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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

10 May 2005

Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

I understand we have a group of visitors from Greece. Welcome to the noon briefing, and I hope you’re enjoying your stay in New York and at the UN Headquarters.

**SG in Geneva

The Secretary-General is in Geneva today, where this evening, he will meet one-on-one with the leaders of Nigeria and Cameroon, ahead of tomorrow’s mini-summit to discuss the work of the Mixed Commission dealing with their boundary dispute.

This evening, he is expected to meet individually with each of the two Presidents, Obasanjo of Nigeria and Biya of Cameroon. After that, he will host a working dinner for both Presidents.

The mini-summit will take place tomorrow morning, and we expect a press conference to be held afterward.

**Security Council

Here at UN Headquarters, the Security Council has scheduled consultations this afternoon at 3 p.m. on Africa. Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs will brief members on the world’s greatest humanitarian challenges, all of which are in Africa.

He will focus on recent developments in northern Uganda, Darfur, Sudan and other emergencies drawing less attention, such as the food and governance crises in some parts of Southern Africa and the Horn of Africa.

He will also draw attention to the bleak funding situation virtually across all humanitarian appeals for the continent. His statement will be made available this afternoon. And we do have a chart of the various humanitarian appeals for Africa available in the Spokesman’s office.

**General Assembly

Turning to the General Assembly here at Headquarters, the General Assembly is scheduled to meet tomorrow at 3 p.m. to confirm the appointment of Supachai Panitchpakdi of Thailand as the new Secretary-General of UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development). As you recall, the Secretary-General proposed the appointment in late February.

**Lebanon

And yesterday afternoon, we issued a statement which said that the Secretary-General was concerned about Israeli overflights into Lebanese airspace earlier that day. The situation in Lebanon and in the wider region is fragile.

The Secretary-General reiterated his call on the Israeli authorities to end these overflights. He urged all parties to fully respect the Blue Line and reminded them that one violation of the Blue Line cannot justify another.

And in answer to your question yesterday -- this is for Laura -- about our electoral team in Lebanon, I can tell you that, although Carina Perelli is expected to leave Lebanon on 18 May, she is to leave behind a team of three UN electoral experts who will stay on for the elections.

**Sudan

And on Sudan, the UN mission in Khartoum reports that the security situation in Darfur has been reported to be relatively calm over the past week, in terms of armed clashes between the Sudanese Government and rebel forces and armed militia and tribesmen.

However, banditry incidents continue to take place in some areas in north Darfur, where the population continues to be in need of humanitarian assistance. In south Darfur, meanwhile, banditry seems to have decreased during the last week. However, attacks on trucks, including those belonging to the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, are still being reported.

The main concern in west Darfur remains the influx of nomadic tribes from Chad into the bordering areas with Sudan, says the UN mission there.

**Capital Master Plan

I wanted to flag two reports to the General Assembly on the racks today. In a report today, the Secretary-General -- this is on the Capital Master Plan -- the Secretary-General recommends that the General Assembly accept the offer, from the United States, of a loan of $1.2 billion, for the Capital Master Plan. That loan comes at a rate not to exceed 5.54 per cent and a duration not to exceed 30 years.

He also recommends that the General Assembly authorize him to conclude an agreement with the United States to preserve the United Nations’ option to borrow money under the loan offer. And there is a deadline, I believe it’s 30 September.

The report notes various alternatives to the use of the proposed UNDC-5 building as swing space for UN staff while the Capital Master Plan proceeds. But it adds that the UNDC-5 represents a unique opportunity for the United Nations to accommodate its long-term needs.

**Peacekeeping

In the second report we’re flagging, the United Nations will need a total of 63 new posts, at UN Headquarters and in the field, to deal with the efforts to eliminate future sexual exploitation and abuse in UN peacekeeping operations.

This is according to a report out on the racks today that deals with the budget implications of the recommendations reached by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, following a report on the topic prepared by Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan.

The report says that, in order to address misconduct, Personnel Conduct Units would need to be created at Headquarters and in the peacekeeping missions. The report outlines what the new posts would cost.

**Liberia

And a two-day meeting on Liberia’s reconstruction is wrapping up today in Copenhagen, and has concluded that fighting corruption should be a top priority for the West African nation.

Organized by the United Nations and the World Bank, the gathering brought together senior officials from Liberia’s National Transitional Government and partners such as donor countries, regional organizations and civil society groups.

The UN Development Programme noted concerns about preparations for the upcoming elections, given funding shortfalls, the rainy season, and widespread allegations of corruption.

