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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

14 March 2005

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

Good afternoon.

**Guest at Noon

Joining us today will be Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, as well as Frank Brown, the Global Leader for Advisory Services of PricewaterhouseCoopers. They will be talking about PricewaterhouseCoopers’ pro bono offer to help enhance accountability and the transparency of fund entrusted to the UN under the Tsunami Flash Appeal.

**SG in Ramallah

The Secretary-General met today in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He told reporters afterwards that he and the President had discussed Israeli disengagement from Gaza, economic reconstruction and the progress by the Palestinian Authority. He told the press, “With a clear determination and good will on both sides, a lot can be done.”

He was asked about the Israeli separation barrier, and said that he had discussed the UN register, which would list damage claims from the barrier, with President Abbas today.

The Secretary-General also met with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa.

Earlier, he addressed the staff of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and paid farewell to its Commissioner-General, Peter Hansen. In remarks, available upstairs, he thanked Hansen for his “unflagging energy, commitment and leadership.”

He assured the Agency’s staff that Hansen was departing only because his nine-year tenure had been “long enough for anyone to have to live with the stresses and strains of such a job”. Karen Koning AbuZayd will be the Acting Commissioner-General, he added.

Prior to his meeting with President Abbas, the Secretary-General laid a wreath at the tomb of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. This evening, he is to meet in Jerusalem with Israeli President Moshe Katsav.

**SG in Israel

The Secretary-General arrived on Sunday afternoon in Jerusalem, and met that day with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Just before going into the meeting, the Secretary-General told reporters that he had been very encouraged by recent developments in the region, including the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement.

During the meeting, the Prime Minister thanked the Secretary-General for his stand against anti-Semitism and for his strong backing of the recent General Assembly Special Session to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps.

The Prime Minister and the Secretary-General discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, including Israel’s disengagement and plans to close 24 settlements. The Secretary-General reiterated his support for the Gaza disengagement and said he hoped that it would lead to full implementation of the “Road Map”.

**Lebanon/Syria

Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, met on Saturday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, Syria, and discussed the resolution’s full implementation.

Roed-Larsen said afterward that President Assad has committed to withdraw all Syrian troops and intelligence from Lebanon, in fulfilment of the resolution.

That withdrawal, he said, would be carried out in two stages. First, all military forces and the intelligence apparatus would be relocated by the end of this month into the BekaaValley; while a significant number of Syrian forces will withdraw fully into Syria. Then, a second stage will lead to a complete and full withdrawal of all Syrian military personnel, assets and the intelligence apparatus.

Yesterday, Roed-Larsen met in Beirut with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Omar Karame, Speaker Nabi Berry, Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud, and opposition leader Walid Jumblat, as well as other leading political figures. He also spoke by phone with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, to discuss his meetings.

Roed-Larsen is returning to New York, where he will present the Secretary-General later this week with further details of the timetable for a complete Syrian pullout from Lebanon.

**Human Rights

Without the implementation of widely ratified international treaties, there is no point in reaffirming or refining the meaning of human rights, Louise Arbour, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, said today in Geneva. They simply cease to exist, she affirmed.

Speaking at the opening of the sixty-first session of the Commission on Human Rights, she added that the world’s approach to human rights diplomacy remains unsatisfactory, sporadic and selective. The Commission must, therefore, take the lead in bringing about dispassionate analysis, focused calls for action, and sustained attention to human rights violations.

She also said that the international community’s response, so far, to the human rights crisis in Darfur, Sudan fell very short of the world’s collective responsibility to the most vulnerable. We have the full text of her statement upstairs.

**Iraq

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, over the weekend made a two-day visit to Basra, in the country’s south, where he talked to the Deputy Governor on humanitarian and reconstruction assistance that the United Nations is providing southern Iraq.

Qazi said that the United Nations has remained engaged in the south through the work of its local staff and partners. He affirmed the UN’s support for more effective working relationships with Iraqi political and economic entities to ensure that reconstruction and development activities receive the attention and funding that they need.

The UN Mission in Iraq recently opened a liaison office in Basra, and, circumstances permitting, hopes to be able to increase the scope and scale of its humanitarian activities in southern Iraq. We have a press release upstairs with more details.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Burundi. Carolyn McAskie, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Burundi, briefed Council members on the report, which has been issued as a document today. More on that a little later. And we understand that there will be a presidential statement on Burundi following the consultations.

