DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
20 January 2004
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Guest at Noon
Joining us shortly I hope at the briefing today will be Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, the Secretary-General of the Barbados +10 Conference on Small Islands to be held in Mauritius from 30 August to 4 September 2004. Ambassador Chowdhury will brief you on the interregional preparatory meeting to be held in Nassau, Bahamas from 26 to 30 January.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman
I have a statement attributable to the Spokesman concerning the situation between Somaliland and Puntland:
“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the increased tension between the Administrations of “Puntland” and “Somaliland” over Las Anod in Sool region, which threatens the outbreak of hostilities at a critical time in the Somali peace process.
“The Secretary-General calls upon the parties to exercise utmost restraint and to refrain from the use of force. He urges them to seek a solution through political dialogue and reminds them of their responsibility to protect the civilian population located in their respective areas, as well as to ensure unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance.
“The Secretary-General calls on all Somali parties to reach agreement on national reconciliation that would put an end to all the fighting and bloodshed in the country”.
**Security Council -- Yesterday
Going back to yesterday, the Security Council, as you know, held a private meeting yesterday afternoon with Adnan Pachachi, the current chairman of the Iraqi Governing Council, which followed a morning of talks here between the Secretary-General, members of the Governing Council and officials of the Coalition Provisional Government.
We have upstairs available the full transcript from the Secretary-General’s press conference yesterday following his morning meetings.
The Security Council meeting on Iraq came after the Security Council wrapped up an open meeting on small arms. That meeting ended with the adoption of a Presidential Statement encouraging arms-exporting countries to exercise “the highest degree of responsibility” in small arms transactions. In that statement, which is out on the racks, the Council called on all Member States to implement arms embargoes and other sanctions measures effectively.
**SG in Germany
And following the end of yesterday’s activities, the Secretary-General left New York to start a two-week trip to Europe. He arrived today in Baden-Baden, Germany, where, tomorrow, he is set to receive the German Media Prize, and meet with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.
**Security Council -- Today
Turning to today in the Security Council: The struggle to ensure the protection, rights and well-being of children exposed to armed conflict has reached a watershed moment, said Olara Otunnu, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative dealing with that issue, in today’s open debate in the Council.
Otunnu noted concrete and significant progress in protecting children in terms of advocacy, the development of standards and innovative initiatives, but warned that the general situation for children on the ground remains grave and unacceptable. Parties to conflict continue to violate children’s rights with impunity, he told Council members.
Carol Bellamy, the head of the UN Children’s Fund, agreed, saying that last year, from Liberia to Nepal, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Colombia, girls and boys continued to be caught up in war. She noted particular problems for children in areas where humanitarian access has been denied, and pointed to examples of ways to demobilize child soldiers and to provide children in war zones with education.
The Council also viewed a video in which children from around the world shared their experiences of hardship during wartime. The meeting, which is being chaired by Chilean Foreign Minister Maria Soledad Alvear, is continuing as we speak.
**Security Council -- Liberia
On Liberia: The Secretary-General has appointed a five-member Panel of Experts on sanctions against Liberia to undertake several tasks, including a follow-up assessment mission to Liberia and neighbouring States in order to investigate and compile a report on sanctions implementation and any violations. The appointment is contained in a letter to the Security Council President, which is out on the racks today. And we expect to have the biographies of the panel members available upstairs shortly.
On Lebanon: The UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, continues to investigate the serious incident that took place yesterday afternoon on the Blue Line, during which an Israeli soldier was killed.
In further developments today, the UN force reports that the Israeli Defence Forces have carried out air raids into south Lebanon, apparently targeting Hizbollah positions. UNIFIL continues to monitor the situation closely.
On Libya, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei yesterday met with senior US and UK disarmament officials to coordinate their respective efforts in implementing Libya’s decision to abandon any nuclear-weapons-related programme and activities.
ElBaradei called the meeting “constructive” and indicated that the sides had “reached agreement on what needs to be done”. He said the IAEA will perform its verification responsibilities under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, while the US and UK will undertake certain logistical activities, particularly with regard to the movement of equipment, material and other sensitive items outside of the country.
All sides agreed on the importance of moving fast. The Agency expects to field a team of inspectors to Libya this week. And we have a press release from the IAEA upstairs with more details.
Two items updating you on the ongoing UN efforts to support the recovery efforts in Bam in Iran.
Today the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization announced the arrival tomorrow in the devastated city of the head of the agency’s World Heritage Site Committee, Francesco Bandarin. He will assess the damage to the city’s historic sites in order to prepare a rehabilitation plan.
And yesterday, the UN Children's Fund said the first group of children returned to school –- less than a month after the earthquake. The first 26 temporary schools housed in inflatable tents provided by UNICEF, welcomed 50 primary school children yesterday.
An estimated 20,000 school-age children remain in Bam, and since the 26 December quake, most have been living in tents with little access to recreation and educational opportunities, says UNICEF. And we have more information on those items upstairs.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reports today that during an operation which began in the early hours of this morning in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Israeli armoured vehicles and bulldozers destroyed 36 buildings. These buildings housed some 81 families or approximately 400 people.
Throughout the operation there were exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters. Israeli soldiers took up sniper positions on the roofs of homes and heavy machine-gun fire was directed at houses in the area from the armoured vehicles, according to UNRWA. Not including today’s operation, 56 buildings in Rafah had already been destroyed in January.
