DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
12 January 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
If I can ask whoever had their cell phone on to switch it off, please.
**Guest at Noon
Good afternoon. Our guest, as usual in a few minutes, will be Kevin Kennedy, the Director of the Coordination and Response Division of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. And as usual, he will bring you the update on the earthquake and tsunami response.
**Secretary-General in Mauritius
The Secretary-General today is in Mauritius, where he will deliver an address Thursday morning to the 2,000 participants of the International Meeting on Small Island Developing States.
Today, the Secretary-General and Nane Annan visited a major parallel activity of the Mauritius Conference, called the “Community Vilaj”, which is a showcase of sustainable development efforts in small islands worldwide. The Secretary-General told the community representatives who had gathered there, “You represent an adaptive, resilient group that is necessary for any society to move forward.”
Later, the Secretary-General opened the final session of the parallel youth forum of the Conference.
At the end of the afternoon, the Secretary-General addressed island leaders taking part in a summit meeting of the Alliance of Small Island States. He referred to the recent earthquake and tsunami, saying, “as a result of the terrible catastrophe, we can see more clearly not only the challenges facing small islands, but also their relevance for the entire world.” And his comments are available upstairs.
**Security Council - Haiti
Turning to the Security Council, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Haiti, Juan Valdes, briefed the Council this morning in an open meeting, which is still going on as we speak.
In his address, Valdes said the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti has entered a new phase, and taken decisive steps to stabilize the security situation in the country.
He outlined some recent security operations, adding that the Mission has almost reached its mandated level of manpower, which in turn, has increased the Mission’s ability to deal with the security situation and the political transition.
Valdes also reiterated the need for international support for Haiti.
The Council’s meeting is being chaired by Argentina’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and it is also being attended by another seven foreign affairs ministers from the Americas. And we have upstairs a list of their names, as well as the briefing remarks by Ambassador Juan Valdes.
**Security Council - Sudan
Turning to the Sudan, yesterday afternoon, as you know, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, told the Security Council, “It is hard to imagine that the peace dividend promised by the Nairobi Agreement will be reaped without an end to the suffering in Darfur.”
He focused much of his briefing on Darfur, where he said the security situation is “still bad” and the humanitarian situation is poor. And politically, Darfur finds itself in a stalemate, he said.
He noted that large quantities of arms had been carried into Darfur in defiance of the Security Council decision taken in July, and he flagged the emergence of new rebel movements that were launching attacks in the area of oil facilities in western Kordofan.
He also warned of a possible period of intense violence unless swift action is taken and new approaches are considered. And he outlined a number of suggestions.
**IAMB — IRAQ
Related to Iraq, the Secretary-General, in a letter sent to the Security Council, transmitted to them the review written by his representative on the International Advisory and Monitoring Board of the Board’s work over the past year.
The representative, Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, said that an external auditor has concluded that all known oil proceeds, reported frozen assets and transfers from the oil-for-food programme have been properly and transparently accounted for in the Development Fund for Iraq.
But the Board believes the auditors’ controls were insufficient to provide reasonable assurance on petroleum exports, and whether all the Development Fund’s disbursements were made for the purposes intended.
The Board also agreed to the terms of reference for a special audit of sole-sources contracts, proposed by the U.S. Government, to be completed by an independent auditor. That audit is expected to be completed by this April and is also expected to be made public.
An appointment announced today, the Secretary-General has appointed Lieutenant-General Joseph Olorungbon Owonibi of Nigeria as Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The general replaces Lieutenant-General Daniel Opande of Kenya. And we have a biography of the new Force Commander upstairs.
Yesterday and the day before, I was asked by a number of you whether the Secretary-General had been prevented during his recent travels from seeing India or parts of Sri Lanka.
First of all, I’d like to say that we do not discuss the details of the planning phases of the Secretary-General’s trips. I can say, however, that in planning this trip, we looked at the entire area hit by the tsunami, and chose two of the worst-hit – Aceh, in Indonesia, and Sri Lanka -- and a small island State that proportionately was badly hit, the Maldives. The Secretary-General did not visit India this time around.
As for Sri Lanka, the Secretary-General made clear that he saw a lot of the country in 48 hours, including a refugee camp for Tamils in the north-east. Before his departure, he told reporters, “I am hoping to be able to come back and someday be able to visit all parts of your country, which I hope will be rebuilt, but also to celebrate peace.”
And Kevin will join us in just a second on the tsunami.
**Guest at Noon Tomorrow
Tomorrow, Jan Egeland, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, will be joining us at noon to provide an update on the assistance to countries affected by the tsunami and the earthquake, and to discuss the World Conference on Disaster Reduction scheduled to take place in Kobe from 18 to 22 January.
**Press Briefing Tomorrow
And tomorrow at 1:00 o’clock, Mark Malloch Brown, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme, will be joined by Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the UN Millennium Project, at an embargoed briefing on the Millennium Project final report entitled “Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals”. The report and the briefing are embargoed until noon on Monday, 17, when it will be presented to the Secretary-General.
Please note that because the briefing is embargoed, UN TV will not be airing it live. You would have to be in this room to participate.
That’s about it from me, do you have any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: This SG trip and, you know, everyone in the world had a story about what India thought it could do and couldn’t do and saying with Indonesia, you know, are you hiding behind security by not going into this? It seems a bit lack of transparency when... (Inaudible).
Associate Spokesman: Well, first of all, I think the Indian Government today issued a statement denying that they had stopped the Secretary-General from visiting the country. I don’t know what else I can add to what I have said. We looked at an entire area hit by the tsunami and chose the two locations we did go to. Yes, Mohammad?
Question: Stéphane, do you have any information regarding Israel’s agreement for opening up (Inaudible)... Palestinians?
Associate Spokesman: Sorry, any? Israeli’s reaction?
Question: Palestinian damage?
Associate Spokesman: No, we announced that we were working actively on opening up this registry, and I think Israel’s cooperation for this registry to work will obviously be a very important factor, but I have not seen any reaction so far. Yes, Suzie?
Question: Just to follow up on Sri Lanka, did the Secretary-General..., were there places that he wanted to go to that he was stopped from going to? Were all the places he had hoped to go to the places he went to? And just on another issue, Colin Powell is quite (Inaudible) ...saying the Secretary-General will have to be held accountable for management problems relating to oil-for-food. Any reaction to his statement?
Associate Spokesman: On the first part, I am not aware that he was blocked from visiting any areas. What I do know is that he wound up going to all the places that were in the final plan for him to go. On the comments by Secretary Powell, obviously as Secretary-General he is accountable to Member States for the management of the Secretariat. I think, as Secretary Powell pointed out, responsibility on this matter also rests with the Security Council. As you know, the Secretary-General created the independent inquiry committee and stated that he would take whatever actions are appropriate based on the findings of Mr. Volcker. And the Secretary-General, as I have said a number of times in the last couple of days, has also initiated a management overhaul designed to increase accountability and improve the performance of the Secretariat.
Any other questions?
Kevin? [Issued Separately]
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