DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
24 May 2004
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Guest at Noon
Joining us today is Ambassador Luis Gallegos of Ecuador, the Chairman of the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee, which is drafting an international conventional on the rights of persons with disabilities. And he will be talking about the Committee’s two-week session, which begins today.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
I’ll start my briefing with a statement attributable to the Spokesman regarding the KoreanPeninsula:
“The Secretary-General welcomes the resumption of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)-Japan dialogue at the highest level as a timely and encouraging step. He hopes that the discussions between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission Kim Jong Il, which has helped to resolve some difficult issues, will lead to a normalization of bilateral relations. The Secretary-General is pleased to note the commitment of the two leaders to continue to resolve the nuclear issue within the Beijing process. This is also the message that his Personal Envoy Mr. Maurice F. Strong received during his visit to the DPRK last week. The Secretary-General is grateful for Japan’s decision to resume providing humanitarian aid to the DPRK, which has been the subject of special efforts by the United Nations.”
The Security Council is meeting in consultations to discuss a draft resolution on Iraq, which was introduced this morning.
Council members are also expected to discuss a new date for the vote and the open debate on the resolution regarding UN peacekeepers and the International Criminal Court. That meeting had been scheduled for today but was postponed at the request of the resolution’s sponsor.
**Brahimi - Meetings
The consultations of Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor, continue.
His activities in Iraq over the past few days have included meetings with the Japanese and Chinese representatives in Iraq, the Iraqi National Founding Congress, and the current Minister of Education, Dr. Ala’ Alwan. He also met the Islamic Dawa Party, of which the Minister of Communications, Dr. Haidar el-Obadi, was a representative. This afternoon, he met three groups: one representing the Iraqi Republican Coalition, another representing the city of Fallujah, and the last representing Sunni clerics.
He listened to their aspirations and opinions about what they think their new government should look like, and briefed them on his own activities.
In Afghanistan today, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Jean Arnault, met in Kabul with the Governor of Herat, Ismail Khan, General Ustad Atta Mohammad, Commander of the 7th Corps and General Daoud, Commander of the 6th Corps.
They discussed key aspects of the national agenda, including disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, security, the fight against drugs, and the restoration of law and order.
In a statement, Jean Arnault welcomes the commitments made by all three interlocutors, particularly in the area of disarmament. He trusts that this will result in tangible benefits for demobilized soldiers, as well as for the stability and security of Afghanistan.
We have the full text of his statement upstairs.
**UNRWA - Protest
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has protested against an incursion last Thursday by Israeli military forces into its Jenin Camp Reconstruction Project Office in the West Bank.
During the incursion, a shot was fired in the direction of the Agency’s senior project manager as he attempted to gain access to the office. We have more in a press release upstairs.
Addressing the people of Côte d'Ivoire, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to that country, Albert Tevoedjre, has reiterated the UN’s full support for the country's disarmament campaign.
In a public statement released in Abidjan Sunday, Tevoedjre said the United Nations would assist the Government of National Reconciliation as well as the National Disarmament Commission based on the mandate determined by the Security Council.
He emphasized that all parties to the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement had endorsed the aim of disarmament and underscored the responsibility of the Government of National Reconciliation in reaching that goal.
The United Nations could in no way substitute for the country's authorities or for parties to that Agreement, he said.
**Guéhenno in DRC
Over the weekend, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, continued his official visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At an event in Kinshasa, he reminded the Congolese people of their responsibilities with regard to the huge tasks ahead to achieve a successful transition in the DRC. He said, “The international community only plays a supportive role to the central one, which is to be played by the Congolese themselves.”
Guéhenno added that recent decisions made by Congolese authorities, including the signing of the Ituri Commitment Act and the nomination of Governors, were major steps in the right direction. On Sunday, he travelled to the north-eastern district of Ituri.
Guéhenno’s visit comes midway in the DRC’s transition, that is, a year after the Transitional Government was put in place and a year before the elections scheduled for June 2005. We have a press release on that.
**ILO – Child Labour
Kyrgyzstan has become the 150th country to ratify Convention No. 182, which is the world's fundamental international standard for combating the worst forms of child labour.
The International Labour Organization says the ratification puts the Convention within sight of achieving universal ratification by all of the Organization's 177 member States.
Should the Convention be ratified by all 177 ILO member States, it would become the first ILO convention ever to receive universal support. We have a press release on that.
**SG – Biological Diversity
Last Saturday was the International Day for Biological Diversity, and in a message to mark the occasion, the Secretary-General warned that the consequences of failing to stop the loss of biodiversity are too awful to contemplate.
He called on national governments and all individuals, local communities, sectors and organizations, to support and promote actions aimed at reducing the rate of biodiversity loss.
We have copies of his statement available upstairs.
**SG – Lecture Series
A reminder that the next instalment of the Secretary-General’s Lecture Series will take place tomorrow.
The lecture is entitled “Who is Afraid of Human Rights?” It will take place in the ECOSOC Chamber from 1:25 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
The Secretary-General will chair the lecture, and the three guest speakers are: Ambassador Najat Al-Hajjaji of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Professor Ali Mazrui of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies, at BirminghamUniversity, and Dr. William F. Schulz of Amnesty International USA. We have more on that upstairs.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
Finally, a press conference tomorrow in this room: 12:45 Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz of Chile, Chairman of the Sanctions Committee on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. And he will brief you on the Committee’s work.
That’s all I have for you. Any questions? Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Fred, is Mr. Brahimi going to brief the Council before the Council vote on the resolution?
Spokesman: You’ll have to ask the Council members what their intentions are. As I think I’ve already told you, we don’t expect Mr. Brahimi back before the end of the month. Mohamed?
Question: Fred, Mr. Secretary-General will receive the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner. Do you have any idea what might be said to Ms. Shirin Ebadi?
Spokesman: We’ll tell you after the meeting what he did say to her. Yes, Ma’am?
Question: Do you have any idea when the resolution on Iraq will be put to a vote?
Spokesman: No. You’ll have to ask the Council members what they think their pace will be. But they haven’t shared that with us.
Question: Fred, I don’t know if I am behind. Has the Secretary-General designated a representative for the forthcoming mission in (Inaudible)?
Spokesman: Has he designated one? That’s good question.
Question: I know he has a Special Adviser, but...
Spokesman: I don’t believe so. But let me double-check for you after the briefing. [He later said the SRSG for Haiti had not yet been named.]
Very good. Well, Ambassador Gallegos, please come up.
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