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DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

4 May 2005

Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Guests at Noon

Our guests today, as soon as I am done, will be François Dureau, the Chief of the Situation Centre, and Margaret Carey, the Principal Officer in the African Division of the Peacekeeping Department. And they will be joining us to brief on recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General

I have two statements on Lebanon. First, on the incident affecting the verification mission that took place earlier today:

“The Secretary-General was gravely concerned to learn that members of the United Nations’ verification mission currently in Lebanon to verify the full withdrawal of Syrian troops, military assets and the intelligence apparatus were denied freedom of movement, as Palestinian armed elements fired warning shots in the air when they were inspecting sites in the Bekaa valley.

“The Secretary-General deplores this incident. He expects the Government of Lebanon to ensure the safety of the verification mission. He further expects the mission to be afforded full and unconditional freedom of movement throughout Lebanon at all times. The Secretary-General reiterates his call on all concerned parties to fully implement Resolution 1559 without delay. He emphasizes that the resolution calls on the Government of Lebanon to extend its authority over all Lebanese territory under its sole and exclusive control.”

And we have the full statement available upstairs.

**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General

The second statement on Lebanon is on the electoral team going to Lebanon:

“As agreed with the Government of Lebanon, the Secretary-General is dispatching an electoral team to Beirut today. The two-person team, led by Ms. Carina Perelli, the Director of the Electoral Assistance Division, accompanied by Scott Smith of her staff, will remain in Lebanon for approximately two weeks. Its task will be to assist the Government in its preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections and in the coordination of the deployment of international observers.

“The Secretary-General reiterates his strong support for the Government of Lebanon’s pledge to organize and conduct the elections on time, beginning on 29 May. He stands ready to provide further assistance as required.”

And the statement is also available upstairs.

*Security Council

The Security Council this morning held consultations on the Middle East. Discussions were on elements of a draft presidential statement following up from last Friday’s debate on Lebanon and resolution 1559, and those consultations will continue this afternoon.

This afternoon also on the Council’s program, at 3 p.m., the Council has scheduled a meeting to vote on a resolution on Côte d’Ivoire. The mandate of the UN mission in that country expires today. Council President Ambassador Løj of Denmark told you yesterday that the Council was expected to adopt a four-week rollover of the mandate because it needed time to prepare a comprehensive resolution.

Following that meeting will be a closed one on Georgia.

The Special Representative of the President of Georgia for conflict resolution in Abkhazia, Irakli Alasania, is expected to address the Council in a private meeting, which will be followed by consultations on the same issue.

During the afternoon consultations, Council members will hear a briefing by Jean Marie Guéhenno, the Head of the Peacekeeping Department, focusing on deployments in Sudan. They will also continue their discussions on the Lebanon draft statement.

**Sudan

Turning to Sudan, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, Jan Pronk, today condemned the killing of two staff members of the Sudanese Red Crescent in Kassala, in eastern Sudan, after being reportedly ambushed while performing their duties. A driver and a nurse died on the spot from their wounds while another staff member was severely injured. A fourth member of the convoy remains unaccounted for. We have a press release available upstairs with more information on that.

**Côte d’Ivoire

Turning to Côte d’Ivoire, the UN mission reports that humanitarian agencies are now saying that thousands of people were displaced by the recent ethnic clashes in Duékoué. After conducting a joint assessment mission to the town, humanitarian agencies underscored the importance of the UN mission providing adequate protection to the sites where displaced people are camping, by strengthening UN patrols and positioning men in the vicinity of these sites.

**Togo

In nearby Togo, the number of refugees fleeing political unrest in that country is continuing at a steady pace, with more than 20,000 Togolese now seeking refuge in neighbouring Benin and Ghana. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says that this number is up from 18,000, which we reported on Tuesday -- a week after the outflow originally started.

**WFP

According to figures released today by the World Food Programme, global food aid figures for 2004 show a slide of almost 30 per cent to 7.5 million tons, down from 10.3 million tons in the previous year. The figure was released today by the agency in Rome. It says the figures are part of an overall decline in food aid volume since 1999; while at the same time, the number of chronically hungry people around the world has risen by 8 per cent. WFP says it’s disturbed by the figures, and has called for aid policies which put food first.

**General Assembly

And turning to the General Assembly, at 10 a.m. tomorrow, the Assembly will consider the selection of a new Administrator for the UN Development Programme, as well as a new Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services.

The Secretary-General, as you’ll recall, had requested the General Assembly to approve the appointment of Kemal Dervis of Turkey as the next UNDP Administrator, and also asked them to approve Inga-Britt Ahlenius of Sweden as the new head of OIOS.

**UNICEF – Tsunami Schools

Also, upstairs we have a press release from UNICEF, which says that it is allocating $90 million to help rebuild 300 primary schools destroyed by the tsunami in Indonesia. It’ll also help repair another 200 damaged schools.

