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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

19 May 2004

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

Good afternoon.

**Security Council

The Security Council began its work today with the quarterly briefing on Iraq by the United States and the United Kingdom, in compliance with resolution 1483.

The public meeting was followed by closed consultations on Iraq.

And then under other matters, discussions were expected on the draft resolution on the Middle East introduced in yesterday’s consultations, which has been turned into “blue”.

Council members will also hold their monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General today.

**Iraq -- Brahimi

Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, met today with Ibrahim Mohammad Bahr al-Ulloum, Iraq’s current Oil Minister.

He also had an opportunity to meet with the leaders of Baghdad’s Provincial Council, who represent some 7 million Iraqis living around the capital.

Later in the day, he also briefed representatives of European Union countries in Iraq on his current mission.

**Iraq - Elections

The UN electoral assistance team in Iraq reports that it received more than 1,800 nominations for the top posts of an Independent Electoral Commission.

The nomination process was open to all Iraqis from 2 May to 15 May. And despite the security situation, names from all 18 governorates were received.

The UN is currently processing the nominations at a secure location to produce a short list of 20 nominees for seven Commissioner jobs and five nominees for the single post of Chief Electoral Officer. Those nominees are to be interviewed by a UN panel of international electoral experts to whittle the list down to 15 nominees for Commissioner and three for Chief Electoral Officer.

These final lists will then be submitted to the Iraqi Governing Council to rank the nominees, after which Ambassador L. Paul Bremer will appoint the top nominees in his capacity as the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), and that will be by 31 May.

**Volcker

One last Iraq-related note: Paul Volcker, the Chair of the Independent Panel on the “oil for food” programme, will be our guest at tomorrow’s noon briefing, and he will update you on the work of his Panel. Basically, I think the logistics of getting started rather than substance. But he will be happy to take your questions.

**Timor-Leste

Today in Dili, the Government of Timor Leste took over all responsibility for policing and external security from the UN Mission, in a colourful signing ceremony.

Kamalesh Sharma, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said, “This is an historic occasion and an important milestone in Timor-Leste’s history as an independent sovereign State.”

Sharma and other UN officials this afternoon signed documents with Timorese President Xanana Gusmão and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri that turn over security responsibilities to the Timorese.

At midnight, the current UN mandate in Timor-Leste expires, although the UN Mission will stay on with a reduced peacekeeping and civilian presence for another year.

**Kosovo

Regarding the investigation into the shooting incident at Mitrovica Detention Centre in Kosovo last month in which 11 people were killed, as we mentioned, investigations had centred on four Jordanian Special Police Unit officers for the offence of “refraining from providing help”. One of them was additionally investigated concerning possible charges of “assistance to commit aggravated murder” and “assistance to commit grievous bodily harm”.

The International Public Prosecutor has concluded that there are no reasonable suspicions that any of the four officers has committed any offence. Accordingly, the investigation against the four has terminated and the fourth officer has been released from detention –- the three others had earlier been released from detention after 15 days.

**Darfur

As the June rainy season approaches in Darfur, Sudan, UN humanitarian agencies and their non-governmental organization (NGO) partners are racing to bring aid to people in need.

There’s a press release with details of the efforts to bring food, shelter, cooking supplies and medical care to Darfur. UNICEF has expressed alarm at the vulnerability of displaced women and children among those displaced from their homes.

**WFP, Brazil and World Hunger

James Morris, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), is in Brazil for talks with top officials on strengthening its partnership with the Government to fight world hunger.

Last January, during a meeting in Geneva, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva proposed a World Alliance against Hunger and Poverty and signed a joint declaration with the Secretary-General, President Jacques Chirac of France and Chilean President Ricardo Lagos.

One of the objectives of the Alliance is to create a fund against hunger, which would be replenished with levies imposed on arms transactions, international financial operations or other financial mechanisms. Donor countries and the private sector would also participate with voluntary contributions.

**UNDP

From 3:00 to 8:00 this afternoon, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is holding a dialogue to celebrate the International Day for Biodiversity at Germany’s Permanent Mission to the UN.

UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown and German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger will present the prestigious Equator Prize to communities from Colombia, India and Namibia at that event.

UNDP has a press advisory on that upstairs with more details.

**Chinese Astronaut

Then finally, just a few minutes from now, the Secretary-General will meet China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei, in his office and will congratulate China on the success of its first manned space mission. He is expected to say that manned space flight is something that captures the hearts and minds of all people, regardless of creed or culture.

The Secretary-General will also receive from Colonel Yang the UN flags that he took with him on his space flight.

That’s all I have for you. Mark?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Would you like to comment on the leaked internal auditors’ report that the UN contract with Cotecna was absolutely riddled with mismanagement problems? Basically, Cotecna not doing what it was saying it was going to do.

Spokesman: Well, we’ve been saying all along that these internal audits are management tools. The undertaking in Iraq with the oil-for-food programme was massive and was a challenge. And we know we made our mistakes. But there was an internal corrective mechanism in the form of these regular internal audits. Now that you’ve seen the text, you see that it’s actually a dialogue between the auditors and the managers. So that OIOS was, OIP rather, was responding to OIOS and I believe that the cover letter of that internal audit is also included in the leak and it ticks off some 14 recommendations made by OIOS that were dropped because the OIP programme had responded.

So, they raise questions, OIP responds, corrects what they can. And very often there is disagreement. So, OIP may want to explain its position to OIOS; the procurement division might come in and explain its philosophy on contracts and disagree with the recommendation of OIOS. And so, it’s an ongoing dialogue. I think it’s probably healthy that you see how it works.

Question: But Fred, with all due respect, how do you expect anyone to believe a word the UN says when it only reacts to things that are leaked and doesn’t come up front and basically share information on the running of this programme?

Spokesman: I am sorry ...

Question: The UN has no credibility on this.

Spokesman: We ...

Question: Unless you’re willing to share these documents with us; give us these audits; explain what they are. At the moment, we just have a situation where we wait for the next leak and then the UN sits and scrambles to try and explain why it’s not hard-thought on that one. Why can’t you just share these documents with us, take us through them, and explain what’s going on?

Spokesman: You know the answer. I’ve answered that question before.

Question: Well, that answer is not good enough.

Spokesman: It’s not good enough to you. But all of this documentation has been given to Mr. Volcker. And equally important, I would say, every OIOS internal audit is also sent to the external auditors. So, this information is not just shared with managers, it’s shared with the external auditors. I think this is a responsible management procedure. And I have already given you my reasons why we don’t feel we can share 100 per cent of our documents with the press.

Question: Well, at this stage you don’t want to share them because they’re damaging.

Spokesman: I said to you that yes, we made mistakes. But this procedure is designed to correct the mistakes. And the interaction between the internal auditors and the managers is an educational process and a corrective process. It’s not something that has to be done in public.

Question: (Inaudible) ... some of this interaction and how it works and what happened often and when?

Spokesman: Given the allegations of impropriety, and we still don’t know whether they are true or not, we’ve turned over all the papers to a panel headed by Paul Volcker. He’ll be here tomorrow, you can ask him questions if you like. That’s as far as we’re willing to go now. I will relay your request once again, as I did when James Bone -– here he comes -– made a similar request. But as of now our position is unchanged. Colum?

Question: Fred, in this room a couple of months ago on another issue you described to me the structure of OIOS and how it was designed by the General Assembly to be independent of the Secretariat. It’s not clear to me how if it’s an independent internal body, how it is that the Secretariat is the one that determines the, you know, change of custody of documents; that you know, you can send out orders to various people who’ve been working with the United Nations and tell them that you know, they’re not able to share OIOS’s documents? I mean, is there any, you know, real, you know, separation and sort of executive authority that OIOS has over its own, you know, documents?

Spokesman: I don’t quite understand the thrust of your question, but OIOS ... (Interrupted).

Question: You told me a while back that OIOS is independent of the Secretariat. The Secretariat is making the decision about whether or not to release OIOS documents. How is that independent?

