DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
25 July 2003
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Private Sector Commission
This is our normal Noon Briefing, which we’re going to do a bit early so we can get it done before the 12 p.m. Press Conference on the Commission on the Private Sector and Development, which is an initiative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
The Secretary-General will come down for that briefing, and he will introduce the co-Chairs of the Commission, Paul Martin, Canada’s former Finance Minister, and the former Mexican President, Ernesto Zedillo. Mark Malloch-Brown, the UNDP Administrator, will also be here. And that, as I said, will start in about 10 minutes.
I also squawked, and I’ll say it again for any of those of you who might not have heard it, that the Secretary-General will not take any questions on anything other than the Commission on the Private Sector and Development. He is scheduled to do a mid-year press conference next week and we will give you a specific time and date, once we firm that up.
On Liberia, yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Jacques Klein, briefed the Security Council on the situation in that country, and afterwards, told reporters that Liberia was between hope and disaster -- hope if the international community could act quickly, and disaster if nothing is done.
The good news, he said, is Nigeria's willingness to send in two battalions quickly to stabilize the situation there, including one from the UN Mission in Sierra Leone, of about 770 troops, which the Mission will try to transport using its own facilities, including transport helicopters. Another Nigerian battalion is expected to arrive from Lagos, which Nigeria will need help to transport.
After the consultations ended, Council President Inocencio Arias of Spain told reporters that Council members expressed concern about the deteriorating security situation and humanitarian conditions in Liberia and called on all sides to honour the ceasefire.
Fighting in Monrovia continued this morning, with mortar rounds landing near a UN compound. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that Monrovia’s 1 million residents face dangerous shortages of water, sanitation facilities, food and security, and warns that, if fighting continues over the weekend, thousands of people could die. We have a press release with more details.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), meanwhile, says that the situation in the Liberian capital is grave, with every available space in UNHCR’s Monrovia compound jammed with more than 800 desperate refugees and displaced people. High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers again urged the immediate deployment of an international force to Liberia, and is recommending that governments suspend the forced return of rejected Liberian asylum seekers for at least six months.
The Security Council today is holding an open debate on Côte d’Ivoire, with that country’s Prime Minister, Seydou Diarra, briefing Council members on recent peace efforts in that country. The Council expects to adopt a Presidential Statement on Côte d’Ivoire at the end of today’s open meeting.
Also, the Security Council expects to adopt a Presidential Statement today emphasizing the importance of the recommendations made by the Council’s recent missions to West Africa and Central Africa and requesting that the Secretary-General report on follow-up to those recommendations in a report, by this
This afternoon, the Council will meet with troop contributors to the peacekeeping missions in Lebanon and Georgia.
We have upstairs a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, available in French only, on the return of constitutional order in Sao Tome and Principe.
In it, the Secretary-General welcomes these latest developments and congratulates the international and regional mediation effort.
**SG’s report on Georgia
Out on the racks today is the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia.
The Secretary-General notes the UN-led peace process received a welcome boost following the Geneva brainstorming session and the Sochi summit. However, he says, “it is regrettable that the core political issue -– the future status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia – still has not been addressed”.
He appeals to both sides, in particular the Abkhaz side, to muster the political will to address the political aspects of the conflict.
He is encouraged by the recent initiative by Georgia and the Russian Federation to start a dialogue on the process of refugee return, and recommends that a civilian police component of 20 officers be added to the UN Mission in Georgia to assist with the return of refugees.
The Secretary-General has decided to appoint former Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri as his Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in Kosovo, replacing Michael Steiner of Germany, who has returned to Government service.
Holkeri served as Finland’s Prime Minister from 1987 to 1991, and he also served as President of the 55th session of the General Assembly –- the “Millennium Assembly”. We have copies of his biographical data available upstairs.
In a message on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Korean War’s Armistice Agreement, the Secretary-General notes that the Korean conflict remains unresolved. He says: “Fear and mistrust are widespread. The current controversy over the nuclear weapons programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a sobering reminder of the risks that this unfinished business poses to the region, to the world at large, and above all to the people of both Koreas”.
