DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
29 March 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Sorry for the delay. We are expecting a statement by the Secretary-General in response to Mr. Volcker’s second interim report, but it hasn’t quite come down yet, so we’re going to start with our reaction to the earthquake of yesterday, with the following statement attributable to the Spokesman.
**Statement on Indonesia Earthquake
“The Secretary-General was deeply distressed at the news of a powerful earthquake off Sumatra in Indonesia yesterday. His heart goes out to the families of the many victims of this disaster, as well as to the Government of Indonesia.
“He has sent disaster coordination teams to the area to work with the Government, as well as with non-governmental organizations to help assess the damage while United Nations agencies work with others to help relieve the suffering.
“He pledges the United Nations’ support for the people of Indonesia at this difficult hour, as well as its readiness to help with reconstruction efforts at the appropriate time.”
Since the first earthquake struck Indonesia’s SumatraIsland yesterday, the United Nations has been working to provide assistance to survivors and assess the level of damage. Inter-agency assessment teams were on the ground within 12 hours of the quake.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has delivered medical supplies and has sent a search-and-rescue team to the hard-hit island of Nias. WHO will also be deploying health professionals, a water and sanitation expert and a logistician to the island tomorrow. For its part, the United Nations Refugee Agency’s office in Medan has sent 500 tents to Nias. The World Food Programme (WFP) is using its helicopters to ferry seriously wounded people from the badly damaged hospital in Nias to a hospital on mainland Sumatra.
Meanwhile, a UNICEF boat today arrived at the quake-stricken island of Simeulue, carrying tents, emergency relief materials, and additional personnel to bolster the agency’s already active presence there. We have more information on all of these items upstairs.
The Security Council this morning is holding consultations on Liberia, with Jacques Klein, the head of the United Nations Mission in that country, briefing Council members on the Secretary-General’s recent report.
In that report, the Secretary-General cites progress in implementing key elements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. He strongly recommends the deployment of an additional United Nations-formed police unit, to reinforce the United Nations Mission’s capacity to maintain a secure environment during the upcoming electoral period.
This morning, the Council will also consider a report of the Panel of Experts that deals with resolution 1579, concerning sanctions on Liberia. That report concludes that Liberia is not yet in a position to make a successful application for participation in the Kimberley Process on diamond trading.
This afternoon at 3, the Security Council will hold consultations on Guinea-Bissau, to be briefed on the Secretary-General’s most recent report by his Representative to that country, João Honwana. The Secretary-General says the country has improved noticeably, but warns that, if poorly prepared and managed, elections could be an additional source of tension and further instability.
Also in the afternoon, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast will brief the Council in its consultations on the report submitted last week by Peter Fitzgerald on the causes, consequences and circumstances of the 14 February bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Council members are also scheduled to discuss a draft resolution on Sudan, with a possible vote afterward.
The Secretary-General met yesterday afternoon with international non-governmental organizations to discuss the continuing violence in Darfur, Sudan, and to underline the crucial role of non-governmental organizations in the international community’s efforts there.
The Secretary-General stressed as critical the ability of NGOs to operate without restrictions in Darfur and expressed his deep concern about the rising level of threats against relief workers in the province. He called on all parties to ensure their safety and security.
The participants also discussed the urgent need for further action by the Security Council, and the Secretary-General offered to facilitate a meeting between the Security Council and representatives of NGOs under the so-called Arria formula. We put out a statement yesterday following the meeting with more details.
The peace process in Côte d’Ivoire has made no significant progress since the Secretary-General’s last report, and continues to suffer from the reverberations of the November 2004 attacks, the Security Council was told yesterday afternoon. Alan Doss, the Deputy Special Representative in that country, told the Council that the road map drawn up by the African Union for Côte d’Ivoire had remained largely unachieved, that the security environment was volatile and that the economic situation was getting worse everyday. We put out Doss’s briefing notes yesterday.
Speaking of Guinea-Bissau, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, today urged the people of that country to stay united and at peace as they head to presidential elections on 19 June. “Don’t let Guinea-Bissau fall apart”, he warned. Ould-Abdallah noted with growing concern that developments in recent weeks have increased political tensions in the country. We have a press release upstairs with more details.
In Liberia, a first contingent of more than 100 Liberian police trained by the United Nations was deployed on the streets of Monrovia yesterday. The 123 recruits completed their nine months of training last Saturday, and that included, among other topics, human rights education, riot control and community policing.
The United Nations Mission in Liberia aims to train and equip a new 3,500-strong police force by the end of 2006. Its immediate target is to deploy 1,800 officers throughout the country by the time presidential and parliamentary elections are held in October.
I should mention that one of the key architects of the programme was the Mission’s former Police Commissioner Mark Kroeker. He’s now the Civilian Police Adviser with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations here at United Nations Headquarters.
The pledging conference for United Nations assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials ended yesterday afternoon with nations pledging $38.4 million to the work of the Extraordinary Chambers in Cambodia. That’s a substantial amount of the $43 million that the United Nations is seeking for its share of the trials’ cost over the three years that the Chambers are to work.
Japan, in particular, pledged $21.6 million, or more than half of what the United Nations expects to pay for the trials’ budget. The Chambers’ total budget is estimated to be $56.3 million, $13.3 million of which is to come from the Cambodian Government.
The Secretary-General issued a message to yesterday’s conference, saying that “the victims of those horrific crimes have waited too long for justice”. The pledges send a message, he said, that, however late and however imperfectly, “a measure of justice will be done”.
In Angola, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are supporting the Angolan authorities in their efforts to halt the epidemic caused by the Marburg virus. So far, 111 people have died in the epidemic, including at least 92 children. While the outbreak is mainly concentrated in the northern province of Uige, five cases have already been reported in Angola’s capital, Luanda.
The Marburg virus is a rare cause of viral haemorrhagic fever syndrome that belongs to the same family as Ebola. A far-reaching communication and social mobilisation campaign is underway, aimed at informing the Angolan population about measures to prevent illness. We have more on this in a press release upstairs.
**Statement on Volcker
And I now have the statement, so let me just say that the Secretary-General this morning received the second interim report of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations “oil-for-food” programme from its Chairman, Paul Volcker. The Secretary-General expects to brief you on the panel’s findings at a press conference in this room this afternoon at 2:45. And in the meantime, I have the following statement to read on his behalf.
“I have this morning received from Mr. Paul Volcker and his colleagues the second interim report of their independent inquiry into allegations concerning the United Nations oil-for-food programme in Iraq. I thank them once again for their investigation.
“As I had always hoped and firmly believed, the Inquiry has cleared me of any wrongdoing. On the key issue of the award of the contract to inspect humanitarian goods entering Iraq under the oil-for-food programme, the report states clearly that ‘there is no evidence that the section of Cotecna in 1998 was subject to any affirmative or improper influence of the Secretary-General in the bidding or selection process’.
“I will meet the press later today to make a fuller statement on the findings contained in the report, and to answer questions.”
That’s all I have for you. Okay. We’ll wait for Mr. Volcker –- the end of Mr. Volcker’s press conference -- and then the Secretary-General will be down here at 2:45.
Thank you very much.
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