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Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

1 March 2005

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

Good afternoon.

**Guest at Noon

I’ve got quite a few items here for you today.

Joining me in a short while will be Ambassador Melvyn Levitsky, the United States member of the International Narcotics Control Board, who will be here to discuss the Board’s annual report.


From London, following their meeting in London today, of the Middle East Quartet, members issued a joint statement.

Quartet members -- which include, as you know the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United States and the United Nations -- reaffirmed their commitment to help Israelis and Palestinians make progress toward a two-State solution. They noted the fragile state of the current momentum and encouraged both parties to continue direct dialogue and negotiations.

The members of the group agreed on the need to ensure that a new PalestinianState is truly viable, including with contiguous territory in the West Bank.

They also called for the full implementation of the commitments made by Israelis and Palestinians at the recent Sharm el-Sheikh summit. Quartet members added that the withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank should be undertaken in a manner consistent with the “Road Map”. And the full text of the statement is available upstairs.

**SG in London

Earlier today, the Secretary-General addressed the London Conference in Support of the Palestinian Authority, which was convened by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Secretary-General told the Conference that the sense of expectation is palpable, and that “there is a feeling that, after long years of suffering, bitterness and despair, better days may lie ahead”.

He told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he acted courageously to restrain violence and has clearly articulated a vision of the future for Palestinians that is based on dignity and justice. The Secretary-General focused on three areas of Palestinian reform: good governance, security and economic development. And we have copies of the Secretary-General’s speech upstairs.

In the margins of the meeting, the Secretary-General met with Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In all three meetings, the participants discussed developments in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The Secretary-General also discussed the situation in Sudan with Amre Moussa, and Côte d’Ivoire and this September’s General Assembly summit with the French Foreign Minister.

After the meeting with Rice, the Secretary-General, in a brief press encounter, said that he and the Secretary of State had discussed UN reform, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon, North Korea, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan and Nepal.

He told the press that he felt the Palestinians have handled the transition “extremely well and competently”, and added his hope that today’s meeting would add to the momentum that has been gathering.

After a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister Blair, the Secretary-General attended the meeting of the Quartet, which I have just mentioned. And later, he is to meet with Blair to discuss UN reform, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as well as the Prime Minister’s Africa initiative. This evening, the Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with President Abbas. And we expect him back in the office on Thursday.

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

And now I have a statement on Burundi:

“The Secretary-General would like to congratulate warmly the Transitional Government of Burundi and the Burundian people for the successful conduct of the referendum on the post-transitional constitution, which took place yesterday.

“In welcoming this important event in the national history of Burundi, the Secretary-General also calls on all Burundian parties to build on this positive momentum and ensure the early conduct of the national elections that would conclude the transitional process in the country.”


Our mission in Burundi reported that voters turned out in large numbers to vote for a new constitution yesterday, with people lining up to cast their vote as early as 6 in the morning just as the polling stations were about to open. Crowds continued to pour into the stations in an orderly and calm manner throughout the day.

**Security Council

Turning to the Security Council, Brazil has assumed the Security Council Presidency for the month of March. Today, the new Council President, Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg, is holding bilateral meetings on the month’s programme of work. And he will brief you following tomorrow’s consultations here in 226.

Last night, following consultations on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Security Council President for February, Ambassador Adechi of Benin, read a press statement on the Middle East.

In it, Council members condemned in the strongest possible terms Friday’s terrorist attack in Tel Aviv and called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and to continue on the path of direct dialogue and negotiations in order to implement the Road Map and to realize the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security.

**MONUC – Ambush Arrests Made

Turning to the situation in the DRC, the UN Mission in that country says it’s been informed by the Government that three people have now been arrested in Kinshasa in relation to last week’s attack in which nine UN peacekeepers were killed in the eastern part of that country. The Mission’s chief, William Swing, made the announcement at a memorial service for the fallen “blue helmets” which took place in Kinshasa today.

