DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
26 March 2004
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Today at about 9:45 a.m.New York time, the United Nations electoral team, headed by Carina Perelli, arrived in Baghdad. That team is made up of electoral experts with security support.
The Secretary-General is leaving New York tonight. He will arrive in Bürgenstock, Switzerland, tomorrow where the talks involving the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot parties are underway, with the participation also of Greece and Turkey.
The Secretary-General has asked that all concerned be in a position to make final commitments at Bürgenstock. He will be personally involved in the effort as it draws to an end.
The Secretary-General this morning said he has written to all the world’s heads of State and Government, asking them to honour the Rwandan Government’s request that the world observe a minute of silence on 7 April, to mark the Rwandan genocide.
That minute of silence would take place at noon, local time, in every time zone, on the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the genocide. The Secretary-General urged all people, everywhere, to set aside what they are doing at noon that day. He said, “Let us be united in a way we were not 10 years ago”.
Speaking to a memorial conference on the genocide, organized by Rwanda and Canada, the Secretary-General said he realized after the genocide that he would and should have done more to sound the alarm and rally support. That painful memory, he added, has influenced much of his thinking as Secretary-General. We have copies of his remarks upstairs.
The Security Council this morning unanimously approved three resolutions –- respectively, on the two war crimes tribunals, on the Counter-Terrorism Committee and on the UN Mission in Afghanistan.
It called on the tribunals dealing with Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to review their caseloads as they prepare their completion strategy and to report to the Council by 31 May on their progress in that effort.
That resolution also called on all States to intensify their cooperation to bring indicted persons to the Tribunals.
The second resolution says that the Counter-Terrorism Committee will now be assisted by an Executive Directorate. It also asked the Secretary-General to name the head of that Directorate within 45 days.
In the third resolution, the Council extended the UN Mission in Afghanistan for 12 months.
The Council then went into consultations on Sierra Leone. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Daudi Mwakawago, briefed Council members on the Secretary-General’s recent report on Sierra Leone. That report suggests that a residual peacekeeping mission be deployed in that country once the current UN Mission concludes its work at the end of this year.
Council members may also receive a briefing from the Secretariat on the recent developments in Côte d’Ivoire.
**Security Council -- Thursday
The Security Council yesterday failed to adopt a resolution on the Middle East, concerning the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, after the United States exercised its veto. The vote yesterday afternoon was 11 in favour, one against with three abstentions. The abstentions were by the United Kingdom, Germany and Romania.
The first group of displaced Liberian teachers has gone home under plans to resume basic services and restore normalcy for tens of thousands of returnees in post-conflict Liberia.
According to the UN refugee agency, this morning, the group of 47 teachers –- together with about 100 family members –- boarded trucks in Monrovia and left for Grand Gedeh county, in eastern Liberia.
They had fled their homes and jobs at a High School there at the height of the conflict last year.
According to UNHCR representatives in Liberia, the opening of schools by the Government is a symbolic first step towards nationwide, coordinated efforts for return and reintegration.
**Sudanese refugees in Chad
The UN refugee agency is also reporting heightened movement along the Chad-Sudan border.
Yesterday, UNHCR transferred the largest number of refugees in one day so far, in its operation to relocate tens of thousands of refugees from the volatile Chad-Sudan border to safer locations in the interior of Chad before the start of the rainy season. Convoys brought 1,336 refugees to five camps throughout the vast border region.
**Global environmental forum
The Global Ministerial Environment Forum will open next Monday in Jeju, in the Republic of Korea. More than 100 Environment Ministers are expected to gather for two days. They will discuss problems related to water, sanitation and human settlements, as well as ways to strengthen the UN Environment Programme’s scientific and technical capacities.
Monday’s opening session will include the launching of the 2003 Global Environment Outlook Year Book, which sets out the environmental milestones of the past year.
This year, the book focuses on the problems associated with the nearly 150 oxygen-starved or “dead zones” in the world’s oceans and seas.
**Rethinking of globalization
Terming it “ground-breaking”, the United Nations labour agency has welcomed a new report that calls for an “urgent rethink” of globalization to ensure that benefits are to be more fairly distributed.
During a two-week session in Geneva that ended yesterday, employer, worker and government representatives at the ILO said the report was a balanced and coherent analysis of the social impact of globalization.
The study, entitled: “A Fair Globalization: Creating Opportunities for All” was presented by the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization. It calls for increased development assistance and measures to improve governance and accountability, including fairer rules for international trade, investment, finance and migration.
**Press conference today
Shortly there will be a press conference in this room at 12:30 p.m. by Ambassador Inocencio Arias of Spain, in his capacity as Chairman of the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee. He’ll be here to talk to you about the work of that Committee.
**The week ahead at the United Nations
And we have The Week Ahead for you to help you in your coverage of the UN next week.
Questions and Answers
Question: Fred, can you bring us up to date on the oil-for-food? Yesterday you said that the Secretary-General hoped that he might have the names of the panel to give to the perm reps of the Security Council. Has that happened?
Spokesman: There is a development but we will not have the names of the panelists. That’s going to take us into next week. But the Secretary-General has decided to send the terms of reference to the Council by the end of today. So, a formal letter, as opposed to the draft that was circulated to them earlier this week. The formal letter will go by the end of today to the Council, laying out the terms of reference. And then the panelists, once they are identified, will be announced probably sometime next week.
