokesman: We don’t have an indication, one way or the other, obviously. What we’re trying to do now that we have revised the proposal in the light of the comments by both sides, we’re hoping that Copenhagen will provide the context and the deadline, if you will, for agreement. I’m not in a position, at mid-day today, to predict that they’re ready to compromise, ready to agree on a final document. We’re trying to get them together in Copenhagen to see if we can close the final gaps. Okay, Richard.

Briefing by the Spokesman for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

I'll try to make this as brief as possible. It was fairly active in the General Assembly this morning.

The plenary took up the Report of the Credentials Committee, Agenda item 3, which was adopted.

Then the rapporteur of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), Andrej Droba of Slovakia, introduced the committee reports on the following agenda items, 74 through 83.

Those included effects of atomic radiation; peaceful uses of outer space; United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories; Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping; Questions relating to information; issues related to Non-Self-Governing Territories and Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. The plenary took action on draft resolutions on a number of these items.

Today, the Second Committee takes action on draft resolutions on macroeconomic policy questions, sustainable development and international economic cooperation, integrated follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic and social fields, financing for development and globalization and interdependence as well as the report of the Economic and Social Council this afternoon. The Second Committee is expected to conclude the main part of its work this afternoon.

The Fifth Committee concludes general discussion on the proposed programme budget for 2004-2005, and programme budget for 2002-2003. Tomorrow, the plenary will continue its discussion of oceans and the law of the sea.

I would just like to draw your attention to a panel event entitled "Challenges of Freshwater: A dialogue" in Conference Room 4 tomorrow morning, starting at 9:45, to launch the International Year of Freshwater 2003. Louise Fréchette, Deputy Secretary-General, and Talbak Nazarov, Foreign Minister of Tajikistan, will make statements. Then there will be a panel discussion moderated by Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for DPI.

Any questions? Thank you.

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