Grenada

And lastly, yesterday there was a question that came up doubting the veracity of one of the items on DPI’s ten stories that the world should know more about. The question was, I think, about Grenada and the devastation caused by hurricane Ivan.

I just spoke a few minutes ago, to the UNDP’s resident coordinator on the island, who said that eight months after the hurricane the country is still struggling to recover. Ten thousand homes needed to be replaced and 22,000 needed repairs. To date, the Government has repaired only 2,000 homes and replaced fewer than 300. Many are still living in temporary housing made with plastic sheeting or scraps from debris. Funding continues to be a big problem. The UNDP flash appeal had asked for $8 million and has, so far, only received $22,000 from the Government of Singapore.

And the resident coordinator tells me that anyone who says the homes have been rebuilt must have visited a different Grenada.

**Videoconferencing

One more item. For your information, correspondents are invited to a signing of a memorandum of understanding with Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor, Ambassador Bill Luers, the President of the U.N. Association for the USA, and Michael Adams, President, FairleighDickensonUniversity. This is to mark the start of a project in which videoconferencing will be used to educate university students across the United States about the work of the United Nations. And that is taking place at 1:45 p.m. in Conference Room D.

And that is it from me. Any questions? Yes, Bill?

**Questions and Answers

Question: A few things about the incident in the Bekaa valley. One, how many UN officials were involved, that were there... doing the ...inspection?

Associate Spokesman: My understanding is that we had the three members of the verification team plus the Lebanese officials who were accompanying them.

Question: Did they have reason to believe there were Syrian intelligence agents in the camp?

Associate Spokesman: They were doing their job, verifying the withdrawal and they were following up on information they had received about presence in the camp.

Question: They were barred from entering the camp, or the shots were fired...?

Associate Spokesman: The shots were fired as they approached the camp and they then decided to turn around. It should be made clear that, obviously, in their report on the verification of withdrawal they will report all of these types of incidents where they have been barred or prevented from entering a specific place.

Question: Has the Secretary-General communicated with the Lebanese Government? The Palestinians...(Inaudible)?

Associate Spokesman: I am not aware of any direct communication. We have the statement here, which is obviously a public statement, and a public statement of his position on the issue. But I will check if there had been any direct communications. Yes?

[The Associate Spokesman later announced that the verification team is in constant contact with the Lebanese authorities, as well as the Lebanese army, following this morning’s incident].

Question: What’s up with the Lebanon investigative team? Has anyone been chosen to lead that?

Associate Spokesman: The search for the head of that commission is intensifying, but we still do not have a lead commissioner.

Question: Two more questions on Maurice Strong. Does the UN have a list of his children and stepchildren? I am trying to figure out who and how many of them worked for the UN.

Associate Spokesman: No. I do not have a Strong family tree. You have to call him. Yes?

Question: And on the videoconferencing, do you have any more details? How is this going to work? I mean, educating US students about the UN?

Associate Spokesman: Call Mr. Tharoor’s office, they will give you all the information you need. Yes, Mark?

Question: Just on conflict of interest. Last week, I asked a question about whether the UN has rules for business activity by UN envoys. Mr. Razali [Ismail] had business interests in Burma. Has that been done? Is the UN having another look in the light of its changing approach to conflicts of interest for Special Reps?

Associate Spokesman: We’re actively looking at the types of forms, what we ask people, who reviews that information. That is part of the ongoing management review, and I know that the specific issue of financial disclosure is being looked at very actively.

Question: In the meantime, the question about Mr. Razali and his business...?

Associate Spokesman: I don’t have anything further for you on Mr. Razali. [He later noted that the United Nations had looked into the matter in 2002, and no conflict of interest had been found.]

Question: Is it appropriate for the UN Special Representative to Burma to have business contacts with the Burmese Government?

Associate Spokesman: I have no further guidance on Mr. Razali. I know it’s an issue that’s come up in the past. I can give you an answer as soon as we walk out of this briefing. Yes, Massoud?

Question: You said that the UNGA is going to meet soon to confirm or consider the appointment of Mr. Kemal Dervis at UNDP. The Secretary-General also appointed the head of UNCTAD way back, three months ago. His appointment is not coming up for confirmation as yet at the UNGA. Do you know why?

Associate Spokesman: No. I think it’s being discussed by members of the General Assembly. I don’t have any info...(Interrupted)

Question: Is there any reason for the delay?

Associate Spokesman: I think you’d have to ask the members of the Assembly. Yes?

Question: On that UNCTAD thing, it’s pretty well-known. We’ve all written that the non-aligned turned him down. Are there negotiations to put his name up again? Or is there a substitute?

Associate Spokesman: His name continues to be the one put forward by the Secretary-General. Yes, Bill?

Question: Is today’s incident in the BekaaValley the first instance of any kind of degree of lack of cooperation by Lebanese or anybody with the verification team?

Associate Spokesman: It’s the only one that I am aware of. Yes?

Question: Steph, I’m trying to reconcile the statement on the electoral team to Lebanon with what we’ve heard in the past on DPA reviews of that same office, that Division within DPA. Do we consider that matter closed?

