DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
17 March 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
The Secretary-General returned to Headquarters today. His first appointment of this morning was with his Special Envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen. And we have the following statement regarding that meeting:
“The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, Terje Roed-Larsen, briefed today in New York the Secretary-General on his meetings in Europe, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. He particularly outlined the details of the understanding reached between the United Nations and the Syrian President in Aleppo on 12 March. On the basis of the briefing, the Secretary-General said that he expects the full withdrawal of all Syrian troops, including the intelligence apparatus and military assets, to take place before the Lebanese parliamentary elections. The Secretary-General further stressed the great importance that these elections be free and fair and take place as scheduled. Finally, he urged all concerned parties to work together to safeguard the stability and national unity of the Republic of Lebanon.”
Now, Mr. Roed-Larsen had to run back across the street to his office. But he is going to try and get here around 12:30 to take your questions. You had asked to speak to him on his return.
The Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the UN Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) until 24 March by unanimously adopting resolution 1588. Last week, the Council adopted resolution 1585, extending the mandate of that Mission until today.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, is travelling to Luxembourg, where he is scheduled to meet with the European Union Ministers of Defence to mobilize EU countries’ contributions to support the African Union deployment in Darfur and to the forthcoming UN peace-support mission.
Meanwhile, the African Union-led assessment team arrived in Khartoum today having completed their weeklong assessment of peacekeeping requirements in Darfur. The team met with Pronk and now heads to Addis Ababa to complete its joint report over the coming days. The World Food Programme, meanwhile, warned that many poor people in Sudan may be short of food because of a poor cereal harvest and high prices of basic staples, so the total number in need of food aid could soon climb.
WFP Sudan Country Director Ramiro Lopes da Silva said that, so far, WFP doesn’t have enough food to provide for the 5.5 million people who need assistance this year in the east, as well as in the transitional areas, the south and Darfur. If the numbers continue to rise, Sudan will face a new catastrophe, he says, unless more food gets here fast.
And in West Darfur, UN agencies operating in some areas continue to restrict their movements to El Geneina town due to security concerns until further notice.
Peacekeepers from the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue their regular cordon and search operations in Ituri, in the country’s north-east. Around 500 peacekeepers took part in such an operation yesterday, near the town of Zumbe -- a suspected headquarters for the militia known as the Nationalist Integrationist Front, or FNI. Armoured personnel carriers and helicopters were used to transport the peacekeepers, and they were backed up by helicopter gun-ships. No contact was made with militia members, but weapons and ammunition were found. The peacekeepers came from Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Africa, Morocco and Nepal.
**MONUC – Disciplinary Cases
I have an update on the status of disciplinary cases relating to sexual exploitation by civilians in the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Action has been taken against some 17 individuals at this point. One person was summarily dismissed and is currently being prosecuted in France. One resigned rather than face disciplinary procedures. Six have been suspended without pay pending disciplinary action. One is still under review. Five are UN Volunteers, and so their cases have been referred to the UN Development Programme.
And finally, the cases of three individuals have been closed following a full investigation, because the allegations against them were not substantiated. Significantly, one of these three is the former MONUC Chief of Staff, Jacques Grinberg. An investigation into the allegations against him was completed and no grounds for initiating disciplinary procedures were found. Mr. Grinberg was informed of this on 14 January of this year.
The UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire is drawing attention to the lack of fuel in the eastern town of Bouna, which has led to an acute water and electricity shortage in the area. The mission says the trouble started two weeks ago when the government army, FANCI, blocked the main road to Bouna at a town inside the zone of confidence (ZOC) in the east of the country. FANCI has continued to deny passage to fuel tankers heading to Bouna.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations is holding the annual Heads of Mission conference from 18 to 20 March. And they will be in retreat at Glen Cove, New York, out on Long Island. Sixteen Heads of Mission will attend, and two missions will be represented by Principal Deputies. The conference provides an opportunity for the UN’s senior field leadership to interact directly with each other and their counterparts from Headquarters, and provide a forum for an informal exchange of information and opinions on issues of common concern.
