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

20 January 2003

Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


We’ll start as usual, with Iraq. Good afternoon. Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), today ended two days of talks with an Iraqi delegation, and the two sides jointly noted 10 points, printed in a statement that we have available upstairs.

Among other key points, the sides agreed that access has been obtained to all sites, and that this will continue. The Iraqi side will encourage persons to accept access to private sites.

After some empty 122 millimetre chemical munitions were found at

al-Ukhaidhir, the Iraqi side has appointed a team to undertake an investigation and a comprehensive search to look for similar cases at all locations. One find, of four more units, was already reported at the al-Taji munitions stores.

Some documents requested by UNMOVIC were handed over, and clarifications were given regarding others. Iraq also expressed a readiness to respond to questions raised in connection with its declaration of last 7 December. Persons asked for interviews in private will be encouraged to accept them. The list of persons engaged in various disciplines will be supplemented, in accordance with advice from UNMOVIC and the IAEA.

Blix and ElBaradei gave a press conference before leaving Baghdad. Blix told reporters that he had no doubt that the points agreed to would be respected and implemented. ElBaradei added that some progress had been made on nuclear issues. They then left for Cyprus, from where Blix will travel back to New York and ElBaradei to Vienna.

Meanwhile, UN inspections work on the ground continued, with an UNMOVIC team on Saturday conducting further analysis of the twelfth warhead found last Thursday at the al-Ukhaidhir site and taking additional samples from that warhead. The inspection teams also visited a manufacturing site and various colleges over the weekend, and went to al-Rasheed air base in anticipation of flying by helicopter deep into the northern “no-fly” zone. We have more details in press statements from the inspectors in my Office.

**Vorontsov Arrives in Kuwait

High-Level Coordinator Yuli Vorontsov had meetings in Baghdad over the weekend on the subject of missing Kuwaiti nationals and seized Kuwaiti property resulting from the 1991 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. He also met with the Chairman of the Committee for Missing Iraqis in Baghdad.

Today, he stopped at UN Mission headquarters in Um Qasr, after travelling overland from Baghdad, where he met the Acting Head of Mission, Tesfaye Tedese, to discuss seized property. You’ll recall that Tedese was asked by the Secretary-General to facilitate the return of small items of Kuwaiti property, such as those that are discovered in markets in Iraq. The UN Mission then facilitated Vorontsov?s trip to Kuwait City, where he will have meetings with Kuwaiti officials over the next two days. His next stop will be Amman, Jordan, the day after tomorrow.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding a high-level meeting on the issue of combating terrorism. It started at 10:30 a.m. and is expected to last two hours. The Secretary-General was the first to speak. All 15 Council members are scheduled to speak before they vote to adopt a resolution, affirming a declaration on counter-terrorism. Thirteen Council members are represented at the ministerial level. The list in speaking order is available in my Office.

And at 12:45 p.m., Dominique de Villepin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, who is chairing that meeting, is scheduled to give a press conference here in room S-226.

Let me flag several points from the Secretary-General’s opening statement.

The United Nations, he said, must play an increasing role in dissuading would-be perpetrators of terror by setting effective international norms, and issuing a clear message on the unacceptability of acts of violence targeting civilians. The Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee will continue to be at the centre of global efforts to fight terrorism, he said.

He noted that “Even as many are rightly praising the unity and resolve of the international community in this crucial struggle, important and urgent questions are being asked about what might be called the ?collateral damage’ of the war of terrorism -– damage to the presumption of innocence, to precious human rights, to the rule of law, and to the very fabric of democratic governance.” And just as terrorism must never be excused, so must genuine grievances never be ignored, the Secretary-General noted.

**Human Rights

The Commission on Human Rights met this morning in Geneva under a new procedure, two months ahead of its annual six-week session, and elected Ambassador Najat al-Hajjaji of Libya as its chairperson for this year. She was elected by a secret ballot, with 33 countries voting in favour, 3 opposed, with 17 abstentions. The vote was requested by the United States, in a change from traditional practice, in which chairpersons are elected by acclamation.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello, who had just returned to Geneva after visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola, said today that the action offered a unique opportunity for the Commission to demonstrate that it could manage its procedural business with wisdom, speed and restraint. Vieira de Mello told reporters today that he hoped that the approach would continue as the Commission performs its substantive work.

Ms. Al-Hajjaji said that the Commission must affirm the universality, indivisibility and complementarity of human rights, and that it must deal with human rights in all countries, taking into account the different religious, cultural and historical backgrounds in the world. We have a press release upstairs with details.


Maurice Strong, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, returned to Beijing on Saturday after spending four days in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where he met with, among others, Paek Nam Fun, the President of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and Kim Yong Nam, the Foreign Minister. Mr. Strong was asked by the Secretary-General to visit the country to assess the humanitarian situation there, and the discussions also touched on the current issues affecting the Korea peninsula. Strong is scheduled to report on his trip to the Secretary-General here in New York on Wednesday.

