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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

31 May 2005

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

Hi. We’ve got quite a few notes for today.

**Secretary-General

As you know, the Secretary-General is now back in New York. We expect him to come into the office shortly, and he has told us that he will speak to the press in the Secretariat entrance when he comes into the building. As soon as he’s on his way, we will announce it so you, guys, can go downstairs if the briefing is not over.

**Secretary-General Returns from Sudan

He returned from a trip, as you know, trip to Sudan that began with a conference in Addis Ababa, which he co-chaired with the Chairman of the African Union to mobilize donor support for the AU mission in Darfur, during which nearly $300 million in pledges was received. The Secretary-General then travelled to Darfur and southern Sudan over the Memorial Day weekend.

In Nyala, in south Darfur on Saturday, the Secretary-General toured a camp for those who had fled the violence and a town where people have begun to return months after it was flattened in an attack. Asked to describe what he saw in Darfur, the Secretary-General said it was “heart-wrenching.” He also said that the AU force in Darfur was making a difference.

“What we need to do”, he said, “is to create an environment, a security environment, that will encourage the people to go back home. To go back and plant, to go back and pick up their lives and begin to recover. The Secretary-General said “we don’t want to see a situation where they are in camps for years and years as we have seen in other situations. And so it is very urgent that we take the right steps and ensure that we get them back to their villages”.

The Secretary-General also met with Sudanese Vice-President Taha and Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismael, and later said they had agreed on “the urgency to re-energize the peace negotiations in Darfur, accepting the fact that that is the real means of bringing long-term stability”.

On Sunday, the Secretary-General made a day trip from Khartoum via Juba to Rumbek, in southern Sudan, making good on a promise to visit southern Sudan, once the comprehensive peace agreement was concluded.

After hearing from Chairman John Garang about the rising humanitarian needs of the region, due to the return of thousands of refugees from abroad, the Secretary-General said he would redouble his efforts to press the international community to make good on their pledges.

A sandstorm in Khartoum late in the day on Sunday forced the Secretary-General to cancel his return trip to the Sudanese capital for a meeting with the Sudanese President.

The Secretary-General is expected to brief the Security Council on his trip to Sudan, as well as on the AU conference this Thursday here.

Also, you might have seen reports of the arrest of a person who had served as the Secretary-General’s interpreter during his visit to Darfur. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, Jan Pronk, said that after talks with Sudanese Government officials, the local authorities in south Darfur have now dropped the request that the interpreter report to them near Nyala camp.

**Sudan - MSF Arrests

Also regarding the arrest of two senior officials from the Dutch branch of the non-governmental organization Doctors without Borders, Jan Pronk also told us that the pair had now been released on bail.

Pronk had intervened at the highest level with Government officials, and we are now closely monitoring the situation and we very much hope the charges against these two will be dropped in the very near future.

**Security Council

Turning to the Security Council, they met this morning in an open session regarding the situation in Iraq.

Council members were briefed by the acting United States Permanent Representative, Anne Patterson, on the activities of the Multinational Force in Iraq. Also speaking to the Council was the Foreign Minister of Iraq, Hoshyiar Zubari.

Council members then moved into a private meeting to continue their discussion.

The Council will also be meeting this afternoon for consultations on Burundi and Haiti. And that will be followed with a formal meeting to adopt two draft resolutions extending the mandate of the United Nations Missions in those two countries.

In a separate meeting this afternoon, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on sexual exploitation by peacekeepers, Prince Zeid of Jordan, will present his report on the issue to the Security Council. Also speaking at the meeting will be Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the head of the Peacekeeping Department. And both these gentlemen will be available to you at the Security Council stakeout immediately following the meeting.

**Iraq

Also on Iraq, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, met on Sunday with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, for a review of the current political and security situation and progress made by the Government in its initial weeks in office.

Mr. Qazi welcomed efforts under way to promote dialogue, to reduce sectarian tensions and further outreach in support of the political process at this critical period in Iraq’s history.

Qazi stressed that both the constitutional process and the transition itself would benefit from an inclusive approach whereby all Iraqi constituencies were represented.

And we also have a press release on that, as well as one on Mr. Qazi’s meeting with Iraq’s Finance Minister, Ali Allawi, which took place on Sunday.

