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

8 March 2004

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

Good afternoon.

**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman

We’ll start with a statement attributable to the Spokesman concerning events in the Middle East:

“The Secretary-General strongly deplores the Israeli military raids that took place yesterday in a densely populated area of the Gaza Strip in which at least 14 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded. The dead include several children.

“He calls on the Government of Israel to abide by its obligation under international humanitarian law to avoid civilian casualties and to desist from the use of disproportionate force in densely populated areas.

“He also strongly deplores the reckless action by Palestinian extremists on Saturday at Erez checkpoint, where hundreds of Palestinians and UN and other international staff regularly cross to and from Israel, which resulted in the deaths of two Palestinian security officers. This is the third attack at Erez since the beginning of the year”.

**Haiti Update

An update on Haiti: A multidisciplinary assessment team will begin arriving there tomorrow. It will carry out a comprehensive assessment of the situation there as the UN begins planning for a follow-on stabilization force that the Security Council called to be deployed in not more than three months from last Sunday.

Separately, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Haiti, John Reginald Dumas, returned to Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday after consultations in Kingston with Prime Minister P.J. Patterson of Jamaica, who also serves as Chairman of the Caribbean Community.

Dumas is hoping to make his first visit to Haiti as Special Adviser sometime next week –- and he would then return to UN Headquarters for further consultations.

And a reminder that a flash appeal for Haiti will be presented to donors tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. Jan Egeland, the UN Emergency Coordinator, will be the guest at tomorrow’s briefing and he’ll be discussing the humanitarian situation in Haiti.

**Women’s Day

The Secretary-General today marked International Women’s Day by drawing attention to the devastating toll that HIV/AIDS is taking on women, who are increasingly bearing the brunt of the epidemic.

In sub-Saharan Africa, he said, more than half of all adults living with AIDS are women, and women also comprise at least half of those newly infected with HIV in the world as a whole. If such rates continue, women will soon become the majority of people infected with HIV throughout the world.

We have copies of his speech upstairs, as well as press releases marking International Women’s Day.

And we have as guest at today’s noon briefing Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women or UNIFEM, to talk to you about International Women’s Day.

And Noeleen Heyzer will also be featured in the World Chronicle programme no. 927 that will be aired this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. on in-house channels 3 or 31.

**NATO Parliamentarians

The Secretary-General is meeting right now with a group of NATO parliamentarians, and he is expected to discuss with them NATO’s current cooperation with the United Nations in the Balkans and Afghanistan, as well as its increasing willingness to “go global”.

He is expected to say that, if the United Nations is to undertake new peace operations in African countries and Haiti over the coming year, stronger support from NATO would be tremendously helpful. We have embargoed copies of his comments upstairs.

Once he has finished speaking with the parliamentarians, the Secretary-General will leave for Canada, where he will pay an official visit and meet with Prime Minister Paul Martin and other senior officials over the next two days before returning to New York on Wednesday.


The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today told the Agency’s Board of Governors that he is seriously concerned that Iran’s October declaration of its nuclear technology did not include any reference to its possession of P-2 centrifuge designs and related research and development.

Mohamed ElBaradei called that omission “a setback to Iran’s stated policy of transparency”, although he noted that Iran’s increasing cooperation with the IAEA and expressed the hope that other questions about Iran’s nuclear programmes can be resolved with Tehran’s full cooperation.

He added that, following the disclosure of its undeclared nuclear activities, Libya has granted the Agency unrestricted access to all requested locations, responded promptly to the Agency’s requests for information, and assisted it in gaining a full picture of its nuclear programme. Libya also agreed to conclude an additional protocol, and to act in the meantime as if the protocol is in force. ElBaradei said he would sign this additional protocol with Libya this week.

**Ethiopia and Eritrea

Out today is the Secretary-General’s progress report on Ethiopia and Eritrea.

