DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
7 March 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Guest at Noon
The Security Council has scheduled consultations on Somalia at 3 p.m. this afternoon. Winston Tubman, the Secretary-General’s Representative for Somalia, will brief the Council on the latest developments in that country.
Mr. Tubman will also be our guest today and will talk to you shortly about the situation in Somalia, as soon as I am done with this briefing.
**The Secretary-General’s Statement on Sudan
I have a statement directly attributable to the Secretary-General on Sudan:
“The members of the Security Council came to see me this morning, at my request, to discuss Sudan.
“I asked them to come and see me because I am worried that we are not moving fast enough to deal with the appalling situation in Darfur. There have been a lot of efforts on the humanitarian side, and by the African Union on the security side, which go in the right direction. But they are not enough. We keep getting reports which show that the killing and raping and burning are still going on.
“I was glad to hear from Council members that they hope to have a new resolution in the course of this week, which will include agreement on a mechanism for holding individuals accountable for these dreadful crimes. That is good. We must send a clear message that the world is not going to tolerate them.
“Meanwhile, everyone agrees that a stronger international presence on the ground is crucial. Where the African Union troops are, things are better for the population. But there are far too few of them.
“What can be done? Can the African Union presence be beefed up, with our help, or do we need a United Nations force, which could either include the African Union troops or work alongside them?
“I discussed those options with the Council members. We all agreed that it’s vital to keep the north-south peace process on track and treat Sudan’s problems in their totality. So we urge all donors to come through with their promises of aid for the south, and we don’t think it would be a good idea to “cannibalise” the United Nations peacekeeping mission there for the sake of Darfur.
“Clearly everyone’s first preference is for the African Union to stay in the lead in Darfur, but for the rest of us to give it more effective help, while keeping other options open. Council members were glad to hear that the United Nations, along with the European Union and the United States, will be joining an on-the-spot assessment mission led by the African Union starting later this week.
“Let me add that I welcome the pressure from the public and the media for stronger and faster decisions on this issue. We here are getting thousands of letters from people urging stronger action. I am sure national governments are getting them too. I will hold a meeting next week with some of the leading non-governmental organizations, to discuss with them the best ways of canalising this pressure so that it results in effective action by governments.”
And the full text of the statement is, of course, available upstairs.
**Sudan - Add
Continuing on the Sudan, Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, today visited Asmara, Eritrea, to hold discussions with government officials and representatives of Darfur rebel organizations. His talks will focus on attempts to resume the Abuja talks.
Meanwhile, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland ended a four-day trip to Sudan, and said he was concerned about the low level of funding to implement the 2005 work plan for the country. Only 5 per cent of the funds needed are in hand, and Egeland said there was a disturbing discrepancy between what the world promised to do once the peace agreement was signed and what it has delivered.
He said, “Either the world comes up with the investment or we lose the historic opportunity to put right one of the worst wars of our generation.”
And we have more information on his trip available upstairs.
I have an announcement on a trip that will be taken by the Secretary-General.
He will travel to Spain this week, where on Thursday he will deliver the key note address on a global strategy for fighting terrorism to the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security.
The meeting is organized by the Club de Madrid and is being held under the patronage of the King of Spain.
On Wednesday, the day before the conference, the Secretary-General will meet with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
On Friday, the day after the conference, which is 11 March, the Secretary-General will join King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Zapatero, as well as visiting heads of state and government, at the commemoration marking the anniversary of the Madrid train bombings.
The Secretary-General will then travel to the Middle East. On Monday, he will be in Ramallah to meet with the senior Palestinian leadership, including President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei.
While in the occupied Palestinian territory he will meet with staff from the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestine refugees at a Women’s Training Centre run by UNRWA in the West Bank.
On Tuesday, he will begin an official visit to Israel. While in Israel, the Secretary-General is scheduled to have discussions with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and Vice-Prime Minister Shimon Peres, among others.
Also on Tuesday, he and his wife Nane, will be attending the inauguration of the new HolocaustHistoryMuseum in Jerusalem at Yad Vashem.
And the Secretary-General is expected back in New York later that week.
Turning to Iraq, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, today met with President of the Muslim Scholars Association, Sheikh Hareth al-Dhari, for talks that focused on recent developments in Iraq and their impact on the political process.
In remarks to the press after the meeting, Qazi said these discussions are part of consultations he has been holding with Iraqi representatives of all political forces to discuss means of advancing the political process.
Also today, Qazi visited the headquarters of the Iraqi Islamic Party, where he held similar discussions with the party president, Muhsen Abdul Hamid. And we have more information available on his trip upstairs.
Turning to Lebanon, on Saturday, we issued a statement saying that the Secretary-General had taken note of the speech delivered in Damascus by the Syrian President Dr. Bashar Al-Assad and will study it carefully.
Meanwhile, he has requested his special envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, to travel to Beirut and Damascus this week to meet with Lebanese and Syrian officials to discuss the full, complete and immediate implementation of Security Council resolution 1559. And prior to travelling to Syria and Lebanon, Mr. Roed-Larsen is also expected to go to Brussels to meet with EU officials.
