DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
13 May 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
**Sudan - Meeting
I have an announcement, and then a statement.
The announcement is that the Secretary-General is pleased to announce that, together with the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Alpha Oumar Konaré, he will be chairing a high-level donors’ meeting in support of the African Union mission in Sudan (AMIS) which, as you know, is deployed in Darfur. This meeting will be held in Addis Ababa, on 26 May.
**Secretary-General Appoints Detlev Mehlis
And then I have an announcement of an appointment.
The Secretary-General today sent a letter to the President of the Security Council informing the Council of his intention to appoint Mr. Detlev Mehlis of Germany as the Commissioner of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Mr. Mehlis is currently the Senior Public Prosecutor in the Office of the Attorney General in Berlin. He has 25 years of prosecutorial experience and has led numerous investigations into serious, complex transnational crimes.
Mr. Mehlis has been a senior public prosecutor since 1992 and has, over the course of his career, been responsible for prosecuting terrorism and organized crime cases. Since 1998, he has been the Chief of the Contact Office of the European Judiciary Network and Coordinator for the fight against organized crime in the State of Berlin. Mr. Mehlis will travel to Beirut, as soon as possible, to begin the Commission’s investigation. And we have that upstairs for you.
Also on Lebanon, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today reported an exchange of fire across the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel, at the Shebaa Farms area. The Interim Force made contact with the parties on both sides of the Line. Since then, UNIFIL; that’s the UN mission there, reports that the exchange of fire has ceased. UNIFIL will investigate today’s exchange of fire.
**SG – Press Comments
The Secretary-General talked to the press upon entering the building this morning, following his return from his travel to Moscow and Geneva.
Asked about recent developments with the nuclear programmes in Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Secretary-General said recent events showed the importance of the current Review Conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the need for countries to make progress in that Conference. He said he was concerned, that it took two weeks to agree on an agenda for the Conference, adding, “I hope they will accelerate their work.”
Addressing the Iranian issue, he said it was not out of the question that talks between Iran and three European nations would continue, while for the DPRK, he hoped six-party talks would succeed, calling them “the only game in town”.
He noted that the United Nations had been assisting the North Koreans with humanitarian aid and also encouraging them to cooperate on the nuclear front.
Asked how the oil-for-food investigation would affect UN reform, the Secretary-General said he hoped that Member States will focus on the work ahead and strengthen the United Nations, adding that he does not expect the investigation to derail the reform process. “For some”, he added, “the oil-for-food crisis will never die down.” We have the transcript of that encounter upstairs.
Turning now to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we told you yesterday about an attack on UN peacekeepers, south-east of Bunia. The UN Mission there issued a press release yesterday afternoon, confirming that one of those peacekeepers had died from gunfire wounds. In other news, there will be a disarmament ceremony held in Bunia tomorrow. And we hope to have a press release on that event from the Mission to share with you later on.
At Headquarters, the Security Council this morning began a public meeting on Haiti, and received a briefing on the recent Security Council mission to that country that was led by Ambassador Ronaldo Sardenberg of Brazil. A Council debate on Haiti is going on right now in an open meeting.
And in Geneva earlier today, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was finalizing arrangements for the establishment of a human rights operation in Uganda, as a way of helping to strengthen the international response to the abuses and violations occurring in northern Uganda as a result of the conflict there. The Office hoped that this new country office would be operational by next month.
The High Commissioner’s Office is currently in the process of recruiting the monitors, who would go to northern and eastern parts of Uganda to do monitoring and to carry out training and capacity-building of local actors.
And on the budget, yesterday, UN Controller, Warren Sach, reported to the Fifth Committee on contributions by Member States to the UN Budget.
He said there was a mixed picture. The number of Member States that had paid their assessments in full by the end of 2004 had fallen to 124 from the 131 that had done so by the end of 2003. But, on a more positive note, the amount unpaid for the regular budget at the end of 2004 fell from $442 million to $357 million.
By the end of January this year, 35 Member States had paid their assessed contributions in full. This number had grown to 72 by 30 April 2005, compared to 77 by 30 April last year. We have a copy of Mr. Sach’s comments to the
Fifth Committee upstairs.
**University of Pennsylvania
And finally, one more announcement on a couple of events happening next week:
Next Monday, the Secretary-General will deliver the commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania, and will also receive an honorary doctorate from that University.
In his speech, he will talk about the ideals and daily work of the United Nations, and the vision of reform laid out in his “In Larger Freedom” report. He will stress the important role of the United States in the work the United Nations does, now and in the future.
**Background Briefing on Tuesday
And then next Tuesday, at 11 a.m., there will be a background briefing on UN Management Reform by a very senior UN official, here in room 226. And that morning, we hope to hand out a fact sheet for you on what will be discussed during that briefing. And that’s next Tuesday.
[The Associate Spokesperson later announced that the venue for the briefing was not room 226, as earlier announced, as this had not yet been decided. The venue would be relayed as soon as it was known].
**The Week Ahead at United Nations
And we have the Week Ahead for you, for your planning purposes.