In it he says there have been no major incidents on the ground, but in the absence of political progress, military stability is becoming fragile and should not be taken for granted. He warns that the current stalemate is a source of instability and has the potential to become dangerous.

It is clear that the main reason for the stalemate is the lack of progress in the demarcation of the border, he says.

The Secretary-General reiterates his strong appeal to the two parties, in particular to Eritrea, to give Lloyd Axworthy, his Special Envoy for Ethiopia and Eritrea, the opportunity to meet and discuss with their leadership how best his good offices could help them to overcome the impasse in the implementation of the Algiers Agreement.

He recommends that the Mission’s mandate be extended for six more months, until 15 September.

**Africa - Peacekeepers

Turning to peacekeeping needs; 30 participants took part in a course on “Enhancing African Police Peacekeeping Capabilities” in Accra, the capital of Ghana, last week at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre.

Almost all of the participants came from policy-making positions in 14 African countries -– and three quarters of them were bilingual or francophone. They all expressed enthusiasm for supporting French-language peacekeeping requirements –- and just today, one of the participants requested a UN assistance team to help select officers for UN missions.

The course falls within the Secretary-General’s aim of enhancing African police leadership and increasing their involvement in missions.

**Charles Taylor

Investigators from the Office of the Prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, together with police officers of the International Police Service of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and Monrovia city court security officers, searched properties of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

We have a press release that was issued late Friday that you can see in my office.

**Security Council

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


On Afghanistan, the head of the UN Mission there yesterday condemned the two recent attacks that have taken place on girls’ schools, which damaged school grounds and educational materials. Special Representative Jean Arnault called these deplorable acts cowardly and aimed at thwarting reconstruction and human development in Afghanistan.

We have more details in yesterday’s briefing notes from Kabul, which also mention that more than 1.3 million Afghans have so far registered to vote – including some 356,000 women and 956,000 men.


Early on Saturday morning, the Kosovo Police Service discovered an explosive device outside the Pristina headquarters of the UN Mission in Kosovo, which was later disarmed with the assistance of NATO’s Kosovo Force. No damage was caused and there were no injuries.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Harri Holkeri, condemned the action, which placed members of the public at risk, and he regrets that extremists continue to threaten the people of Kosovo with these actions. We have a press release with his remarks available upstairs.


Today in The Hague, an indictment was unsealed against two Croatian officials, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac, charging them with war crimes and crimes against humanity, the permanent removal of Serbs from the Krajina region and the plunder and destruction of Serb property.

We have more details in a press release on that.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

A press conference tomorrow: At 11 in this room, Shashi Tharoor, the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, will brief you on the film “The Interpreter”, that is being shot here at UN Headquarters, and he will be joined by the film’s director, Sidney Pollack.

**Noon Guest Tomorrow

I have already mentioned that Jan Egeland will join us tomorrow at the noon briefing concerning the flash appeal for Haiti.


And the United Nations Correspondents Association asked me to read the following announcement:

“Ricardo Ortega, a New York-based correspondent for the Spanish TV station Antena 3, and a member of the UN Correspondents Association, died on Sunday in Port-au-Prince, after being shot when gunfire broke out near the presidential palace, where he was covering a protest.

“Ortega came to New York in 2000, after more than 10 years of working in Russia and the former Soviet Union, where he covered extensively the Chechen conflict, work which brought him international acclaim.

“At 37, Ricardo was a veteran in covering armed conflict, most recently, Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The United Nations Correspondents Association extends its condolences and sympathy to his family and friends”.

That’s all I have for you. Any questions? Warren?

Questions and Answers

Question: On Haiti, Fred, the multidisciplinary assessment team that is going in and John Reginald Dumas’s trip later in the week; are they aimed solely at advising the Secretary-General on creating this peacekeeping force which he is bound to do within 90 days or are they also involved in the effort to stabilize Haiti and to plan for a new government?

