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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

29 July 2004

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

Good afternoon.

**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Sudan

The Secretary-General is gravely concerned about reports of continuing intimidation, threats and attacks against internally displaced persons in Darfur. He is particularly disturbed by reports of rape by Janjaweed militias in west Darfur and severe harassment of displaced persons by Government security personnel in several camps in north Darfur, including Zam Zam camp, which the Secretary-General himself visited on 30 June. Government security personnel have been threatening internally displaced persons who have spoken to foreign visitors and have arrested and beaten several community leaders.

The Secretary-General appeals to the Government to abide immediately by its commitments to ensure the protection and security of all internally displaced persons in Darfur.

**Security Council Schedules Vote on Sudan Draft

Also on Sudan, the Security Council Presidency has scheduled a vote tomorrow morning on the Sudan resolution, which is now available in what we call “blue” --the form that can be voted on.

**Secretary-General Addresses Accra Summit on Côte d’Ivoire

The Secretary-General today spoke at a summit of 12 African heads of State and Government on Côte d’Ivoire, and he appealed to the Ivorian parties to put aside partisan and personal interests and work together in a spirit of commitment and compromise. Today’s meeting, he said, is “a unique opportunity to put the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire back on track”.

He reaffirmed that the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, signed in Paris in January 2003, remained the road map to peace. He outlined specific issues on which consensus was to be reached in Accra and called for a timetable to implement them. He told the parties, “I trust that in your deliberations here today, the higher interest will be placed above all else.” The principals then went into closed session.

Before the summit began, the Secretary-General held two meetings. The first was with former Malian President, Alpha Oumar Konare, who is currently Chair of the African Union Commission. They discussed the summit and also touched on the African Union's (AU) observer mission in Darfur, Sudan.

The second meeting was with the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, who reviewed the steps he had taken to carry out the commitments he had made in Addis Ababa.

Late yesterday, the Secretary-General met with the President of Ghana, John Kufuor, with whom he is hosting today's summit on Côte d’Ivoire. In comments to the press before the meeting, the Secretary-General said that he hoped the Ivorian parties would come to Accra "with an open mind, determined to resolve this issue".

Later that evening, he met South African President Thabo Mbeki in his capacity as this month's Chair of the African Union's Peace and Security Council. They reviewed the current situation in Côte d'Ivoire and the Secretary-General briefed the President on current developments on the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

We have the transcripts of his remarks and press comments from the past two days upstairs.

**Security Council Extends UN Missions in Lebanon, Georgia, DRC

Getting back to United Nations Headquarters, the Security Council today held three back-to-back formal meetings, in which it unanimously extended the mandates of three UN peacekeeping missions. The Council extended the mandates of two of the missions -- the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNIMOG) -- by six months, until the end of January 2005. It also decided to extend the mandate of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) until October 1.

**Democratic Republic of Congo: Update

Following the Security Council’s two-month extension of the mandate of the UN Mission in the DRC(MONUC), the Secretary-General will be reporting to the Council during the month of August on the upcoming needs, resources and the mandate of the Mission in light of the current situation in the DRC and the elections due to take place in 2005.

Speaking yesterday in Kinshasa, the MONUC’s military spokesman noted persistent tension in north and south Kivu provinces and minor clashes between the Armed Forces of the DRC and troops allegedly commanded by renegade officer Laurent Nkunda. Quoting humanitarian sources, he added that over 30,000 people have been displaced in the area of Kahele due to this situation. The UN Mission is conducting patrols in this area and talking with the parties in order to stop the situation from deteriorating further.

In another development, it was announced yesterday that a Disarmament and Community Reintegration programme is due to be launched in the troubled north-eastern region of Ituri on 1st September. Further information is available in a note from the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC).

**ICC Set to Investigate Situation in Northern Uganda

Today, it was announced in The Hague that the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has determined that there is a reasonable basis to open an investigation into the situation concerning northern Uganda, following the referral of the situation by Uganda in December 2003. The investigation will look into grave universal crimes, as defined by the Rome Statute.

**ICTY Orders Early Release of Bosnian Croat Detainee Blaskic

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) meanwhile, has ordered the early release of a Bosnian Croat detainee, Tihomir Blaskic, after allowing several of his grounds for appeal earlier in the day. Blaskic will be released next Monday. In a ruling, the Tribunal’s Appeals Chamber vacated the 45-year prison sentence that had previously been handed down to Blaskic, replacing it with a nine-year sentence, including time already served.

