DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
9 March 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
I understand we have a group of students from South Africa today.
Welcome to the United Nations, and I hope you’re enjoying your stay in New York.
**Guest at Noon
The guest in a few minutes will be Jan Egeland, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, who will be joining us to provide an update on the humanitarian situation in Sudan. He just completed a four-day visit to Sudan and will give you a briefing on that trip.
**SG in Madrid
The Secretary-General, meanwhile, arrived today in Madrid, where he is now meeting with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. He will speak to the press following that meeting.
Tomorrow, the Secretary-General is planning to deliver the keynote address to the closing plenary of the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security. In that speech, he will outline a principled, comprehensive strategy for the United Nations to counter terrorism.
He will make a strong plea to Member States to unite behind the proposal of his High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change for a clear definition of terrorism, and to complete a comprehensive convention outlawing terrorism in all its forms.
We have embargoed copies of that speech upstairs; the embargo lasts until 10:15 a.m., New York time, tomorrow. And we also have a press release on that speech.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
We have a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Bolivia:
“The Secretary-General has been following developments in Bolivia, where Congress last evening agreed that President Carlos Mesa should remain in office, and where an agreement was reached between the Government and other political forces on crucial political, social and economic issues facing the country.
“The Secretary-General is pleased to see this result achieved through dialogue and respect for the constitution. He is encouraged that all forces and groups in Bolivia are seeking to overcome political differences peacefully.
“The UN system stands ready to assist the Government and people of Bolivia in addressing the important challenges that they face.”
Turning to the DRC -- the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- our mission there has called on the Transitional Government there to seriously consider the presidential statement issued by the Security Council here on 2 March, in which the Council expressed its serious concern about the illegal and criminal activities of the militias in Ituri and of their military or political chiefs. The Mission has yet to be officially informed about the Government’s position on that Council statement.
The UN Mission, at a press conference in Kinshasa today, also notes that the international community’s patience with the DRC Government’s slowness in pushing for the disarmament of militias in Ituri is reaching its limit.
**DRC/OCHA in Ituri
And the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that more than 88,000 recently displaced people in the Ituri in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo are now receiving humanitarian assistance, following the resumption of aid activities in camps there this week. However, OCHA says that the area remains tense and humanitarians cannot rule out further disruptions to aid activities.
Humanitarian organizations suspended assistance late last month to thousands of displaced people in three areas of Ituri due to security concerns stemming from fighting between two militia groups in that area. We have more information on this upstairs.
**Appointment of Force Commander, MONUC
Also on the DRC, the Secretary-General has informed the Security Council about his intention to appoint of Lieutenant-General Babacar Gaye of Senegal as the new Force Commander of the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). He replaces Major-General Somaila Iliya of Nigeria. And the Council is expected to respond in writing shortly.
Turning to the Middle East, Terje Roed Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, met yesterday evening in Madrid with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos. Roed Larsen also met this morning with the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amre Moussa. Moratinos and Moussa will stay in close contact with Roed Larsen during the course of his mission. Roed Larsen is now headed to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for further talks on the implementation of 1559.
The Secretary-General was asked about the implementation of that resolution yesterday, and he noted that the resolution calls for “full withdrawal” of foreign forces from Lebanon. Roed Larsen would discuss full and complete withdrawal with the Lebanese and Syrian leaders, he said. Asked about yesterday’s demonstration in Beirut by Hezbollah, the Secretary-General said it is normal in every society that different groups may not hold identical views. He said we need to recognize that “they are a force in society that one will have to factor in as we implement the resolution.”
And on Sudan, we do have Jan Egeland who is already here poised to brief. But just a brief word from our mission there. The Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, has returned from Asmara, Eritrea, where he met with representatives of the rebel movements of Darfur.
The UN mission described the discussions with the Darfur rebel groups as fruitful. It said no dates were mentioned for the resumption of the Darfur talks but no blockages were raised either. The UN mission strongly encourages resuming those peace talks. Pronk also met with representatives of the Beja congress and the Free Lions from Eastern Sudan.
The mission also reports that, in South Darfur, two World Food Programme-contracted vehicles carrying WFP food items came under attack yesterday by armed militia members who looted the food and money of the drivers and others on the vehicle. That’s all I have on that incident from the field.
On Côte d’Ivoire, the UN Mission there has been organizing several meetings between feuding ethnic groups in the west of the country, which resulted in an agreement yesterday between two such groups.
Two chiefs in the Fengolo area, in the zone of confidence, yesterday promised to take responsibility to ensure that no further clashes erupt between their respective communities.
And turning to the Security Council here at UN Headquarters; this morning, Hédi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on activities of the UN Mission in Haiti, and updated on the situation there.