We expect to get a press release with more information on this later this afternoon.

**Cholera – Sao Tome

A couple of more press releases to flag to you: The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has rushed medical supplies to Sao Tome, following a cholera outbreak on the African island.

In addition, the agency -- in collaboration with Sao Tome’s Government, the World Health Organization, and the UNDP -- has mobilized community health teams to help control the outbreak and deliver safe drinking water to affected neighbourhoods. As I said, you can read more about that upstairs.

**Polio – Yemen

And UNICEF also reports that it has shipped 6 million doses of polio vaccine to Yemen, as part of emergency measures to stop the ongoing outbreak in that country.

**Financial Risk

And the 2005 Institutional Investor Summit on Climate Risk is taking place right now in the Economic and Social Council Chamber.

In a video message to the gathering, the Secretary-General said that the Kyoto Protocol was only a first step, and that the world needed a framework that went beyond 2012, which embraced all countries and made full use of new technologies.

He added that investors were essential to the international community’s ability to slow down climate change and mitigate its worst effects. We have the full text of his message upstairs.

And here in this room shortly, at one o’clock, there will be a press conference on this summit. The speakers will include Mindy Lubber, Director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk; Denise Nappier, Connecticut’s State Treasurer; William Thompson, New York City’s Controller; Steve Westley, California’s State Treasurer; and Howard Jacobs, Board Trustee of a UK-based private pension fund. That’s at one o’clock here.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And tomorrow at 10 a.m., Miloon Kothari, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, will brief the press on his recent report on homelessness and landlessness. He will discuss land and property issues in Afghanistan, a study on women, housing and land, as well as his recent missions to Kenya and Brazil.

And at 11 o’clock tomorrow, the International Labour Organization (ILO) will hold a press conference to mark the launching of the report “A Global Alliance Against Forced Labour”. Lee Swepston of the ILO will be the speaker.

And that’s all I have for you today. Do you have any questions for me?

Yes, go ahead.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Do you have anything on yesterday’s meeting between the Secretary-General and Mr. Erdogan?

Associate Spokesperson: As I mentioned to you yesterday, there was an informal exchange during a luncheon hosted by President Putin at the Kremlin, as part of the sixtieth anniversary commemorations yesterday. Mr. Papadopoulos confirmed that he would be sending an envoy to UN Headquarters soon for exploratory talks. And in light of that visit, the Secretary-General will decide on what further steps to take.

And we were also informed that the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was present during part of those discussions.

That’s what the readout was from that informal meeting yesterday. Yes?.

Question: Marie, this ...(Inaudible) you just mentioned, I just wanted to know, is there a time line on it, at all? Or has it been agreed to as yet or not?

Associate Spokesperson: The time line, as I mentioned, this report really concentrates on the funding aspect of the plan. And so, the Secretary-General is requesting the General Assembly to approve the offered loan by the date 30 September. My understanding is that the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Fifth Committee will be meeting on this report this month. And the dates for that, I believe, the Fifth Committee is the 23, and for the ACABQ, it’s the 16. So, the discussions on this report are starting soon.

Question: As far as the loan rate concerned, was the United States the only country approached for this loan or that’s the only solution it came up with the money or ...(Interrupted)?

Associate Spokesperson: There is a phrase in the report to which I would like to refer that mentions... If you take a look at the report, it actually goes into quite a few details. But there is one phrase that says “It was the opinion of the institutions contacted to date that the United Nations in the current market could not obtain a lower fixed rate than that proposed by the host country.” So, that’s the conclusion that report has reached in terms of that loan. But, the details of that loan are contained in the report. [She later said that the United States was the only country that offered a loan.]

Any other questions? Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question: Marie, will Mr. de Soto keep his hat on Western Sahara in addition to his functions concerning the Middle East? Or will the Secretary-General appoint a new Special Representative for Western Sahara?

Associate Spokesperson: As you know, Mr. de Soto’s appointment as the new Middle East Envoy was immediate. He accompanied the Secretary-General to the Quartet meeting in Moscow. My understanding is that for the time being, the Officer-in-Charge of the operation is in charge and that we should expect a new appointment. Yes?

Question: This morning, President Aristide made a serious charge against the UN. In an interview, he said that the UN is siding with the police in Haiti and the police are committing violence. Would the UN react to these charges?

Associate Spokesperson: I don’t know if the UN has reacted. I am sure that the United Nations is acting as neutrally as possible in these kinds of situations. If there is a statement that has been issued by the mission, I’ll let you know.

If there are no other questions, have a good afternoon.

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