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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

16 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 have an update from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and a statement attributable to the Spokesman on Uzbekistan:

**Uzbekistan - Refugees

From UNHCR, they report that a team arrived on the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border over the weekend, Sunday, to assess the needs of hundreds of Uzbeks who fled violence in their homeland.

The three-member UNHCR team, from the refugee agency's office in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, confirmed that some 560 Uzbeks had arrived on Saturday in the Jalalabad Oblast region of Kyrgyzstan. UNHCR noted today in a conversation just a few minutes ago that all 560 newcomers were registered by the Kyrgyz authorities.

And UNHCR expects regional governments to maintain an open border policy and will cooperate with them to respond to humanitarian needs arising from the situation in Uzbekistan. And there should be a press release from UNHCR posted on their website with these developments.

**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General

And the statement:

“The Secretary-General has been following events in Uzbekistan over the past few days with great concern. He deplores the outbreak of violence in the city of Andijan. He is saddened by the news of the loss of life, including civilians, and appeals to all parties concerned for restraint in the use of force.

“The Secretary-General calls on all parties concerned to comply with international humanitarian law and cooperate fully with the UNHCR emergency team deployed to the region for providing assistance to refugees coming from Uzbekistan.”

**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General

We also have a statement on Côte d’Ivoire:

“The Secretary-General welcomes the agreement on the time frame and modalities for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as a plan for the restructuring of the armed forces, signed by the Chiefs of Staff of the Ivorian National Armed Forces (FANCI) and the Forces Nouvelles (FN) on 14 May 2005, under the auspices of the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration.

“The Secretary-General urges the parties to implement their respective commitments in close cooperation with the United Nations and in accordance with the agreed timetable. The Secretary-General also calls on the Ivorian parties to ensure expeditious implementation of the other aspects of the Pretoria Agreement.”

**Côte d’Ivoire

The mission in Côte d’Ivoire, the UN Operation there, has also issued a statement welcoming the agreement and reiterates its availability to support the implementation of this just concluded agreement.

**Guinea-Bissau

And over the weekend, we had two statements; one issued last night on Guinea-Bissau in which the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern to hear of statements which appear designed to disrupt the ongoing transitional process in Guinea-Bissau. The aim of this process is to restore constitutional governance in the country through the holding of presidential elections on 19 June 2005 -– that’s next month. He calls on all segments of Guinea-Bissau society, in particular political leaders, to desist from any actions or statements that could undermine peaceful and orderly electoral and transitional processes, or otherwise exacerbate tensions in the country.

**Lebanon

And on Friday, we issued a statement expressing the Secretary-General’s deep concern at the exchange of fire which had taken place across the Blue Line.

He called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

We have all these statements available upstairs in the Spokesman’s Office.

**Secretary-General at Pennsylvania

The Secretary-General right now is delivering the commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, in which he is telling the students there that he is far from complacent about the United Nations today.

The United Nations, he is saying, is a work in progress, and it must move with the times. That is why, he is saying, he has put before the Member States the blueprint of the "In Larger Freedom" report, so that the world body can be overhauled to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

His commencement addresses spells out the meaning of "larger freedom", and how the people who work for the United Nations are in the front lines of the effort to win larger freedom -- whether through elections in Iraq, peace efforts in Haiti and Sudan, or efforts to take care of those suffering from AIDS.

Copies of the prepared texts are available upstairs. We also have transcripts of the Secretary-General’s comments made at a dinner last night for all those who, like him, are receiving honorary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania today.

**Security Council

The Security Council has nothing on its programme this morning. But this afternoon, it will hold a closed meeting with troop-contributing countries to the UN Mission in Timor-Leste. Following that, there will be an open meeting on the situation in that country.

Before the Council is the Secretary-General’s end of mandate report on the UN Mission in there. The report, which is out on the racks today, observes that, despite remarkable strides towards self-sufficiency, Timor-Leste still needs further support from the international community.

It welcomes the Council’s decision to remain engaged by maintaining an operational presence on the ground until May 2006.

In other news, we told you on Friday that the Security Council held a briefing on its recent mission to Haiti. That mission’s report is now out on the racks. Among other things, it notes that, although the UN Mission had deployed slowly, it was now working well, despite difficult circumstances.

**Sudan

And turning to Sudan, Secretary-General’s Special Adviser Lakhdar Brahimi and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno, together with Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan Jan Pronk, visited Darfur over the weekend.

Among those they met with were African Union officials and UN personnel operating in Darfur. Discussions focused on the humanitarian and security situation in there.

Today, the three (Brahimi, Guéhenno and Pronk) held a meeting today in Khartoum with the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Al-Tigani Fadhel), followed by a meeting with First Vice-President Ali Othman Taha.

**Deputy Secretary-General

And here at Headquarters, today marks the opening of the fourth session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Addressing the Forum, the Deputy Secretary-General said indigenous peoples must be part of revitalizing the United Nations -- both as contributors and beneficiaries. She added that the UN would continue to be indigenous people’s partner in their quest for dignity. We have the full text of her remarks upstairs.

**Forest Forum

And then, the fifth session of the UN Forum on Forests begins today, and will run until the 27th of May.

