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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

8 January 2004

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

Good Afternoon.

**Iran

Earlier today in Bam, Iran, the United Nations launched a flash appeal for $31.3 million to meet the needs of people affected by the devastating earthquake there.

The funding will go towards programmes to meet emergency needs and smooth the transition from emergency assistance to medium and long-term recovery.

The appeal covers a wide variety of sectors, including, food, sanitation and shelter.

At the launch, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, praised the swift response of the Iranian authorities as well as the impressive international solidarity displayed in the quake’s aftermath.

Egeland is currently in Tehran, where he met with Iranian President Mohammed Khatami. As I mentioned yesterday, Egeland delivered to the President a letter from the Secretary-General pledging the UN’s long term assistance for Iran’s efforts in Bam.

We have more information upstairs in a press release.

On a related note, Miloon Kothari, the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, says the earthquake underscores the need for the development of safe housing standards worldwide.

Adequate housing is not only a human right, he said in a statement, it can also ensure that loss of life and human suffering during natural disasters can be reduced. We have more information on that upstairs.

**Afghanistan

The UN Mission in Afghanistan says that more than 270,000 Afghans have registered to vote so far in the country’s eight main cities –- more than 215,000 of those are men and just under 60,000 are women.

This voter registration rate, as the Secretary-General noted in his report this week to the Security Council, is far below that necessary to complete registration for elections later this year. Manoel de Almeida e Silva, the spokesman for the Mission, said today that the registration rate isn’t moving as fast as needed to meet an election date by this June.

He added that it’s “close to impossible” to hold elections by June as long as the current security conditions do not permit registration teams to travel throughout the country.

We have more details in today’s briefing notes from Kabul.

**Statement attributable to the Spokesman

We issued the following statement attributable to the Spokesman concerning encouraging developments on the Korean Peninsula yesterday, and I’ll read it into the record:

“The Secretary-General feels that there is a growing momentum for the resumption of the six-party talks, thus advancing the Beijing process intended to resolve the nuclear and related issues in the Korean Peninsula. While urging the parties to the talks to intensify their preparations, the Secretary-General is encouraged by the recent statement by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well as the response to it by the countries concerned.”

**Security Council

The Security Council has scheduled no meetings or consultations for today.

For the record, the Council President, Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz of Chile, read out a press statement on Eritrea and Ethiopia yesterday afternoon.

Voicing concern about the lack of progress in the demarcation process, Council members expressed support for the Secretary-General’s intention to consider additional measures to move forward with demarcation and the peace process and help the parties overcome their differences, in particular through good offices.

They noted that this offer doesn’t represent an alternative mechanism. They also called upon Ethiopia and Eritrea to respond constructively to proposals by the Secretary-General in this regard.

**Guéhenno

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno has just completed a visit to Pakistan.

During his few days in Islamabad, Guéhenno was able to meet with President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mahmoud Kasuri.

He is now on his way to Bangladesh. And as you know, he’s trying to drum up troop contributions for anticipated peacekeeping missions in this year, 2004.

**UNEP/Nature

Following the release today of a major study on climate change, Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, has called attention to the importance of bringing into force the Kyoto Protocol.

The scientific paper, published in the journal Nature, warns that a million species are threatened with extinction unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced.

Toepfer adds that the figure of 1 million may be underestimated, and billions of people –- especially in the developing world –- would also suffer as they rely on nature for essential goods and services such as food and shelter.

We have more details upstairs.

**Tobacco

World tobacco demand is expected to increase until the year 2010, but at lower rates than in the past, the Food and Agriculture Organization says in a new study today.

FAO says that world tobacco production is projected to reach over

7.1 million tons in 2010, up from 5.9 million tons from 1997 to 1999.

Meanwhile, the number of smokers is expected to grow from 1.1 billion in 1998 to about 1.3 billion in 2010.

At the same time, the study says, cigarette consumption per person is declining in the developed world, and modestly declining in developing countries –- including China, the world’s major cigarette consumer.

We have a press release with more details upstairs.

**MDG/Health

Many developing countries won’t be able to reach health-related Millennium Development Goals unless action is taken now and sustained over the next

12 years.

That’s the message from the World Health Organization and the World Bank, which are hosting the first session of a high-level summit on the issue in Geneva today and tomorrow.

The health goals include reducing maternal mortality, improving access to safe drinking water and essential drugs and halving the number of people who suffer from hunger.

WHO and the World Bank add that lack of progress in the health area is likely to affect progress towards other Millennium Development Goals.

We have a press release with more upstairs.

**Press conference tomorrow

Press conference tomorrow in this room 11 a.m., the Canadian Mission will be sponsoring a conference by the NGO, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict. They will be discussing their recent report entitled “Protecting Children in Armed Conflict: Blueprints for Compliance”.

**World Chronicle television programme

And finally, the Information Department has asked me to announce that World Chronicle programme 922 featuring Theo van Boven, the Special Rapporteur

on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, will be shown today at 3:30 p.m. on in-house television channel 3 or 31.

That’s my report for today. Yes, please?

Questions and Answers

Question: Two questions. Has Pakistan indicated one way or the other whether it will contribute more troops for peacekeeping efforts? And second, I was wondering if the Secretary-General has any reaction to the statements by the Ivory Coast ambassador earlier today that that country essentially plans to go around parliament and hold a direct referendum on the issues of land tenure and nationality (inaudible) as part of recent peace agreements. Does he approve or disapprove of that decision?

Spokesman: We don’t have a full enough report from Islamabad to say whether anything concrete was agreed. What we will try to do is get Guéhenno to come here and talk to you at the end of his trip and maybe he can give you his sense of the reactions he got from all the various potential troop contributors he will have seen at that point.

As for the Côte d’Ivoire ambassador’s press conference that ended just a short time ago; I am not sure the Secretary-General, who has had meetings during this period, had time to look at it. He will most likely receive a report from his political advisors and I’ll have to wait for that to be delivered before I can comment. Mr. Abbadi?

Question: Fred, the Secretary-General urges the parties to the Beijing process to accelerate their preparations. Would he be in favour of having some kind of UN presence at that meeting?

Spokesman: He has, as you know, a special envoy, Maurice Strong, who has been doing what he can on the humanitarian side where UN assistance to North Korea is concentrated and to the extent possible also facilitating on the political side. I don’t think the Secretary-General feels that Mr. Strong needs to be present at the six-party talks. But certainly, as you can see from the statement, he favours that approach to resolving this problem diplomatically. Yes?

Question: Fred, you said 270,000 Afghans are registered to vote and you say that’s far short. How far short is that of what would be acceptable or what you feel acceptable? What if they don’t reach an acceptable…?

Spokesman: I don’t have a specific number for you. If you like, we can call the mission and find out what their target number is if they have one. But I don’t know what it is.

Question: And what if they don’t reach it?

Spokesman: Well, the point is that the target date of June now appears to be out of reach. That’s the news of today given the rate of registration thus far and the continuing security concerns.

Thank you very much.



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