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DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

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

11 March 2005

Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General in Madrid

The Secretary-General, on the last day of his visit to Madrid, attended a silent memorial service with King Juan Carlos of Spain that honoured the victims of the terrorist attacks that took place in the city a year ago today.

This morning, during a press conference, the Secretary-General said to the people of Spain, “The world mourns with you.” He said there is much that the world can do to deter terrorism without sacrificing human rights. In response to a question, he said he was concerned at measures, in some countries, to undermine civil and human rights. “We need to make sure that there is a balance”, he said. We have copies of that press encounter upstairs.

Also today, the Secretary-General met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with whom he discussed terrorism, Cyprus and Iraq. They also spoke briefly tête-à-tête.

**Lebanon

Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, met today in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani al-Mulki. They discussed the implementation of that resolution.

After the meeting, the Foreign Minister and Roed-Larsen declared that they agreed on the relevant issues. Roed-Larsen thanked the Foreign Minister for Jordan’s full support to his mission and its positive and important role and efforts in safeguarding stability in the region. Roed-Larsen also spoke on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and they were also in agreement on all the issues. They will remain in close contact. After his talks in Jordan, Roed-Larsen is scheduled to depart for Beirut.

**MONUC - Ituri Operation

Peacekeepers from the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo carried out a cordon-and-search operation today in the Ituri district, in the country’s north-east. The peacekeepers were acting on information about the possible presence of militia members in the area and they carried out a house-to-house search in the village. Around 600 military personnel were involved in the operation around the village of Penyi, which is about 30 kilometres north-east of Bunia, Ituri’s capital.

The ground troops were from Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and Nepal and the air transport was from Bangladesh with the gunships from India. There was no contact made with the militias, nor were any arms or other military equipment found, and the troops have returned to base.

The operation wasn’t a one-off event. It’s a regular operation that's part of an ongoing campaign to disarm local militias who have been terrorizing local residents in Ituri -- as well as fighting among themselves for control of the wealth in the area -- and more of these operations are expected.

**Commission for Africa

The Chef de Cabinet -- the Chief of Cabinet -- Mark Malloch Brown this morning is receiving a report from the Commission for Africa established by the British Prime Minister that deals with the challenges facing that continent.

In a statement, the Secretary-General says he is confident that the report will be an important contribution to the continuing search for effective solutions to Africa’s problems and a useful input, as he finalizes his own report on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria today also welcomed the recommendations presented by the Commission, including its call for substantive new investments in people. We have a copy of their press release upstairs.

Then at 12:30, here in this room, Dr. William Kalema, Chairman of the Board of the Uganda Investment Authority, and the Right Honourable Baroness Valerie Amos, personal representative of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is Chair of the Commission for Africa, will brief you on the Commission’s final report. And that’s here in this room in about 15 minutes.

**Security Council

And here, at UN Headquarters, the Security Council this morning is holding consultations on Côte d’Ivoire, with Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno briefing Council members on recent developments in that country.

Then, at 3 o’clock this afternoon, the Council will return for consultations on Eritrea and Ethiopia, to discuss the Secretary-General’s latest report, which we flagged for you yesterday. The Council also met with troop-contributing countries to the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea earlier this morning.

**Security Council - Sudan

And yesterday afternoon, for the record, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) until 17 March.

**Sudan

And the Secretary-General’s latest monthly report on Darfur, Sudan, has been posted on the web site and we’ve made copies in our office.

He notes that there were no significant advances in the search for a political solution to the crisis in Darfur over the past month. Both sides failed to capitalize on the momentum that was generated in January by the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, he says. The Government has not stopped militia from attacking civilians. Such inaction and prevailing impunity continue to undermine the confidence that statements by the Government are intended to inspire on the other side of the negotiating table.

He goes on to say for their part, the rebel movements do not inspire much confidence that they are prepared to seize political opportunities. Rebel forces have refused to reveal their positions to the African Union Ceasefire Commission, have continued to harass relief workers and have even fired on African Union and World Food Programme (WFP) helicopters. The Secretary-General said that concerted political pressure must be brought to bear on all sides to create conditions for serious talks at the negotiating table. A date for discussion of this report in the Security Council has not yet been set.