Turning to Côte d’Ivoire, the Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, today ended a four-day visit to Côte d’Ivoire, the last of three West African countries she had visited to highlight the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual exploitation.
Today, she met with Ivorian Prime Minister Seydou Diarra, to inform him about her mission on the zero-tolerance policy, and also to review with him the current political situation in the country. They discussed South Africa’s mediation, in which the Deputy Secretary-General reiterated UN support for President Thabo Mbeki’s efforts. She also said that the UN was ready to assist the Ivorian authorities in organizing transparent, free and democratic elections.
The Deputy Secretary-General met with President Laurent Gbagbo on Friday, and reviewed with him the current situation in the country and the UN contribution to the peace process.
On Saturday, following a meeting with senior management from the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, the Deputy Secretary-General held a press conference to explain her efforts to sensitize UN staff about sexual exploitation and abuse, and the policy that the UN has adopted to deal with that problem.
Ms. Fréchette is now in Germany, and will go to Kosovo on Thursday as part of that same tour.
In Afghanistan, the PanjshirValley is now free of all known heavy weapons, according to the UN Mission in that Afghanistan. The Mission says that 115 heavy weapons were collected in the valley, and were deactivated and placed in a secure compound. Nationwide, there are now some 8,630 heavy weapons collected. And we have more details available upstairs.
**DPRK – Malnutrition
From the World Food Programme and UNICEF, they both say that malnutrition rates among children in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have declined over the past two years, according to a new survey. The two agencies attributed the improvements in part to significant levels of international support.
At the same time, however, those malnutrition rates are relatively high, and one third of mothers remain malnourished and anaemic. Malnourishment among mothers, which contributes to child malnutrition, has not improved over the past two years. The WFP and UNICEF say that continued substantial and well-targeted international aid is needed. And we have a press release available upstairs.
**Women’s Day Panel
Two more items: Tomorrow, in observance of International Women’s Day, there will be a panel discussion on gender equality in Conference Room 2 from 10 to 12 moderated by Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.
The speakers will include Rachel Mayanja, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, and Nafis Sadik, of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. And you’re, of course, all invited to that conference.
**Guest at Noon Tomorrow
Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM, will join us at noon tomorrow to talk about major gains women have made over the last decade and major challenges ahead.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
Also tomorrow, at 10 a.m., there will be a press conference by the Director of the UN Research Institute for Social Development to launch the report “Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World”.
And I think that is it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéphane, does the Secretary-General have any reaction to the nomination of John Bolton as the new United States Ambassador the United Nations?
Associate Spokesman: Yes. The Secretary-General warmly congratulates Mr. Bolton and looks forward to working with him on UN reform and the many other issues that we’ll be facing in the coming months.
The Secretary-General was called earlier this morning by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to give him a head up on the appointment and she assured the Secretary-General that Ambassador Bolton will be coming to work with us on UN reform and a full range of other issues.
Question: But still, there are quotes on the record from Mr. Bolton where you could cut the top ten floors of the UN down you won’t miss a thing. Compared to other US ambassadors that have been nominated, there is a very harsh rhetoric in policy. Did the SG drop the phone when he was told? What is the real reaction to having someone here who will be holding the place accountable, but also has a previous bias?
Associate Spokesman: Well, I don’t know about what previous biases he may bring here. I think we have nothing against people who do hold us accountable. On the contrary, I think we do want to be held accountable and that’s one of the issues we have been working on in the last months and will be working on in the months ahead.
Question: Sudan, first. Did the Security Council members mention any specific measures that they would like the Government and the rebels in western Sudan to take to the SG?
Associate Spokesman: No. I can check if that did come up, but I was not made aware of that.
Question: And on Lebanon, Hezbollah has obviously declared its support for Damascus. Does the SG have an assessment of how Hezbollah’s support for Damascus may play into the Lebanese crisis?
Associate Spokesman: I think the assessment for the Secretary-General will come from Terje Roed-Larsen when he hits the ground later this week in both Syria and Lebanon to discuss the full, complete and immediate implementation of the resolution.
Question: Steph, a few questions. On the Mid-East trip, is there any particular goal that the Secretary-General has on the Mid-East trip? And can we get readouts of his meetings today with both the Israeli Foreign Minister and...(Interrupted)?
Associate Spokesman: I think the Israeli Foreign Minister is probably on his way down to the stakeout now. But, we’ll be happy to see what we can provide from our side.
Question: And on the goal of the SG’s trip?
Associate Spokesman: On the goal, I think in the past months we’ve seen reinvigoration of the peace process and it’s a good time for the Secretary-General to go there and speak to both the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli leadership. But he also very much looks forward to being in attendance at the opening of the new YadVashemHolocaustMuseum.
Question: ...(Inaudible) Mr. Bolton being here, there seems to be a pervasive US influence at the United Nations, which a lot of Member States are resenting at this point in time. With Mr. Bolton coming here that influence will be reinforced, I believe?
Associate Spokesman: He is the US Permanent Representative, or he will be. There has always been a US Permanent Representative. What influence he will have, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
But we look forward to working with him.
Mr. Tubman, I think that’s your cue.
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