And I think I forgot to mention one thing, which is that the Secretary-General last night had dinner at his residence with the President of the European Commission, José Manoel Durao Barroso, and today had a formal meeting with him at UN Headquarters.
The Secretary-General and Commission President Barroso stressed their shared goal of strengthening multilateral institutions. The Secretary-General welcomed EU support for UN reform and for the ongoing consultations on reform led by the President of the General Assembly. He also welcomed ongoing discussions about ways for the UN and the EU to work together with regional and subregional organizations, in line with the proposals in his “In Larger Freedom” report. We have a communiqué upstairs with more details on that.
And that’s all I have for you.
Any questions for me? Yes, Laura?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Marie, I just wanted to ask you about the announcement that you made that the Secretary-General is going to be with the chief of the African Union in Addis Ababa for the donors’ conference. I might have this wrong, but I think there was a donors’ conference somewhere in Scandinavia previously, earlier this year. And the last time Jan Egeland spoke with us he said that the pledges that had been made, he had not received all the monies. I was just curious to know what the Secretary-General feels he’s going to accomplish in this new donors’ conference, maybe with his physical presence. Is he going to ask for that money that had already been pledged? Or, I mean, what is his specific goal here?
Associate Spokesperson: There are two different conferences. The conference earlier this year -- you’re right, there was a donors’ conference for humanitarian and other immediate assistance work for Sudan in Oslo. And even at the background briefing that we had earlier this week, I think the official from the Office for the Humanitarian Affairs department mentioned that he had hoped that more pledges would be turned into actual contributions, because the needs on the ground in Darfur, on the humanitarian side, are still very great.
If you recall, we also flagged to you, on Monday, a report by the Secretary-General on UN assistance to the African Union mission in Sudan, which is the one that’s deployed in Darfur. And yesterday, the Council also met on that report and the presidency of the Council issued a statement at the end, I believe, which also called for increased support for the African Union mission in Darfur, which is really the only game in town, to try to bring an end to the suffering of the people on the ground.
So, this meeting that is being convened now in Addis, on 26 May, is aimed at giving maximum assistance to the AU mission on the ground.
Question: So, it’s only for them? It’s not going to be anything towards the humanitarian...?
Associate Spokesperson: That’s correct. It is support in all of the areas which the African Union force is lacking in and tries to bring as much international support as possible to end the suffering in Darfur. Yes?
Question: Will Mr. Mehlis be travelling to Lebanon with the team or alone? And if yes, could you give us the nationalities of the 15-member team? Has it already been put in place?
Associate Spokesperson: As you know, we just informed the Security Council about this appointment. Mr. Mehlis is expected to come from Berlin to UN Headquarters early next week. We hope that within a week he will be deployed to Beirut with a small team. Initially, that team will assess the results of all the investigations that have already taken place until now, and start sifting through the vast amounts of material there. His initial team will be, I’m told, up to about 10 people. So, it will be a small team. I don’t have the names of his team, but given the seriousness of the crime and the nature of the investigation, we expect that there will be probably substantial numbers added to it. But, he first has to get on the ground and give an assessment from there as to precisely what the needs will be.
Question: Will he be meeting the press when he comes to New York?
Associate Spokesperson: We’ll have to ask him. Yes, Massoud?
Question: The reports that Israeli planes again attacked that part of Lebanon which they attacked yesterday, do you have any comment on that?
Associate Spokesperson: I don’t have anything further right now, than what I said on Lebanon, which was on the Blue Line violation.
Question: And on Congo, can you identify this peacekeeper who was killed? His nationality?
Associate Spokesperson: The ambush was on a Bangladesh convoy.
Associate Spokesperson: Yes.
Question: Do you know if they have been identified?
Associate Spokesperson: I don’t think they have identified the individual yet. I think they’re probably trying to notify the next of kin. Yes?
Question: Another question on Lebanon; on the verification team. (Inaudible)...I suppose his team is in New York for consultations. Do you have anything about...(Interrupted)?
Associate Spokesperson: As I mentioned to you yesterday, the team is on its way. I have not heard confirmation that they have arrived here yet. The Secretary-General did mention today at the press encounter about the team; so I refer you to his remarks about the team and that they will be reporting to him very soon. Yes?
Question: Marie, just about this team that’s going to Lebanon to investigate about the murder of Mr. Rafic Hariri, and the United Nations teams are on their way to New York to finalize their report to give the Secretary-General. Is it two separate and parallel reports or what?
Associate Spokesperson: They’re two separate teams and they have two separate mandates, and they will be reporting separately, yes.
Any other questions? Yes?
Question: On the Canadian assistance to the team in Sudan, can you just clarify the extent of that and whether it was solicited and what the channels were by which that assistance was solicited, if it was by the United Nations?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, as you know, the Secretary-General has for a long time been soliciting -- if that’s the word we should use -- has been appealing for assistance to the African Union mission in Darfur. Right from the start, the African Union was in the lead. Right from the start, we knew that there were a lot of needs that were not being met. So, the net was cast wide and when the Canadians came in with their generous offer -- which I can give you in detail, I have upstairs -- that’s why the Secretary-General issued a statement in advance of the announcement.
Okay, no more questions?
Have a wonderful weekend.
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