**Côte d’Ivoire-Humanitarian

Over the weekend, Carolyn McAskie, the Secretary-General’s Humanitarian Envoy for the Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, visited people who had been displaced from their homes when government authorities destroyed several shantytowns in Abidjan in the wake of a coup attempt in September of last year.

On Saturday, McAskie visited sites where some residents have found temporary shelter in churches, in mosques, under trees or amidst debris. Others sleep out in the open. Speaking to journalists about what she saw, McAskie said, “To see exactly how these people are living is absolutely shocking. We are talking to the Government and also trying to bring international aid.”

Speaking to internally displaced persons, she said, “We will continue to pressure the Government to stop this destruction and to treat its citizens and foreign guests in a more humane manner.” The United Nations estimates that as many as 1 million people have been displaced within Côte d’Ivoire, and that more than 120,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries since September.


Former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic was transferred today to the detention unit of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, where he faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, deportation, forcible transfer and persecution on political, racial and religious grounds. The charges stem from his time in the Serb leadership, which ended just last month, when he stepped down as Serb President on 29 December. The date and time for his initial appearance at the Tribunal will be set in the coming days.


In a speech broadcast this evening on Kosovo’s television stations, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Michael Steiner, said he is ready to hand over all competencies that he legally can to Kosovo’s provisional institutions, but on one condition: that they work more seriously.

He spelled out several priorities for Kosovo in the year ahead, including reform in the economy, progress in fighting crime and efforts to build a multi-ethnic society. We have copies of his televised address upstairs.

**World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board begins its 111th session today. Among the items on the agenda is the nomination of a candidate for the post of Director-General to replace Gro Harlem Brundtland, who ends her five-year term in July.

During the course of this week, the Board will examine all the candidates proposed and make a short list of five candidates, who will then be interviewed on Monday, 27 January. The Board will vote on Tuesday the 28th, the final day of the meeting. The Board will also draft the contract for the new Director-General establishing terms and conditions of employment and salary and other considerations. There is more information on the WHO Web site.


On signings today, this afternoon Mexico will become the 80th country to ratify the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the 67th to ratify the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.


Today, Ireland became the 21st Member State to pay its 2003 regular budget contribution in full with a payment of more than $3.9 million.

**Press Conference Today

And as I mentioned, we will have Dominique de Villepin here at about

12:45 p.m.

Any questions? Yes?

Questions and Answers

Question: Do you have any response to the report in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend that there was clear evidence that Iraq had recently obtained materials from an Indian trading company? Materials to develop weapons of mass destruction? Apparently there are court papers and India had indicated that this ... it’s a question of $800,000 and war materials like aluminum powder and titanium pumps. Have you heard anything about this?

Spokesman: I haven’t, but I am the wrong one to ask, I am afraid. You should ask the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). I realize it’s hard with Mr. Blix away and his spokesman Ewen Buchanan also away. If you like we can ask Ewen after the briefing. Yes?

Question: Last week, the Secretary-General told us that the United Nations is considering some humanitarian aspects of post-war Iraq. Can you give us some more details on that, what exactly he meant by that?

Spokesman: No, but I think I have confirmed in the past for you that as you might expect from an organization like the United Nations, we’ve been doing contingency planning on how to deal with the humanitarian fallout from a military action against Iraq, should one occur. So, that planning, which has been directed by the Secretary-General’s office, involves all UN funds and programmes, as well as the relevant UN departments: the Office of the Iraq Programme, political affairs, peacekeeping and so on. So, other than that, I don’t think we want to get into too much detail, except that one of our most detailed documents leaked and has been put on the Internet by some non-governmental organization. But I have no comment on that document and the numbers in it.

Question: Is Cyprus being considered as a coordinating centre?

Spokesman: Yes, we have been talking to Cyprus as one possible place from which to coordinate our humanitarian efforts. Yes?

Question: I have two questions on Cyprus. The first one: Mr. Denktash said that the UN plan is a crime against humanity. Your comment?

Spokesman: I hadn’t seen that comment. But, if he did say that, I’d have to disagree with him. The Secretary-General is just trying to be a mediator -- not even a mediator -- to offer his good offices, so that the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can resolve their differences and unify the island in time to enter the European Union as a unified State. He’s trying to help them. I don’t think that’s a crime against humanity.

Question: Also, the president of the parliament in Cyprus called your statement, the latest statement, as “propaganda”.

Spokesman: What statement?

Question: The statement that, if there is no solution, there is going to be a tragedy.

Spokesman: I think if you look at comments that Alvaro de Soto made to the press over the weekend, you’ll see those same sentiments echoed by him. It’s not propaganda. I think it’s just a statement of how we feel, trying to bring these two sides to agreement and how important this opportunity that the admission process to the European Union provides. And if it doesn’t happen by the end of February, it’s hard to see what new opportunity might present itself that would be comparable. Yes?

Question: Fred, when do we expect the declaration from the Security Council concerning terrorism?

Spokesman: Right after this meeting. They’re supposed to vote on it in this meeting, which is supposed to end in about 10 minutes.

Question: Today?

Spokesman: Yes. Thank you very much.

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