DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
25 May 2004
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the
In Baghdad, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, continued what his spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, called “crunching names”, that is, consulting Iraqi leaders on who would represent all Iraqis in a transitional government that would assume power after 30 June.
Among his many meetings today was one with Sadoun al-Dulame, the head of the IraqiCenter for Research and Strategic Studies, which does opinion polls in Iraq. They discussed public attitudes on a variety of subjects based on the Centre’s findings.
**Iraq - Reconstruction
Today in Doha, Qatar, the Donor Committee of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) is holding its second meeting to discuss reconstruction in that country.
Officials from some 35 countries, regional organizations, the United Nations and World Bank are in attendance.
As you know, this reconstruction fund was set up at the Madrid Conference held in October of last year.
The Iraqi delegation is headed by the Minister of Planning and Development Cooperation, Dr. Mehdi al Hafedh. And RossMountain, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, ad interim, is heading the UN delegation.
In his speech, Mountain outlined the humanitarian activities the UN has been conducting in Iraq notably in the area of food, education and health.
He also announced that some 200 million dollars worth of projects that will be financed through the UN Development Group Iraq Trust Fund have already been approved.
He added that in light of the security situation, the way the UN currently works, and how it will implement the forthcoming programmes and projects, the UN will require flexibility and innovative ways of working with Iraqi and other partners. This is key, he said, to successful delivery of projects and is likely to be so for some time to come. His full address is available upstairs.
On Sunday, Carina Perelli, the Head of the UN’s Electoral Assistance Mission to Iraq, announced the names of a four-member international panel who will be overseeing the selection of an independent electoral commission for Iraq.
The commission will be responsible for the organization and conduct of the elections.
The panel includes Judge Johann Kriegler, who was the chief electoral officer in the South African elections that finished apartheid, Madame Jacqueline Peschard, a former commissioner of the Federal Institute of Elections of Mexico, Dong N’Guyen, a former chief electoral officer for the UN in areas such as Paraguay and Eritrea, and Carlos Valenzuela, the former chief electoral officer for UN operations such as in East Timor.
We have the full text of Perelli’s statement available upstairs. And we only got the transcript of that press conference this morning. So, I apologize for the delay.
**UNHCR - Iraq
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, 26 Palestinians who fled Iraq last year during the conflict left a UN camp in Jordan last week to go back to Baghdad.
While the refugee agency is not promoting return to Iraq, the Palestinians felt they would be better off in Iraq despite the current insecurity and uncertainty.
The UN provided them with assistance to cover their travel expenses and several months of rental support for their first months back in Baghdad, as well as various other assistance items.
Several hundred Palestinians fled Iraq for the safety of Jordan during last year's conflict. For more information on that, please pick up the UNHCR briefing notes.
Harri Holkeri, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, announced today his intention to resign from his post on health grounds.
He said his decision was taken on medical advice and in consultation with the Secretary-General.
Holkeri made the announcement in Helsinki, where he had gone last week to see his doctor.
He’s expected to return to Pristina soon to finalize his Mission and make farewell calls on Kosovo’s leaders. We have the press release available upstairs with more details.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
We have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman regarding the situation in the Caribbean, specifically Haiti and the Dominican Republic:
“The Secretary-General is saddened by reports that severe flooding throughout the Caribbean has caused heavy loss of life and extensive damage, especially in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He extends his condolences to the families who have lost loved ones in this natural disaster.
United Nations Country Teams in Haiti and the Dominican Republic are currently assessing the extent of needs created by the flooding. United Nations officials across the Caribbean are in close contact with local authorities and stand ready to mobilize international support for recovery efforts.”
**SG on Africa Day
The Secretary-General, in remarks at a meeting on the commemoration of the 41st anniversary of Africa Day, while welcoming all positive trends on the continent, reminded his audience that “we cannot close our eyes to the massive scale of human rights violations and consequent human suffering in Darfur, the continuing tensions in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the current crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, and the other areas of tension on the continent.”
He calls for an intensification of efforts, individually and collectively, to find a definitive solution to these problems.
The Security Council is holding a public meeting on “Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts”.
Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz of Chile, Chairman of the Security Council’s Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee, briefed the Council.
Copies of his remarks are available in my office. Ambassador Muñoz will brief you here, in room 226 shortly.
And then at 5:30 p.m., the Security Council has scheduled consultations on Côte d’Ivoire and other matters.
On the humanitarian front in Darfur, the World Food Programme (WFP) says it had started to distribute food aid to 800,000 people. Access to the region had improved after the signing of the ceasefire, and WFP hoped to be able to better assess new needs.
UNICEF, meanwhile, said today that despite having doubled the numbers of people in recent weeks who have access to clean water in Darfur, hundreds of thousands of people are still excluded from access to safe wells and water points.
And the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that in Chad, a new UNHCR emergency airlift of relief supplies from around the world for the refugees in eastern Chad would start today, with the first flight departing from Denmark and scheduled to arrive in Ndjamena tomorrow.
Arriving for a four day visit to conflict troubled Uganda, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy called on both the Government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army to protect children, noting that the number of people displaced by the fighting has tripled in just the past 24 months.
We have a press release with more on that.
In a message to the official ceremony marking the inauguration of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, the Secretary-General described it as a potentially powerful tool for the prevention, management and resolution of violent conflict.
