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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

20 May 2004

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

Good afternoon.

**Guest

Our guest at today’s briefing is Paul Volcker, the Chairman of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the Iraq “oil-for-food” programme. And he will be coming up here in just a few minutes after I finish my briefing to update you on the work of the Inquiry.

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

We’ll start with a statement attributable to the Spokesman on Côte d’Ivoire:

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the disturbing turn of events in Côte d’Ivoire over the past few days, in particular with regard to the recent announcement by the President of suspension of support to the opposition ministers and the announcement by the Forces Nouvelles that they are withdrawing their remaining staff from Abidjan to Bouaké.

“The Secretary-General wishes to reiterate his appeals to all Ivorian parties to stop mutual recriminations, to implement faithfully their commitments under the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement and to immediately resume political dialogue, with a view to ensuring the effective functioning of the Government of National Reconciliation. He calls on all parties concerned to desist from any action that may lead to further violence and confrontation, which would have tragic consequences for the people of Côte d’Ivoire and the West African region.

“The Secretary-General urges all parties in Côte d’Ivoire to cooperate with the Monitoring Committee and his Special Representative in the resumption of a meaningful dialogue and the resolution of outstanding issues on the basis of mutual respect and accommodation.”

**Brahimi

From Iraq, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, today met the representative in Iraq of the International Committee for the Red Cross, Pierre Gassmann.

Their discussion focused on the situation of detainees being held in Abu Ghraib and other prisons and detention centres in Iraq. In this connection, a number of issues were discussed including due process rights, the whereabouts of the detainees and the conditions of their detention.

Brahimi said he was concerned about the situation of the detainees and had raised these issues publicly, both in Baghdad and in his report to the Security Council last month (27 April). He urged the ICRC to engage with the new caretaker government to find solutions to all the outstanding problems regarding the detainees.

Brahimi also met a group of Iraqi former political prisoners, who had been imprisoned for over 10 years by the previous regime. They briefed him on the specific problems facing former political prisoners and the lack of progress in the rehabilitation and compensation of victims of past human rights abuses.

He also met a group of representatives of the Turkmen community.

Brahimi and his team have been in Iraq for two weeks to assist with the formation of the new interim government to which sovereignty will be transferred on 30 June 2004. He has been listening to the views of hundreds of Iraqis regarding the composition of this caretaker government, the idea of a national conference, and the electoral process.

Brahimi said he “trusts there is a good basis for consensus on a government that will effectively serve the interests of the Iraqi people for the forthcoming period of transition”. Brahimi will continue this process of broad consultation until consensus is achieved on the composition, structure and powers of the interim government.

**Security Council

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers gave an open briefing to the Security Council on the state of the world’s refugees, drawing attention to the humanitarian crises in Darfur, Sudan and West Africa.

He focused on how lines of conflict frequently run across State boundaries and in that context, urged the Security Council to pay greater attention to finding a formula for peacekeeping missions to operate in cross-border conflict situations, where appropriate and where endorsed by governments. He cited as an example Chad, where there are strong indications that armed elements are operating on both sides of the border with Sudan. Copies of his briefing are available in my office.

Ruud Lubbers said he would be available after the meeting at the stakeout microphone to take questions on his Council briefing.

**Security Council – Middle East

Late yesterday afternoon, the Security Council adopted a resolution expressing its grave concern at the destruction by Israel of homes in the Palestinian refugee camp of Rafah.

The resolution, which was adopted by a vote of 14 in favour, with 1 abstention, from the United States, calls on Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law and insist that it not destroy homes contrary to that law.

The text also calls on both parties to implement their obligations under the “Road Map”.

**Security Council - Yesterday

In consultations yesterday, a draft resolution on the International Criminal Court was introduced. Also on the subject of draft documents, a resolution on Burundi has been turned into “blue”.

**ManoRiverUnion

In a message to the Summit of the heads of State of the Mano River Union in Conakry, Guinea, the Secretary-General notes that as peace is being consolidated in Sierra Leone and gradually restored to Liberia, the time has come for the three-nation Union’s leaders to exercise the necessary political will to accelerate the development of their countries. He asked them to cut off the flow of small arms and light weapons, to curtail the use of child soldiers, to stop the smuggling of goods and the trafficking of drugs and people, and to address, decisively, the culture of impunity.

**Somalia

Senior UN officials dealing with Somalia today expressed their deep regret and concern about recent factional fighting in Mogadishu, which has claimed the lives of dozens of innocent civilians, including women and children.

Winston Tubman, the Secretary-General’s Representative for Somalia, and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Maxwell Gaylard said they were shocked by the scale and ferocity of the fighting in Mogadishu. At least 60 people are reported to have been killed and 200 injured, most of them civilians.

**Georgia

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Georgia, Heidi Tagliavini, chaired the third meeting of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides on security guarantees, today in the Georgian city of Sukhumi.

The Georgian and Abkhaz sides reiterated their commitment to the non-resumption of hostilities and the settlement of all disputes exclusively by peaceful means. The sides discussed some concrete aspects of the implementation of existing agreements on the KodoriValley and expressed their readiness to study new approaches and proposals.

Both sides welcomed Tagliavini’s initiative to convene a special high-level Georgian-Abkhaz meeting on maritime issues.

And they agreed to hold the next meeting on security guarantees in Tblisi on 15 September.