And on a related note, Peter Hansen, the Agency’s head has completed official visits to Japan, China and South Korea to raise financial and political support for the work of UNRWA. All three countries expressed support for the agency and acknowledged the difficult conditions in which it operates. And more detail is available upstairs.
We also have upstairs available in French and Spanish a communiqué following the daylong talks yesterday between the Foreign Ministers of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea at UN Headquarters with UN mediator Yves Fortier to discuss their territorial disputes.
Turning to Georgia: In his report on Abkhazia and Georgia, released yesterday, the Secretary-General said that, while progress has been made in the peace process it remains “painfully slow”. Nevertheless, the Secretary-General encouraged both sides to continue implementing recommended peace-building initiatives, such as the opening of a human rights office in the conflict-affected Gali district. He also recommended a six-month extension of the mandate of the Mission until 31 July this year.
Also on the topic of Georgia yesterday, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Heidi Tagliavini, chaired a meeting between the sides on security in the Gali district. They agreed to take every measure to ensure the strict observance of a 1994 ceasefire agreement and refrain from any action which may destabilize the zone of conflict.
On disarmament, the Secretary-General today urged the nations sitting on the Conference on Disarmament to show the political will to overcome their current impasse and resume the Conference’s substantive work this year.
In a message delivered today in Geneva, the Secretary-General said it was encouraging that the Conference last year addressed a number of emerging threats, such as new forms of terrorism and their potential impacts on weapons proliferation. We have copies of that message available upstairs.
On Rwanda, the former head of UN peacekeepers in Rwanda yesterday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that an accused genocide suspect had played an important role in the Rwandan Government during the 1994 genocide, and had personally threatened his own life twice.
Gen. Romeo Dallaire, who had been Force Commander of the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda, told the Tribunal that Colonel Theoneste Bagosora had played an important role in the day-to-day running of the country, particularly after the Rwandan President died that April. Bagosora, Dallaire added, threatened his life twice over the issue of evacuating orphaned children during the genocide. We have more details in his testimony in a press release from the Tribunal upstairs.
The UN refugee agency today announced it was dispatching a team to Burundi to begin the first steps toward re-establishing field offices in provinces bordering Tanzania for the possible return of more than 300,000 Burundian refugees remaining in camps in Tanzania.
And the Food and Agriculture Organization said today it will work with the Nicaraguan Government to help small-scale coffee growers hit by the global slump in coffee prices. Until recently, coffee cultivation represented around 30 per cent of Nicaragua’s agricultural sector’s gross domestic product. And we have a press release upstairs with more information.
And lastly, on a much happier note. For your information, our colleague Colum Lynch of the Washington Post is now the very proud father of a little girl, Lucinda, who was born last night. And according to our sources she weighs “something like eight pounds”. And we look forward to her first question.
That’s it from me. Any questions from you?
Questions and Answers
Question: A couple of questions. One on Iraq. Is there a follow-up today from yesterday’s meetings on Iraq? And on Libya. The deal between the US and the UK on one hand and the IAEA on the other, is there clearer determination of each party’s jurisdiction, if you will?
Spokesman: I think on your second question I will refer you to the IAEA. On the first, the technical contacts on the electoral issues are going to continue, whether in person or over the phone with the UN and the other interested parties. So, it’s an ongoing process. Yes, go ahead.
Question: Is there any sense that a decision on whether or not to send a technical team to Iraq could come by the end of the week? Do you have a better sense of the time...?
Spokesman: You know, I don’t want to be pegged to any deadline. It’s a very serious matter. These talks are ongoing. I think the Secretary-General said yesterday he was not going to drag the process out. And he is very much aware of the time issue.
Question: Just one more question: Can you confirm whether the United Nations has specifically asked for, if it returns to Iraq, to have their headquarters within the green zone?
Question: I’d just like for housekeeping purposes to get straightened. We have got a few things that we’re expecting. One of them is the dispatch of the security assessment team to Iraq. Another one is this possibility of sending another group that was announced yesterday.
Question: We also have a couple of other things. There is this panel on reform. Could you give us a little bit of a background? When can we start to see some of these? Are these going to be mostly postponed until after the Secretary-General returns?
Spokesman: Are you talking about the high panel on threats and challenges?
Spokesman: My understanding had been that their report, their work was going to be ongoing for at least a year, if that’s the one you’re referring to.
Spokesman: On the various teams, as I said I don’t want to be boxed into any time limit. Whether the Secretary-General is here at Headquarters or on the road he remains in contact and he can make those decisions, whether here or outside of Headquarters. So I don’t think you should look to his absence from Headquarters as any indication as to whether or not a decision will be made.
Question: Would those be made where the Secretary-General is, or here?
Spokesman: I assume they would be made here. They may be made by him, but they first need to be made. Betsy?
Question: I was curious if you can shed any more light on the security team. I know that they were accepted by the CPA. The Secretary-General said it was practically a done deal. When are they leaving and have you identified them yet?
Spokesman: They will be leaving, I am told, in the near future. And I don’t know specifically which persons are going to go as part of that team. Anybody else before we turn to Ambassador Chowdhury?
Sir, welcome to the briefing. Nice to see you.
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