DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
13 April 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The General Assembly this morning adopted by consensus an International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. The Assembly requested the Secretary-General to open the Convention for signature at UN Headquarters, starting on 14 September and lasting until the end of December 2006. It also called on all States to sign and ratify, accept, approve or accede to the Convention.
**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General
We have the following statement welcoming the Convention, attributable to the Spokesman:
“The Secretary-General congratulates the General Assembly on its adoption today by consensus of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
“The adoption of this Convention, after many years of negotiations, is a vital step forward in multilateral efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. The Convention will help prevent terrorist groups from gaining access to the most lethal weapons known to humanity. It will also strengthen the international legal framework against terrorism, which includes 12 existing universal conventions and protocols.
“The adoption of this Convention was one of the key recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s recent report, “In Larger Freedom”. He calls on all States to become parties to the Convention without delay. They will have an opportunity to do so during September’s summit, when the Convention will be open for signature as part of a special treaty event.
“The Secretary-General also encourages the General Assembly to press ahead and finalize yet another important legal instrument, the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism, before the end of the sixtieth session of the General Assembly.”
**Democratic Republic of Congo
Today, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced that the number of disarmed militia personnel in that country has now passed the “ten thousand mark”. There are now no more than 2,500 to 3,000 armed militia members in the north-eastern Ituri region.
In related news, the Security Council yesterday issued a presidential statement, in which it welcomed the pledge by the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda to renounce the use of force and cease all offensive operations against Rwanda. The Council encouraged all other armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that had not yet done so to also renounce the use of force.
We have the following statement on Guinea-Bissau:
“The Secretary-General notes with concern the mounting political and social tensions in Guinea-Bissau as the country prepares to hold presidential elections in June 2005. Accordingly, he has directed his Representative in Guinea-Bissau to promote and facilitate dialogue between all of the country’s political actors in order to build a more conducive atmosphere for peaceful, credible elections.
“These elections are a crucial step towards concluding the transitional process, fully restoring constitutional order and permitting renewed engagement of the country’s development partners. The Secretary-General calls on all political actors to participate constructively in dialogue and to refrain from any action or statement that could jeopardize peaceful elections and stability in the country.”
There are no Security Council meetings or consultations scheduled for today, or for the remainder of this week.
That’s because the 15 members of the Council today have begun a mission to Haiti, which will last until 16 April. The mission will be held in conjunction with one from the Economic and Social Council’s ad hoc advisory group on Haiti.
The Security Council mission is headed by Ambassador Ronaldo Sardenberg of Brazil. A letter from the Council President, providing a list of the composition of that mission, is out on the racks today.
Yesterday, we issued a statement saying that the Secretary-General welcomed the signing on Monday of a Memorandum of Understanding between the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Nepalese Government, providing for the High Commissioner’s Office in Nepal to establish an office to monitor the observance of human rights and international law.
This is an important development that should help prevent human rights abuses and contribute to the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Nepal.
Out on the racks today is the latest report from the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the repatriation from Iraq of all Kuwaitis and third country nationals or their remains. In it, the Secretary-General details the work of Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov, his High-Level Coordinator on this issue.
The Secretary-General notes that, given the current security situation in Iraq, the search for missing Kuwaitis and third country nationals has not progressed substantially, although the process of identifying mortal remains has continued.
The Secretary-General writes that he is pleased by the constructive stance taken by the new Iraqi authorities in relation to this particular issue, as well as to the return of Kuwaiti property.
**Secretary-General Message – ICT Task Force
The world must harness the potential of information and communications technologies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. That idea is included in the Secretary-General’s message to a meeting of the UN Information and Communications Technologies Task Force, being held in Dublin, Ireland, today and tomorrow.
The Secretary-General adds that the use of such technologies needs also to be improved within the UN itself, so that the Organization’s collective mindset and methods of work are brought fully into the digital age. We have the full text of that message upstairs.
Bold and urgent action is needed to reduce extreme poverty and improve people’s economic and social prospects in developing countries, to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to a new report by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
“The credibility of the entire development community is at stake as never before”, World Bank President James Wolfensohn said yesterday while introducing the second annual Global Monitoring Report.
The report, “MDGs: From Consensus to Momentum”, is available on the Organization’s websites; and we also have a press release on the report upstairs.
