DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
20 December 2004
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General
We’ll start with a statement attributable to the Spokesman on the subject of Iraq:
“The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest possible terms the latest series of attacks in the two holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, as well as in Baghdad, in which more than 60 people, including three election workers, were reportedly killed and more than 120 wounded. No cause can justify the killings of innocent civilians and the cold-blooded murder of election workers whose only purpose is to help the Iraqi people exercise their democratic right to vote.
The Secretary-General once again calls on all Iraqis not to be deterred by these attacks and to come together in a spirit of national reconciliation. The United Nations will continue to do everything possible to assist the Iraqi people in holding elections and in completing their political transition in an orderly way.
The Secretary-General extends his sincere condolences and deepest sympathies to the families of all the victims of these callous attacks.”
Meanwhile on the ground, at a ceremony earlier today in Baghdad organized to determine the order of political parties and entities on the ballots for the upcoming elections, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, expressed confidence the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq will be able to organize credible, fair and transparent elections.
Qazi was given the honour of pulling out the first three numbered balls from a rolling barrel which contained 256 balls, each corresponding to one of the political entities or coalitions running in the elections. The final tally is available upstairs.
At the ceremony, Qazi said the United Nations is privileged to have assisted the Independent Electoral Commission in preparing for the polls.
Over 20 UN electoral experts have been working with the Commission in Iraq, supported by many more from outside the country, and have helped the Commission in drafting regulations, procedures, and modalities, as well as training.
“It is truly in the interest of every Iraqi citizen”, Qazi said, “whatever their political views, to participate in this electoral process”.
Preparations for the elections were the major topic of the discussions Qazi had today with Iraqi Interim President Ghazi Al Yawer and Prime Minister Iyad Alawi in separate meetings.
Talks also addressed efforts to encourage broader participation in the political process as well as the security situation in the country.
In both meetings, Qazi said the UN will continue to do everything it can to support Iraq through the transitional process, both on political and humanitarian fronts. He is scheduled to have similar discussions later today with Interim Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh.
**MONUC -- Update
Turning to developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that tens of thousands of civilians have fled renewed fighting in the territory of Lubero, in the eastern province of North Kivu.
The new displacement is in addition to the 30,000 people who fled the locality of Kanyabayonga, also in North Kivu, last week –- after fighting between what’s reported to be factions of the DRC’s national army.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warns that unless the fighting stops, the massive displacement could have disastrous consequences for civilians, as it’s too dangerous to deliver food aid.
OCHA’s Humanitarian Coordinator in the DRC is calling on the military authorities to provide a neutral humanitarian space in this area so that humanitarian aid can be delivered to the displaced population.
In its latest update, the UN Mission in the DRC says that fighting appears to have halted around Kanyabayonga, and that the fighting on Sunday was due to efforts by one faction to push back another one from its positions.
The Mission has sent teams to investigate the latest developments on the ground, and we hope to update you when we get more information.
The United Nations has expressed its concern about recent fighting and ceasefire violations in Darfur.
The Joint Implementation Mechanism, consisting of the United Nations, the Government of the Sudan and diplomats, met yesterday in Khartoum at the request of the United Nations and its partners to discuss the situation in Darfur.
The United Nations and its partners expressed concern about the recent fighting in violation of the ceasefire agreement and the Abuja Protocols. They expressed concern also about the scale and nature of the military offensive by the Government of the Sudan “to clear” the roads and its impact on civilians. At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that the Government will immediately cease hostilities.
The United Nations and the African Union are requesting that the rebel groups do the same.
The UN mission in Sudan also reported that the Government agreed also to withdraw its forces to the lines of 8 April 2004.
Here in New York, a briefing on recent developments in Sudan has been requested in the Security Council and is expected at 10 a.m. tomorrow.
The Security Council held consultations on Guinea Bissau this morning.
Briefing the Council on the latest report by the Secretary-General was Joao Bernardo Honwana, his Representative for Guinea Bissau.
In that report, which is out on the racks today, the Secretary-General notes that Guinea-Bissau has made important progress since the 1998/1999 conflict.
As the country moves towards the completion of the ongoing transitional process, new challenges emerge, as evidenced by the military mutiny of 6 October 2004, he says. It is regrettable that since the beginning of the transition, qualified optimism has been replaced by growing scepticism.
