DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
8 February 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Djibril Diallo, Spokesman for the General Assembly President.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General
**Guest at Noon
Joining us today will be Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa. He is the Chairman of the Commission on Social Development, and he will brief on the work of the Commission’s forty-third session, which begins tomorrow.
The Security Council is holding an open meeting today on Sudan.
Sudanese First Vice-President Ali Othman Taha; John Garang, Chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement; the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Jan Pronk; the African Union Commission’s Special Representative Baba Gana Kingibe; and Security Council President, Ambassador Joël Adechi of Benin, are on the speakers’ list.
The Secretary-General attended the meeting.
Jan Pronk, in his statement, summarized the findings of the latest report by the Secretary-General on Darfur, which is out as a document today.
He said: Over the past six months, performance by the Government of Sudan in complying with its commitments and obligations has been uneven. Humanitarian access in Darfur has improved. However, action on human rights, in particular measures to end impunity, have fallen short of what the Government agreed to, and what the Security Council has demanded.
The Government has shown willingness to make progress in the political talks on Darfur. However, fighting continues. The ceasefire has not been kept. Those responsible for atrocious crimes on a massive scale go unpunished. Militias continue to attack, claiming that they are not part of any agreement. And the Government has not stopped them.
This is a dismal picture, Pronk said, and he appealed to all parties concerned, the African Union, as well as members of the Security Council, to find a creative way to expand the present force into one which can stop all attacks.
**Iraq - Vote
Our colleagues in the Electoral Assistance Division tell us that all the results from polling stations around Iraq have made it to Baghdad and are now being tabulated.
A first result is expected on Thursday. The final official results will only be confirmed about a week later, once any claims that have come in are resolved.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, Terje Roed-Larsen, continued his visit to Syria and Lebanon today.
Earlier in the day in Beirut, he met with President Emile Lahoud to whom he delivered a letter from the Secretary-General regarding the implementation of the resolution.
He also held separate discussions with Prime Minister Omar Karami, Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares, Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud, Speaker Nabih Berri and other government officials.
The Special Envoy’s talks have been held in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation, and he is confident that positive results can be expected in the course of his assignment.
His report to the Security Council is expected to be submitted to the Council in April of this year.
He will continue his meetings tomorrow in Beirut with an array of Lebanese political figures.
**MMB to Washington
The Secretary-General's Chef de Cabinet, Mark Malloch Brown, will be travelling to Washington tomorrow to meet with a number of Congressional leaders. Malloch Brown is expected to meet, among others, Senators Norm Coleman and Carl Levin of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and Representatives Henry Hyde and Tom Lantos of the House International Relations Committee.
Other meetings on Capitol Hill are being scheduled and we will announce them once they are confirmed.
The focus of Malloch Brown's discussion will be the UN's ongoing and management and administrative reforms.
**DRC - UNICEF
UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, has begun -- along with its partners -- a humanitarian operation to help around 50,000 internally displaced people in the province of Ituri, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
At least 10,000 families in the Djugu territory, north of Bunia, have been displaced in recent weeks by armed groups which have looted and burned down villages and reportedly killed civilians.
Peacekeepers from the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are currently protecting some of the displaced persons. And we have more on that upstairs.
**UN Seeks Nearly $3 Million to Help Flood Victims in Guyana
The UN today launched a flash appeal for Guyana, to meet the immediate needs of those hit by the recent floods.
The appeal amounts to almost $3 million, the majority of which will go towards addressing food and health-related needs.
Jan Egeland, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, hopes that donors will show the same generosity towards Guyana that they have shown towards the countries hit by the tsunami. We have a press release on that upstairs.
Nine UN human rights experts today expressed their concern at the actions taken by the King of Nepal to dissolve that country’s constitutional government and suspend civil and political liberties.
In a joint statement, they expressed particular concern at the wave of arrests and detentions following the 1 February declaration of a state of emergency in Nepal, calling the detentions “a serious setback for the country”. They called for steps to be taken to reinstall democratic institutions and to protect Nepalese citizens.
We have copies of that statement upstairs.
**Somalia: Respect for Human Rights Crucial for Stability
On Somalia, unless human rights become a cornerstone of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, the long-term stability of the country cannot be guaranteed.
That was the finding of Ghanim Alnajjar, the UN-appointed independent expert on human rights in Somalia, as he wrapped up a thirteen-day mission to the country.
