DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
28 April 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General
I will start off with a statement on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire:
“The Secretary-General takes note of the announcement made by President Laurent Gbagbo on 26 April, that all candidates nominated by the parties signatory to the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement would be eligible for the Presidency in the upcoming national elections. This would be in accordance with the determination made by President Mbeki in this regard following the Pretoria Agreement signed by the Ivorian parties on 6 April 2005.
“The Secretary-General welcomes this development while stressing that it is vital that the parties take all the necessary steps to ensure that the elections are free, fair and transparent and conform to international standards. The Secretary-General once more urges the parties to implement their respective commitments under the Pretoria Agreement promptly, in good faith and without exception or reservation, in order to expeditiously move the peace process forward.”
Turning to Iraq, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, today welcomed the formation of a new Iraqi Government. Qazi said the establishment of the transitional Government is an important step in Iraq's democratic transition.
Mr. Qazi stressed that the convening of the Transitional National Assembly and formation of the Government have prepared the ground for the constitution making process, which is expected to be completed by 15 August and to be put to the people of Iraq in a referendum in October this year.
And we do also expect a statement from the Secretary-General on the new Iraqi Government that should be here shortly.
The Secretary-General is now on his way back to New York. We do expect him here in the building tomorrow, where he will attend the Security Council open meeting on resolution 1559. During that meeting, his special envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, will brief the Council and present his report in an open meeting, which gets under way at 10:30. After the presentation, Security Council members will continue their discussion in closed consultations.
**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General
“The Secretary-General welcomes the establishment today of the Transitional Government of Iraq, and is pleased that this is the result of a broadly consultative and democratic process following the successful elections of 30 January. The Secretary-General notes the ongoing efforts to ensure that the new Government is as representative and inclusive as possible, and hopes that these efforts meet the expectations of all of Iraq’s communities.
“The United Nations is committed to doing everything possible to assist Iraq to move forward to the next phase of its political transition, particularly the drafting of a new constitution and the holding of a referendum and national elections. To that end, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) looks forward to working closely with the new Iraqi authorities and the people of Iraq.”
**SG in India
As the Secretary-General wrapped up his visit to India this morning, he discussed his agenda for change at the United Nations, by emphasizing that it aims to enhance freedom by pursuing goals in development, security and human rights.
In a lecture he delivered at the India International Centre, he strongly rebutted the suggestion that development, and the concerns of the developing world, did not receive much attention in his “In Larger Freedom” report. On the contrary, he said, the report contains important proposals on trade and debt relief, as well as the Secretary-General’s call on all developed countries to reach a target for increased development aid of 70 cents out of every $100 of gross national income.
The Secretary-General said that it would be preferable for Member States to agree on Security Council reform by consensus, but inability to reach consensus should not become an excuse for postponing action. And we have the transcript of the lecture available upstairs.
He also participated in an exchange of questions and answers after his lecture, and also gave a press conference before leaving New Delhi. We will provide transcripts of those exchanges as soon as they are ready and they will be available upstairs.
Back to the Security Council, today members voted unanimously to establish a one-year political mission in Timor-Leste, to follow up on the work done by the UN peacekeeping mission that ends its work on 20 May of this year.
The follow-on mission, which will be called the UN Office in Timor-Leste, is to remain in the country until 20 May 2006. It will include about 45 civilian advisers to support the development of critical State institutions, and will have 40 police advisers to support the development of the Timorese national police. The Office is also to have up to 35 additional staff to support the work of the Border Patrol Unit, and 10 human rights officers.
Also today, the Security Council decided to extend the mandate for the UN Mission in Western Sahara until 31 October of this year.
And just to inform you that Jacques Klein, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Liberia, will be leaving his post at the end of the month, as his contract expires. He was appointed to his current post as the head of the UN mission in Liberia in July 2003. Discussions on his replacement are currently under way.
Just a follow-up on something we mentioned in March of this year. On 17 March, we announced here that allegations made against Jacque Grinberg, the former Chief of Staff of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were unsubstantiated. We’re pleased to see that the British daily, the Independent, today issued an apology for misrepresenting his conduct.
The newspaper had implied that he’d been involved in sexual exploitation of Congolese women. In its apology, the newspaper acknowledged that Grinberg had been at the forefront of efforts to combat sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the DRC, and is a highly respected and experienced UN staff member.
**Community of Democracies
This evening, Ernesto Zedillo -- the former President of Mexico and one of the Secretary-General’s envoys on UN reform – will deliver a message on behalf of the Secretary-General to the Community of Democracies, which is currently meeting in Santiago, Chile.
We have upstairs embargoed copies of that message, which is expected to advance the idea that the UN reforms proposed by the Secretary-General would be good for democracy and, therefore, worthy of the Community’s support.
**UNHCR - Togo
Turning to the situation in Togo, the UN refugee agency is deploying an emergency team to Benin, where refugees fleeing general insecurity in Togo are continuing to arrive. It also has begun to truck in basic supplies from its regional warehouse in Accra, Ghana.
As of today, more than 3,600 refugees have arrived in Benin since Togo’s election results were announced on Tuesday. The majority of these refugees are women and children. The agency also reports that an additional 450 Togolese refugees have sought shelter in Ghana. And we have more upstairs in the UNHCR briefing notes.