Spokesman: It’s OIOS that has determined their policy on release of documents. The head of OIOS decides what information needs to be given to the General Assembly, and what can be given simply to the managers as a management tool. And as I mentioned before you came in, those internal reports to managers are also given to the external auditors. So, there is an extra level of control there. What I was expressing to you on behalf of the Secretariat was merely a decision taken by OIOS regarding their own documentation.

Question: Does the Secretary, the leadership (inaudible) would make, in its own internal deliberations about its documents policy, will make no decision or will have no sort of impact on OIOS’s decision? I mean, you’re saying that the Secretariat is simply responding to an OIOS policy on documents; that this is not a policy of the Secretariat?

Spokesman: OIOS has a very precisely defined policy on documentation. You said that the Secretariat is deciding what can be released and what can’t of OIOS documents, and I am telling you no, it’s OIOS that has decided that. And I was just communicating to you the OIOS position. I mean, ask Dileep Nair if you want to know what his policy is. And ask him whether the Secretary-General has imposed a policy on him that’s unacceptable to him. I am sure he will tell you that’s not the case. James?

Question: So, Fred, it would be very nice if Dileep Nair would come down to this briefing and explain this policy, rather than have it explained by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, considering that the Spokesman for the Secretary-General is a spokesman for somebody who is involved in the investigation because of the allegations that this Secretary-General’s son works for one of the companies that was awarded a contract ... (Interrupted).

Spokesman: Let’s not smear the Secretary-General or his son ... (Interrupted).

Question: No, because it’s a factual statement. Are you saying ... (Interrupted)?

Spokesman: It’s not factual until it’s been investigated. It’s only an allegation.

Question: Are you saying it’s not factual that the Secretary-General’s son worked for a company that was awarded a UN contract? Is that not factual?

Spokesman: We have responded to this, James. He was a junior management trainee ... (Crosstalk) ...

Question: ... credible investigation going on, is what we’re saying. We seem to be having ...

Spokesman: ... working in West Africa, having nothing to do with the company’s relations with the United Nations.

Question: I understand the position, Fred. Are you saying then, that the role of the Secretary-General’s son is not within the ambit of the Volcker enquiry or OIOS investigations?

Spokesman: No, I am not saying that. It’s up to Mr. Volcker to decide what he’s going to investigate. And there has been such a brouhaha made over the Secretary-General’s son, unfairly, in my view, but let’s let Mr. Volcker decide. I assume he would want to look at that, but you can ask him tomorrow when he comes in here.

Question: But my point then, Fred, is that given that we all have an open mind on the question of the Secretary-General’s son and the role of the Secretary-General’s son, is it appropriate that, given that that might or might not fall within the ambit of both the OIOS investigation and the Volcker investigation, the Secretary-General’s own Spokesman should be conveying to us decisions on the release of documents that could be relevant to that investigation?

Spokesman: I’ll be happy to ask Mr. Nair to give you personally his policy on release of his documents.

Question: And similarly, is Mr. Volcker entitled to make his own decision about the release of any UN documents? Or does he have to somehow bow to the decisions of the Secretariat?

Spokesman: The Secretary-General has said that Mr. Volcker may make public any of the documentation that we have given him, that he feels is consistent with his objectives in this investigation.

Question: In the case of the letter to Saybolt; telling them that they are not allowed to release the internal audits; which is, I don’t know why Saybolt would have that, but that was part of that letter. Why is that coming from OIP and not from OIOS if it has, you know, if it’s the one who has authority over its own documents?

Spokesman: The OIP, Office of Iraq Programme, had been dealing with these contractors. Saybolt, Cotecna and so on. Those contracts provided for the confidentiality of documentation. The purpose of these series of letters that went out to the contractors and the oil inspectors was to tell them that as a result of an investigation that was getting under way, a reminder of the contractual obligations to maintain the confidentiality of the documents and to secure the documents for the purposes of the investigation. If you look at the full collection of letters, including the Secretary-General’s letter to Congressman Hyde, you’ll see the big picture. It was an anticipation of the establishment of this panel that those actions were taken.

Why was it done out of OIP? Because OIP had been the one that had issued the contracts.

Question: But was there not at that very time an OIOS investigation under way? Was not the letter from OIP an obstruction to the investigation of OIOS? I mean, you have a body that’s being investigated telling the people involved in helping the investigation what they can or cannot release?