He also called for the immediate release and repatriation of all prisoners of war still being held in Somaliland and Puntland.
And we have more information on Dr. Alnajjar’s trip in a press release upstairs.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
Now, I was waiting for three statements for the top of the briefing. I have received one of them; this on the Middle East. We’ll see if the other two get down here in the next minute or two.
“The Secretary-General warmly welcomes the statements of Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon today in Sharm el-Sheikh. He believes that their joint announcements to cease violence after four years of death and suffering provide an opportunity for the peace process to resume. The Secretary-General commends the steps taken by the Israeli and Palestinian leaders and looks forward to further cooperation as part of the implementation of their obligations under the Road Map.
“The Secretary-General also commends Egyptian President Mubarak for organizing the Sharm el-Sheikh summit and for his leadership in the peace process. He believes that in the critical months ahead, the active participation of Egypt and of King Abdullah of Jordan will greatly enhance the chances of achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the critical months ahead.”
That’s all I have for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Fred, are you aware of any kind of UN report on the investigation on the market (inaudible) in Sarajevo during the war? I believe it was 1994. So, apparently according to some press reports in Bosnia, there are some reports that the UN is doing that investigation and that there is already a newer report, and that that changes the common sense of what had happened.
Spokesman: A new report?
Question: Yes, UN report.
Spokesman: No, I am not aware of that. I can check for you, but I haven’t heard anything about that.
Question: (Inaudible)...I’d ask, but you’re the guy who would know that, of course.
Spokesman: I don’t know. But we’ll check on it.
Question: What does Mr. Mark Malloch Brown expect to achieve by going to Washington to explain UN actions to the US lobby groups?
Spokesman: Well, this is a follow-up to the interim report by Paul Volcker’s committee or commission. And it is to report to the US lawmakers what the United Nations has done in recent years to reform its administrative and management practices. And I think that if any lawmaker anywhere in the world would like a briefing on what we have been doing quietly over the years --usually not things that we expect would be of much interest to you, such as reforming our procurement process, overhauling our personnel process, creating a new budget process -- all of things that have been carried out as part of Kofi Annan’s reform agenda…
Anyway, so, it’s basically an informational briefing on his part to make them aware of what we have done and what may yet remain to be done as a result of reading Volcker’s report.
Question: How is he obligated to present this to US lawmakers, would you say? Has it been done before? Or is it a new precedent-setting trend that he is doing now?
Spokesman: No. It’s perfectly normal for the Secretary-General or his senior people to visit Member States, particularly the host country, on a variety of matters. We go to Washington regularly. Almost every time the Secretary-General is in Washington, he tries to see members of Congress, as he does when he visits other countries. It’s kind of standard for this Secretary-General to meet with lawmakers. He’s tried to draw parliamentarians closer to the United Nations, generally. That’s also been one of his strengths of reform.
So, we think the UN’s relations...(Interrupted).
Question: I suppose this is the first visit by any UN Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet to Washington?
Spokesman: I don’t know. There was only one previous Chef de Cabinet, of course, Iqbal Riza. I don’t know that Mr. Riza ever visited Washington. But I’ll have to check for you.
Question: How many Secretaries-General are we talking about? Boutros-Ghali...?
Spokesman: I try to deal with a 24-hour news cycle. The history, you’ll have to go to my office afterwards and we’ll look up what we can for you.
Question: Fred, ultimately, do you know how many claims there have been, any fraud claims in the Iraqi elections?
Spokesman: No. You’d have to ask the Iraqi Electoral Commission that, or whoever their spokesman is.
Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: The Secretary-General (inaudible)...twice the word “critical” in looking through the statement by the Palestinian and Israeli leaders. In what ways does he see the next few months as being critical?
Spokesman: That’s a historical question as well. I think everyone knows that with the death of President Arafat, fresh efforts have been made to revive peace talks in the Middle East. There was anticipation that early in this new year there would be fresh efforts by the Quartet. And there has been over the last couple of months growing expectation that there is new room to manoeuvre on the Middle Eastern front, and I think the events in Sharm el-Sheikh of today confirm that.
So, the Secretary-General is looking forward to seeing this process continue on the positive track it now appears to be on.
**Statement by the Secretary-General on Resignation of Ms. Elisabeth Lindenmayer
Let me read this. It’s by the Secretary-General regarding his Deputy Chef de Cabinet, Elisabeth Lindenmayer:
“It is with sadness that I have accepted the resignation of my Deputy Chef de Cabinet, Ms. Elisabeth Lindenmayer, effective immediately.
