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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

18 May 2004

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

Good afternoon.

**Brahimi

The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, this morning attended the funeral of Ezz el-Din Salim, the head of the Iraqi Governing Council who was assassinated yesterday.

Following speeches by the new head of the Council, Sheikh Ghazi el Yawer, and US Administrator Paul Bremer, Brahimi spoke to express his personal condolences and those of the United Nations to Salim’s family.

In speaking to the mourners, Brahimi explained that he had gotten to know Salim well over the last 10 days. He called him a true patriot who was acutely aware of the suffering and aspirations of his fellow Iraqis. Salim worked selflessly to restore sovereignty and rebuild his country, Brahimi said, but in the end he gave his life for that country.

Following the ceremony, which took place on the grounds of the Governing Council, Brahimi met with the Governor of Al Anbar province, Abdel Karim Bergis. He also met with the head of Iraq’s Central Bank, Sinan el-Chebibi.

Lastly, Brahimi and his team met with Ambassador Paul Bremer and his advisers.

**Gaza

On Gaza, Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Middle East Envoy, says he is very alarmed by the death and destruction wrought by the ongoing Israeli military operation in the southern Gaza Strip.

Reports say that among the mounting casualty count are many civilians and some children under 16 years of age.

In a statement issued today, Roed-Larsen calls on Israel, as the occupying Power, to act under the framework of international law, most critically in the protection of the civilian population.

The envoy reminds the Government of Israel that it has the responsibility to give free access to humanitarian workers, and that if the fighting escalates, which will further endanger civilians, Israel must allow for search and rescue operations. Copies of that statement are available upstairs.

**UNRWA

On the ground, UNRWA, the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees, tells us that many Palestinian families are leaving the Rafah camp and are

heading north to Khan Yunis, fleeing the fighting and fearing further demolition of homes by Israeli forces.

As many as 500 people have already taken refuge in UNRWA schools in Rafah.

UNRWA has prepositioned emergency supplies such as blankets, mattresses and food at two schools in Rafah to be used as reception centres for people fleeing and/or becoming homeless.

**Security Council

The Security Council has scheduled consultations at 4 o’clock this afternoon to consider a request for an immediate meeting to consider what the Chairman of the Arab Group describes as “the grave and ongoing Israeli violations and breaches of international law, in particular the widespread demolition of Palestinian homes in the Rafah area, and to take the necessary measures in this regard”.

**Legal Counsel

We have an appointment to announce today. The Secretary-General has decided to appoint Nicolas Michel of Switzerland as the new Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and UN Legal Counsel.

Most recently, Mr. Michel has acted as Director of the International Law Directorate in the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. He is currently Chairman of the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law of the Council of Europe. And we have a full bio available upstairs.

**Darfur

On Darfur, the latest UN humanitarian profile of Darfur, Sudan, states that there are now in excess of 2 million conflict-affected people, as compared to
1.1 million people in the previous update of April 2004.

The most recent update posted on ReliefWeb also reports that a senior UN humanitarian official was deported from South Darfur, and a UN vehicle carrying food, clearly marked with World Food Programme (WFP) signs, came under attack by the Janjaweed militia last week.

In that attack, two bags of WFP grain were looted; the WFP-hired truck driver was robbed, beaten and subsequently hospitalized. The government drivers were also beaten, robbed, and one of the drivers was shot and injured.

Meanwhile, UNICEF said that in Chad, the countdown has begun to the start of the rainy season for humanitarian agencies helping the estimated 137,000 Sudanese refugees in the eastern part of the country. In the rainy season, aid deliveries would become almost impossible.

**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

I have the following statement regarding the activities of Maurice Strong in the KoreanPeninsula:

“Mr. Maurice F. Strong will visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General from 18 to 22 May to continue the Secretary-General’s initiative aimed at supporting the Beijing process and assisting multilateral efforts to negotiate diplomatically a comprehensive solution to the problems in the Korean Peninsula. While in Pyongyang, Mr. Strong will discuss with the DPRK government officials possible ways in which the Secretary-General might be able to further help in that regard, as well as humanitarian and economic aspects of the situation.”

**Security Council – Presidential Statement on Peacekeeping

The Security Council yesterday –- for those of you who didn’t stay around until 8 o’clock or whenever it was that the debate finished. At the end of yesterday’s day-long debate on peacekeeping, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement.

The statement calls on Member States to contribute sufficient levels of trained troops, police and civilian personnel, and also calls on them to ensure the UN is provided with full political and financial support to meet challenges effectively.

The Council invites the Secretary-General to provide regular assessments of evolving needs in UN peacekeeping in order to identify critical gaps and unmet requirements.

**Berlusconi

As many of you have been asking us about, and as you know, the Secretary-General will be meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi this afternoon.