Question: Is there anything different in the formal from the draft which we all have and some of us wrote about?
Spokesman: Members of the Council, meeting informally with the Secretary-General yesterday, had a few minor suggestions to make. So, I think you might find some minor changes in the text. Bill?
Question: Would one of those be the inclusion of the budget?
Spokesman: I have not seen the letter yet. I don’t believe that there is a budget estimate. So, it would be up to the Security Council, once it receives the letter, to react to it and indicate how it would want this effort paid for. We’re assuming it would be out of the regular budget. Yes?
Question: Fred, the Secretary-General is meeting with Ambassador Negroponte; could you please tell us about that meeting? What is it about?
Spokesman: I don’t know. I mean, I’d have to look into it. I don’t know who asked for it. We’ll see what we can find out for you. Yes? [He later said that the Secretary-General had requested the meeting, which was one on one.]
Question: The group that went to Baghdad, can you tell us how long they will be staying there and what is supposed to be done?
Spokesman: Well, what’s to be done is fairly straightforward: these are electoral experts, and the Iraqi Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority have asked the United Nations formally to help them plan for the elections that in their letter to us, said would take place before the end of next January. So, it’s a technical exercise. How long they will stay, for security reasons, we can’t tell you. Yes, Abdurrahim?
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any particular views on whether US forces in Iraq need a new UN resolution for staying beyond 30 June and does he feel the existing resolutions are adequate?
Spokesman: He does not have a view that I can share with you on that now. That’s a matter being discussed by the Council. Bill?
Question: Has the Secretary-General received any response to the request from the Governing Council for assistance on the oil-for-food investigation or any documents from the Coalition Provisional Authority?
Spokesman: I did get a call from the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) yesterday, but I need to get official confirmation. But I believe there was a letter received from the Iraqi Governing Council in response to Dileep Nair’s two letters to them. I don’t believe it contained any documentation. But it did respond to his request for cooperation in the investigation that OIOS is doing into possible wrongdoing by UN personnel working for the oil-for-food.
Question: Will they be able to provide details of that response shortly?
Spokesman: I don’t think OIOS goes into those kinds of details. But I’ll call them right after the briefing to see if we can get formal confirmation that a letter was received.
Question: Are they satisfied with the response they got?
Spokesman: I can’t characterize their response. I don’t think they want to go public with how they feel about this correspondence.
Question: Any follow-up on Côte d’Ivoire after the incident yesterday? Do you have anything new?
Spokesman: I have nothing on Côte d’Ivoire for you today. Is there something specific you’d like me to look into?
Question: After the incident…(Inaudible)
Spokesman: I’ll see if we have anything to give you afterwards. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: The electoral team is being accompanied by UN security. Is the Coalition Authority of the Governing Council or both also providing security on their side to this team?
Spokesman: They’re providing the primary security. So, we’re dependent on the CPA and the Governing Council for the security of this team. On the first visit to Iraq, the security measures taken by the CPA and the Governing Council were more than adequate. We had their full cooperation; but it’s still dangerous environment, as you know. Mark?
Question: Two things. First on Kosovo, Kofi Annan, -- last week was it? -- asked for a rethink about what was going on in Kosovo. Is there any progress, at least is there any thinking going on here at the Secretariat level about the nature of the UN mission there and possible changes in its format? And on Haiti, I think that the DPKO team has probably returned by now. I was wondering if there was any sense of what the thinking was as what the UN would be recommending for Haiti?
Spokesman: I think it’s safe to say that given the events in Kosovo –- the riots, the killings, and the destruction –- that a rethink is under way here. I don’t know if you noticed though that in the mission area, the four pillars of the Kosovo mission met to discuss the impact of these disturbances on the way they do their work. What they might have concluded, I can’t tell you.
On Haiti, the assessment team has started coming back but the main part of the team won’t return until over this weekend, and I can’t give you any preview of what they’re going to be drafting in the way of their report. Yes?
Question: A point of clarification on the oil-for-food. The Secretary-General has distributed these terms of reference, is looking for a nod. Has he received any initial indication and at what point will he consider the nod to have been given?
Spokesman: What he distributed was a draft and he discussed it with the members yesterday. And it’s for the members to tell you what their individual positions are. But there was across-the-board support for the investigation. The formal conveyance of the terms of reference will take place today, and then we will wait how the Council chooses to respond. Yes?
Question: The Israelis maintain that the killing of Sheikh Yassin was in self-defense. The Israeli Foreign Minister met the Secretary-General. Was the Secretary-General satisfied that it wasn’t something else?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General’s position on targeted killings has been stated and re-stated and re-stated. They are not legal. That’s his position. It’s true that he feels that Israel has a right to defend itself. But he would not condone targeted assassinations. They’re contrary to international law. Yes?
Question: Fred, any comment by the Secretariat regarding General Dallaire’s powerful statement this morning?
Spokesman: No. I know that General Dallaire was speaking in one of the two panels in today’s programme. I did not hear what he had to say and therefore I have no reaction.
I have one more item that I was just given on the Middle East. If I can read it into the record:
The heads of United Nations agencies may have to reduce or terminate some critical humanitarian relief operations in Gaza due to new movement restrictions imposed on UN personnel and humanitarian assistance by the Government of Israel.
We have a statement to be released today in Jerusalem and it will be made available upstairs, with more details concerning the restrictions and the agencies affected.
Thank you very much.
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