DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
28 May 2004
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The Security Council is holding an open meeting on “Complex Crises and the UN Response”.
The Security Council President said at the start of the month that the idea of this thematic discussion was to see how a comprehensive and integrated response to complex crises could be generated by the UN family so that the security, political, economic and humanitarian requirements could be adequately met.
In his briefing to the Council, Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said the discussion was timely as it comes at a time when so many people remain trapped by conflict and caught up in long-term complex crises.
“If people are denied the fruits of peace -- such as shelter, education, health care and employment -- sustainable peace will be much harder to achieve.” We have copies of his statement upstairs, and we also have a background paper out on the racks.
On northern Uganda, in a statement issued in Kampala, Uganda, Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, says she has seen many disturbing images during her time with UNICEF. But few of them are as shocking as the sight of the “night commuters” in northern Uganda, whom she saw just two nights ago.
She was referring to the thousands of children who, for fear of abduction by the Lord’s Resistance Army, seek refuge every night in the towns of the north.
Bellamy said she will be leaving Uganda troubled by her memory of mothers in the north who love their children so much that they send them away from their own homes every night to seek safety and the protection that they are powerless to offer.
**Haiti/Dominican Republic Humanitarian Update
The World Food Programme (WFP) has issued an update on the humanitarian situation following the flash floods in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
On the Dominican Republic side, a UN joint relief agency assessment team travelled to the Jimani area, where over 300 people are feared to be dead or missing. The mission reports that some 5,000 people are urgently in need of humanitarian assistance, with many families facing health threats due to lack of potable water and food, difficulties of access, and electricity cuts. Across the border in Haiti, the floods have caused serious damage to crops, livestock and food reserves, and thousands of families depend now on international assistance to get from one day to the next. WFP has begun delivering food to some 8,000 people in Fond Verrettes, a farming town which was almost entirely destroyed. We have reports that the town of Mapou, where over 1,000 people are believed missing, is still under water and food stocks have been destroyed. Moreover, it is still raining and there is no place for storage of food stocks in the area.
The UN's top relief official for Somalia, Maxwell Gaylard, is warning of a full-blown disaster that could develop in northern Somalia. We have a press release on that with more details.
In Myanmar, United Nations agencies are providing immediate assistance to people affected by the recent storm that hit four towns there. The storm was the worst since 1968.
With winds of over 160 kilometres per hour, it crossed the southwest coast bordering Bangladesh last week, leaving at least 140 people dead and causing extensive damage to infrastructure. We have more on this in a press release available from my Office.
The Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, will be leaving New York this evening to attend the opening plenary of the Annual General Assembly of the European Foundation Centre, in Athens on Sunday.
The overall theme of the meeting is "The Athens Agora - Bridging civilizations and cultures".
The Deputy Secretary-General will focus on how European foundations can work more closely with the United Nations to advance development and the Millennium Development Goals.
**No Tobacco Day
Sorry, Richard Roth isn’t here because Monday is “World No Tobacco Day 2004”.
The World Health Organization is launching this year's campaign for World No Tobacco Day with the slogan: “Tobacco and Poverty: a vicious circle”.
The Organization aims to stress the enormous economic costs of tobacco use and cultivation to families, communities and countries.
We have more on this in a press release that we’ll be sending up to CNN.
**UN Headquarters Closed
A reminder that the UN Secretariat in New York will be closed on Monday; it’s Memorial Day. We’ll be reopening Tuesday.
**Guest at Noon on Tuesday
And our guest at the noon briefing on Tuesday will be Stephen Lewis, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.
And he’ll be talking to you about a recent visit he made to Addis Ababa.
Finally, I wanted to mention that it was exactly a year ago yesterday that the Secretary-General named Sergio Vieira de Mello as his Special Representative in Iraq.
Within days, Sergio and his “A” team left for Baghdad to advise the Coalition Provisional Authority and to begin their effort to get to know Iraqi society and advise them on the way forward.
As you know, Sergio and other members of his team perished in Baghdad on
19 August of last year.
In light of the renewed UN role in Iraq, we wanted to mark this anniversary and say that our thoughts are with the family members and loved ones of those who died, as well as our many colleagues who were injured.
