DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
26 May 2004
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Security Council - Consultations
The Security Council has scheduled two sets of consultations today.
At 10 a.m., Council members began consultations to hear a briefing on the work of the monitoring group of the arms embargo on Somalia and then on the humanitarian situation in Darfur, Sudan.
The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, described what UN agencies are doing to meet the urgent and overwhelming human needs in Darfur as they race against time to deliver aid as the rainy season approaches. Egeland also outlined the obstacles facing humanitarian groups in Darfur and what is required to overcome them.
He will come to the stakeout microphone following the Darfur discussion. And if he gets out of the Council briefing during this briefing, he will come here to 226.
At 3:30 p.m., the Security Council has scheduled consultations on the draft resolution on Iraq.
**Security Council – Yesterday
Early yesterday evening, the Security Council held back-to-back formal meetings during which the Council President, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, read out two presidential statements, one on Côte d’Ivoire and another on Darfur, Sudan.
The Security Council strongly condemned the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed in Côte d’Ivoire. It requested the Secretary-General to establish, as soon as possible, the international commission of inquiry in order to investigate all human rights violations committed in Côte d’Ivoire since 19 September 2002, and to determine responsibility.
In a statement on Darfur, the Council expressed its grave concern over the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation there, and emphasized the urgent need for all parties to observe the 8 April cease-fire agreement. The Council also called on the Government of the Sudan to respect its commitments to ensure that the Janjaweed militias were neutralized and disarmed.
**SRSG for Burundi
The Secretary-General has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Carolyn McAskie, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, as his Special Representative for Burundi.
The Council is expected to respond to that letter shortly. We have a biographical note on her upstairs.
The Secretary-General’s Special Advisor, Lakhdar Brahimi, is continuing his work in Baghdad.
One meeting I can mention to you that he had today was with the French Representative, Bernard Bajolet.
Available for you upstairs though, is a comprehensive list of all the people Brahimi has met with since his return to Iraq on 6 May.
In the wake of inter-communal violence that reportedly left hundreds dead and some 50,000 displaced, UN humanitarian agencies are bringing aid to people in two Nigerian states.
A joint UN and Nigerian Government assessment has revealed urgent needs for food, water, health care, and grants for income-generating activities. In response, UNICEF has provided some health kits, medicines and food items, and the UN Development Programme has mobilized $50,000 for supporting the humanitarian operations. We have a press release on that upstairs.
**DR CONGO – Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Bunia
From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we have an update from the UN Mission (MONUC) on the investigation into allegations of sexual abuses by UN personnel deployed in Bunia, which we first reported to you on 7 May.
The UN Mission has initiated an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN military and non-military personnel in Bunia. So far, about 30 cases are being investigated.
The UN Mission special investigative teams are comprised of security officers, military personnel, civilian police, human rights and child protection officers, gender specialists, and investigators.
The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) has also deployed investigators to Bunia. OIOS intends to assign more investigators to the case, and these are expected to arrive early next week.
The investigation into one case of alleged abuse has already been completed, and the person found responsible is being disciplined by early repatriation and prosecution follow up by his national authorities.
**Haiti/Dominican Republic Floods
According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), hundreds have been killed following floods in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
In Haiti, some 350 people are reported dead or missing, while over 800 have been injured. Over 7,000 people in Haiti alone are in urgent need of assistance. Some 2,400 houses have been heavily damaged or destroyed, five schools were destroyed, and crops and livestock have been lost.
Today, a joint team of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations is going to assess the situation in Fond Verette in western Haiti in a helicopter provided by the Multinational Interim Force.
In the Dominican Republic’s Jimani municipality in the southwest of the country, initial reports indicate that 45 people were killed, 120 were injured and 200 are missing. Ambulances, rescue personnel, medical supplies, food, and other needs are being mobilized.
Finally, the Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that the locust situation in northwest Africa is very worrying -- despite intensive control activities.
FAO says a locust upsurge is underway in the region, and it’s called on Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal to prepare against the possibility of swarms arriving from the north and invading crop-producing areas. We have more on this in a press release.
That’s all I have for you. Richard?
Questions and Answers
Question: You may or may not be able to tell us much. What is Mr. Fawzi and others telling you? What about Brahimi’s schedule for announcing a new government? Or are they telling you he will do it over there?
Spokesman: I don’t think a decision has been made on that. The timetable is what the Secretary-General told you yesterday; that our target is to get this done by the end of the month. But of course, it’s in the hands of the Iraqis. It’s when they can agree on a full slate that Mr. Brahimi will be able to make the announcement. Yes, Philippe?
Question: On Bunia, could you be a bit more specific about the nature of the allegations against these, you said 30 people?
Spokesman: Yes. Well, 30 cases are apparently currently being investigated.
Question: So, what is it about exactly and what is the nationality of the person who was found guilty already; and what did he or she do?
Spokesman: I am not sure we’re able to give you those details. Let me double check with OIOS. But the general thing being investigated is sexual abuse of minors. Yes?
Question: What... Sorry. Why are there so many people involved? Is there a prostitution ring or anything? Thirty cases seem to be huge for a small mission like the one in Bunia.