He underscores that “resolving the nuclear and related security issues has got to be the most pressing priority”. And he urges all the parties to work determinedly towards a peaceful, negotiated solution, including through an early resumption of the Beijing talks.
The Secretary-General calls for a comprehensive settlement, which will cover a wide range of security, military, political, human rights and economic issues, culminating in a peace treaty.
We have the full text upstairs.
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo said that following reports of a cache of ammunition apprehended on a plane that landed in Beni, it has started the process of conducting a thorough investigation into the origins of the flight, the material and the intended destination.
The UN Mission strongly denounced this act, which constitutes a violation of resolution 1484 (2003), which bans all military assistance to armed groups in the DRC.
The plane, carrying many boxes of ammunition and seven military and two civilian passengers, was reportedly travelling from Aru to Mangbwalu. It was diverted to Beni, due to bad weather conditions. The plane was handed over to the UN by the RCD-K/ML faction.
We have a press release in French on that.
The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today released a special report on their joint Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in Angola.
Despite peace and a substantial increase in food production, the Agencies warned, some 1.4 million Angolans are still in urgent need of food aid, due to the increased number of refugees and demobilized soldiers returning home.
The report is available online, and we have a press release upstairs.
The UN Verification Mission in Guatemala, known as MINUGUA, today issued a statement calling on the Guatemalan authorities to re-establish order and guarantee the security of the population following acts of violence and vandalism that took place yesterday in the capital city.
The Mission urgently calls upon the leaders of the ruling party to intervene with its supporters, so that they desist from all acts of violence. It deplores the violence, and stresses the necessity of using peaceful means to resolve conflict.
We have a statement in Spanish upstairs.
The Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan today issued a statement voicing his deep regret that Uzbekistan had executed six individuals whose stays of execution had been requested by the UN Human Rights Committee, which was reviewing their cases.
Ramcharan stressed that the executions render the Committee’s reviews futile and amount to a grave breach of Uzbekistan’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it acceded in 1995. We have a press release on that.
India will have its first national parliamentary conference on HIV/AIDS this weekend, for which the Secretary-General will deliver a video message. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, “The conference will bring together over 1,000 political leaders from across the country, including ministers, parliamentarians, legislators, and mayors, which will be a unique opportunity to mobilize national leadership and commitment to move the national Indian response to HIV/AIDS”.
“Never before”, said Dr. Peter Piot, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, “in any nation of the world, has there been such a large and committed gathering of leaders from every level of decision-making, dedicated to the common cause of fighting AIDS”.
We have a press release on that.
**The Week Ahead at the United Nations
And we have the Week Ahead for you to help you plan your coverage of the UN next week.
Any questions? Mark?
Questions and Answers
Question: I apologize if you’ve covered this already, is there any plan to replace Carla Del Ponte as the head of the Rwanda Tribunal?
Spokesman: We have nothing to announce on that subject now. I believe she is scheduled to come to New York on Monday to see the Secretary-General. Yes, ma’am?
Question: Any reaction to the recent wires about President Bush sending an unknown number of troops to Liberia?
Spokesman: We are waiting to see if we can confirm that that is true. If it is true, we would be very gratified, and our hope is that we can proceed with the plan to have a US-led multinational force go into Liberia to help stabilize the situation there, that President Charles Taylor will step down as he promised to do as part of a ceasefire agreement, and that we can get on with re-building that country under the leadership of Jacques Klein, the Secretary-General’s newly named Special Representative. Yes, Mark?
Question: We had MSF today saying, basically, that despite the multinational force in Bunia, there is no security there and there were still basically vast problems. I was just wondering what the UN assessment is of the security situation in Bunia and whether the multinational force is doing what it was sent out to do?
Spokesman: I don’t have any particular guidance on that today, except for what I have already said about the Secretary-General’s request for additional troops, and that request is under Chapter VII as an enforcement action. Our hope is that the situation in Bunia and in the Kivus, as well, could be stabilized. That’s the key to the success in the Congo, as a whole. I’ll see if I can more for you after the briefing.
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