Thank you. Edie?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Fred, regarding Ambassador Brahimi’s mission in Iraq, there seems to be widespread feeling in Baghdad that the effort that he was undertaking regarding particularly the selection of the prime minister was pre-empted this morning by the Iraqi Governing Council. And I wonder if you could comment on that?
Spokesman: I don’t think he would see it that way. He’s been helping the Iraqis at their request. His role has been essentially consultative. He’s been conducting consultations with a wide range of Iraqis with the aim of identifying areas of agreement or helping Iraqis to come to an agreement themselves.
And we have to bear in mind that the country is still destabilized and still emerging from a very traumatic period.
The Governing Council will be dissolving itself very soon. The Preparatory Committee will be established shortly and will begin work on the National Conference. Mr. Brahimi has been involved in advising the Iraqis on the formation of those entities and he expects to continue to work with them.
Question: Has Brahimi given you any indication whether he in fact endorses the Governing Council’s nomination of Allawi as prime minister?
Spokesman: He saw his role as helping to identify candidates. He respects the decision that was taken today concerning the naming of a prime minister. He has been holding consultations throughout Iraq, as you know, and he’ll be discussing the results of those consultations with the prime minister-designate soon. The national consensus that he’s been trying to forge was not focused on the Office of the Prime Minister, but rather on the kind of institutions and government that are being established. Namely, the interim Iraqi Government, the Preparatory Committee for the National Conference, the National Conference itself, as well as the Election Commission. So, we hope that when seen in toto, they will reflect the full diversity of views that Mr. Brahimi has heard around the country. A follow-up, Maggie?
Question: To follow up, but as I understand it, I know Brahimi’s job was not to do the naming; it was to help come up with... help the process along. It wasn’t the Governing Council’s job either to name a prime minister. Can a prime minister be named by this body that’s going to be dissolved?
Spokesman: The Iraqis themselves agreed that it would be the Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority who would name the interim government. Mr. Brahimi went there to help them do that in consultation with the widest segment of Iraqi society that he could consult. Yes, Mark?
Question: Two questions on that. One, was Mr. Brahimi expecting this announcement to be made this morning and why was the UN so apparently flustered when the name of the person came out? And two, it just appears to be rather disingenuous, as a re-writing of history as to what Brahimi’s role was. It was made very clear by a lot of officials on a lot of occasions that while, yes he was there as a facilitator, that he would serve as the bridge between members of the Governing Council and people who weren’t on the Governing Council, with academics, with lawyers, with professional associations and so forth. What we now have is a process where the Governing Council is making the announcement, which appears to take the UN unawares. Does the UN assert that this is entirely consistent with the message that was being given over the past few months about Mr. Brahimi’s role?
Spokesman: The role that we have seen for Mr. Brahimi I have already laid out for you. Flustered, I don’t think... I don’t know why you say we’re “flustered”. When Mr. Brahimi knew this was going to happen, I can’t tell you. You’d have to ask him or someone close to him. He was in the meeting at which this decision was made. This was a person who was high on his list. Yes?
Question: Just to clarify. The Governing Council has designated Allawi to be prime minister. Brahimi is saying he respects that decision. Does that mean that Allawi is now going to be the Prime Minister of Iraq?
Spokesman: Well, that’s just the beginning of a process. The idea is to name an interim government. So, as I’ve just said, Mr. Brahimi will be briefing the prime minister-designate on the full range of candidates that he’s identified as a result of these extensive consultations for all the other posts. This is an Iraqi choice to make. So, we’ll have to let the process continue and culminate in the naming of the full government.
Question: But that’s what I am asking. Is Allawi now going to be the... is he the person who’s going to be the prime minister?
Spokesman: You’ll have to ask the Iraqis that. The Governing Council named this person today and Mr. Brahimi respects that decision and will work with this person to now name the other members of the interim government. I assume that this choice of today will hold. But the process isn’t over yet. Yes, John?
Question: Fred, a couple of questions. You’re referring to him as prime minister-designate. This implies the UN accepts that he is the prime minister-designate. And also, do you welcome this appointment?
Spokesman: I want to stick very closely to the wording that I used before. Mr. Brahimi respects the decision and is prepared to work with this person on the selection of the other posts in this interim government.
Question: With respect, I have to follow up on that ...
