DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
10 May 2004
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Guest at Noon
Our guest at today’s briefing will be the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator for the UN system, Jan Egeland. And he will be talking to you about his recent trip to Colombia, during which he examined the humanitarian situation there, and in particular the plight of internally displaced persons. He will be coming up here once I am finished.
**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General
We have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman regarding the death of the Chechen President:
“The Secretary-General was dismayed to learn of the terrorist attack in Grozny on Sunday which took the life of Akhmad Kadyrov, President of the Republic of Chechnya, and a number of others who were with him at the time. He extends his deepest condolences to the Government of the Russian Federation and to the families of the victims. Such acts can never be justified. They can only delay the return to peace and justice in Chechnya.”
**Security Council - Consultations
The Security Council President, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, opened this morning’s Council meeting with an expression of condolences on behalf of Council members in the wake of the Sunday terrorist attack in Grozny.
Following the open meeting, Council members are expected to go into consultations to discuss a draft presidential statement on the attack.
**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General
This statement, attributable to the Spokesman, is on Nigeria:
“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned over reports of growing communal clashes in Nigeria, and condemns the attacks in the village of Yelwa in PlateauState where hundreds of people lost their lives last week.
“The Secretary-General welcomes the concerted efforts of the authorities and the affected communities not only to investigate the Yelwa killings with a view to bringing those responsible to justice, but also to promote the peaceful resolution of disputes. He appeals for swift action to ensure the rule of law, and to promote reconciliation, and supports the Government’s efforts to protect the safety of all citizens throughout the country.”
Lakhdar Brahimi has been very busy over the past three days, continuing his consultations with a wide spectrum of Iraqi society.
On Saturday, he had a meeting with the Governing Council, chaired by this month’s president, Ezzeldin Selim. For over 90 minutes, they discussed proposals for the caretaker government to which sovereignty would be transferred on 1 July. Brahimi listened to their views and answered all their questions regarding the political transitions.
His meetings over the weekend included a number of ministers, tribal leaders, representatives of professional groups and business leaders.
**Iraq - Electoral
Also on Iraq, on Friday we put out a press release from the UN Electoral Assistance Division regarding the nomination process for the independent electoral commission.
Nominations for the posts are already being received through manual submission at governorate locations and via e-mail. Especially interested in the exercise have been women’s groups, academia, professional associations, political parties and other civil organizations.
To date, 5,000 nomination forms and 600,000 leaflets advertising the process have been distributed throughout Iraq. Another 5,000 forms are to be distributed shortly. Iraqis are encouraged to photocopy and widely distribute more of the nomination forms to interested people.
We have a press release on that upstairs.
**Security Council – Timor-Leste
The Security Council today was briefed in an open meeting on the situation in Timor-Leste, with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Kamalesh Sharma, making his final appearance before the Council in that role.
Sharma noted the Secretary-General’s proposal to the Council to keep the UN Mission in Timor-Leste, which is set to expire at the end of this month, for an additional year. He expressed his satisfaction that the Timor-Leste Mission has been widely seen as successful.
Sharma said that considerable progress has been made in the orderly downsizing of the Mission and added that the Mission’s military component has continued to draw down smoothly. We have copies of his statement available upstairs.
The UN Mission in Timor-Leste, meanwhile, informed us that an international judge working for the Special Panel for Serious Crimes issued an arrest warrant today for General Wiranto, Indonesia’s former defence minister.
The Special Panel, which is an independent court, had indicted Wiranto and seven other senior officials in February 2003, for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor in 1999. The indictment charged Wiranto with command responsibility for murder, deportation and persecution.
Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN’s Middle East envoy, is in Beirut today to meet with senior Lebanese officials, including Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and the Speaker of the Parliament, Nabih Berri. In separate meetings, he briefed them on the recent Quartet meetings held here in New York.
Roed-Larsen also reiterated the Secretary-General’s position on the Palestinian track, meaning that final status issues should be resolved between the parties and the parties alone, within the framework of the Road Map. It is important that these negotiations are not prejudged, he added. The full texts of Roed-Larsen’s press encounters are available upstairs.
According to figures released today by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA, the last 10 days have been one of the most intense periods of destruction of Palestinian homes by the Israeli military since the start of this intifada.
In the first 10 days of this month, Israel has demolished, or damaged beyond repair, 131 residential buildings in the Gaza Strip, creating 1,100 new homeless people.