More than 300 Government officials, including 40 ministers responsible for forests, will meet here at Headquarters and consider a recent report by the Secretary-General, which says that deforestation and forest degradation are continuing at an alarming rate.

Our guests at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Manuel Rodriguez-Becerra of Colombia, Chairman of the UN Forum on Forests, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai. They’ll be able to tell you more about this Forum. And we have a press release with more information in our Office.

**Background Briefing on Tuesday - Reminder

And then just a reminder, tomorrow at 11 a.m., a senior official will hold a background briefing on UN Management Reform. And we’ll squawk the venue as soon as that’s known; and hopefully that will be shortly after the briefing.

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

Mohammad and then Edie.

[The Associate Spokesperson later announced that the briefing will be held in room 226 and that a fact sheet would be made available this afternoon.]

**Questions and Answers

Question: Marie, with regard to the Secretary-General’s interview with USA Today about one, to United States and united (Inaudible) of referring Iranian (Inaudible) to the Security Council; do you have any further information?

Associate Spokesperson: The only further information on that is that I just spoke to the spokesperson for the IAEA and they had no further development since the end of last week. They told me they would call us if there were any new developments in that area. So, we’ll let you know.

Question: Is he afraid that there might be (inaudible)... Secretary-General is afraid of a potential (Inaudible) between two...?

Associate Spokesperson: The Secretary-General’s remarks obviously stand. I can’t interpret his remarks for you, but all I can tell you is as of now the matter is not in the Security Council. And, as you know, if the IAEA does receive a report, should they receive a report, the Board of Governors will decide whether or not to send it to the Security Council. Yes, Edie and then Laura?

Question: Marie, does the Secretary-General have any reaction to the response by Mr. Parton in Federal court in Washington late Saturday?

Associate Spokesperson: I think we have nothing further than what you’ve been seeing in the reports as far as Mr. Parton is concerned. The matter right now is between Mr. Volcker and the Congress. Yes?

Question: Marie, does the UN have any reaction to Kuwaiti women gaining the right to vote?

Associate Spokesperson: I don’t have an official statement. I have seen the reports. And, obviously, we would welcome women gaining rights to vote. But I am trying to see if we can have something more official on that for you. Yes, and then Massoud? [A statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General was issued later in the day (see Press Release SG/SM/9877 of 16 May).]

Question: So, has the flow of refugees from Uzbekistan (Inaudible)? Was the number you gave just toll taken at the time or...?

Associate Spokesperson: Well, I was just on the telephone with UNHCR and their teams are monitoring two border areas between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. And as of now officially they only have the figure of 560 as registered. There are some reports that there are may be some more people on the other side trying to come in. But, I think UNHCR will be updating us with any figures on that. And, of course, their statement is very clear about the need to keep the international borders open to anybody seeking international protection. Yes, Massoud?

Question: On management reform, is it, I mean, I have heard reports that the Secretary-General is (Inaudible)...can you confirm it, to promote Mr. Mark Malloch Brown to the level of Deputy Secretary-General? Not actually the post, but to that level of DSG?

Associate Spokesperson: I would save your questions on UN management reform until 11 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Question: Will this be part of it? This question is really on top of the list.

Associate Spokesperson: I can’t confirm or deny any such rumours that you’re reporting. Yes, Laura?

Question: Marie, I just wanted to ask about the Brahimi meeting and Pronk. Was there a statement made after it or was there a press conference?

Associate Spokesperson: This is today in Khartoum. I have not seen anything as of yet. And I wasn’t informed that there had been, but I will check for you afterwards. As you know, we had mentioned at the time that both Mr. Brahimi and Mr. Guéhenno were out in Sudan on fact-finding missions. And as you know, Mr. Brahimi is there to follow up on his efforts to try to get as much support to the AU mission; AU force out there, and his contacts with them continue. And Mr. Guéhenno is out there to have a first-hand look-see at the situation in Sudan and to see how the UN is responding to the current needs.

Question: Do you know when they are going to be returning?

Associate Spokesperson: I understand that they are leaving on the 19th.

Question: This management reform that you’re talking about; is it going to be comprehensive? Latest about what reshuffling of offices and new appointments?

Associate Spokesperson: Well, I can’t give you too much information; otherwise we wouldn’t have a briefing. But I will provide to you a fact sheet as soon as possible. I was going to put it out tomorrow morning, but maybe we can get it out this evening so you can have a look at what will be presented and then come with prepared questions based on that. Yes?

Question: Regarding Cyprus, I read that an envoy will be coming to the United Nations to talk about possibly resuming the peace effort going on there. Do you know any information on that?

Associate Spokesperson: A lot of people have been asking about the meetings regarding Cyprus. And our understanding is that Ambassadors Tasos Tzionis and Andreas Mavroyannis are currently meeting with Kieran Prendergast, who is the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. This is the first of what may be several meetings and any readout is likely to have to wait until the end of these consultations. But, I suggest perhaps you contact maybe the Mission of Cyprus for further information. Yes?

Question: Do you have any information about the commission of experts who will come to Indonesia in several days? What is their next step and what will they do in Jakarta?

Associate Spokesperson: I’ll find out and get back to you after the briefing. [The journalist was later informed that the itinerary had not been finalized. The final schedule was expected to be agreed upon by Wednesday, and would be made public then.]

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

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