Associate Spokesman: You know, Carina Perelli is a top electoral official, one of the top electoral experts in the field. Her ability to assist the Lebanese Government on this issue and the preparation for elections will not be affected by issues unrelated to her substantive functions. Yes?

Question: Steph, we’ve learned that Congressman [Christopher] Shays has written to Secretary-General Annan and to Paul Volcker about this issue of immunity for Ms. [Miranda] Duncan and for Robert Parton. And I’m trying to find out what the Secretary-General’s position is on lifting immunity. Does he plan to do that? Whether it’s going to happen? We’re getting close to the time in which [Paul] Volcker is probably summing up things and getting close to getting his report finalized.

Associate Spokesman: On that issue, we will be guided by Mr. Volcker and his wishes. That is an issue that is being dealt with between Mr. Volcker and, I understand, members of Congress, from what I read in the press. And so, we will be guided by Mr. Volcker on that issue.

Question: Is the Secretary-General concerned, though, about issues of transparency and the ability of the truth and the facts in this case to come out, though? Why does he necessarily depend solely on Mr. Volcker for something that ultimately is in the interest of the United Nations?

Associate Spokesman: It’s exactly that. It’s in the interests of the United Nations; it’s not only in the Secretary-General’s interest. That’s why the Volcker panel was put together, backed up with a Security Council resolution. And that is the vehicle with which we intend, and the Secretary-General very much hopes, we will get to the bottom and explain what happened in the oil-for-food programme.

Question: When might we get an answer, or at least some sort of sense on where this is going, though, what the Secretary-General has decided in conjunction with Mr. Volcker on this question?

Associate Spokesman: If I have something new, I’ll let you know. Yes?

Question: I wouldn’t mind any briefing on immunity, or contact on the legal issue, though, because Congress is asking the UN to lift immunity in the middle of an investigation, and what are the different legal things on the UN? And Congress itself, I mean, doesn’t Congress have immunity in situations like that from the courts, or the courts from Congress? There must be immunity in all branches of our Government and how it related to the UN. I mean, I find it unusual that there should be this Congressional hearing with people who come in the middle of, who are part of, the investigation. Though, I’d love to hear what he has to say.

Associate Spokesman: Well, obviously a number of those issues are US legal issues. So, if there is anything that we can find out from legal...

Question: He’s not going to be the only side of it, but I am curious what your argument is.

Question: Steph, may I ask you, ...(Inaudible), diplomatic immunity? Can you impose diplomatic immunity on somebody? If somebody wants to testify, can they sort of, voluntarily forego diplomatic immunity? And if that’s the case, ‘cause I’m also interested in terms of confidentiality. A subpoena would normally trump confidentiality. But, could the UN place immunity in between the subpoena and confidentiality even if the person in question wants to testify? I am just trying to understand what the dynamic is there.

Associate Spokesman: We’ll try to get you a little more direct information on how these issues intersect. Yes?

Question: From the information that you have, is it absolutely clear that the verification team in the Bekaa valley was -- that there were warning shots fired, rather than being fired upon?

Associate Spokesman: They were described to me as warning shots. I assume the people who were shooting know the difference between a warning shot and a direct hit, so...I think this should be qualified as warning shots. Yes?

Question: The UNA which is meeting with Mr. Tharoor, is it an NGO?

Associate Spokesman: The what?

Question: The meeting with Mr. Tharoor...

Associate Spokesman: The UNA-USA?

Question: Yes.

Associate Spokesman: Yes, it is registered as an NGO to the United Nations.

Question: Is it true that it received money from Mr. Strong?

Associate Spokesman: I do not speak for UNA-USA, and I do not speak for Mr. Strong. You can ask both of those people that question. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question: On the video teleconferencing, this agreement between the UN and the FairleighDickensonUniversity, etcetera, on the teaching about the UN in American universities, is the Secretary-General concerned that this may be seen as interference in the internal affairs of a State?

Associate Spokesman: I think you are stretching the argument to the point that it’s snapping. Educating young people about the work of the United Nations is a good thing, in my mind. I hope it is, maybe in your mind, as well. Whether it’s interference with a Member State, I think if you look at the education system in this country, at the university level, you’ll find limited involvement from the Government, so...

Question: A follow-up, if I may? Is this an agreement? Or should it be left to universities themselves?

Associate Spokesman: It is a voluntary agreement. Universities are not being forced to listen to UN propaganda. They can sign up if they are interested. Yes, Lee?

Question: Is it possible to get someone from the Legal Department to come down to one of the briefings so that we can give him all of our legal questions?

Associate Spokesman: We will explore and see if that is possible.

Question: Is the NPT Review Conference in your purview, at all? Can I ask you a question about that at all?

Associate Spokesman: I think it’s ongoing. We can get somebody from the Conference to brief you on what’s going on.

I’m done here. My guests are next.

* *** *



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