**Afghanistan

A two-day conference on police reconstruction in Afghanistan wrapped up yesterday in Qatar. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Jean Arnault, said that there is a common consensus among Afghans for a strong central government to be created to restore law and order and combat the misrule of local militias.

He added that, although much has been accomplished over the past two years, building a police force in Afghanistan remains a key task for the Afghan Government and its international partners. We have more details in today’s briefing notes from Kabul.

**Environment – Women, The Great Conservationists

On the environment, women are the world’s great unsung conservationists, often outpacing men in their knowledge and nurturing of domestic and wild plants and animals.

This is the focus of a new book published by the UN’s Environment Programme (UNEP). It notes that many species survive and remain in cultivation largely thanks to women who, especially in developing countries, are the farmers, the feeders and the caretakers in their communities.

The book, which contains case studies and anecdotes, will be launched today in the framework of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. And that event will take place in Conference Room 2 at 1:15.

**UNICEF - Soccer

Soccer: To mark the 100th anniversary of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, the head of the UN Children’s Fund, Carol Bellamy, said that FIFA has helped children by recognizing that soccer is more than just a game.

She says, “Soccer is one of the few things that children adore that is actually good for them. It teaches them peaceful ways to resolve conflicts, brings some normalcy to the lives of children affected by violence and natural disasters, and encourages physical and emotional development”.

In 2004, UNICEF and FIFA will focus on bringing attention to the security of children affected by conflict. Football will be used to help build a protective environment for children -– bringing communities together, rehabilitating former soldiers, providing safe places for children to vent frustrations and stress through play. We have more in a press release upstairs.

**UNICEF – Goodwill Ambassador

Lang Lang, the 21-year-old Chinese pianist who has dazzled audiences throughout the world with his musical brilliance and youthful exuberance, was appointed UNICEF’s newest Goodwill Ambassador today.

**Sexual Harassment

Some unfinished business from yesterday: I was asked yesterday how the UN defines sexual harassment. The administrative instruction issued to every staff member of the United Nations in 1992 reads as follows:

“Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when it interferes with work, is made a condition of employment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. It is particularly serious when behaviour of this kind is engaged in by any official who is in a position to influence the career or employment conditions (including hiring, assignment, contract renewal, performance evaluation or promotion) of the recipient of such attentions.”

**Iraq External Auditors

The second item yesterday asked about external auditors.

The External Board of Auditors is selected by the General Assembly. Three Member States are selected every two years, who provide the staff for that Board, which does a range of audits, including of the oil-for-food programme. In terms of the oil-for-food programme, the External Board of Auditors was required (under resolution 986) to audit the programme every six months, and send the results to the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General would then share those results with the Government of Iraq and with the Security Council.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

Finally, a press conference tomorrow: At 10:00, the Permanent Mission of Germany will be sponsoring a press conference by the NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court. And that regards Security Council resolution 1422 and 1487.

**Guest at Noon Tomorrow

And then our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Catherine Bertini, the Under Secretary-General for Management. And she will be here to update you on Organization’s financial situation.

Any questions before we go to Paul Volcker? Yes, Jim?

Questions and Answers

Question: Very quickly, the draft resolution of the Security Council on the International Criminal Court, is that going to be discussed in the Council tomorrow?

Spokesman: I’d have to check for you. I don’t know. Mark? [The Spokesman later announced that the President of the Council confirmed that the resolution was expected to be discussed in consultations tomorrow.]

Question: Does the Secretary-General support moves to roll over immunity for UN peacekeepers from the International Criminal Court?

Spokesman: He is not going to interfere in the Council’s deliberations on that matter. Yes?

Question: Fred, Ahmad Chalabi has again today accused the UN and Lakhdar Brahimi, in particular, of trying to re-Baathify, as he said, Iraq. How important is the re-Baathification of Iraq to the success of Brahimi’s mission?

Spokesman: Mr. Brahimi is trying to encourage consensus among Iraqis for a representative interim government. He has said in the past he thought that the de-Baathfication of Iraq was too extreme. But he has no formula for how many former Baathists should be included. He just thinks that he has to reach out to all factions in Iraq and put together an interim government of competent and honest people to carry though the transition until elections next January.

Question: One more on de-Baathification and re-Baathfication. To what extent would you say that Brahimi is convinced that future democratization of Iraq has to be sacrificed for the sake of stability by re-Baathifying Iraq?

Spokesman: I don’t think that he would say that re-Baathification is necessarily a key to stability or that it undermines the future independence and integrity of Iraq. Let him get on with his work. He is doing this work behind the scenes. He is trying to get Iraqis to choose their leaders. He is just helping. He is not naming names. He is asking them to agree on names. And let’s see if they can succeed by the end of this month, which is his goal. Yes?

Question: Do you know when the report on the investigation on the sexual harassment complaints against the High Commissioner will be finished? The report, when will it come out?

Spokesman: No. They never say when they expect those things to be finished. I know the High Commissioner has said he hopes it’s completed quickly. But the work is ongoing.

Question: And will he discuss it today in his meeting with the Secretary-General?

Spokesman: The purpose of that meeting is primarily to discuss the Darfur region of Sudan. I can’t exclude that this will come up. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question: Fred, is the Secretary-General concerned about the proliferation of the investigation panels and commissions at the United Nations?

Spokesman: He has created panels as necessary. And he will create more if necessary to see that this Organization’s integrity is protected both against unsubstantiated allegations, which we hope some of these investigations will clarify, clear up, and where there is guilt, he is prepared to take decisive action.

Mr. Volcker, do you want to come up?

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