DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
18 April 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 warmly supports the efforts by India and Pakistan to advance the ongoing dialogue. He welcomes the joint statement issued by the leaders of the two countries this weekend, which outlined additional confidence-building measures aimed at achieving durable peace in the region. In particular, he is encouraged by their declaration that the dialogue had become ‘irreversible’.”
The Secretary-General will be travelling this week, first to Indonesia and then to India. He will attend the Asian-African Summit in Jakarta and the Commemoration of 1955 Asian-African Conference in Bandung, Indonesia. From Jakarta, he goes to New Delhi, where he will make a two-day official visit to India. He leaves tomorrow night, and is scheduled to return to New York on Thursday, 28 April.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
We have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman on Cyprus:
“The Secretary-General notes the outcome of the elections in northern Cyprus held on 17 April. He is glad that the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community has been clarified and he welcomes the renewed evidence of commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Cyprus issue. In the context of his mission of good offices, he congratulates Mr. Mehmet Ali Talat and looks forward to working productively with him in the continuing search for peace on the island.”
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
For the record, we issued the following statement on Saturday on Ecuador:
“The Secretary-General is following with concern the latest developments in Ecuador. The present crisis may aggravate an already unstable situation.
“The Secretary-General calls on the Government and the opposition to find a constitutional solution to the crisis through dialogue. He urges all Ecuadorians to maintain a peaceful and constructive attitude.”
At 12 p.m., in other words, just about now, the Security Council has scheduled a meeting on the situation concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And a draft resolution on arms sanctions is expected to be voted on.
On Sudan, the Secretary-General’s monthly report on Darfur is out on the racks today.
In it, the Secretary-General says that the security situation in Darfur in March saw no improvement. He reports increased military activity undertaken by all parties and attacks against international personnel. The Government, he says, continues to pursue the military option on the ground with little apparent regard for the commitments it has entered into.
The killing of civilians and combatants alike must stop, he urges, and a genuine ceasefire must be observed. He notes that the African Union’s Peace and Security Council will meet later this week to decide on steps to strengthen the African Union mission. The Secretary-General himself is expected to submit by 24 April a report to the Security Council on how to reinforce the African Union effort in Darfur. No date has been set yet by the Security Council for a discussion of this report.
**MONUC - Ituri Operation
In the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UN peacekeepers in the Ituri district, in the country’s north-east, are carrying out a search and cordon operation in Katoto, north-east of the city of Bunia. The peacekeepers have come under fire, but nevertheless were able to dismantle two militia camps in the area.
The UN Mission in the DRC says that, at this stage, there are no casualties to report, and while militia members appear to have fled, the peacekeepers had been able to seize ammunition supplies. The operation continues.
**SG - ECOSOC
The Secretary-General this morning opened the special high-level meeting bringing together the Economic and Social Council and representatives of the major international financial and trade institutions.
He told them that the coming months offer a unique opportunity to make real changes in the international system, which can make the world freer, fairer and safer. The stakes, he said, could hardly be higher for the September summit to review progress since the Millennium Declaration.
The Secretary-General noted that the chances of winning commitments to reach the 0.7 per cent target for official development assistance, to address Africa’s special needs and to mitigate climate change, will be greater if they are placed squarely in the context of the September summit. We have copies of his remarks upstairs.
**SG in Washington
The Secretary-General was in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to attend a dinner of the International Monetary and Financial Committee of the International Monetary Fund and of the Development Committee of the World Bank. He told the assembled Finance and Development ministers that the UN, the World Bank and the IMF are not only all working on the same issues -- aid, debt, trade, development -- but also that they share a vision of development priorities.
He highlighted a number of development objectives that donor countries should carry such as the 0.7 per cent development aid target and ensuring greater access to their markets for goods coming from least developed countries.
**Security Council - Haiti
The Security Council’s four-day working mission to Haiti came to an end on Saturday. It was the Council’s first-ever mission to a Caribbean nation. At a press conference on Saturday, the leader of the mission, Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg, the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations, expressed confidence that general elections will be held this year as scheduled. He also reaffirmed the Council’s support for the UN Mission in Haiti, and praised the work of peacekeepers there, one of whom was killed last week.
The Council mission’s activities during the visit included meeting with leaders from different areas of Haitian society, as well as the Interim Prime Minister and President. It also visited the cities of Cap Haitien and Gonaïves.
The mandate of the UN Mission in Haiti expires on 1 June, and the Council is expected to vote on a mandate extension next month. We have more on the mission upstairs.