**Burundi

Turning to Burundi, the UN Mission there is conducting an inquiry into the allegations of sexual abuse of minors by UN peacekeepers. Major Adama Diop, the Mission’s military spokesman, has been in contact with the Burundian police chief from the area where the alleged crimes took place. As we get the details, we will share them with you.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency reports that more than 800 Burundians have fled across the border into Rwanda over the past two weeks, citing what they are saying is rising tension in three northern provinces.

**Women’s Conference Ends Today

Today is the last day of the Commission on the Status of Women and at this morning's session, Commission members adopted three resolutions tabled by governments -- two resolutions on women, girls and HIV/AIDS, and on integrating a gender perspective into post-disaster recovery, particularly in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster -- were adopted by consensus after oral amendments. A resolution on Palestinian women was adopted after a vote, with 38 in favour, 1 against and 2 abstentions.

Consultations are still continuing on three resolutions on reducing the demand for trafficking in women, establishing a Special Rapporteur on discriminatory laws and gender mainstreaming in national policies. These resolutions are being held over until later. Other resolutions still to be considered today include the economic advancement of women, indigenous women and women in Afghanistan. Copies of the resolutions are available at the media documents centre.

**Compensation Commission

The Governing Council of the UN Compensation Commission yesterday concluded its fifty-fifth session in Geneva by approving awards worth more than $265 million. We put out a press release and accompanying note on this yesterday afternoon.

**Malaria Concert

Youssou N'Dour, Khaled and Salif Keita are among the artists to perform at a musical event this weekend in the Senegalese capital of Dakar to support the fight against malaria. The event is part of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. At present, approximately 3,000 children die from malaria every day. We have more on this in a press release upstairs.

WFP – Azerbaijan

We also have a press release by the World Food Programme warning that up to 600,000 rural Azerbaijanis face food insecurity, and that nearly 300,000 of the 1 million Azerbaijanis displaced by the conflict with Armenia are likely to stay dependent on food aid for the foreseeable future.

On Monday -- these are some “week ahead” items -- our guest at the noon briefing will be Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland and a representative of the firm PriceWaterhouse Coopers. They will tell you about PriceWaterhouse Coopers’ pro bono offer to help enhance accountability and the transparency of funds entrusted to the United Nations under the Tsunami Flash Appeal.

**UNIFEM Press Conference

And one more item is on a press conference today to launch the new publication of the Conference on Gender Justice in Post-Conflict Situations, which was organized by the UN Development Fund for Women and the International Legal Assistance Consortium. It’ll be chaired by UNIFEM’s Executive Director, Noeleen Heyzer, and Swanee Hunt, Chairperson of Women Waging Peace.

The press conference runs from 1:15 to 2:45 in Conference Room 2.

**The Week Ahead

And we have “The Week Ahead” for you, and just to flag that we do have press kits upstairs on the sixty-first session of the Commission on Human Rights, which begins in Geneva on Monday.

That’s what I have for you. Yes Edie.

**Questions and Answers

Question: A senior UN official who was not identified has quoted as saying that Terje Roed-Larsen is going to tell President Assad that Syria’s going to face political and economic isolation if he doesn’t completely and quickly withdraw. Can you confirm that that’s the message that he is going to be delivering to the Syrian President?

Associate Spokesperson: I cannot confirm that and, in fact, on the contrary I spoke with Roed-Larsen’s people and they said, after his meeting with the Foreign Minister of Jordan, that Roed-Larsen said he was going to Damascus and Beirut to have a constructive dialogue and that the United Nations was not operating with the use of threats.

Question: Is any envoy like Mr. Roed-Larsen actually empowered to threaten sanctions?

Associate Spokesperson: I think that would be a matter for the Security Council to consider, but I think he made his point clear by saying that certainly that is not his intention.

Question: The United States Secretary of State apparently is announcing that the United States is going to ease up on Iran getting aircraft parts and possible membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) if there’s progress on the nuclear issue. Was the Secretary-General informed of this in advance?

Associate Spokesperson: I’m not aware of that, but let me look into that and get back to you after the briefing.

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