DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
28 February 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General has nominated Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi of Thailand as Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, or UNCTAD for short, for a term of four years beginning on 1 September of this year. Dr. Panitchpakdi currently heads the World Trade Organization.
This appointment would need to be confirmed by the General Assembly. And we have a biographical note in my office, and also the following statement attributable to the Secretary-General directly:
**Statement by the Secretary-General
“I am absolutely delighted that Supachai Panitchpakdi has agreed that I should propose his appointment as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
“Dr. Supachai has done an outstanding job as Director-General of the World Trade Organization, particularly in pushing forward the very difficult process of the Doha round, on which rest many of the hopes for economic progress in developing countries and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. His willingness to move to UNCTAD is eloquent testimony to the important role of that body in ensuring that the interests of development are taken into account in discussions on world trade, and that the voice of developing countries is heard. In him, the United Nations, and the developing world, will have an advocate of incomparable authority in the trade arena.”
**Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General
We have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman regarding the bombing in Iraq today:
“The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest possible terms the horrendous suicide car bombing that took place today in Hillah, in which over 110 civilians, police and National Guard volunteers were reportedly killed and at least 130 others injured. This terrorist attack constitutes a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.
“These repeated acts of senseless violence, in which the Iraqi people have become the main target, only seek to undermine the prospects of a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Iraq. The Secretary-General appeals to all Iraqis to refrain from all acts of violence, put aside their differences and work together in a spirit of national reconciliation. Ultimately, the foundations of a new Iraq can only be built through peaceful means, based on dialogue, mutual understanding and compromise. The United Nations will continue to stand by the Iraqi people in this process.
“The Secretary-General extends his sincere condolences and deepest sympathies to the families of all the victims of this reprehensible attack and hopes for the speedy recovery of the wounded.”
The Deputy Secretary-General arrived in Monrovia, Liberia today, starting the first leg of her visit to UN peacekeeping missions.
The purpose of the visit is to drive home with the peacekeeping missions the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
She met with Special Representative Jacques Klein. Tomorrow, she is scheduled to meet with the mission’s management team and hold a Town Hall meeting with the entire staff.
In the course of the week she will also visit peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. And we will keep you posted step by step on that visit.
The UN mission in Darfur, Sudan continues to receive reports of violence.
A number of weekend incidents were reported, including an attack by tribal militia on a village in South Darfur, which the African Union said resulted in the deaths of two villagers.
If the United Nations withdraws its military liaison officers and police trainers from Timor-Leste as scheduled on 20 May, the country may face insurmountable challenges in its path towards peace and stability.
That is what Sukehiro Hasegawa, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste, told the Security Council today in its open meeting on that country, where the UN Mission is scheduled to wrap up its work in May.
The Secretary-General, in his latest report to the Council, recommended that a scaled-down UN Mission be kept in the country for another 12-month period. Hasegawa said that the period could be shortened if bilateral and multilateral arrangements are found to assume the responsibilities that the Mission currently performs. We have copies of his speech upstairs.
Today is the last day of Benin’s Presidency of the Security Council. Tomorrow, Brazil will take over the rotating Council Presidency for the month of March.
**Friday Statement Attributable to the Spokesman
On Friday; perhaps after many of you left, we issued the following statement regarding the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, Israel. I’d just like to read it into the record:
“The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest possible terms the suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv this evening.
“He expresses his hope that immediate action will be taken to apprehend and bring to justice the perpetrators. This terrorist act should not be allowed to undermine the recent positive steps taken by both sides.
“The Secretary-General offers his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims.”
We have two announcements from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, better known as UNRWA.
First, earlier today in Geneva, the agency’s Commissioner-General, Peter Hansen, unveiled a 5-year medium-term plan. The plan is designed not only to enhance the quality of its education, health and social services but also to better promote self-reliance among the refugees by extending the Agency’s microcredit programme, increasing its provision of vocational training and by upgrading the conditions in the refugee camps.
The agency is requesting $1.1 billion over the next five years to implement this plan, which was designed in consultation with major donors.
Second, the Saudi Arabian Government said it will donate $20 million to UNRWA’s emergency relief fund. This will go towards a major re-housing project in Rafah in southern Gaza for many of the thousands of refugees who lost their homes during Israeli demolition operations over the last four years.
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reports that one of its peacekeepers shot and killed a prisoner as he tried to escape from a jail in the country’s north-east.
About 15 prisoners kicked down the door of a makeshift jail cell at the UN base near the town of Bunia, the capital of the Ituri District.
The prisoners then attacked a UN guard and tried to steal his weapon. The guard struggled with the prisoners and managed to fire several warning shots as they tried to flee.
One prisoner was killed in the shooting and another wounded -– no prisoners escaped.
Several other prisoners were injured while being apprehended and were taken to a UN hospital in Bunia.
The UN Mission is carrying out an investigation now into the escape.