This afternoon at 4:30, the Secretary-General will make opening remarks at the ministerial level panel discussion of the Commission on Sustainable Development. The panel will debate the economic benefits of policies on water, sanitation and human settlements. And it will be webcast live at wwww.un.org/webcast.
More children than ever are going to school, says UNICEF. That’s the good news from UNICEF’s latest “Progress for Children” report.
But the report -- which focuses on gender parity in primary school attendance -- also says that millions of girls are still denied a basic education, and that, in many parts of the world, the gender gap in primary school attendance remains too wide.
In her last visit to Geneva as UNICEF’s Executive Director, Carol Bellamy today launched the report with the warning that, without a "quantum leap", the world would miss its chance to meet Millennium Development Goal number two, namely universal primary education by 2015. We have more information, as well as limited copies of that report available upstairs.
A group of 250 refugee herdsmen today returned to Nigeria from Cameroon, where they had been seeking shelter since fleeing clashes in their homeland three years ago. Many more are expected to follow later, travelling on foot with their livestock. The group is part of 30,000 Nigerian refugees who fled a community in the eastern part of the country into north-western Cameroon in 2002. You can read more about this on the website of the UN refugee agency.
**Congress on Crime
The Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice opens today in Bangkok, Thailand. The Secretary-General issued a message to the congress, in which he said that many of the States parties to international treaties on organized crime and corruption have not implemented those treaties adequately. The Secretary-General called on all States to ratify and implement these conventions, while helping one another to strengthen domestic criminal justice systems.
The Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice will run through 25 April. We have a press release upstairs, as well as the full text of the Secretary-General’s message.
The General Assembly will begin to discuss the “In Larger Freedom” report today by focusing on the report’s recommendations in four clusters: peace and security; development; human rights and the rule of law; and the strengthening of the UN.
We have provided four resource persons from the UN Secretariat to deal with each cluster: Bruce Jones on peace and security; Naveed Hanif on development; Michael Pan on rights/rule of law; and Abiodun Williams on strengthening the UN. If you want to contact any of those people, just get in touch with my office.
**Press Conference This Afternoon
Finally, a press conference this afternoon at 3:30, Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieckzorek-Zeul, will be in this room to brief on Germany’s contribution to the Millennium Development Goals and preparations for the High-level plenary meeting of the 60th General Assembly session.
That’s all I have for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Fred, first of all, this note to correspondents you put out the other day. I heard it contained some useful answers, such as the fact that there is no need for consent in lifting diplomatic immunity even for a Secretary-General. But one answer was incorrect when you said the record of Boutros-Ghali’s daily meetings was in the Library. I went to the Library this morning and, I think they misunderstood when you asked about the Secretary-General’s appointments; they thought you meant job appointments, rather than the schedule.
Apparently, they don’t have the daily schedule of his meetings from that period. They still don’t have the meetings for now, actually. So, could we get access somehow, to Boutros-Ghali’s schedule of meetings for February, March and June ’93?
Spokesman: Okay. I am sorry about that. I had been told that those things were available in the Library. So, we’ll see where they are available. If...(Interrupted).
Question: Apparently, they’re either going to be in the press office or in the executive office. So,...if you could check, February, March and June of ’93.
Spokesman: Okay. [He later said that in fact that information is in the library, as part of the Spokesman’s briefing notes]
Question: Two questions. First of all, is it possible to compile a list of all the senior UN officials that in 1997 or 1998 had a son that could be doing business at that age? A son that is in the age of doing business.
Spokesman: I think you just have to wait for the District Attorney to make public the information you are trying to get at rather than arrive at it by the process of deduction.
Question: And one more question. I see in the itinerary today that Dileep Nair has a farewell call with the Secretary-General. Does that mean that he walks free despite the fact that by now at least two of the five complainants have been offered, at least some settlement, which means that their complaints have been found substantiated?
Spokesman: First of all, I am not aware that two of the complainants have been offered anything. But, we have always said that, - I believe it’s 20 April that’s the last day of Mr. Nair’s contract. The third party that was reviewing the Staff Council’s complaints is still reviewing them. And that review and that process will continue even after Mr. Nair returns home.
But I don’t know, where did you get this information that two complaints received some kind of settlement?
Question: [Correspondent did not respond].
Spokesman: I don’t think that’s so, but I can check for you. [He later said that although there were two personnel actions, there was no settlement in either case.]
Question: Fred, I was told by somebody that Maurice Strong was seen in the building with TongsunPark, the man who has been indicted by the U.S. Attorney in the southern district in allegations of corruption; in this building. Can you confirm that TongsunPark visited Maurice Strong in the building?