Question: ... because the reason I asked that is because Mr. Brahimi’s spokesman said that Mr. Brahimi “welcomes the decision ...”. You’re not now welcoming it.
Spokesman: I have this statement to make. The person you’re referring to, Ahmad Fawzi, is outside of Baghdad right now. He’s travelling. This statement was made in close consultation with Mr. Brahimi and the people around him in Baghdad.
[The Spokesman later announced that Mr. Brahimi had authorized him to say that there was no discrepancy between his “respecting” the decision and his “welcoming” it. Both of them were true].
Question: Just to clarify that now. Because he’s outside Baghdad he doesn’t speak for Mr. Brahimi, is that correct? Is that the implication?
Spokesman: What I am saying is that the language that Mr. Brahimi wanted used is the language that I have just used. Mr. Fawzi is travelling. Yes?
Question: Fred, Mark used the word that I was going to use, “disingenuous”. Sorry, I want to use it again, but every one of the Security Council ambassadors, and certainly the P-5, believed that they were going to get a list of names from Mr. Brahimi. They thought they were going to get it here in New York. But maybe even in Baghdad before.
I don’t think any of them, and obviously, we’ll talk to them later today, any ever imagined that a name would just sort of pop up like this, named by the Governing Council. I mean, what’s going on here? This is not the way it was supposed to happen, is it?
Spokesman: It’s not how we expected it to happen, no. But the Iraqis seem to agree on this candidate. And if they do, Mr. Brahimi is ready to work with this candidate. I think Mr. Brahimi’s original idea probably was to announce the full government once all the positions had been agreed on. So, now that this has happened this way, if this is the Iraqi way, he’s ready to go with it, work with it and try to complete the process by the end of the month, which has always been our target.
Question: I just, I just wanted to ... Brahimi; excuse me, Fawzi was also quoted as saying that Brahimi would not likely be back for a week to 10 days. Is that something you can confirm as well? Is that part of your statement?
Spokesman: No. I don’t have any guidance on that. I’d have to call him and ask him. Bill?
Question: On 14 April, a statement from your office said that in terms of the interim government and its leaders, “It is envisioned that...” and I am quoting, “... It is envisioned that this body will be chosen by a combination of people from the UN, the Governing Council, the Coalition Provisional Authority and (Inaudible) group of judges.” When did that change and why?
Spokesman: You’ll have to put that question I think, closer to the source in Baghdad. But this announcement came out of a process of consultation that included Mr. Brahimi, the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Governing Council, three out of four of the elements named in that statement. Why the judges were not part of this, I cannot tell you. I think we’d have to put that question to the CPA or the Governing Council. Anyway, someone in Baghdad. John?
Question: Fred, you referred earlier, you said this is the Iraqis decided to do it. Of course this is the way the Iraqi Interim Authority asked. Do you really believe this is going to have the backing of all Iraqis? Because this is not a very representative body.
Spokesman: Well, that’s part of why Mr. Brahimi is there to facilitate. The names that he had been coming up with as a result of his broad consultations were on the table when, apparently, this decision was made. And, he is now saying, “Okay, I am going to sit down with this person and discuss all the other names that emerged from my consultations as we consider who the other members of the interim government should be that would gather the widest possible support of the Iraqi people.” But in the end, it is the Governing Council and the CPA that would make the decision.
Question: So, he doesn’t necessarily say that this is his choice, but he accepts that this is, this person is going to be the prime minister-designate? He is saying that, essentially through you, this is the guy who is going to be, when he reports to the Secretary-General, even though it isn’t necessarily his choice, he was just high on his list, that this is the guy that’s going to be the prime minister-designate, who will be reported to the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: He respects this decision and he is ready to work with this person, yes. Yes?
Question: Fred, just to clarify one other thing. When you just said all of these names were on the table, so to speak, when he was making this decision. Mr. Allawi’s name was on the table at that time?
Spokesman: Yes. I told you a few days ago that the name crunching had begun. This name crunching was being done with the Governing Council members, with the CPA leadership and it followed the broad consultations that Mr. Brahimi had had. As names were being considered, he was talking to Iraqis outside of the Governing Council by telephone, in person... So, it’s been as broad a consultative process as he could carry out. Because in the end, if it doesn’t have the support of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis, it’s not going to fly. David?