This year’s programme will be informed by the work of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, and will be organized around two broad themes: integration, and management and accountability. The conference will focus on the need to strengthen the Peacekeeping Department’s management and accountability processes, while working closely with partners in the UN system and regional organizations to forge a clearer and more effective division of labour in multidimensional peacekeeping operations. It’ll also provide an opportunity for discussions on the ongoing system-wide review of disciplinary procedures.
The United Nations yesterday told a high-level donor conference in Kabul that it is seeking $148 million to ensure a fair and transparent electoral process in Afghanistan this year. In a welcome move to support the process, the United States announced a contribution of $12 million for the elections. Afghanistan’s Joint Electoral Monitoring Body estimates the elections later this year will involve nearly 8,000 national and international staff, with an additional 180,000 people being employed on Election Day. We have more details in the Kabul briefing notes upstairs.
**WHO – Skin Cancer
For those planning to visit the tanning salons before summer hits, the World Health Organization (WHO) today recommended that no person under 18 years of age should use a sunbed. WHO says that young people who get burnt from ultraviolet rays will be more likely to develop skin cancer later in life, and that there is a direct link between the fast growth of skin cancer and the popularity of tanning beds.
The agency reports that, in Norway and Sweden, the annual incidence rate for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, has more than tripled in the last 45 years. In the United States, the rate has doubled in the last 30 years. We have a press release with more on that.
**Note to Correspondents
We have for you, in my office, a revised note to correspondents about press arrangements this weekend, concerning the launch of the Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to the Millennium Declaration. The launch will take place on Monday morning, and the Secretary-General expects to brief you in this room at around 10:30. This revision took place after I had discussions with some of you about what would work better for you, and so we changed the original scenario that we had put out yesterday.
On UN Television, the World Chronicle programme will be shown today, with guest, Louise Arbour, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, discussing the way forward for human rights. And you can watch the programme on in-house television channels 3 or 31 at 3:30 this afternoon.
**Guest at Noon Tomorrow
And then, as we already told you, tomorrow the guest at the noon briefing will be Carolyn McAskie, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Burundi. And she will be talking about the latest developments in that country.
That’s all I have for you.
Questions and Answers
Question: Will we still receive the report on Sunday afternoon, of the SG’s? At 5 o’clock, you said yesterday.
Spokesman: Would you please refer to the notice that is available in my office? I prefer not to say anything in this room.
Question: (Inaudible)...he’s going to have press conference?
Spokesman: Monday morning, about 10:30. He is scheduled to address the General Assembly at 10. And as soon as that is over, he’s going to come down to this room.
Question: Two questions from me. One, just on timing, I don’t know if you already mentioned this, I am sorry, the report on the Lebanon investigation. What’s happening with that? When will we get a sense of what they found?
Spokesman: Nothing new since I told you yesterday that they would be reporting to the Secretary-General some time next week. And I don’t think we have set a date yet.
Question: The other is the Greek-Cypriot Prime Minister apparently asked Kofi, the UN, to start looking again into Cyprus talks. Has there been any reaction on that?
Spokesman: I don’t know; I’d have to check for you.
Question: I am sorry to keep asking this question. On Sunday afternoon, will the report be released to us? Is that... sorry, there is someone who is talking...
Spokesman: Look at the paper in my office. I don’t want to discuss it in this room. We did this way intentionally.
Question: Alpha Oumar Konare, the Chairman of the AfricanUnion met the Secretary-General this morning. Can you tell us what issues they discussed?
Spokesman: Yes. There was one issue on the agenda. The African group had formulated a common position in reaction the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, including Security Council reform. So, they met with him to present him with the African group’s position.
Question: On that issue, Shashi Tharoor was quoted in a trip that he is making in Asia, saying it might be too soon to expect change, major change in the Security Council. Is that the impression of the Secretary-General? And two, if not, could you clarify for us what he might have meant by that?
Spokesman: I can’t speak for him, I am sorry. So, anything that the Secretary-General wants us to say on the timing will come from this podium.
Okay, you can either hang out here for five or 10 minutes or wait for the squawk that Terje Roed-Larsen has arrived and will talk to you shortly. Within 10 minutes, I am told.
Thank you very much.
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