Spokesman: I cannot. I mean, I...(Interrupted).
Question: Can you check for us and see whether he did visit and what the explanation for that visit is?
Spokesman: I guess I’d have to check with Maurice Strong himself.
Question: Is Maurice Strong in employment with the UN?
Spokesman: Yes. He is, when employed, he’s a Special Adviser of the Secretary-General.
Question: He wasn’t on that list of one-dollar-a-year, was he? The one you gave us? The list of one-dollar-a-year?
Spokesman: I am not sure. I’d have to check that. I thought it was “as employed”. [He later confirmed that Mr. Strong is paid only “when actually employed”.]
Question: Can you recap what Maurice Strong was doing in the 90s for the UN? I mean, wasn’t he chairman of the Earth Summit at one point?
Spokesman: Yes. I mean, his involvements in the UN goes back to something like 1970, I think. But, yes, I think it was 1997 that he had a special role on UN Reform.
Question: And what was that role?
Spokesman: Adviser to the Secretary-General.
Question: And he had an office on the 38th floor at that time, is that right?
Spokesman: He may well have had. I’d have to double-check. [He had an offer on the 38th floor for about a year, starting in January 1997.]
Question: And could you tell us about his involvement with negotiations with Korea? South-North Korea?
Spokesman: What is it you would like to know specifically?
Question: What years, exactly was he the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser?
Spokesman: I mean, he still is that. So, I’d have to see when he was first given that...(Interrupted). [Strong was Korean envoy from 2 January 2003 to the present.]
Question: And Fred, for the record, has he ever had any role in UN policy towards Iraq?
Spokesman: I’d have to check. But, I know he’s had nothing to do with oil-for-food.
Question: But, in general, about UN policy towards Iraq, has he ever had any role as an Adviser to the Secretary-General on Iraq in any way?
Spokesman: Not in recent times. I’d really have to check to see...(Interrupted)).
Question: Check that to the mid-90s when these questions arise.
Spokesman: Certainly not in the 1990s.
Question: I was just wondering if could give us an update on Benon Sevan. Has he had another extension or something? I mean, what’s the UN doing about Benon Sevan?
Spokesman: You mean, has he submitted his defence? I’ll have to check. I think part of the problem was that the documentation that he needed to consult was with Mr. Volcker. So, I think that’s why it’s been taking so long. But, whether he’s submitted his defence or not, I’d have to check and I’ll let you know right after the briefing. [Mr. Sevan’s current extension expires at the end of this month.]
Question: Fred, I don’t know whether this is true or not. But somebody told me that the Secretary-General has privately promised Mr. Sevan that he will not lift his diplomatic immunity. Can you tell us what the situation is with that? Did that happen?
Spokesman: Why would he do that when that’s...(Interrupted)?
Question: I don’t know. That’s why I am asking you.
Spokesman: I just can’t imagine that that’s the case. The Secretary-General’s public position strongly and repeatedly given is that he will lift the immunity of anyone charged.
Question: And should Benon Sevan be charged for any reason; that would also include Benon Sevan?
Spokesman: That would include Benon Sevan.
Question: Mr. Eckhard, is there any progress in the selection of the UNDP Director (sic)? Could you update us about the selection process?
Spokesman: The last interviews for the UNDP candidates took place on Friday. So, I think the final selection process will be concluded this week. And maybe even early this week.
Question: Fred, just on the UN response to these allegations contained in the indictments handed down by the U.S. attorney (sic) last week. Is the UN doing anything about it to find out who these unnamed senior officials are, or the UN is not doing anything about it?
Spokesman: I think apart from curiosity, the same that you have, about who these officials might be, we don’t know. And as I said in the written response I gave to a question on Friday, we haven’t been contacted by the District Attorney’s office.
Question: Isn’t this a serious matter that the UN ought to take some initiative on? Shouldn’t somebody from OIOS, for instance, be contacting the U.S. attorney to find out what these allegations are, wrong doings are, and doing some kind of UN investigation? It seems (inaudible) just passive in the light of such serious allegations.
Spokesman: I don’t think it’s for us to contact the District Attorney’s office and say, you know, what are the identities of these people that you have under a sealed indictment? So, we’re very happy that this judicial process is going forward. And...(Interrupted).
Question: Those people must still be working here, Fred. I mean, you might have people...
Question: ...who are corrupt still working here, and you’re not doing anything to stop them working here.