The UN Mission in Haiti reports that three Brazilian peacekeepers were shot and wounded during routine patrols over the weekend in the Bel Air neighbourhood of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
Two of the soldiers were shot late Friday, and the third on Saturday.
All three received prompt medical treatment and later rejoined their contingent. All of them are reported in good condition today.
The armed elements who shot at the Brazilians have not yet been identified.
And the UN Mission is investigating.
**SG Message – Women
Ten years after the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing, women are not only more aware of their rights; they are more able to exercise them. That’s what the Secretary-General said this morning at the opening of the Session of the Commission on the Status of Women marking Beijing Plus Ten.
He added that, while we have seen tangible progress on many fronts -- including improving life expectancy for women and more girls enrolled in primary education -- new challenges, such as the trafficking of women and children and the terrifying growth of HIV/AIDS among young women, remain.
We have the full text of the Secretary-General’s message upstairs.
** Côte d’Ivoire
The Secretary-General, in a letter to the Security Council President, has informed members of his intention to appoint Sweden’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Pierre Schori, as his Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire.
The Security Council is expected to respond to the letter by midday Wednesday.
Peacekeepers of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) stepped in to restore security in a western village earlier today following an early morning attack launched by a group of armed young men against a Forces Nouvelles checkpoint.
Following UN peacekeepers’ action, 87 armed men were detained and will be handed over to the appropriate authorities. Their weapons and ammunition were also seized. A Bangladeshi peacekeeper was seriously injured in the incident, as well as two civilians, according to the Peacekeeping Department.
The UN mission says it regrets this attack and considers that it could only serve as a setback to the peace process at a time when the international community, in particular the South African mediation process, as well as all the actors of the Côte d’Ivoire conflict, have made every effort to find a political solution to the crisis.
In another incident, on Sunday night, fighting broke out at another village. The UN mission managed to send troops to quell the fighting in which nine villagers were injured.
The Secretary-General, in another statement issued Friday evening, welcomed the decision by Faure Gnassingbe to step down as head of State of Togo and the subsequent designation by the National Assembly of an Interim Head of State who will oversee the organization of the forthcoming elections in accordance with the Constitution.
We have the full statement available upstairs.
The Board of Governors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is meeting today in Vienna, and Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told the Board that the Agency has made progress in following up on information provided by Iran on its centrifuge programmes. He encouraged Iran to provide full transparency on its nuclear activities and to work closely with the Agency to build the necessary confidence.
ElBaradei, in response to a question from a reporter today, said he could not put any time frame on when the Iran issue would be resolved. However, he told reporters, the Agency is making progress on the substance of the important issues, including determining the sources of contamination found on Iraqi equipment.
We have copies of ElBaradei’s statement upstairs.
**Press Conference this Afternoon
Immediately following this briefing, Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund, will be here to talk about the tenth year review and appraisal of the Beijing Plan of Action, as well as sexual violence and exploitation of women.
**Guest at Noon Tomorrow
And then our guest at the briefing tomorrow will be Ambassador Melvyn Levitsky, the United States member of the International Narcotics Control Board, who will be here to launch the Board’s annual report.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
And then a press conference tomorrow afternoon at 4, Madame Nicole Ameline, the French Minister for Parity and Equality in the Workplace, will hold a press conference in this room.
That’s all I have for you today.
Questions and Answers
Question: On the Congo shooting and killing of a prisoner who escaped --you said peacekeepers fired warning shots? So, the prisoner was killed accidentally when a warning shot that was not meant to hit him hit him?
Spokesman: Sure. We have all those details. We’re investigating it. It indicated that these people broke out of their cell, attacked the guard, tried to take his weapon, shots were fired, and then subsequently more shots were fired as these people tried to flee the compound.
So, I am not sure I can answer that question. We might better wait until the investigation is completed.
Question: On Lebanon, do you have any reaction of the Secretary-General on the resignation of the Government?
Spokesman: That was happening at two minutes after twelve just before I came down here. At least we saw the reporting on it. So, it’s too early. We’ll see if we have a reaction a little bit later.
Question: Did the recruitment policies announcement by the Secretary-General last week apply in this case of recruitment of the gentleman from Thailand as the head of UNCTAD? Or was it already in the pipeline and there was no time to...(Interrupted)?
Spokesman: It was already in the pipeline, but it’s an appointment that we’re particularly proud of. We think it’s an especially good one, and we think that Member States generally, will applaud it.
Question: With half of humanity in the UN’s basement this week, will there be any attention to the parallel Commission for Sustainable Development meeting, which has also something going on these two weeks?
Spokesman: Well, what we can do is try to get someone to come to this room to brief you on that subject, as well.
Question: That was my intention of bringing it up because they may just get lost in the shuffle.
Spokesman: Okay, we’ll see if we can do that.
All right, I see Carol Bellamy in the back. So, I would ask her to come up and brief you now.
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