Immediately following the meeting, they will hold a short press encounter in the Secretary-General’s conference room.

There are a limited number of spaces available. So, those journalists wishing to attend should contact the Media Liaison Office on the second floor.

**Northern Uganda

The UN team in Uganda condemns an attack by the rebel group known as the “Lord’s Resistance Army” on a camp for internally displaced persons in northern Uganda in which 39 people were killed and 17 injured.

UN humanitarian officials together with partners from non-governmental organizations went to the camp yesterday.

The number of persons internally displaced by fighting in northern Uganda and in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection has increased from 600,000 to over 1.8 million. We have a press release on that upstairs.

**Liberia

The World Food Programme has warned that, unless immediate donations are received, it may be forced to cut back on its food assistance to hundreds of thousands of Liberians.

**Guéhenno Travelling to DRC

From the Peacekeeping Department, we’re told that the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, will begin a weeklong working visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the subregion starting tomorrow.

Guéhenno will meet with Congolese authorities to assess the status of the transitional process in the DRC and to urge the parties to continue their implementation of the Global All-Inclusive Agreement. He will travel to Bunia, Bukavu and Uvira, in the east of the country, to review the deployment of the UN Mission’s Ituri and Kivu Brigades.

And after the DRC, Guéhenno is scheduled to travel to Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa.

**WHO/US AIDS Therapy

The World Health Organization today welcomed the US Government’s accelerated process for approving HIV/AIDS therapy drugs, which it says will make it easier for people in the developing world to receive simple and effective drugs. We have more information on that upstairs.

**Decolonization Seminar

The UN’s Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization opened today in Papua New Guinea.

In his message to the seminar, the Secretary-General noted that despite the Organization’s proud historic accomplishments in the field of decolonization, the job is incomplete, with 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining on the UN’s list.

It is the duty of the UN and the international community to bring the process of decolonization to a successful conclusion, he said. He hoped that the seminar would help to devise strategies to support the Territories in their quest for self-determination. We have the full text of that upstairs.

**Chinese Astronaut

For space fans, Yang Liwei, the Chinese astronaut who performed his country’s first space flight last year, will meet the Secretary-General tomorrow and will present him with a UN flag that had been on board his flight. In an event beginning tomorrow afternoon at 12:30, the Secretary-General will receive the UN flag from Yang and will make brief remarks.

**Press Conference Today

And finally, a press conference. This afternoon at 3:40 in this room, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis of Greece will meet with you following his meeting with the Secretary-General.

That’s all I have for you. Richard?

Questions and Answers

Question: There were reports of an Iraqi delegation’s coming to New York. Do you have any information on that?

Spokesman: No, we have no official information on any programme of an Iraqi delegation in New York at this time. Edie?

Question: Fred, did you ever get a response to Bill Horner’s question from last Friday about the Staff Union’s request for an independent investigation of the OIOS?

Spokesman: No, I didn’t. I mean, in fairness to him, I did send the copy of the resolution adopted by the Staff Union upstairs asking for guidance. But to date I haven’t gotten it. As soon as I get, I’ll let you know. Yes, sir?

Question: About the agenda of the meeting between Mr. Annan and Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, could you give us some information about this?

Spokesman: Sorry, we don’t have that information normally in advance. To the extent it’s helpful, we try to give you a bit of a readout afterwards. If you’d like such a readout, we’ll try to get one for you. Richard?

Question: I know this wasn’t occurring here, but there was an allegation against Ruud Lubbers. You know, it’s on the Web site, but are you able to tell us the official reaction from the UNHCR head to this allegation of sexual harassment allegedly made?

Spokesman: All we have is the text of the statement released by Lubbers in Geneva. I can read it for you, if you want. He says:

“It has been brought to my attention by Dileep Nair, the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight, Office of Internal Oversight Services, that a complaint about sexual harassment has been filed against me by a UNHCR staff member.

“The complaint refers to a formal meeting in my office on 18 December 2003. The meeting was attended by five other staff members. The complaint was filed on 27 April of this year, more than four months after the alleged harassment. In that meeting of last 18 December there was no improper behaviour on my part.”

So, that was issued by his spokesman in Geneva today.

Question: What’s the status of the...? What happens? Who is investigating it?

Spokesman: Well, as you can tell from the text of the statement, OIOS has opened an investigation. But they don’t comment, in fact, they don’t even confirm that they are conducting such investigations. So, you have more information from Mr. Lubbers than you would from OIOS.

Question: And a subject you may not want to go into based upon what we talked about earlier in the week. But was there an official closure or announcement on the black box?

Spokesman: The report is in from the analysts in Ottawa and OIOS has drafted an executive summary of the complete technical report. And now the 38th Floor is deciding when to release that executive summary to you and whether to release any additional information to you. But I think you’ll probably be getting it tomorrow.

Thank you very much.

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