The second item on the consultations’ agenda is a briefing on sanctions concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That will be given by Algerian Ambassador Abdallah Baali in his capacity as chairman of that sanctions committee.

Two back-to-back formal meetings are also scheduled. The first is expected to vote on a draft resolution on extending the mandate of the UN mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). And the second meeting is to discuss the appointment of judges to the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

**Burundi

In his report to the Security Council on Burundi, which we mentioned earlier, the Secretary-General notes that, despite delays in the electoral calendar, there has been continued progress in the peace process. But citing remaining political tensions, he urges all political and military leaders to stay the course. He also said he has instructed his Special Representative to explore how the United Nations and the international community could continue to support the consolidation of peace after elections.

**Sudan

The UN mission in Sudan continues to report on security concerns in Darfur. Some areas continue to be off limits to humanitarian agencies while banditry incidents have reportedly been on the rise. The mission reported that in North Darfur last night, armed men in uniform attacked a house owned by a national staff member of the World Food Programme.

The attackers fired shots at the occupant of the house, who managed to flee the scene and did not sustain any injuries. The house was, however, ransacked and looted.

**Somalia

The Security Council Sanctions Committee on Somalia has transmitted the report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia in a letter. The report and letter are issued as documents today. The Group learned that arms embargo violations had continued to occur at a brisk and alarming rate. It said shipments ranged in size from an individual weapon to ocean freight containers full of arms.

It notes the indication of the existence of a sophisticated financial network directly involved in arms purchases. As a result of the continued heavy flow of arms into Somalia, there is a seriously elevated threat of possible violence against the peaceful establishment in Somalia of the Transitional Federal Government.

**Haiti

In Haiti yesterday, a total of 325 former members of Haiti’s national army attended a ceremony marking the official start of the disarmament and demobilization programme in the country. The ceremony saw the symbolic hand-over of some weapons, and it was attended by top officials from the Transitional Government, such as Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, as well as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Juan Gabriel Valdes. Most of the former officers hailed from the northern town of Cap Haitien.

Speaking to journalists after the ceremony, Valdes said he hoped that this first step in the demobilization process would serve as an example to former military officers in other parts of the country. We have more on this available in my office.

**ICTY

Ramush Haradinaj, the former Prime Minister of Kosovo, today appeared for the first time at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, and pleaded not guilty to all charges against him. Haradinaj is charged with 17 counts of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape, and 20 counts of war crimes. The Tribunal’s charges against him were made public late last week, and can be found on its web site.

**Counter Terrorism

Javier Ruperez, the Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, is leading a group of counter-terrorism experts on a five-day visit to Morocco which began today. The visit is the first in a series of country visits and, thus, marks the beginning of a new phase in the work of the Directorate and its parent body, the Counter-Terrorism Directorate.

The purpose of country visits is to precisely assess on location and in practice how Member States implement their obligations under Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) and evaluate the nature and level of assistance that a particular country may need in order to fulfil those obligations. Developing and strengthening State capacity is also one of the five main pillars of the comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy launched by the Secretary-General last week in Madrid. After Morocco, visits to Albania, Kenya and Thailand in the course of the next few months are being planned.

**Afghanistan

Finally, from Afghanistan, on Saturday, a joint team from the UN Mission in Afghanistan, the UN Children’s Fund and the World Food Programme went to the southern Afghan town of Kandahar, to assess damage from heavy rains there. The team confirmed that there was no significant flooding in the province, but added that some 1,100 houses were damaged by the rains. We have more details in the Sunday briefing notes from Kabul.

And in those notes, departing Spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva also shares his thoughts on how Afghanistan has changed over the past three years, including the lesson he learned: “Afghans can do it.”

Manoel, of course, was my deputy in the Spokesman’s office here before we packed him off to, first to East Timor and then Afghanistan. I can’t believe that it’s three years that he’s been there.

Yes?

Questions and Answers

Question: Fred, did the Secretary-General ask President Abbas and any of the other Palestinian leaders to endorse the language that is being proposed in his address in Madrid on a terrorism definition?