Spokesman: But I just said it was in anticipation of the creation of the independent panel which would have suspended any action by OIOS and OIOS was then to turn over to the independent panel anything that they had done, that we took this action. But ... (interrupted).

Question: (inaudible) ... speaks for itself. But I was just wondering on the question of the internal report. So, who would have had this report that is being leaked? I am just trying to get a sense of where, who actually had copies of that report?

Spokesman: I can’t give you a specific list. But it is ... (interrupted).

Question: Well, I mean, is it just the Secretary-General’s office? Or is it OIP? Or is it all Member States? Or is it every ...? How widely are these reports disseminated?

Spokesman: No. The internal audits don’t go to Member States. They’re rather generously shared as necessary within the Secretariat.

Question: So, who within the Secretariat gets it?

Spokesman: I can’t give you ...

Question: Why not?

Spokesman: Because I am not the manager of the programme and I don’t walk around with pieces of paper like this with these details. I will see if I can give you some sense, if not a specific list, but some sense of the degree to which it was shared.

Question: Fred, can you tell us ...

Spokesman: ... Of course, I am just adding to the list of people that you can hit to try to get more leaks.

Question: ... Was there any follow-up action taken with regard to Cotecna following this internal audit?

Spokesman: Yes.

Question: I mean, was there any attempt to cut the extra payment, per man payments or cut their inflating the contract?

Spokesman: There was no extra per man payments. That is misconstruing of the report ... (Interrupted).

Question: If we then received the report, we could judge for ourselves where what was accurate and what wasn’t. This is the problem we face, that we’re basically navigating in the dark here, because we don’t have the basic information. So, any salacious allegation that’s made is out there. We don’t have any way to verify or otherwise deal with it.

Spokesman: I understand your predicament and I’ve told you why we’re insisting on maintaining the confidentiality of our documents. But on the ... (Interrupted)

Question: But they are not being maintained!

Spokesman: That’s true. But on the ...

Question: (Two correspondents addressing Spokesman at the same time) ... against journalists when we’re trying to do our job. I mean ... You were complaining ... The other day you complained that I have (Inaudible) in the media. And you just suggested that I am smearing the Secretary-General’s son by mentioning a factual statement, which I believe is a factual statement that his son worked for a company that received ... (Interrupted)

Spokesman: But is it a relevant statement? That’s the question, you see. Everyone keeps saying that because ... (Interrupted).

Question: So, if there is a problem in the contract as revealed in internal documents, it becomes more relevant, Fred. It becomes more relevant if there is something fishy about the award of the contract to Cotecna. In this thing that’s leaked in the Wall Street Journal today casts additional doubt on the award of the contract to Cotecna. It apparently, and I haven’t seen the document, it apparently suggests that the low bid was immediately inflated back up to the price of the second low bid. Now, that may be inaccurate, I don’t have the document to say that or not. But it does raise additional questions about the role of the Secretary-General’s son in this whole thing.

Spokesman: Well, we’ll let the investigation look into that. As far as the adjustment of contracts, that is routine. It is provided for in our own financial regulations that fixes a cap as to the percentage that any given contract can be adjusted. The fact that the Cotecna contract was adjusted upward to take into account additional resource requirements only would have meant that the next lowest bidder would also have to take additional requirements into account.

Question: The problem here is that you’re acting into two hats: You’re acting as the spokesman for the investigation at the same time as you’re acting as a Spokesman for the Secretary-General, defending the Secretary-General’s son’s involvement in this whole thing or otherwise. It doesn’t really work like that.

Spokesman: How am I speaking for the investigation? I am just announcing that Mr. Volcker will come here tomorrow to speak to you. Where else would you like him to speak to you? This is the most convenient place for you. If you want more separation, take that up with him tomorrow. But I am just passing on an announcement his office gave me yesterday and asked me to make.

Question: But you have been announcing UN policies on the release of documents, for instance. And explaining why OIP was writing letters asking people not to provide information, not just documents.

Spokesman: But OIP is part of the Secretariat. Why would I not explain their policies?