**Cyprus

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast arrived at Larnaca airport yesterday.

He said his objective for coming to Cyprus is to take the pulse on the island and in the region after a period of reflection by all sides, following the results of last year’s referenda.

Today he met with His Excellency Tassos Papadopoulos, and tomorrow he is scheduled to meet with His Excellency Memet Ali Talat.

Prendergast will also be travelling to Athens and Ankara, as part of this trip before heading back to New York to report to the Secretary-General.

**Guinea-Bissau

Turning to Guinea-Bissau, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, noted with satisfaction the decision by the authorities of Guinea-Bissau to proceed with presidential elections, as scheduled, on 19 June.

But he also warned the political leaders of Guinea-Bissau that the international community would not tolerate any attempts to increase tension or provoke violence during the election campaign.

And we have copies of the statement available upstairs.

**Lebanon

On Sunday afternoon, we issued a statement on Lebanon in which the Secretary-General said he was very encouraged by the democratic conduct of the elections.

He commended the Government of Lebanon for its efforts to ensure that the elections take place on schedule and in a free and credible manner.

And the full text of this statement is available upstairs.

**NPT Conference

Going back to Friday afternoon, the Secretary-General said, in a statement, that he very much regretted that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference closed without substantive agreement. The Secretary-General said the Member States had missed a vital opportunity to strengthen the collective security against the many nuclear threats.

He added the September summit, which will bring to New York more than 170 Heads of State and government, will present them with a unique opportunity to make bold commitments and address the pressing challenges which the Review Conference was not able to answer.

The full statement is available upstairs.

Also on the NPT, the Secretary-General had an op-ed published in the International Herald Tribune yesterday. In it, among other issues, he said that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol must become the new standard for verifying compliance with non-proliferation commitments.

**Burundi

Turning to Burundi, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says it is very concerned that Burundian authorities are now consolidating all Rwandan refugees into one ill-equipped transit centre in the northern part of the country.

And we have a press release from UNHCR with more on that.

**World Food Programme

And from the World Food Programme (WFP) we have a press release on an event called “Walk to End Child Hunger”.

The event will take place on 12 June in a number of cities worldwide and will involve more than 200,000 people in a five-kilometre walk to raise money for hunger projects.

**Press Conference

And lastly, at 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference entitled “Our Voice, Our Future: Young People Report on Progress Made on the United Nations Special Session Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS”. The speakers will be the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the Youth Authors, Vikram Singh Laishram from India, and Enice Aghete from Nigeria.

And I think that’s it for me. Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Nothing on the election in France and the outcome with the new Government?

Answer: No. The referendum is obviously a sovereign decision taken by the French people. We’ll not have any comment on it.

Question: The new Government?

Answer: The new Government -- we look forward to working with the new Prime Minister.

Question: What will be the conversation between the Secretary-General and (Jean-)Marc de la Sablière?

Answer: I believe that is the traditional meeting of the incoming Security Council Presidency that the Secretary-General has at the end of every month before a new MemberState takes up the Presidency.

Question: Why is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq so reluctant to come to New York and give us a briefing [inaudible] … as you’re upgrading the mission and everything else.

Answer: He’s not at all reluctant to come to New York, but obviously he has a lot of business to tend to in Iraq. We expect later this afternoon to officially announce the beginning of our official cooperation with the Iraqi authorities on the constitutional writing process. He’s had a number of meetings in the region. It’s not a reluctance to come to New York. It’s an issue of time management.

Question: I mean today, an important (event) in the Security Council has taken place, the Foreign Minister is here …

Answer: No, I don’t think you should read anything into his absence. It’s an issue of time management. He’s the Special Representative in Iraq and he has a lot of work to do there.

Question: How about the cooperation of the United Nations with Iraqis in writing a constitution?

Associate Spokesman: How will it be?

Correspondent: Yes.

Associate Spokesman: We have a team which has been in Iraq for a few weeks now, led by Nick Haysom, who is a South African constitutional expert. He’ll lead a team of about half a dozen experts brought together by the United Nations and they will work very closely with the Iraqi authorities in writing the constitution -- in assisting them write the constitution.

Question: Where will they be stationed -- in Jordan or Iraq?

Associate Spokesman: They’re already in Baghdad.

Great. Thank you very much.

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