Spokesman: Again, we’ll have to see how much of this information we can release to you now. In the cases that are under investigation, of course, we can’t say anything. But I am not sure about this, what we might be able to say about the one case that was concluded. And I’ll get back to you after the briefing. Mohamed?
Question: Fred, what is the aim of Mr. Brahimi’s meeting with the foreign representatives such as France, China and Japan? And what topics has he discussed?
Spokesman: He, of course, is working closely with the Coalition Provisional Authority led by the UK and the US. He has tried to keep the representatives of other Council members, particularly permanent members of the Council, who are in Baghdad up to date on his activities. So, I am sure that was the main purpose of his briefing.
What was the next part of your question?
Question: What topics has he discussed?
Spokesman: I am sure it was just updating the representatives on his activities in trying to get agreement among Iraqis on members of an interim government. Yes?
Question: Fred, what is the Secretary-General’s understanding of whose command the MNF (multinational force) will be under and what is his understanding of how much political power the Iraqis will have? Not just in terms of any operations that the MNF may conduct in future, but also in terms of how long they will be staying in Iraq.
Spokesman: But those are matters that are now being discussed among Council members. So, his views are not to be shared publicly at this time.
Question: If I may ask one more. The Americans, I think, are saying that the Iraqis will have some sort of political control over the police and other security, such as the border and various institutions, but not the army. How does the SG feel about that?
Spokesman: Don’t keep trying to put the SG in the middle of things that are being discussed by Council members. These are delicate and difficult issues that have to be sorted out between the Iraqis, the Coalition Provisional Authority and members of the Security Council as they go through revisions of the draft resolution that was put on the table on Monday. So, it’s right plunk in the middle of a delicate process and the Secretary-General is not going to comment publicly. Yes, Peter?
Question: Of course the name Shahristani is coming out of Baghdad, and I am wondering, I presume his name is on the list that is in your office. Did you get any read out from Mr. Fawzi as to the accuracy of any of these reports?
Spokesman: That is purely speculative. That kind of speculation is not helpful to the process that’s under way and we shall not join in it. Yes, all the way in the back?
Question: I saw in the resolution that the interim government would have the authority over the development fund, but that an oversight committee would still have oversight. What exactly would that oversight entail?
Spokesman: You have to direct any questions regarding the draft resolution to members of the Council, either the sponsors of the resolution who drafted it, or other members who might be considering it. But you can’t ask the Secretariat to comment on government texts. Yes?
Question: Factually though, can you tell us, before May, how many times has Brahimi, if ever, met personally with the man whose name has surfaced? He’s living in Toronto, linked with the post, because he has not been in Iraq. So, has Brahimi met him elsewhere?
Spokesman: We’re not going to contribute to the speculation. The people that Mr. Brahimi has met with in Baghdad are listed upstairs, and I will have nothing further to say regarding any specific names. Nor will Mr. Brahimi.
Question: You’ve discussed this I know, but it is approaching the critical time. Brahimi is described as a “facilitator”. But what happens when names that he likes are not liked by the Iraqis? Just how much power does he have at this critical moment?
Spokesman: He’s trying to get names that the Iraqis themselves can agree on. He is not imposing names. He’s picked up names from talking to a wide spectrum of Iraqi opinion. He’s floating those names; he’s getting reactions from the various groups, factions and individuals. So, it’s a process of weeding out a very large list of names to find the core names that everyone can agree on. So, I would say that’s the role of a facilitator. He is not exercising power. Yes, Abdurrahim?
Question: And a follow up, Fred. The names that Brahimi may be floating to the Iraqis at the moment, is he choosing those names on an ethnic basis, on a religious basis or just on the basis of competence?
Spokesman: These are not names that he has chosen. These are names that have emerged from his broad consultations. So, these are people that Iraqis feel they would like to have as their leaders. And it’s now a question of getting a slate that all factions can agree on; a consensus slate. He has always emphasized integrity and competence for this interim government and a preference that those who serve on it not compete in the elections for December or January. Preference; that is his advice to the Iraqis: to pick people who could be focused exclusively on running the interim government for those six or seven months.
Question: And as far as he can make out, Fred, is he under any sort of pressure whatsoever from the Shiites, Sunnis, the Kurds to facilitate the choosing of particular names rather than others?
Spokesman: That would be the nature of the process, I suppose. They all have their favourite candidates and he’s trying to come up with a list that they can all support. Philippe?
Question: Do you have any update on the investigation on the black box?
Spokesman: Yes. The black box report is complete. It’s in the Secretary-General’s office. He will be forwarding it to the General Assembly and you will be getting copies once the Assembly members have received it. And Dileep Nair, the head of OIOS, has agreed to come here to 226 to take your questions on it.
Question: When is that going to happen?
Spokesman: I mean, this is now a bureaucratic process. So, how quickly it can get off the 38th floor and the translation for General Assembly distribution and completed, I don’t know. It’s probably going to drag on a few more days.
Question: The leader of Yemen says he’s going to come here to meet with the Secretary-General June 7th. Do you have any information on the timing of that session?
Spokesman: Normally we don’t have that kind of information so much in advance. So, I’ll ask to see if anyone can give me; can confirm that. I cannot as of this minute. [He later confirmed the 7 June date for that meeting.]
Okay, thank you very much.
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