DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
7 June 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Statement on Lao People’s Democratic Republic
The Secretary-General welcomes the reports received of the humane treatment extended to the group of 171 men, women and children from ethnic minorities, including Hmong, who have come out from remote areas in the Xaysomboune Special Zone in Lao PDR early on Saturday morning.
The Secretary-General urges the Lao Government to continue to provide the necessary assistance to the Hmong should a larger number come out of the jungle in the days ahead. The Secretary-General also reiterates the readiness of the United Nations to provide every kind of humanitarian assistance to such groups that the Lao Government may request.
Turning to the Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, said today he is concerned about recent armed clashes between two rebel groups in South Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
He condemns these actions, which constitute serious violations of the N’Djamena Ceasefire Agreement. He also expresses his disappointment that these violations are taking place at a time when the international community and the African Union are exerting every effort to assist the parties in achieving a breakthrough during the upcoming round of talks, scheduled to take place on
Pronk calls upon the rebel groups to immediately cease hostilities and to heed the request of the African Union to pull out their forces from Graida and other locations.
The Security Council just finished a closed, private meeting on Haiti with that country’s Prime Minister, Gerard Latortue. He is expected to speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout around 1 p.m.
Earlier today, the Security Council held a meeting on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and approved a one-month extension for nominations of “ad litem” judges.
Then, this afternoon at 3, the Council is scheduled to meet in closed consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the head of the Peacekeeping Department scheduled to brief.
Also, on the international criminal Tribunals, the lack of cooperation of States in arresting and transferring people to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia remains the main factor hindering the Tribunal from completing its work, according to the Tribunal’s Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, in a report issued today.
Ms. Del Ponte says there has been progress in the cooperation provided by Serbia and Montenegro, while Croatia has provided unrestricted access to documents and witnesses. But a number of key fugitives remain at large in those countries, including Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic and Ante Gotovina.
In a separate report out on the racks today, Erik Mose, the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, estimates that by 2008 the Tribunal will have completed trials involving 65 to 70 people.
And, the Security Council is scheduled to hold a public meeting on the Tribunals’ completion strategy next Monday.
The Secretary-General this afternoon is to present the proposed programme budget for 2006 and 2007 to a key advisory body on the UN budget. In his remarks, he is to tell the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions that more will need to be done for the United Nations to address the challenges of a rapidly changing world fully and effectively. Once we see what is achieved in September in advancing the strategy for UN reform, the Secretary-General will say that he will present revised estimates for that budgetary period.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that random, vicious attacks against civilians have led to new displacements from at least three localities in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in the past week. These displacements have also involved homes being burnt down, whole neighbourhoods looted, and people having limbs hacked off and women being raped. And, we have more on this situation from OCHA available upstairs.
**Global Fund HIV/AIDS
The Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria today applauded the announcement by the Government of Australia that it will allocate 50 million Australian dollars, or about $38.2 million US dollars, to support the Global Fund over the next three years. The Fund calls on all donor governments to follow the examples set by Australia and Canada, to at least double their pledges for 2005 and beyond.
The Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, is now on her way to Burundi, after completing a visit to the UN peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. The main purpose of her visits is to reinforce the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse for UN personnel and to review the status of relevant prevention and enforcement measures in the UN missions in those countries.
As you will recall, on Thursday at 11:45 in this room, the Secretary-General will launch a progress report on reaching the Millennium Development Goals. The Secretary-General’s remarks will be followed by a briefing from Under-Secretary-General Jose Antonio Ocampo and possibly from other UN agency chiefs.
We expect to be able to put out embargoed copies of the report, along with an accompanying press release, this afternoon, and that will be available in our office. And, the embargo is until Thursday at noon.
And, lastly, today at 3:30, Ambassador Aldo Mantovani, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy, and Rima Salah, the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, will be here to brief you on World Youth Orchestra concert taking place tomorrow in the GA Hall.
And, if I could ask you please, please turn off your cell phones. That’s it for me.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stephane, the US Senator yesterday said that he’d seen enough evidence incriminating Syria in the assassination of Hariri, and given that there’s an international investigation going on -– was that evidence supplied by the UN, and if it wasn’t, is the Secretary-General now privy to it?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t know where Senator Leahy’s information came from, but I think the focus for us is the investigation that’s now ongoing by Mr. Mehlis, and while that investigation is ongoing, until it’s completed, I don’t think we’ll say any more on hypotheticals regarding Mr. Hariri’s assassination.
Question: But, did he broach the subject with Kofi Annan at their meeting yesterday?
Associate Spokesman: I’m not aware that he did, but I’ll be happy to check for you. [The Associate Spokesman later said that Lebanon did not come up in the discussions.]
Question: Mark Malloch Brown was down in Washington, D.C., recently as you know talking to congressmen about the UN’s position on tying funds for the UN, holding them back, in terms of performance by the world body. Are we expecting any further meetings of that sort, or any sort of press conferences or any other things on the agenda here to discuss this issue?
Associate Spokesman: On discussing ...?
Question: On discussing congressional discussions on trying to tie in or withholding funds to the United Nations in terms of performance by the world body? And, I also have one other question.
Associate Spokesman: No. The Secretary-General’s position, the UN’s position has been very clear -– that withholding as a tool for reform is not one that we feel works. That being said, there’s a process going on in the US Congress. There’s debate going on within committees and within the house, and we’ll refrain from commenting while that process is going on. And, I’m not aware of any meetings scheduled up here.
Question: With regards to Stephanides, have there been any developments in terms of his request for an appeal? Is anything in the works here at the UN, anything going on with the Joint Disciplinary Committee and some way of addressing his concerns?
Associate Spokesman: No. We do expect, at least from what I’ve seen in the press reports, that he will appeal. As of yesterday, I don’t think that paper had been filed. But, as you know, the appeal process will enable him to have a full hearing in front of the Joint Disciplinary Committee.
Question: And, if that goes forward and he pushes that, and the UN accommodates, how long does that type of process normally take?
Associate Spokesman: I’m not sure. It’s a quick process, but there’s no set time, and it obviously depends on the case. And, there is no question that we will accommodate his request for an appeal; it’s in the staff regulations and it’s his right to appeal.
Question: How many victims were there following the clash between the two elements in the Sudan?
Associate Spokesman: I don’t have a figure, but I’d be happy to check for you.
Question: How much is the annual budget of the United Nations, and does it include peacekeeping operations?
Associate Spokesman: No. The budget for the peacekeeping operations is separate. The proposed budget for the next biennium, before re-costing, comes to about $3.6 billion, and that reflects real growth of less than 0.1 per cent over the 2004-2005 biennium. But, that figure does not include any cost related to the Secretary-General’s reform proposals. Depending on what is accepted in September, we would have to come back to the ACABQ and the Fifth Committee for more funds.
Question: Do you have any more information on Roed-Larsen’s forthcoming visit to Damascus, and the urgency, or the apparent urgency, behind the trip?
Associate Spokesman: No. You know, the implementation of 1559 is an alive and ongoing process. The Council asked the Secretary-General to report periodically on 1559, and Roed-Larsen is his envoy to that effect, so that’s the goal of his mission.
Question: As you know, the announcement came in the midst of the Congress of the Baath Party in Damascus. Would it be safe to say that there’s some connection between the trip and the Congress?
Associate Spokesman: No. Thank you very much.
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