Spokesman: But that’s in the hands of a competent judicial authority. So, let that process go forward. If those people then, if their identities are revealed and they’re indeed indicted, then we will cooperate fully with any investigation. But, the ...(Interrupted).
Question: So, the UN is not doing any separate investigation into...(Interrupted)?
Spokesman: Against whom, James? We don’t know who these people are any more than you do.
Question: The field is quite small. I mean, they’re quite accurately described in the indictments. Presumably the UN with all the information it has about who met whom and who might have been a visitor to certain residences, etcetera, might be able to narrow it down more easily than we can, for instance.
Spokesman: This is under investigation. It’s under investigation.
Question: If you compiled that list I suggested, Fred, I think that would be a very short list...(Interrupted).
Spokesman: That would be purely speculative.
Question: But it would be a very short list. At least it could be easy for you to find out who it is.
Spokesman: A Deputy Attorney General has issued a sealed indictment. So, let’s let that process run its course.
Question: In light of the continuing tensions between Japan and China, over this issue partly of Security Council reform, is there anything at this stage that the UN Secretariat or Kofi’s envoy to Asia is doing to try and deal with this issue?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General made comments to a journalist in the corridor this morning saying that when he is in Indonesia, he would hope to have bilateral meetings and that -- he repeated something along the lines of what he said last week that China and Japan have relations in the commercial, financial, political and other areas and he hopes that he can rely on their wisdom with what he said this morning, the wisdom of the two countries to find a way out. And he indicated he would be exploring that further in bilateral meetings he expected to have in Indonesia.
Question: Do you know if there might be a meeting in terms of representatives from each side?
Spokesman: I don’t know who, whether it would be Foreign Ministers who would be present. But there is no indication here of who that might be. But it could be at the Foreign Minister level. Let me check and get back to you afterwards.
Question: On UNDP, the interviews that took place on Friday, I believe the choice had been narrowed down to three people? And that the Japanese might (Inaudible), the Turkish person might be in the frontrunners?
Spokesman: We did see some press reports that the field had been narrowed to three. And, yes, the field was narrowed to three, but I am not going to comment further.
Question: A question that you were asked on Friday, Fred. Did the Secretary-General meet with Mr. Park, the gentleman that is cited in the indictments?
Spokesman: No. The Secretary-General was asked by a journalist; I think by James Bone, in the corridor Friday. And he said rather categorically, he has never met him.
Question: And on another matter; on the Joe Stephanides dossier. Where is that at, because he gave his defence a while ago? How is that process going? Where are we at now?
Spokesman: I have nothing new. It is true that he submitted his defence and I have nothing new as yet. Publicly, there is nothing I can tell you about Joe Stephanides. [We are still considering his response.]
Question: He is still suspended?
Spokesman: Yes. Nothing has changed in his case.
Question: Has TongsunPark ever been a UN employee or consultant in any form?
Spokesman: Not to my knowledge.
Question: Could you check on that?
Spokesman: Yes. [He later said that Park had never been a UN employee.]
Question: And also could you check, when you check that about whether he’s ever been in this building, whether he ever visited Maurice Strong when Maurice Strong had an office on the 38th floor?
Spokesman: I’ll ask Mr. Strong, if I can get through to him.
Question: Clearly, Maurice Strong since the 70s, then as on and off, had different offices. I don’t know if he’s here, right? When anybody is doing environment, or UN reform or this or that...(Interrupted)?
Spokesman: I don’t know about the 70s where he might have had an office. We might have to look at that. What is your question?
Question: Well, really, I mean for something like 20 or 30 years, and he would occasionally be in and out of the UN, very senior positions like environment in Rio, the UN reform that you just mentioned. So, he’d always have, I mean for instance, organizing the Rio Summit, he’d have had an office here.
Spokesman: I don’t know whether that would have required an office at Headquarters. I’d have to find out.
Question: Fred, two questions relating to the reported investigation of corruption in the World Intellectual Property Organization. One is, are you briefed on it and can you confirm that there is an investigation of corruption that involves Michael Wilson who figured in the Volcker report, as has been reported?
And the second is, given the Volcker report described Michael Wilson as old friend of Kofi Annan, can you give us the Secretary-General’s reaction to the fact that his old friend and (Inaudible), apparently was a business partner of his son at one point, is under investigation?
Spokesman: Well, first the WIPO investigation is outside the realm of the UN Secretariat. So, I believe we can give you the name and phone number of a WIPO legal counsel, who we understand since the end of last week when this story broke in the press has been answering questions of journalists.