Spokesman: I don’t have that detail. I’d have to check for you, but it’s not in what I received from Stéphane Dujarric. I will ask for you, yes.

[He later said that the Secretary-General had called on all world leaders to unite behind the High-Level Panel’s definition of terrorism.]

Yes?

Question: You mentioned that Roed-Larsen is returning to New York. Do you have a specific day when he’s returning? And then do you know when he’s going to address the Secretary-General and the Security Council?

Spokesman: I think he will be here on Wednesday and the Secretary-General returns on Thursday. No, on Wednesday as well. And will probably be in the office on Friday. So, by the end of the week, I would say, they would be able to discuss Roed-Larsen’s diplomacy over the weekend.

Question: How about the Security Council?

Spokesman: I don’t know about the Security Council.

Question: On that, will it be possible to make Roed-Larsen accessible to us?

Spokesman: We can try. Yes?

Question: A press conference?

Spokesman: Yes, we will. Yes?

Question: Mr. Daliwah, (sp?) he was in Iraq. Is it possible that he was able to find out about people who are starving because of lack of work or lack of ability to gain? The UN, the UN...(Interrupted).

Spokesman: I am not aware of starvation as a humanitarian issue in Iraq today. I am not aware that that’s a problem. I don’t think that’s been a problem for a long time in Iraq.

Yes, Evelyn?

Question: Who is in charge of this new terrorism, whatever, that the Secretary-General announced in Madrid. Is he going to use these extremely highly paid people in the Security Council committee? Is he going to use the rest of UNMOVIC or what? Or is he going to start a whole new one to protect some of the others? Who is in charge, do we know?

Spokesman: I’ll try to find out.

Richard?

Question: Mark Malloch Brown mentioned the Secretary-General moving on changing the way these human rights commissions and panels are set up; which countries ...(Inaudible) that’s coming out of the big reform report. But is there something imminent -- he said this over the weekend in an interview; is there something that we should look for that he’s formally presenting something...

Spokesman: He was...

Question: ...and does he have the power to really change that?

Spokesman: He was referring to recommendations that will appear in the report which is currently planned to come out a week from today. However, as you suggested in the end of your question, these are not reforms that he has the power to make. Governments can make these changes. He will be making recommendations to governments.

Question: Will you tell us more about what’s happening in one week?

Spokesman: The Secretary-General’s report on the 2005 agenda, which marries the recommendations of his High-Level Panel and the development-related recommendations of Jeffrey Sachs, and which he hopes will set the agenda for the summit taking place here in September; that’s scheduled to come out a week from today.

Question: Is there a press conference or a report...?

Spokesman: We’ll try to roll it out with whistles and ceremony and get as much attention from you as we can for it.

Mark?

Question: I don’t know if I missed anything at the beginning, but is there going to be an appointment any time soon for a special envoy to the Middle East? And a new head of UNRWA?

Spokesman: No. I am not aware that we have made enough progress on the Middle East envoy front. On UNRWA, I think we’re getting close to a short list as we are for a replacement of Mark Malloch Brown for UNDP. But,...(Interrupted).

Question: On this new transparent system, is a shortlist for the UNDP and UNHCR job going to be published ahead of the appointment?

Spokesman: Yes. That, of course, is a change in policy. We’ve always kept very confidential all deliberations on the naming of high-level officials in the UN system. In these two cases, however, we decided that we would experiment with going public with the shortlist. So, those names, or that short list is still being reviewed for presentation to the Secretary-General. The cut off dates were Wednesday and Thursday of last week for those two jobs that you mentioned.

The lists are now being studied and the shortlist will be presented to the Secretary-General soon; as soon as possible. And then we do intend to go public with the shortlist for those two positions.

Question: Just to double-check; once that shortlist is published, is there going to be any formal kind of forum where different people can express their opinions on a member of that shortlist or it’s just that a shortlist is published and then the Secretary-General takes a decision and then the decision is published?

Spokesman: I think the purpose of publishing the shortlist is to get as much reaction as possible, including from non-governmental organizations. So, I think that there would be some time between the publication of the shortlist and the announcement of the Secretary-General’s decision for those reactions to be received and digested.

If that’s it; Jan, do you want to come up with Frank Brown?

(Issued separately.)

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