Question: But you’re also acting as spokesman for OIOS, because you said those decisions on those documents are taken on behalf of OIOS, and OIOS was for a period in this whole thing an investigative body.

Spokesman: But I have already said that we’ll get OIOS to come and tell you directly what their policies are.

Question: I’d be very happy to have somebody from Mr. Volcker and somebody from Mr. Nair’s office come to the briefing on a regular basis so we don’t have to ask you questions that you’re not in the best position to answer.

Spokesman: Okay. Well, you can raise that with Mr. Volcker tomorrow. Mr. Nair is out of the country this week. But we’ll relay it to him this afternoon your request to hear from him directly.

Question: So, is it UN policy to continue to wait until these documents are leaked and then continue not to share the information with journalists and then criticize journalists for not giving the whole picture? Is that the UN policy?

Spokesman: That’s not the UN’s policy ...

Question: But it sounds like it to me.

Spokesman: That’s a distortion. Big organizations can’t prevent leaks. But our policy isn’t going to be based on leaks. Our policy I think is based on responsible protection of confidentiality ... (interrupted).

Question: (Inaudible) ... something that shouldn’t have gone out, why can’t the policy be to be transparent?

Spokesman: I will relay that view upward.

Question: And Fred, it’s offensive of the UN Spokesman to attack the press for the coverage of this thing when the UN is refusing to provide information and the OIOS documentary information being provided by the Iraqi Governing Council; which raises serious questions. It’s offensive of the UN to criticize the press for investigating legitimate accusations by a body that is being recognized by the Security Council.

Spokesman: I am not criticizing the press’s investigation. Frankly, all official organizations depend on you to keep us on the straight and narrow path. I was referring to, I think, some unjustified conclusions about the Secretary-General; about his son, that I think some politically-motivated people have been putting out in Op-Ed pieces and so on. I have already relayed your request that we go totally transparent; have nothing confidential in the UN system and make all ... (Interrupted).

Question: No. The ... (Inaudible) question is documents that were made available to members of the 661 Committee, i.e., 15 countries, should also be made available to the press. (Another correspondent joining in: And also the audits be made available). The internal audits. External audits were made available to the 661 Committee. At the minimum we’re requesting that documents that have already been shared with 15 countries would also be shared with the press.

Spokesman: I have heard you and I have relayed your request. Richard?

Question: Staying in the potential scandal area or arena, will the Secretary-General meet with Rudd Lubbers and ask for his personal accounting of allegations made by a woman in Geneva and as reported, potentially others, so that he can hear exactly what will happen? And should there be a report, will Mr. Annan dismiss Mr. Lubbers should there be evidence of misconduct?

Spokesman: Well, we’re not going to go into the hypothetical area. On your first question, I don’t know if he is going to see Mr. Lubbers tomorrow. We’ll probably find that out later today. But he has spoken to Mr. Lubbers by telephone yesterday. [The Spokesman later confirmed that Mr. Lubbers would meet with the Secretary-General tomorrow.]

Question: On this, what is considered acceptable behaviour? Is a man putting his hand on a woman’s sexual organs or related areas, is that considered acceptable? I mean, I am trying to get a definition of what is okay. There are plenty of people who walk around in this Building, UN employees who I know, regularly stroke women’s hair and so forth. What is acceptable here and what are the guidelines on that?

Spokesman: Your first example is clearly unacceptable. As for the protocol, we’d have to talk to the personnel department as far as what might be in existence as far as formal guidelines of formal acceptable behaviour. I don’t know that off the top of my head.

Question: Before we were cut off, can you elaborate on that phone call? I think you were about to say a little bit more ...?

Spokesman: No, I wasn’t going to. I mean, I have no details about what was discussed. I can just tell you that they spoke by phone yesterday. Mohamed?

Question: Fred, I have a question about the electoral commission. CPA and Mr. Bremmer have (inaudible) or vetoed all the nominees, 25 nominees that the United Nations submitted to it. And if your question is positive, what would be the cost of printing 600,000 brochures, posters and United Nations team and others?

Spokesman: No, they may not add names to the list. So, that we give them the list and they must choose from that list. So, those are the guidelines.