**ILO/WHO – Work Safety Day
And for those of you who are sick of -- make that sick at -- work, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are today observing the World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
According to new estimates by the ILO, the number of job-related accidents and illnesses, which annually claim more than 2 million lives, appears to be rising because of rapid industrialization in some developing countries. We have a press release available upstairs.
A number of you had been asking for an update on the status of Iqbal Riza, the Secretary-General former Chef de Cabinet. After reviewing the findings of the latest Volcker report and after consulting the Office of Legal Affairs, as well as the Office of Human Resources, the Secretary-General has found that there are no grounds for disciplinary action against Mr. Riza.
Mr. Volcker had found that Mr. Riza acted imprudently and did not follow his own directive but he found no violations of staff rules. The Secretary-General has written to Mr. Riza of his decision. In the letter, which we will be making available to you upstairs, the Secretary-General says he accepts Mr. Riza’s apology for his actions.
A couple of in-house notes. The UN TV programme World Chronicle will air today at 3:30 p.m. on channels 3 and 31. The guest, Jamal Shakir, the Director of the World Bank’s Energy and Water Department will speak about water, economic and the environment.
**Guests at Noon Tomorrow
And tomorrow, Ambassador Sergio Duarte, the President-elect of the Review Conference of the State Parties of the Treaty to the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), together with Mr. Nobuyasu Abe, the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, will be joining me here at noon to talk about the Review Conference which takes place at Headquarters from 2 to 27 May.
In connection with this event, at 3 tomorrow afternoon, also here in 226, a senior UN official will brief you on background on the speech the Secretary-General will deliver at the Review Conference.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
Also tomorrow, at 2 p.m., the Foreign Minister of Finland will here to brief you on the Helsinki Process.
And at 6:10 tomorrow evening, Japan’s Foreign Minister, together with Ambassador Kenzo Oshima and the Spokesman for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will hold a press conference to discuss Security Council reform.
That’s it from me. Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: You mentioned the transition of the Government in Iraq. Could you tell us who is in and who is out in comparison to the Government of Alawi?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t have the list in front of me. I would maybe turn to the Iraqi Mission who may have a complete list of the Government ministers. If we have one upstairs I’ll share it with you, but I don’t have the complete list here in front of me. Yes, Sylviane?
Question: On Lebanon, the Palestinians refused the terminology of “militia” that was stated in the Annan report. And now they are asking more. They are asking about the opening of representation in Beirut. And they refused the terminology of “disarmament”. Any reaction of the Secretary-General on that?
Associate Spokesman: No, not at this point. But, you can probably ask Mr. Roed-Larsen tomorrow when you see him.
Question: I have another question on the prisoners. Is the SG ready to help the Lebanese detainees held in Syria to be freed?
Associate Spokesman: I think, if asked, the Secretary-General’s good offices are always available. Yes?
Question: Stéphane, in terms of Iqbal Riza, what has the Secretary-General specifically said about the shredding of the documents themselves, though? I understand that he’s come to the conclusion that he is not to be punished for what’s happened. But, what about accountability? What is the Secretary-General saying about it?
Associate Spokesman: The Secretary-General acknowledges that Mr. Riza’s actions were careless. But they cannot be construed as a deliberate attempt to impede the work of the commission.
Question: And in terms of Benon Sevan, yesterday I asked whether ... (Interrupted)?
Associate Spokesman: Yes, we’re trying to get an update on Benon and we expect to have one in the coming days.
Question: And in terms of this whole story about what sounded like extortion from Benon Sevan’s legal counselor, any ... (Interrupted)?
Associate Spokesman: I would not characterize it that way. We did receive a letter from Mr. Sevan’s lawyer earlier this month, asking us to reconsider our position about the payment of his legal fees. The Secretary-General’s position on that is unchanged and his legal fees will not be paid for by the United Nations.
Question: And in terms of what might be some sort of a looming threat --that there might be more disclosed about the United Nations and possible scandals or issues ... (Interrupted)?
Associate Spokesman: We encourage anyone who has any information about any wrongdoing to speak openly and quickly to Mr. Volcker, so that he can get to the bottom of what went on in the oil-for-food.
Question: Was there anything in this letter that you’ve referred to that can be characterized as a threat?
Associate Spokesman: No, I would not characterize the letter as a threat. Yes, Syliane?
Question: Any news about the two commissions, one on the 1559 and the other on the investigation?
Associate Spokesman: On the investigation, no news on a possible head of the investigation. The administrative team is on the ground getting the ground ready for them once the commission gets appointed. And the verification team, I understand that they are doing their work, and as I think you’ve been told before, they will report back to us to see if they do have enough manpower to do the work.
Question: Do you know when?
Associate Spokesman: Probably within the next 10 days we should hear from them.
Question: Steph, will we be able to talk to the Secretary-General tomorrow morning when he arrives in the building?
Associate Spokesman: We’re trying to see what we can arrange. But he will be going in and out of the Council.
Question: It’s in the morning?
Associate Spokesman: Yes, 10:30.
Thank you very much.
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