Spokesman: The assessment team is a standard peacekeeping exercise prior to the setting up of a mission. So their role is exclusively to prepare for the follow-on force. Monsieur Dumas’s role as Special Envoy looks at the broader political picture. He expects his presence in Haiti to overlap with that of this team but his focus will be broader. Yes, Mark?

Question: Three relatively quick questions: One, is there any information that the UN has as to who might have planted the bomb in Kosovo and why? B, CARICOM calls for a UN investigation as to what happened in Haiti; does the Secretary-General have any views on that now? And C, an adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council is in town with his, you know, calls for transparency and opening the books on the “oil-for-food” programme. Is there anybody going to be meeting him from the UN Secretariat?

Spokesman: I’d have to refer you to the Kosovo Mission and to my former Deputy, Hua Jiang, who is the Spokeswoman there, because I have no further details, unless we can get something from the desk officer in DPKO, which we’ll try for you after the briefing. The CARICOM call for a UN investigation was in their statement; it has not been communicated to us formally and once that happens, we will react. And I am not aware of the Governing Council member who is in town...(Interrupted)

Question: He’s not a member. An adviser.

Spokesman: An adviser, or any request by that person to meet with our people. So, if the request comes, I’ll let you know once we’ve responded. Bill?

Question: Concerning an item in the morning headlines from the...

Spokesman: That’s not an official thing. That doesn’t exist.

Question: Okay, then in that case I will ask this question: Has the Secretary-General submitted a new plan for Israel, Syria and Lebanon that stresses the total cessation of mutual acts of violence, restraint of hostile actions committed from inside sovereign territory, the establishment of a monitoring committee and the resumption of direct negotiations on the basis of UN decisions?

Spokesman: No.

Question: Are you saying that the Ma'ariv article is wrong? This is from a Ma'ariv article.

Spokesman: Yes. The Secretary-General has submitted no plan. Yes, Mark?

Question: Fred, since I’ve been away for a few days I may have missed this, but is Kieran still in Cyprus? And what’s the SG’s reaction to the remarks of Mr. Denktash saying that the Greek side is likely to reject all those changes?

Spokesman: No, Mr. Prendergast came back the end of last week. He reported to the Secretary-General midday Friday on what he had observed in the course of last week’s talks. And we won’t be commenting on anything that either side says publicly. The negotiations continue and we have every hope that they will conclude successfully.

Question: Is there a plan to go back either by Mr. Prendergast or...?

Spokesman: I am not aware that Mr. Prendergast has any plans to return; we’ll have to stay in touch to see. But I haven’t been told anything so far.

[He later corrected this, to say it was likely Mr. Prendergast would return to the talks next week.]

Question: Can you give us any sense of how things are going if you can comment on...?

Spokesman: No, no. But my advice would be not to be guided by public statements by the parties. Bill?

Question: Has the Secretary-General received any communication from the Iraq Governing Council concerning their desire to have the electoral team go over to Iraq or the return of Mr. Brahimi?

Spokesman: No. On the electoral team, our assumption was that they were waiting to conclude this law on the interim constitution, which was just signed this morning. So, we would expect some kind of formal request from them for electoral assistance. Mr. Brahimi has been in touch with various Iraqi actors from his vacation spot. And we’d have to get from him his sense of whether they want him to return. I wouldn’t expect that invitation necessarily to come in the form of a letter, but from his political judgement as to whether they wanted his help. So, I guess it’s no on both counts, but we would expect a written request for the electoral team; some kind of oral communication to Mr. Brahimi on his role. Yes?

Question: You had said that over the weekend the Secretary-General would take time to read the Walzer report. Has there been any initial action, reaction or any progress that you might be able to share with us?

Spokesman: No. They’re still studying it. He’s looked at it; but as I mentioned to you on Friday, I think, he has several senior advisers who are poring over it in detail to make recommendations to him.

Okay. Well, I’ll ask Noeleen Heyzer to come forward and take my chair.

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