DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
14 April 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Starting with the Security Council, there are no meetings or consultations of the Council scheduled for today. As you know, all 15 members of the Council are currently in Haiti until Saturday on a mission led by Ambassador Ronaldo Sardenberg of Brazil.
This morning the delegation met with Haiti’s Interim Prime Minister, Gerard Latortue. hey also have a series of meetings throughout the day, primarily internal meetings with officials of the UN mission on such issues as security and disarmament, development and humanitarian affairs, as well as electoral issues. This afternoon, the Security Council delegation has a meeting scheduled with the Provisional Electoral Council.
Turning to the Sudan, the UN mission in Sudan continues to report on incidents reflecting insecurity in Darfur. The mission reported an incident involving a World Food Programme convoy this week in which one of the vehicles and the driver went missing. Regarding the 7 April militia attack on Khor Abeche in south Darfur, the Sudanese Government has announced that it will launch an investigation into the incident in collaboration with the African Union.
On Guatemala, the Secretary-General has delivered his final report on the UN mission that verified the landmark 1996 peace accords in Guatemala, saying that “Current and future United Nations operations can take away valuable lessons from the MINUGUA experience -- MINUGUA being the acronym for the mission -- which stands as a successful example of multidimensional peacebuilding.”
MINUGUA closed its doors at the end of December after 10 years spent verifying human rights and compliance with other aspects of the far-reaching peace accords. The accords, signed in 1996, ended 36 years of conflict that killed an estimated 200,000 people. The report chronicles the work of the mission spanning four administrations, and over a vast subject area contained in the accords. The report itself is out on the racks.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today said that thousands of megawatts of new renewable energy potential throughout the developing world have been discovered by a pioneering project to map solar and wind resources. The project, called the Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA), is proving that the potential for deploying solar panels and wind turbines in 13 selected developing countries is far greater than previously supposed. And we have a press release available upstairs from UNEP.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that some 23 countries in sub-Saharan Africa will need food aid in the coming months, according to the Africa Report. The causes range from civil strife and war to adverse weather and economic disruption, as well as HIV/AIDS.
The General Assembly is scheduled to hold a plenary tomorrow at 10 a.m. to adopt a draft resolution on the preparations for, and organization of, its September high-level plenary meetings.
**Sport for Development and Peace
Also, we have a press release upstairs from the Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr. Adolf Ogi, about an event in Geneva yesterday, in which they are putting their efforts towards bolstering the UN’s tsunami-recovery efforts.
**UN Spokesmen’s Reunion
Also ongoing throughout the day is, as you know, the Spokesmen’s reunion, which is being shown on in-house television UN TV. And you are all invited to a reception this afternoon at 6 p.m. in our offices.
**WFP Video Game
And now something for all of you between the ages of 8 and 13. The World Food Programme today launched “Food Force”, the world’s first humanitarian video game about global hunger. The object of the game is to quickly feed thousands of people on the fictitious island of Sheylan, while piloting reconnaissance helicopters, negotiating with armed rebels, and rebuilding villages.
“Food Force” is available as a free Internet download from www.food-force.com. And it is currently available in English, with translation into other languages planned. And there is more for you upstairs on that, if you are interested.
**Guest at Noon Tomorrow
Tomorrow, Dr. James Bartram, of the World Health Organization’s Water and Sanitation and Health Coordination Office, will join us at this briefing to brief on WHO’s report on water and economics, which will also be released tomorrow.
That is it from me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Steph, was there any answer to my question yesterday about Dileep Nair?
Associate Spokesman: The short answer is no. We tried to get you an answer this morning. I was told the person who had the answer was not available till early this afternoon. So, please hold the fire to my feet and I will try to get you an answer by mid-afternoon. [The Spokesman later said that Mr. Nair had submitted his response to the charge letter. UN is now considering his response.]
Question: The indictments handed down today regarding the oil-for-food programme; one of the things the indictment says is that in order to pay these illegal kickbacks they were deflating the official selling prices of oil, which obviously had to be verified from here. Can you comment on that and what’s being done from this end?
Associate Spokesman: As you know, we appointed Paul Volcker and his committee to get to the bottom of any wrongdoing in the programme. Their work is ongoing and continuing. The next Volcker report is due out early this summer, which will give us a more global view of the programme and how it operated within the Council and the 661 committee.
The U.S. judicial authorities, as we have obviously seen, are proceeding with their investigation as seen with the three persons indicted today, none of whom are UN staff or UN officials. And we have always maintained that anyone who is found to have committed any criminal wrongdoing in relation to the programme should be prosecuted. So, in that sense, what you are seeing today is progress.
Question: Do you expect any UN officials to be indicted?
Associate Spokesman: As far as I have been told, we have had no contact between the U.S. judicial authorities and our Legal Affairs department here.
Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: The Secretary-General is receiving four prospective members, permanent members of the Security Council –- Germany, Japan, Brazil and India –- this afternoon. Who initiated this meeting? The Secretary-General or the representatives? And is this coming on the heels of the difficulties encountered in the discussions on the reforms of the Security Council?
Associate Spokesman: The Secretary-General regularly sees permanent representatives, especially who have issues to bring to him. That meeting, as far as I know, was initiated by the group of permanent representatives. And I think we can’t stress enough that this is the beginning of the process. The Secretary-General put forward comprehensive proposals to the Member States. It’s now in their hands and what you are seeing is a very active and lively debate.
Question: But they are not permanent representatives, yet.
Associate Spokesman: No. I am saying they are permanent representatives of the country. They are not permanent members of the Council. He regularly sees permanent representatives.
Question: Do you know the subject of the discussion?
Associate Spokesman: No, but I would encourage you to contact the missions since they initiated the meeting.
Question: Excuse me for my tardiness if you’ve already answered this, but can you tell me if the U.S. attorney’s claims that an unnamed UN official may have received payments as part of this bribery scheme? Can you tell me what your response to that is, the UN response?
Associate Spokesman: No. As I said, we have not had any contacts, as far as I know, between ourselves and the U.S. legal authorities. I did answer the question. And as far as meetings with UN officials, those are issues that are being looked at by Mr. Volcker in a continuing manner and his committee.
Question: So, you did cooperate with the investigation?
Associate Spokesman: What I am saying is we have not been contacted by the U.S. judicial authorities, the district attorney, as far as I know. We are, of course, fully cooperating with Mr. Volcker and his committee, which continues to look into all aspects of the programme, as well as behaviour of UN staff.
Question: So, you can’t give us any more information of who the unnamed UN official... (Interrupted)?
Associate Spokesman: No, because I don’t have the information.
Question: Thank you.
Associate Spokesman: Thank you very much.
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