The message was delivered by his Special Representative for Ethiopia and Eritrea, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, in Addis Ababa.
According to an initial assessment, 45 buildings were destroyed or damaged during the latest Israeli military operation in the Rafah area of the Gaza strip.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) says that from 18 to 23 May, the building demolitions in the Tel Sultan, Brazil and Salam quarters of Rafah made 575 people homeless.
This latest round of demolitions comes on top of what had already been one of the worst months of the intifada in Rafah.
Since the start of the intifada 1,354 buildings have been demolished in Rafah, affecting 13,175 people. We have an UNRWA press release on that upstairs.
The second observance of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers to honour those who served and continue to serve in UN field missions will be held this Saturday 29 May.
But beginning Tuesday 25 May, panels memorializing those who lost their lives during the course of their duties in the field in 2003 will be on display in the visitors lobby in the UN Headquarters building. Then on Friday, a medal ceremony will be held in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium at 11 a.m. to honour those peacekeepers. And later on Friday, at 2.30 p.m., 35 military officers and eight police officers will also receive medals outside the Visitors entrance at 46th Street and First Avenue.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, a documentary on peacekeeping produced by YaleUniversity professor Jean Krasno will have its premiere screening in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library auditorium. The film, “Uncertain Soil: The Story of United Nations Peacekeeping”, will be shown three times with the first showing from 2 to 4 p.m. and the final from 6 to 8 p.m.
Currently, there are more than 53,000 men and women serving as peacekeepers in 14 UN field missions. Recently authorized peacekeeping missions in Haiti and Burundi are also in the process of deploying.
**SG – Lecture Series
A reminder that the next instalment of the Secretary-General’s Lecture Series is taking place today in the ECOSOC chamber from 1:25 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
The lecture is entitled “Who is Afraid of Human Rights?”
The Secretary-General will chair the lecture. There will be three guest speakers: Ambassador Najat Al-Hajjaji of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Professor Ali Mazrui of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at BinghamtonUniversity, and Dr. William Schulz of Amnesty International USA.
And finally as I already mentioned to you, Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz of Chile, will be here at 12:45 to talk about the Sanctions Committee that he chairs.
That’s all I have for you. Yes, Warren?
Questions and Answers
Question: Fred, Ahmad Fawzi said early this week that Lakhdar Brahimi looked unlikely to meet his end of the month deadline for producing the names for the interim government. The President last night in a speech said that he would produce those names by the end of this week. Since so much of the conversation now about the resolution turns on when those names will become public, can you, speaking for the UN, say when we can expect that event to happen?
Spokesman: I don’t think anyone can predict. We spoke to Ahmad Fawzi this morning, and as I’ve reported to you, Mr. Brahimi is going flat out trying to develop consensus among a broad cross section of Iraqi leadership. And of course, the closer you get to your goal, the tougher the bargaining becomes. So, I don’t think we can predict exactly when this process will be completed. Mr. Brahimi’s original target was to get it done by the end of this month. Whether or not he can do that, I don’t know. But he has said that he’ll stay on until the job is done. So, we’ll see when it happens. Yes, Ma’am?
Question: To that end, do you know, Mr. Brahimi, if he will make the announcement in Baghdad or at the UN and if he has any scheduled appearances to come back?
Spokesman: I don’t whether he would come here directly from Baghdad or whether the announcement would be made in Baghdad. I assume that he would inform the Secretary-General, who would inform the Security Council. But for the public announcement, I am not sure how it would be done. We’d have to ask him or others in Baghdad. Liz?
Question: Do you have any indication of when he’s supposed to return at this point? Any idea when he would return to New York, or any target for his return or is all that dependent on how the work progresses?
Spokesman: It’s dependent on finalizing the names for the interim government.
Question: Just one follow-up, if I may. Is there any talk, while you say you can’t predict when his work will be done, has there been any talk about the possibility of having to suggest that June 30th may not be realistic?
Spokesman: I haven’t heard anyone talk of slippage on the transfer of authority date. Bill?
Question: How does the Secretary-General feel about the role for the UN post June 30th, as outlined in the United States draft resolution?
Spokesman: Many of the issues still remain to be worked out. And those questions are being discussed among Council Members now. The Secretary-General, you’ll see from his programme, is going to have a discussion in his conference room this afternoon with Members of the Council on the progress of Mr. Brahimi’s work in Baghdad. But I don’t think that he would comment more specifically on the draft except that it does reflect many of the concerns that he has had. And it is, as you know as well, the product of rather extensive consultations before the draft was tabled on Monday. Yes?
Question: Do you have any reaction to the speech from Mr. Bush or the press conference given by Mr. Blair in London?
Spokesman: No. The Secretary-General did listen to President Bush’s address last night. And I think, as I’ve already said, many of the issues he addressed there are ones that are also being discussed in the Council as we speak. Yes, Debbie?
Question: Fred, will it be possible to get a readout of the SG’s meeting with the Council this afternoon?
Spokesman: We’ll try. I don’t expect it to be too detailed, but we’ll try.
Question: Is it possible to get probably (Inaudible) … just a little bit of video before the meeting starts; a camera in there for that?
Spokesman: I’ll ask. I’ll ask. I’m not sure, but we’ll see.
Thank you very much.
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