We have a press release with the details of the Appeals judgment.

**Millions of Bangladeshi Children at Risk Following Floods, UNICEF Warns

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warns that millions of children in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka are facing an increasing risk of potentially fatal diseases in the wake of devastating floods. More than one third of Dhaka is inundated, and fetid sewers are mixing with floodwaters, which has led to sludge gushing out of manholes in many areas. Diseases being reported include respiratory infections -- a key killer of Bangladeshi children. We have more in a press release upstairs.

**Burundi: Meningitis Update

And we have a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on a meningitis epidemic in northern Burundi, where UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been trying to treat patients and conduct a vaccination campaign.

**FAO Launches Pilot Project to Help Farmers in West Bank

And finally, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says around 1,500 farming households in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will benefit from an agricultural pilot project over the next two years. The project will include activities such as replanting orchards with improved varieties, and training the private and public sector in the proper management and sustainable use of inputs and natural resources. There’s a press release on that upstairs.

I think that’s all I have for you. Do you have any questions for me?

**Questions and Answers

Question: You said that [the leaders at the Accra Summit] touched on the situation in Darfur. Could you go into more specifics? Did they discuss the possibility of deploying an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force to the region?

Associate Spokesman: I don’t have too many details on the meetings that the Secretary-General has had there, but I can inform you -- as I did yesterday -- that he is in Accra to try to push the Côte d’Ivoire peace process forward. That is the primary focus of his mission there. The issue of Darfur has come up, and of course, he is willing to discuss the matter in bilaterals and other meetings in the margins of the Summit. And, as you said, there is the component of support for the African Union’s proposed efforts, for which the Secretary-General has been appealing for assistance to that end.

Question: The resolution on Sudan calls on the Secretary-General to report back to the Security Council in 30 days. Now, we know that in 30 days the Republican National Convention opens in New York. How concerned is the Secretary-General that the Convention will completely overshadow the issue of Darfur at the UN.

Associate Spokesman: Well, first of all, the resolution has not been adopted yet. I think the decision to vote was announced following the Council’s consultations this morning. He won’t have an official comment on that text until it is adopted.

Question: The United States and Saudi Arabian Governments have been discussing the possibility of sending Muslim troops to Iraq. How important is it for the Secretary-General that the UN mission in Iraq be protected by Muslim forces rather than by forces from non-Muslim countries?

Associate Spokesman: Well, you’d have to pose that question to him directly. As of now, I don’t have any reports of any firm commitments to the force that you have mentioned. But I think that the Secretary-General probably will have something to say on the matter once it becomes more firmed up.

Question: Did the Secretary-General say anything about the express mention of the word “sanctions” in the Sudan resolution? Is that something that he had discussed at any point?

Associate Spokesman: Again, the resolution has not been adopted and I think that the Secretary-General would not comment on it until action has been taken. He has mentioned his views on the use of sanctions publicly, though, and I can dig up that press encounter for you on what he has said in the past. But I don’t have anything for you today.

Question: I know the resolution hasn’t been passed, but it does mention that the Secretary-General will provide a report after 30 days. How will that report be put together? What will be the basis of the information?

Associate Spokesman: He himself has mentioned the 30-day reporting cycle. As you know, when the Secretary-General was in the region, before he left, he and the Government of Sudan signed a Joint Communiqué. That Communiqué led to the establishment of a Joint Implementation Mechanism for the commitments to be honoured.

There was a three-day joint verification mission -- made up of UN officials, Sudanese Government officials, Ambassadors from concerned countries and, I believe representatives from other UN agencies, as well -- which just completed a visit to the Darfur region. They returned to Khartoum yesterday evening and they are preparing a report on their first verification mission, which will be presented on 2 August in Khartoum to the second meeting of the Joint Implementation Mechanism, the body charged with following-up the Joint Communiqué.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Jan Pronk, is expected to be there for that meeting, and he indicated that the report would be made available to the Council. So this would form the basis of the first reporting and then every 30 days there will be an update.

If there are no other questions, have a good afternoon. Thank you.

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