And the Secretary-General has no comment on Michael Wilson. We’ll just have to see what, if anything, emerges from the investigation currently under way about WIPO.
Question: I had missed most of your briefing. Was Dileep Nair discussed already here?
Spokesman: We did have a question about him, yes.
Question: The farewell call, there was a question here about it...(Interrupted)?
Spokesman: Well, farewell call, as I understand it his five-year contract ends in a couple of days. I said that there has been no judgement yet by the third party regarding the allegations of the Staff Council. But the fact that he is leaving does not mean that that process would end. So, the evaluation of those allegations will continue. There will be a judgement. And the judgement needs to be whether or not there is a basis for an investigation.
Question: Is he staying around?
Spokesman: You’d have to ask him. I don’t know. I assume he is going back home.
Question: Fred, two quick questions about Nair. First of all, I asked before who is the third party? It still hasn’t had an answer. Secondly, is there a short list of OIOS candidates?
Spokesman: The interviewing for OIOS will conclude tomorrow. So, there will be interviews today, and the last one will be tomorrow. And we expect to make that announcement this week, as well.
And I’ll still have to ask for you. They were not willing to say who the third party is. I don’t know. Eventually, they will. But, I mean, as of today...(Interrupted) [We are still not prepared to name the third party.]
Question: Unless you release the name, I can assume that it’s one of the UN guys? I mean, how do I know that there is a third party? Where is the name?
Spokesman: I’ll relay your request.
Question: Two questions. Will the UN be prepared to conduct an internal investigation to reveal the identity of these two officials named in the indictments? Also, what can the UN do if Dileep Nair is found to have violated UN rules, but has gone back to Singapore since his contract is over? (Rest of the question inaudible)?
Spokesman: Well, I think what he would like to see is his name cleared. So, his interest would be in this process coming to a conclusion. And we want to see the same thing. So, let’s not speculate on how it might come out.
Question: Is there any way in UN rules that you would be able to, somehow hold someone accountable who committed wrongdoing while under UN employ who is now no longer an employee?
Spokesman: If it were a matter of violating UN rules, then that would become a matter of record. And on your first question, we’re not going to conduct a parallel investigation to that being carried out by the District Attorney’s office here. If the District Attorney asks for our help in the investigation, of course, we will cooperate.
Question: Fred, if never learned the identities of these two through the District Attorney’s investigation, would you then consider your own investigation as the indictments seem to suggest actions that would have violated UN rules?
Spokesman: Well, we simply don’t know what the District Attorney has. And we assume that we will all know eventually. So, let’s wait and see what he comes up with and let’s let him conduct his investigation. And as I already said, we will cooperate with him if he asks. But as of now, he has not contacted us.
Question: Fred, when the Secretary-General travels to Indonesia, will he be talking to the representatives of Japan and China about the Security Council reforms which are basically (inaudible)?
Spokesman: He indicated in his comments today that he will be seeing officials from both Japan and China and he’d be talking to them about the current tensions between those two countries.
Question: I know this has been asked, if you’d be (Inaudible), may ask one last time if Mr. Nair would have a farewell call with us?
Spokesman: Yes, I will.
Question: Fred, just one clarification. You said that the UN is willing to cooperate with the U.S. attorney --- it’s not the District Attorney, Federal U.S. Attorney, in the southern district of Manhattan. Would that include opening UN records to the investigators of the U.S. Attorney’s southern district?
Spokesman: Well, let’s see what they ask for. They haven’t contacted us.
Question: You were saying that the UN would cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s investigation since the UN doesn’t want to mount its own parallel investigation, is that correct?
Spokesman: That’s correct.
Question: One more question. There has been some amount of press attention to the meeting that Boutros-Ghali had with Tariq Aziz in Geneva, I believe in June 1993. Can we get a list of Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s travelling party for that meeting? Geneva, June ’93 meeting.
Spokesman: I’ll see if we can get that. I don’t think there is any reason why that has to be privileged information.
Question: Did Boutros-Ghali have an apartment in New York in the 90s while he was Secretary-General?
Spokesman: Apart from the residence?
Spokesman: I don’t know. I mean, I’d have to look into that. But, I don’t know, frankly. [He did not.]
Question: When will the head of UNICEF, Ms. Veneman, what’s the date for the switch?
Spokesman: I’d have to find that out, I don’t know. [2 May.]
Question: When the Secretary-General scheduled to brief or give his report to the Security Council on Syria and Lebanon? Is that this week?
Spokesman: I’d have to get the specific date for you. I am not sure I’ve got it here.
Early next week.
Thank you very much.
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