You probably have heard the news that samples of the H2N2 influenza virus were sent out inadvertently to more than 3,700 laboratories in 18 countries.
The World Health Organization has posted a notice on its website, recommending that all samples containing this virus, which is similar to the so-called Asian flu pandemic of 1957-1958, be destroyed immediately.
WHO also says that the infection risk for laboratory workers and public is low. You can read more about this in the WHO information note on the subject that I have upstairs.
**Press Conference This Afternoon
At 12:30 p.m., the Secretary-General will be in this room to formally introduce his Special Envoy dealing with the Indian Ocean tsunami-recovery effort, former U.S. President Bill Clinton. And the questions should be limited to the tsunami-recovery effort.
Finally, my Office, the Spokesman’s Office, with the generous support of the UN Foundation and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, is hosting an all-day programme tomorrow examining how the UN got its message out to the media from its inception.
Participants will include UN press officers and spokesmen, as well as some of the journalists they spoke to, from 1945 to the present. You can watch the proceedings on UN in-house television here, or come down to Conference Room 8 and see it in person, if you prefer.
And then you are then invited to join our guests in my Office for a reception starting at 6 p.m.
**Questions and Answers
Question: (Inaudible)... on the status of what’s happening with the review and possible investigation?
Spokesman: No, I have nothing on that. I will check with Mark Malloch Brown when he comes back. But... (Interrupted).
Question: I am asking because his time for departure is quickly approaching.
Spokesman: Thank you. Mark?
Question: I’m just wondering in terms of the one-time staff buyout and these ideas within the reform package. When are we going to get any kind of proposals on that? Is the Secretary-General waiting for the summit? What’s the hold-up on this?
Spokesman: I don’t know that there is any hold-up. But we can ask for additional information as soon as it’s available.
Question: Fred, what’s the latest on the commission to investigate the assassination of Rafik Hariri?
Spokesman: I have nothing to announce. I can check.
Ari, I mean, Benny? (Laughter).
Question: Are you calling me as one of your aides? Following up on Edie’s question, at the time it was said that that there is going to be an independent party looking into the question of Dileep Nair. Can you also ask who that independent party is?
Spokesman: I have nothing to give you on that today.
Question: Fred, is the Nuclear Convention’s ratification process will begin now immediately, before it is put up for... (Interrupted)?
Spokesman: No, we said it will be open for signature on 14 September.
Question: These ratification by 22 countries... (Interrupted)?
Spokesman: Twenty-two, I believe, is what Nicolas Michel told you yesterday, yes. Yes, Ma’am?
Spokesman: You’d better start all over.
Question: On the reform of the Security Council and the interview today in The Financial Times with Malloch Brown, is there a sense that there is more pessimism on getting everything done by September?
Spokesman: No. I think I told you yesterday, the Sturm und Drang around this debate, I think is considered by us to be really an indication of the seriousness with which Member States are dealing with this important issue. Of course, if the initial differences aren’t overcome, then there is not going to be an agreement by September.
September is the date that the Secretary-General challenged Member States to reach agreement by. And we’ll have to see whether that’s possible. But this is the beginning of a process and I wouldn’t attach too much importance to the opening positions of Member States on an issue that is of such crucial importance to them. James?
Question: (Inaudible)... letter that Kofi Annan forwarded from Cotecna to the Ghanaian Ambassador. I received notes saying that there were 20,000 letters the Secretary-General received every year. How many of those letters does he forward on to the Ambassador? And, was Cotecna actually still working under UN contract at the time that the Secretary-General forwarded the letter to the Ambassador?
Spokesman: I have nothing to add to what you told me, James. And on these matters that are under investigation by Mr. Volcker, I mean, you really have to respect, and we have to respect Mr. Volcker’s request to us to not go into them with you. So, if Volcker is looking into this, we will not comment.
Question: (Inaudible)... the investigation of this particular aspect is finished by Volcker. It’s now in the report. The allegation is there in the report for everyone to read. So, I am asking you, does the Secretary-General think he made a mistake when he forwarded a letter from a private company to the Ghanaian Ambassador in what looks like an attempt to lobby for that company?
Spokesman: The report says what it says and we accept its findings. We have nothing further to add.
Okay. So, make yourselves comfortable for another 10 minutes or so and then we’ll bring out the Secretary-General and former President Clinton.
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