Question: Fred?

Spokesman: Yes?

Question: Another questions on oil-for-food: Is the Secretary-General aware of any relationship between Boutros Boutros Ghali and Africa Middle East Petroleum in Panama that was dealing with oil-for-food contract; oil under oil-for-food?

Spokesman: I know nothing about that. And I’d have to ...

Question: Is there any way that the Secretariat can seek a comment from Boutros Boutros Ghali about that?

Spokesman: I think now that he is no longer head of this Organization, I don’t think that I am in a position to put that question to him. But I mean, it’s easy enough for you to track him down and put the question to him yourself. David?

Question: I am sorry I might have missed it earlier. On Rwanda, you know that there was an expectation that you might have the conclusion of the black box enquiry?

Spokesman: Oh, yes. On that, OIOS told me yesterday that they are drafting a report but it’s not going to be ready till Monday. So ... (Interrupted)

Question: Are they going to publish it ...?

Spokesman: They have a large technical report and I believe that they are going to boil it down to the essence and submit it to the General Assembly. I think that’s their intention. Yes?

Question: Fred, who appoints the external auditors, and do external auditors have the authority to share documents with Member States or the reverse?

Spokesman: I’d have to get the appointment procedure. I don’t know what it is. Their reports are ... I don’t know. I better not speak. Let me look into both your questions. Richard?

Question: Who will determine the next UN security chief and what qualities does the Secretary-General want in this difficult security environment for that post?

Spokesman: The Secretary-General will choose. It’s a valid question because since 19 August last year our perception of security has changed fundamentally in that where we might before have assumed that in the conduct of humanitarian work we would not be a target, it now seems that for political reasons we could be a target. And I assume that will affect the choice. In the past, as you know, the Security Coordinator of the UN has been a manager, but not necessarily a security expert. And I suspect that’s about to change. Yes?

Question: (Inaudible), I mean it seems to be the tradition in the UN that appointments to senior positions like this are generally people who don’t have a great deal of expertise in those area. And, Benon Sevan had done management, I mean within the UN system. But, you know, this is essentially running a major oil economy. And you could go across, there has been lots of positions in the UN where people are primarily selected, you know, on the basis of sort of their political affiliation, that sort of thing. I mean, is there any sense that this decision on the Security Coordinator is just a one off thing or is there really going to be any fundamental re-thinking about the qualifications that people must have for senior positions in the Organization?

Spokesman: I don’t accept your premise there. The Secretary-General always looks for the best-qualified people. So, if it’s an economic post, he looks for someone who is distinguished in economics. I haven’t heard criticism of this Secretary-General for giving in to governments or others to make political appointments of people who have no qualifications.

On Benon Sevan and the oil-for-food programme, I doubt there was anyone in the UN system who had experience managing something as large as oil-for-food because we had never undertaken an undertaking that large or handled such large amounts of money. We thought we had adequate systems in place for auditing and controlling. And now that questions have been asked about that, we’ll see what Mr. Volcker’s investigation produces. But do you really think that we’ve been naming unqualified political ...? Please don’t name names.

Question: I don’t want to name names. But I mean ...

Spokesman: Okay.

Question: On security, what’s the status of this Boswell report?

Spokesman: Of which report?

Question: This security, it’s called the Boswell report, right? Basically looking into the whole security system. How is it working? How is it going and when is it due out?

Spokesman: I’d have to check. I don’t know. [He later said the Secretary-General would submit a report to the General Assembly in the fall.]

Before we finish, can I just read a statement on Gaza that I was handed while I was here, attributable to the Spokesman:

**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General

“The Secretary-General strongly condemns the killing and injury of Palestinian demonstrators in southern Gaza today. He calls on Israel to immediately halt the military operations. The killing of peaceful demonstrators, many of them women and children, has distressed the Secretary-General, who sends his deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims. The Secretary-General has repeatedly warned Israel, including yesterday via his Middle East envoy, that it must abide by its obligations as an occupying Power, which include protecting the civilian population and eschewing the disproportionate or indiscriminate use of force.”

Thank you very much.

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