“Ms. Lindenmayer served the United Nations with exceptional loyalty, competence and diligence since 1977. She had an extensive career in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, where she served in several senior positions. Ms. Lindenmayer also served in the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Finance, the Office of Human Resources Management, and as my Executive Assistant in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. I am deeply grateful for her unstinting support and her steadfast commitment to the principles of the Charter, and I know that her many friends throughout the UN family and around the world join me in wishing her all the best in the years to come.”
Any questions on that?
Question: Who is taking her place?
Spokesman: On an acting basis, it is Michael Moller, who is a Director in the Secretary-General’s office. And the search for a replacement is under way.
Question: Is it because there is a reshuffling in the Secretariat that she is leaving?
Spokesman: No, this was Ms. Lindenmayer’s initiative and I would have to let her speak for herself.
Question: (Inaudible)...Is Paddy Ashdown coming down next week, or?
Spokesman: I don’t know. That’s next week. Go to my office, we’ll try to find out for you.
So, Ambassador Kumalo, thank you for coming. Please come up and tell us about the Commission for Social Development.
Spokesman for General Assembly President
My office has received enquiries regarding the schedule of the sixtieth session of the General Assembly. I would like to give you some information in that connection.
The General Assembly’s sixtieth session will start on Tuesday, 13 September. The High-Level Plenary Meeting of the sixtieth session will run from 14-16 September. The general debate will last from 17-28 September.
You can find upstairs resolution A/res/59/145 which has more details regarding the modalities and format of the sixtieth session.
The second item has to do with the President’s travel.
This morning, General Assembly President Jean Ping addressed the Corporate Council on Africa. The theme of his statement was: “Which opportunities in Central Africa, particularly in Gabon, can bring Americans to strengthen their business presence in this region?”
President Ping made this address in Washington, D.C., and he is coming back to New York to chair, this afternoon, the eighth informal meeting of the General Committee. In that connection, he is expected to address a number of issues. The first issue has to do with the structure of the preliminary list of items to be included in the provisional agenda of the sixtieth regular session of the General Assembly.
In that connection, the President sent, on 4 February, a letter to members of the Committee attaching a draft structure for the preliminary list of items for that session. The new structure is slightly different from that of the agenda of the fifty-ninth session in that it proposes to have some basic household items moved to a different segment. It also addresses the issue where substantive items will be dealt with. The President’s idea is to encourage consultation among Member States, leading to that document serving as a blueprint for the agenda of the future sessions as well.
The second item the President expects to cover this afternoon has to do with the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly. In that connection, the President will share with the meeting the fact that he held consultations last week with facilitators. That was last Tuesday. And also, he will share with the meeting some of the work of the General Assembly in the near future.
In that connection, he will mention the following: the fact that yesterday there was the meeting of the open-ended working group on the question of equitable representation on an increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Security Council. Second item: a meeting of the working group of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, which began on 2 February, will continue until 25 February.
Thereafter, the Special Political and Colonization Committee, otherwise known as the Fourth Committee, will meet to resume consideration of agenda item 77, which is about comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all its aspects.
The working group of the Sixth Committee on the convention against the reproductive cloning of human beings will convene on Monday and Tuesday, 14 and 15 February. The Sixth Committee will convene its meeting on Friday, 18 February, to consider and take action on the report of the working group.
After the Committees have met, the General Assembly will schedule meetings to take up the recommendations of the two Committees.
Another item that the President will address this afternoon has to do with a meeting of the General Assembly to be held on 15 February to elect a member of the International Court of Justice.
There are some plenary items that have yet to be considered, such as agenda item 24, prevention of armed conflict, and agenda item 156, multilingualism. There are also some other items with pending draft proposals that need to be taken up.
The General Assembly will schedule meetings whenever delegations are ready to address these items.
Another item to be addressed this afternoon, which has been covered in the past in these briefings, is the informal meeting of the plenary the day after tomorrow, 10 February 2005, to continue the exchange of views on the Sachs report.
And as of 22 February, again, this has been mentioned in this briefing, another informal meeting of the plenary will be held to exchange views on the two reports. That is, the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, and what is commonly referred to as the Jeffrey Sachs report.
This afternoon at 4:30, the ninth informal meeting of the General Committee, will hear a presentation by Mr. Anwarul Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, on addressing the needs of those countries.
That’s all I have for you.
If not, thank you.
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