He also notes an enhanced perception that the military poses the greatest obstacle to the consolidation of democracy and peace.
In Haiti, last week's armed stand-off between authorities and an armed group of demobilized soldiers, which had taken over the house of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, came to an end late Friday.
At the request of Haiti’s interim government, peacekeepers from the UN Mission helped remove the former soldiers. No one was hurt in the operation, which lasted less than an hour.
The removal followed failed attempts at mediation by members of political parties and civil society groups, as well as the UN Mission in Haiti.
The Mission says the use of force was a last resort, but was pleased at the lack of bloodshed in the operation.
In addition, the Mission welcomes initiatives taken by Haiti’s transitional government to address the legitimate claims made by the former soldiers over the payment of pensions, as well as moves to reintegrate them into civil society.
We have more on that upstairs.
After a two-day offensive by Israeli forces into the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees –- known as UNRWA –- opened one of its schools to provide temporary accommodation to 600 families displaced by the fighting. The Agency immediately served these families with hot meals and water, in addition to providing mattresses, blankets and mats.
For more information, you can see an UNRWA press release upstairs.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Office of the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process have published a report on Bethlehem.
The report takes a look at the economic and social impact of the conflict on this city of importance for Jews, Christians and Muslims.
And the report is available online as well as in our office.
The UN Mission in Afghanistan estimates that more than 30,000 military personnel have been disarmed in that country. About 1,000 troops were scheduled for disarmament yesterday alone, the Mission says.
Yesterday’s briefing notes from Kabul provide details, including the fact that, as the demobilized soldiers are being taught non-military skills, one activity that has proved very popular is tailoring. We have copies of the briefing notes upstairs.
**SG Message -- South-South Cooperation
Yesterday was the UN Day for South-South Cooperation. And the Secretary-General issued a message, saying that such cooperation is still not as wide-ranging and effective as it could be. At the same time, he acknowledged that political solidarity among countries of the South has helped put development at the heart of the global agenda.
We have the full text available upstairs.
At 4 o’clock this afternoon, Zepherin Diabre, the Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme, will be joined by Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate, at a press conference in this room to brief you on the UN Day for South-South Cooperation.
And there will be a related commemorative event at 3 this afternoon in Conference Room 2. And we have more information on that in my office.
**Climate Change Conference
The tenth anniversary of the UN Conference on Climate Change concluded over the weekend, after adopting a package of measures aimed at helping countries to prepare for climate change.
The Conference also considered the carbon market -- which allows for companies to sell or trade credits that they have earned by reducing their emissions, and which will come into force in the European Union on
The next meeting on climate change will be a seminar of governmental experts, to be held in Bonn next May. And we have a press release with more on that.
**SG Press Conference
The Secretary-General will hold his year-end press conference tomorrow. And we will get back to you with a specific time later this afternoon. I assume it will be in the morning.
And finally, it is with great sadness that we learned of the death on 12 December of Serge Beaulieu, of the Caribbean Network System, after a two-and-a-half year battle with lung cancer.
I’m sure you all will join us in extending to his wife and family our condolences, as we remember fondly his two decades of covering the United Nations from this house.
That’s all I have for you, thank you.
Questions and Answers
Question: With regard to that briefing on Sudan tomorrow Fred, will that be done by Jan Pronk or somebody else?
Spokesman: I don’t have that detail. I don’t think Pronk is in New York any more. But we’ll check for you and let you know afterwards. Yes, Massoud?
Question: Fred, over the weekend, Mr. (inaudible), I think, a UNDP official who is preparing this report for UNDP I think, on Arab affairs and the Middle East, said that the report is not liked by the United States and that the United States may cut off $100 million of UNDP funds. This is a Reuters report. He said that over the weekend.
Spokesman: You’ll have to ask the UN Development Programme about that. My understanding is that that report is still in the editing stages. But any details, I think, you should get from UNDP. I’ve not heard anything about withholding funds. You’ll have to ask UNDP.
Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Fred, the three election workers that were killed in Iraq, are they local workers, Iraqi workers or are they international staff?
Spokesman: They’re Iraqis. Yes?
Question: On behalf of the UN Correspondents Association, I have to lodge a strong protest at the appalling secrecy of events last week. I’m referring, of course, to you tying the knot. On behalf of us all, congratulations.
Spokesman: Thank you very much. Thank you to UNCA.
* *** *
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|