Question: Just to pick on what you just said. Also in the Council, the work they are doing now on a resolution seems to be linked to a Brahimi decision, if you speak to many of them. You said he respects the decision but it doesn’t seem to be a Brahimi decision, this appointment of the prime minister... (Interrupted).
Spokesman: But we never said he was going to pick the government. The Iraqis are going ... (Interrupted).
Question: Yes ... but ... (Interrupted)
Spokesman: The Iraqis are going to pick the government ... (interrupted)
Question: Understood. But the Security Council, if you’ve talked to them over the last few days, have said they fully expect Brahimi to come up with a name. Not to just respect the decision.
Spokesman: No, Brahimi was going to announce the decision made by Iraqis collectively and sanctioned by the CPA and the Iraqi Governing Council...[To a correspondent waving for attention]. There is a standing questioner to the right. [Laughter]. Evelyn?
Question: We have absolutely no idea, or do we that the Governing Council has given the results of all the consultations rather than pick its own person and pull a surprise on Brahimi? Or do we know he was consulted before this announcement was made? Or do we know that the Governing Council did more than consult with each other?
Spokesman: My understanding is that he was present when the decision was made. [The Spokesman later announced that Mr. Brahimi was NOT actually in the room when the Governing Council voted to name Mr. Allawi as the prime minister-designate].
Question: When the decision was made or when the announcement was made?
Spokesman: Well, I think it was when the decision was made. If you like, I’ll try to get back to him and confirm that. But that’s my impression. Yes?
Question: Does Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, respect, welcome, endorse and support this decision?
Question: All four?
Spokesman: He respects, as Mr. Brahimi does, he respects the decision.
Question: Does he welcome it? Does he endorse it? Does he support it?
Spokesman: He respects it -- a carefully chosen word. Yes, David.
Question: What I was leading into was how concerned, if at all, the Secretary-General or the Secretariat might be that this announcement or the way it has happened might undercut the work that has been done in the Security Council, which seemed once again, to be linked to a decision that was supported by Brahimi, not simply welcoming it, or respect it. And you said earlier that this particular individual was high on his list. I wonder how high on Brahimi’s list of this particular ...? (Interrupted).
Spokesman: I don’t have those kinds of details. But the next step is to take this list of people that these individuals have been discussing for days now, and in consultation with the person they have agreed should be the prime minister, flesh out the rest of the government. That’s what lies ahead. Mark?
Question: Can we expect a lot more changes in terms of what the UN says and then in what the UN respects and accepts?
Spokesman: I don’t understand ... No ... I don’t ...
Question: ... (Inaudible) ... fundamental U-turns, even. (Inaudible over the cross talk). Fundamental ... (Inaudible) approach?
Spokesman: I don’t accept, I don’t accept that, Mark. We sent Mr. Brahimi there at the request of the Iraqis, as a facilitator. The decisions are theirs, and they just made one decision.
Question: No, the Governing Council did, Fred. The Governing Council did ... (Interrupted).
Spokesman: On the ... (Interrupted)
Question: ... and the point was that Brahimi was talking to a huge range of people. Those people with voices, given the lack of endorsement and support appear now to have been written out of the story. So, does the UN, how, why does the UN abandon its commitment to those people who are not on the Governing Council?
Spokesman: No, you weren’t listening to me when I was describing the process. The consultations concerning the names involved the two entities that would formally select the names -- the CPA and the Iraqi Governing Council. The names that Mr. Brahimi brought to them were the basis of very wide consultations. And as these people discussed those names, Mr. Brahimi was again consulting outside of that small circle and giving the feedback to that small circle. And now a decision has been made, and let’s wait and see what the Iraqi street has to say about this name before we decide to write it off. But Mr. Brahimi respects this decision and is prepared to work with this person. Yes?
Question: Do you think now there is a sense of urgency for the Security Council to go ahead with the resolution because of this decision?
Spokesman: I think you’d have to ask the Council. But I think the Council’s sense is that it wants to see the emergence of the complete interim government and to assess whether that interim government has broad support in Iraq before it moves on its resolution. I think that’s their position. You should get that directly from them, but I think I am representing their views accurately there.
Thank you very much.
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