**DRC – Humanitarians Stop

Also on the DRC, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that humanitarian organisations have suspended help for 40,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Kakwa and Tché areas of the Ituri district in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The suspension follows Friday’s attack on the UN peacekeepers.

The latest suspension means that there are now more than 54,000 recently displaced people without vital aid in Ituri. OCHA says the humanitarian community will continue to review the security situation on a daily basis to determine whether aid activities can resume in the area. And we have more information upstairs.

**DSG Spends Day in Liberia

Turning to the Deputy Secretary-General: As you know, she is on a mission in Liberia to emphasize the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers and she met in Monrovia with the Senior Management of the UN mission, as well as the Country Team. She also held a working-level meeting with Mission personnel who are working on those issues of sexual exploitation; and held a town hall meeting with the mission civilian and military staff.

Accompanied by Special Representative Jacques Paul Klein, the Deputy Secretary-General visited the town of Greenville in the morning, reviewing Ethiopian peacekeepers and paying a courtesy call on Gyude Bryant, the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia.

The Deputy Secretary-General and Chairman Bryant discussed preparations for the 11 October Liberian national elections, and the severe shortfall in donor funding for the reintegration of ex-combatants, as well as progress on restructuring and retraining of Liberian armed forces.

Special Representative Jacques Klein also noted that any allegations of sexual exploitation or abuses would be taken very seriously at the highest level in the Mission.


Turning to Somalia, the challenges facing Somalia are enormous, although the current power-sharing arrangement is the country’s most inclusive peace process ever, the Secretary-General says.

In his report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General notes that Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf has sought the help of African Union peacekeepers to help the Transitional Federal Government to relocate to Somalia. The Secretary-General says that the United Nations is prepared to support the African Union in the planning of a protection force. In the report, he says he intends to appoint a Special Representative, at the Assistant Secretary-General level, to lead the expanded UN role.

Côte d’Ivoire

On Côte d’Ivoire, the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General in that country, Alan Doss, as well as the Force Commander, General Abdoulaye Fall, and other UN officials held a meeting with President Laurent Gbagbo today and discussed the security situation in the country, particularly in the West, a day following an early morning attack on a western village.

The UN mission observed that what had happened in the west early yesterday has proved that militias are armed and can be belligerent. The mission reported that tension is also mounting in the east part of the country. And the UN Force Commander, General Fall, hopes to meet with his Côte d’Ivoire and French counterparts later today.

Meanwhile, the mission expressed concern about the present tensions on the humanitarian situation in the country. The deterioration of the security situation would only further exacerbate assistance needs in the country.

**Refugee Statistics

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees today released its annual statistics on asylum seekers arriving in industrialized countries. In 2004, the number of asylum seekers fell sharply for the third year in a row, reaching its lowest level in 16 years across all the industrialized countries for which comparable historical statistics are available.

The top receiving country in 2004 was France, with an estimated 61,000. The United States, which was the top country last year, came in second with 52,000. While the UK fell to third and Germany -- the top asylum receiving country for 13 in the past 20 years -- was in fourth place. The largest group of asylum seekers in 2004 was from the Russian Federation. The majority of which are Chechens. The next largest groups of asylum seekers were from Serbia and Montenegro, many of whom are from Kosovo. Perhaps most striking statistics, says UNHCR, is that the number of Afghan asylum seekers has fallen by 83 per cent in the past three years.


Also from UNHCR, the Refugee agency and its partners are starting work this week on a new refugee camp in eastern Chad to accommodate Sudanese refugees who have fled Darfur. The camp will be the twelfth established in eastern Chad. In all, more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees live in camps in eastern Chad. The two-year-old conflict in Darfur has also uprooted another 1.8 million people in Darfur itself.


A note on Georgia. Torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials still exist in Georgia, but the authorities have taken some positive measures to fight the problem. That’s what Manfred Nowak, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture, said today, following a weeklong visit to the country. He also noted deplorable conditions in the Ministry of Justice’s pre-trial detention facilities. And we have more upstairs on his visit.