We expect the President of the Council to speak to you on this at the stakeout microphone following this morning’s session.
**Tsunami – Early Warning
An international tsunami warning system meeting ended last night at the headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNECSO) in Paris. Among other things, it recommended that Indian Ocean countries quickly identify and establish national tsunami warning centres, develop response plans, and be able to receive, react to, and disseminate warnings on a 24-hour basis. It also agreed to meet again in Mauritius, from 14-16 April –- that’s next month. We have a full text of that meeting’s final document upstairs.
**Women’s Conference Update
And an update on the Women’s Conference, we now have figures on the participation for the forty-ninth Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, also known as the Beijing+10, which ends this Friday.
One thousand eight hundred forty-seven government delegates from 165 Member States and more than 2,600 representatives from non-governmental organizations have attended the session to date, out of more than 6,000 who had registered to attend.
On Friday, Members of the Commission will consider the resolutions that have been tabled by governments and those will be adopted by consensus or by vote. The report of the forty-ninth session will be adopted on Friday afternoon.
And the closing press conference previously scheduled for tomorrow at 1:15 p.m. has been cancelled. For more on the conference and its related activities, please get in touch with my office and they can put you in touch with the right people.
And a couple of more announcements: Sport teaches “skills and values essential to life” and can help countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals. This was the message of Adolf Ogi, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, at a seminar today in Helsinki, Finland.
And finally, tomorrow morning, starting at 9:40 in Conference Room 1, the UN Development Programme and the Chilean Mission are jointly organizing a seminar by the Community of Democracies on the state of democracy in the world.
UNDP Administrator and also Chef de Cabinet Mark Malloch Brown will speak at that seminar, as will the Chilean Vice-President José Miguel Insulza, the Timor-Leste Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta, and Johns Hopkins University Professor Francis Fukuyama. UNDP has a media advisory with more details and the speakers will brief you here in Room 226 at 12:30 tomorrow.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
And at 11:30 in the morning, Celeste McKay of the Native Women’s Association of Canada and others will brief on crimes against indigenous women and girls.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
And I have just been slipped a statement on Kosovo:
“The Secretary-General welcomes the fact that the former Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, has shown a good example of co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia by resigning from his post and surrendering voluntarily to the Tribunal.
“The Secretary-General also welcomes the fact that the representatives of Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions, Kosovo’s political leaders and the people of Kosovo have expressed their feelings related to his resignation and departure in a peaceful, democratic manner.
“Building on the achievements reached under the Government led by Mr. Haradinaj, Kosovo must continue to make progress on the implementation of standards without delay in light of the envisaged comprehensive review and, pending the outcome of the review, a possible decision to initiate talks on Kosovo’s future status. It is essential that we all remain focused on the work at hand so that we can move forward in building a stable, multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo. The UN mission in Kosovo is ready to continue to support the people and Provisional Institutions of Kosovo in the implementation of standards.”
And that’s all I have for you.
Jan Egeland has been patiently waiting. Any questions for me before I turn over to him?
Questions and Answers
Question: Concerning the point on Larsen and the Arab League chief, do you know what they talked about and if sending an Arab force to Lebanon is on the cards?
Associate Spokesperson: I will try to get a read out for you after the briefing. [She later said that during the meetings. Roed Larsen discussed all aspects related to the implementation of Secretary-General Resolution 1559. The topic of sending a force to Lebanon was not discussed.]
Question: On the meeting in Madrid, could we get the programme so to be able to simply understand how the Secretary’s speech fits into that? Because my understanding from reading European papers, the meeting is organized by the Club of Rome -- excuse me, the Club of Madrid. It deals with the subject of economics and funding of terrorism.
And another subject for the benefit of Mr. Egeland, Gum Arabic exports from Sudan were owned by Osama Bin Laden. So, this was a tool of financing terrorism. I mean, it seems to be very interesting, the specific meeting. Now, could we get a programme?
Associate Spokesperson: We can certainly help you find a programme for the conference, which, as you know, is not a UN conference. But, please come to the office and we’ll try to help you out on that.
Question: I’m trying to understand how that fits in.
Associate Spokesperson: Okay. Yes, Laura?
Question: Marie, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi addressed the Italian Parliament today about the fatal shooting in Iraq. I was wondering if the SG has any comment on this. And also, do you have any update as to when the next security assessment is going to be conducted in Iraq by the UN?
Associate Spokesperson: As you know, the security assessments are something that are being continuously carried out in Iraq at all times. So, I am not aware of any new assessments, but, I can definitely look into that for you.
On your first question, no, I have nothing from the Secretary-General on that.
All right, thank you very much. And I am going to turn the floor over to Jan Egeland, who is just back from four days in Sudan.
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