DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
24 May 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**High Commissioner for Refugees Nominated
Good afternoon. The Secretary-General is pleased to announce that he has asked the General Assembly today to elect Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres of Portugal as the new High Commissioner for Refugees. Mr. Guterres was Prime Minister of Portugal from 1996 to 2002. Apart from an extensive political and academic career, he has had a long involvement with the NGO world. In 1991, he became a founding member of the Portuguese Refugee Council. We have a more extensive bio note on Mr. Guterres upstairs.
Our guest today will be Detlev Mehlis, the head of the Independent Investigation Commission looking into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He’ll be joining us soon.
The Secretary-General told reporters yesterday, following the Security Council luncheon, that he was heading to Ethiopia where he will co-chair a meeting of the Chairman of the African Union in trying to raise support for the African Union forces on the ground in Darfur. He said there were plans to increase the force from a little over 2,000 to 8,000, and that the UN and the African Union are bringing together donors and partners who are in a position to help. He went on to say the UN has worked with the African Union to package their requirements and has also assisted them with planning and logistical preparations for the mission.
To brief you on the pledging conference, we expect to have tomorrow at noon, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the head of the Peacekeeping Department, who will be able to talk to you more about the pledging conference and Sudan in general.
Also from Sudan, the UN Mission in that country says it’s concerned about preliminary reports that police and military forces opened fire on internally displaced persons (IDPs) during an operation in the Soba Aradi squatter area near the capital Khartoum. Government forces are said to have surrounded the area in an effort to prevent IDPs from leaving, in line with the Government’s aim of relocating them to another location near an official IDPs camp. It’s claimed that the security forces opened fire on IDPs who resisted their orders.
The mission says that, while it supports the Sudanese Government’s intent to replan current locations for displacement camps, the forced relocation of IDPs must come to an end. The situation is ongoing and a UN team in Khartoum is investigating the matter. We have more upstairs and briefing notes from Khartoum.
**Security Council on Sierra Leone
The Security Council, as you know, is meeting today on the situation in Sierra Leone. Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, the President of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, briefed the Council. In his statement to the Council, Justice Ayoola discussed the Court’s funding and security concerns, as well as the need for international cooperation to help bring indictees, like the former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, to justice. He also said that the international community can’t allow the Court to fail, as failure would send a negative message to those struggling to fight the culture of impunity, and would undermine respect for human rights and international law.
We have upstairs copies of the briefing. We also expect the Council president to come out with a press statement after this closed meeting. And Justice Ayoola will be briefing you in this room at about 1:45.
Jan Egeland, the UN’s top humanitarian official, is in Geneva today to chair a meeting of the Task Force on the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
Speaking to journalists afterwards, he announced that tomorrow the UN would be launching its first web page with relief web, with information on all tsunami-related pledges received, as well as expenditures. And he hoped that similar Internet-based real-time reporting would also be used to account for even larger sums still to come for recovery and development efforts.
He also drew attention to the food security crisis in Niger, calling it “the number one forgotten and neglected emergency in the world”. And we have a press summary of his conference available upstairs.
**Report on Burundi
The Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Operation in Burundi was published yesterday afternoon. In it, the Secretary-General says that, while he believes that Burundi is on the path to becoming a stable and peaceful country, the reform process there has yet to become irreversible, and it’s incumbent on the Burundian parties to show the political will necessary for the successful conclusion of the transitional process. The Secretary-General also voices concern about the country’s debt burden and human rights violations, and recommends an extension of the Operation’s mandate for an additional period of six months, until 1 December this year.
**Security Council on Burundi
Also on Burundi, the Council met to discuss the situation in that country. They were briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Burundi, Carolyn McAskie. In a presidential statement issued afterwards, the Council President, Ambassador Løj of Denmark, said the Council urges all Burundian parties to ensure the success of the political transition, as well as the long-term stability of their country.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says it is still concerned about the safety and well-being of the more than 500 Uzbeks who arrived in Kyrgyzstan 10 days ago. The agency has asked the Kyrgyz authorities to move asylum-seekers who are staying in a camp that has neither water nor sanitation to a site further away from the border. UNHCR also reports that it has delivered 160 tents, more than 1,000 blankets and 500 kitchen sets to the refugees in these camps.
**Sport for Development and Peace
The International Working Group on Sport for Development and Peace is meeting today here at UN Headquarters. Participants in the day-long meeting will include the Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, as well as Adolf Ogi, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace. And you can learn more about this event at a press conference, which will be held after this briefing right here, in this room.
Couple more items. On UNMOVIC, the nineteenth session of the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission’s College of Commissioners is taking place here today and tomorrow. Members of the College will be updated on recent activities by UNMOVIC by its Acting Executive Chairman Demitrios Perricos and will be provided with a number of briefings by UNMOVIC experts. The Commissioners will also review the draft quarterly report of UNMOVIC, which is due to go to the Security Council on 1 June.
And that is it for me. Any questions before we move to Commissioner Mehlis?
**Questions and Answers
Question: In Iraq, the killings of children are taking place yesterday and today. Has anyone at the United Nations taken notice of what has happened or is it a totally hands-off situation?
Associate Spokesman: It is not a hands-off situation. We’ve obviously noted with great concern these recent acts of violence against children and places of worship. They’re very much of concern to us and are inexcusable. The UN team is there and ready to assist the Iraqi authorities in the ongoing political process, which for us is the key way of bringing together the different religious and ethnic groups in Iraq to help them build their country’s future and the key to that will obviously be the constitutional support the UN is willing to bring to the new Iraqi Government, as soon as we get an official request to do so.
Question: Does that mean the situation is beyond the control of the present Government of Iraq?
Associate Spokesman: No, I did not say that at all.
Question: The situation, as it’s spiralling out, doesn’t seem under control at this point.
Associate Spokesman: There are obviously a number of ways to improve these security situations. One is through the security forces themselves, but the other one is to make sure that every Iraqi, whatever their religion or ethnic affiliation, have a stake in the future of their country.
Question: Would you go a little further into the situation in Niger?
Associate Spokesman: I’ll be happy to provide you with a lot more on Niger when we go back upstairs.
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