Peter Hansen, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General said, “UNRWA condemns without reservation the 2 May killings, as it does the killing of innocent Palestinians and their children, as international law simply forbids collective punishment. The overwhelming majority of the more than 17,000 Palestinians who have lost their homes in Gaza since the start of the intifada have been guilty of nothing more than living in the wrong place at the wrong time.” We have a press release on that upstairs.
Some 1,000 people from around the world are beginning a two-week meeting at the United Nations today to focus on indigenous issues, in a session that the Secretary-General will open in the next few minutes in Conference Room 2.
The Secretary-General is to tell the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues that the past three decades have witnessed a sea-change in global attitudes towards promoting indigenous rights. Yet, he will warn that indigenous peoples continue to suffer from prejudice and ill will.
The theme of this year’s Forum is the vital role played by indigenous women, and this afternoon, at 3 p.m. in Conference Room 2, a high-level panel will discuss that issue. And we have press releases upstairs, along with embargoed copies of the Secretary-General’s speech.
From Afghanistan, there is news that a vehicle transporting national electoral field coordinators hit an explosive device on Saturday near Jalalabad, but the country's voter registration drive continues, the UN Mission reported yesterday. The Mission said the vehicle’s fuel tank burst, but the car’s five occupants managed to escape, with the driver suffering only minor injuries. An Afghan Government investigation into the blast is under way.
The Mission noted that, despite the explosion, voter registration is continuing in Afghanistan, and, as of Thursday, it hit an important milestone, with over 2 million Afghans registered. About 70 per cent of those registered are men. We have more details in the briefing notes from Kabul.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
In a speech given today in Kinshasa, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, William Swing, called on armed groups active in the country’s Ituri province to join, without restriction, the UN-backed process of pacification of the province.
The conflict in that particular region of the country has already claimed the lives of some 50,000 people and displaced at least half a million. We have a press release on that upstairs.
**UN/Sri Lanka/Zambia Relief
Turning now to humanitarian issues in Sri Lanka and Zambia. Nearly 80,000 Sri Lankan families need emergency food, seeds and fertilizer following poor rainfall on the island’s rice paddies. That’s one of the findings of a report released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme.
Meanwhile, the UN and other agencies are responding to humanitarian needs created by floods in Zambia that now affect more than 20,000 people. Emergency funds have been released for the purchase of necessities, and a multi-agency team –- which includes the UN –- will report back once its latest assessment of needs in the area is completed.
We have more information on those two topics in my Office.
The World Economic Forum is teaming up with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs on a joint effort to maximize business contributions to development and the fight against poverty.
That is the result of a memorandum of understanding signed today by Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo and Richard Samans, the World Economic Forum’s Managing Director for Partnership and Governance.
Samans and Oscar de Rojas, Chief of the UN Financing for Development Office, will brief you in this room on that agreement, at 12:45 p.m., just after we wrap up this briefing.
That’s all I have for you.
Richard, you didn’t make the trip down here just to sit there and look at me? Come on, you must ...
**Questions and Answers
Question: Brahimi is still on target for Tuesday next week here, I think, the 18th? Is there going to be a planned press conference with him? Do you know yet?
Spokesman: I don’t believe he is expected back Tuesday. Of course, we wouldn’t say in advance. But I don’t believe he is coming back that soon.
Question: Anything on the black box?
Spokesman: OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) told me Friday that the firm in Ottawa, Canada, that’s been listening to that tape over and over for, I don’t know how many weeks now, is very close to its final analysis. OIOS told me that they expected to have something for me to announce soon. But I don’t know whether that’s the next few days or longer. These things move very slowly.
Question: Has the State Department or the Washington environment contacted the Secretary-General’s Office regarding what kind of caretaker government they want Brahimi to do? A story out of Washington and on the weekend -- more political figures, less technocrats -- any comment on that?
Spokesman: We did speak to Brahimi’s spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, this morning, who was surprised by that article saying that Brahimi is, first, not in the business of naming ministers. Second, to my knowledge, he’s never used the expression “technocrats”. He said that the people in this caretaker government should not run for office when the elections come about next January. And they should be, above all, people of great integrity and competence. So, I think that’s pretty much a denial of that story. And if you wanted more information, I think you should speak directly to Fawzi. We have his number. [He later corrected himself, saying Brahimi had used the term technocrat at least once.]
Mr. Latortue is finished?
Spokesman: Good. Any other questions for me before we bring up Jan Egeland? Jan, come up and take the podium.
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