A couple more notes. In the vital debate about how best to respond to terrorism and prevent further attacks, the fate of those who survive terrorist attacks is too often neglected.

That remark is part of the Secretary-General’s message to mark the launch of a new book, called “The Trauma of Terrorism”. The launch will be held at 3:30 this afternoon, in Conference Room 1 here at UN Headquarters, and will feature a panel discussion on terrorism by some of the book’s authors, as well as a musical performance. The event will be chaired by Assistant Secretary for Political Affairs, Danilo Türk. And we have the full text of the message available upstairs.

Meanwhile, for the first time, Javier Rupérez, head of the UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate, is attending a meeting of directors-general of special services, state security and law-enforcement agencies in Russia. In a statement to the meeting he stressed the importance of cooperation and joint action by intelligence agencies in preventing terrorist acts.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

Turning to tomorrow, a couple of press conferences: The Permanent Mission of the Netherlands will be sponsoring a press conference by the non-governmental organization Equality Now on the Beijing+10 campaign against sex discriminatory laws. Speakers will include the actress Meryl Streep and Taina Bien-Aime, the Executive Director of Equality Now.

And at 3:30, the Senegalese Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, Aida Mbodj will be here to talk to you about Beijing+10.

And also today, the French Minister for Parity and Equality in the Workplace, Nichole Ameline, will hold a press conference in this room.

And I think that’s about it from me. Any questions?

Yes, Mohammad?

Questions and Answers

Question: Stéphane, how many peacekeeping forces and UNHCR staff have exploited children in African countries? And my other question is about the mission of Mr. Fitzgerald -- with whom has he met in recent days and how long will his mission take?

Associate Spokesman: I think you can expect Mr. Fitzgerald to continue for a further couple of weeks. But, obviously he will determine when he feels his work on the ground is completed.

We’ve not given you day-to-day update on his work, as this is an ongoing inquiry, but I do know that on his first day of work he met with the relevant Lebanese authorities who have been assisting him in the carrying out of his mission. And as for your other question, I don’t have numbers off the top of my head. This is, obviously, an area that is of extreme concern to the Secretary-General and to the UN as a whole. As you know, we’ve been very proactive in the last few weeks and months to track down any sexual abuse of children or civilians, and we’re determined to put an end to it, inasmuch as we can, with these new policies that the Secretary-General has put in place. And that’s obviously the message that the Deputy Secretary-General will be delivering in person to peacekeepers and civilian staff in the missions that she is visiting.


Question: In reference to the arrest or the announcement of the arrest made by William Swing; do you know what particular (inaudible)...group is? (Inaudible)...numbers of?

Associate Spokesman: It’s a good question. Let me take Edie’s question, and while I answer that, I will look to answer yours. Edie?

Question: Mine’s very simple, I thought the French Minister was having her press conference this afternoon?

Associate Spokesman: I probably was wrong, as I often tend to be. You know what, I’ll check. Maybe one of my colleagues can bring me down a note in the meantime.

Let me get back to you. We have the names available upstairs.

Question: One more question for you. Do you know when and if William Swing is going to resign?

Associate Spokesman: Ambassador Swing is in Kinshasa, as you know, today. He will be on his way to New York tomorrow. We don’t expect him here before Thursday. While here, he will review with the Secretary-General and senior staff his plans to crack down on sexual abuse and exploitation in the DRC, in the UN mission. There will also be a review of the success rate so far of the policies and how they have been applied.

As you know, recently there have been some far-reaching changes in the civilian and military structure of the UN mission, right down to the battalion commanders; a number of whom have been rotated out. In the context of that discussion, there will be a discussion on Ambassador Swing’s own plans for the future. But, at this point, he has not resigned.

Any other questions?

Ambassador, please, welcome.

(Issued separately)

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