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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

29 July 2005

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

**Louise Arbour

Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, will be joining us right after the briefing to speak about the report on Darfur entitled “Access to Justice for Victims of Sexual Violence”, which was issued in Geneva today. And she will also speak on human rights situations around the world.

** Zimbabwe – UNICEF

Turning to Zimbabwe, on the humanitarian front, UNICEF says it is now stepping up its operations in those destroyed areas that have received a sudden influx of people returning. UNICEF is appalled by reports of deaths of children -- both during demolitions and as a result of the critical conditions created by Government actions -- and continues to press for unhindered access.

UNICEF is leading an assessment mission to five urban areas, focusing on those relocated to transit camps and churches and those who remain at demolition sites. Meanwhile, efforts are focusing on water being sent to transit centres, latrines being built and the distribution of emergency items.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has also provided support to national NGOs to assist the evicted population in a location in eastern Zimbabwe, where they distributed some 400 blankets and one month’s food rations for 350 displaced households in the same area.

**UNHCR – Uzbek Refugees

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that 439 Uzbeks, who had been in Kyrgyzstan in recent weeks, arrived in Romania early this morning. They are now awaiting transfer to third countries. The group includes 14 Uzbeks who were in detention in Kyrgyzstan and who were released by Kyrgyz authorities at the last minute. One Uzbek said he did not want to take the flight to Romania and said he wanted to return home.

UNHCR remains deeply concerned about the fate of 15 other Uzbeks still detained in Kyrgyzstan, and the Agency is negotiating their release.

The Secretary-General, in a statement we issued yesterday afternoon, called on the authorities of Kyrgyzstan to facilitate the evacuation of Uzbek refugees and asylum-seekers in the country. The Secretary-General recalled, as have the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the High Commissioner for Refugees, that returning refugees or asylum-seekers to a country where they may face torture is a violation of international refugee and human rights law.

The Secretary-General also reminded the Kyrgyz authorities that this prohibition -- the principle of non-refoulement -- is absolute and may not be derogated from or circumvented through any other undertaking, either through a bilateral treaty or any other arrangement. And that statement is available upstairs.

**Security Council

This morning Council members unanimously adopted resolutions which extend the mandates of two UN peacekeeping missions, in Georgia and in Lebanon, for a further six months, until the end of January 2006.

The Council also decided unanimously to extend arms sanctions and other measures imposed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo until 31 July 2006. It also called on the Secretary-General to re-establish the Group of Experts for that country, within 30 days from today.

Lastly, the Council extended by 17 months the mandate of the monitoring group dealing with sanctions on individuals, groups or entities that are linked to al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden or the Taliban. The resolution also defines the acts or activities that can associate such entities with al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Today was the last scheduled day of Council activity under the Presidency of Greek Ambassador Vassilakis. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan will assume the Presidency of the Security Council starting 1 August.

**SG Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed today Ambassador Azouz Ennifar of Tunisia as his Deputy Special Representative for the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). Mr. Ennifar will be based in Addis Ababa and he succeeds Mr. Cheikh-Tidiane Gaye of Senegal, who left the mission earlier this year.

** Niger

Turning to Niger, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it is expecting an increase in deaths there from communicable diseases because of the current food crisis. Cases of water and sanitation-related diseases -- as well as diarrhoea, cholera, tuberculosis and malaria – are also expected to rise.

A WHO assessment mission is currently under way in Niger, and based on its preliminary findings, the agency has decided that it will be providing support to the country’s health ministry, in the areas of health coordination, early detection of communicable diseases, and the training of personnel to deal with cases of severe malnutrition. WHO is also working with Niger on a new emergency strategy to provide drugs free of charge. And we have more available upstairs.

**WFP – Food Aid to DRC Ex-Combatants

The World Food Programme (WFP) today announced that it will extend the provision of food rations to demobilized combatants and their families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). That’s in addition to meeting the continuing needs of newly displaced people in the eastern part of the country. The operation for ex-combatants, which was due to expire in December 2005, will now run through June of next year, at a total cost of $191 million. At the moment, it is only 53 per cent funded.

According to WFP, the DRC is now at a critical moment in its peace process, and the food aid will give tens of thousands of former fighters more time to reintegrate into civilian life. And we have a press release available upstairs.

** Liberia

Turning to Liberia, at the request of the Security Council, the Secretary-General today announced the appointment of a five-member panel of experts to go to Liberia to assess implementation and impact of sanctions imposed in that country. The panel is charged with looking at restrictions on the diamond trade and the timber industry. It will also assess the impact of these measures on the local population, and check into the implementation of the arms embargo.

The panel is also looking into progress made towards meeting the conditions set down by the Security Council for the lifting of sanctions.

**South Asia Floods

Responding to heavy floods that have been hitting Pakistan since last month, the UN Disaster Management Team in Pakistan has released a report based on humanitarian needs assessments.

Among other things, the team says immediate food support is needed for a one-month period for nearly 45,000 people in northern Pakistan. The situation in seven Afghan refugee camps hit by the flooding has also been assessed. UNHCR recommends one-time food assistance to those most affected, as well as fumigation to avert the threat of malaria.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also says it is closely following the floods in neighbouring India.

**International Atomic Energy Agency

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) latest annual report is now available on the IAEA website for all those who are interested. It highlights the Agency’s response to nuclear challenges in 2004.

**Children’s Environment Summit

Today, in Japan, 600 children from around the world wrapped up their Summit for the Environment by challenging world leaders to pay higher attention to energy, biodiversity, water and recycling. In their closing statement, the delegates said they were committed to saving energy and using renewable energy sources. For more information, we have a press release available upstairs.

**Disabilities Convention

Negotiations on the first-ever convention on the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities will resume on Monday, here at Headquarters.

Meeting for its sixth session, the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee dealing with the rights of persons with disabilities will tackle such issues as children with disabilities, education, access and personal mobility. More than 500 non-governmental organizations are expected to attend the session over a two-week period.

**GA Consultations

The General Assembly Presidency is advising us that the General Assembly is continuing all day today its closed informal consultations on the revised draft outcome document for the September Summit.

The consultations are expected to resume Monday and Tuesday of next week as well. A second revised version of the President’s draft outcome document may be submitted by President Jean Ping towards the end of next week.

**Hammarskjöld’s Centenary

In Sweden today, the centenary of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld is being celebrated.

Former Under-Secretary-General Sir Brian Urquhart delivered a speech on the Secretary-General’s behalf. In it, he says that, for us at the United Nations, Hammarskjöld set a standard to live up to. His capacity for work and thought, his words and actions, have done more to shape public expectations of the office of the Secretary-General and of the Organization, than those of anyone in its history. The full speech is available upstairs.

And I have the “Week Ahead” for you. Any questions? Yes, Bill?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Can the UN verify one way or another that the demolitions in Zimbabwe have stopped, resumed, ongoing.. Are you getting any reports, phone calls as to what’s going on?

Spokesman: We’re obviously concerned about the reports that these demolitions may still be ongoing. Our team on the ground continues to verify, but it’s difficult at this point for us to be everywhere throughout the country. But our country team is continuing its effort and, as we’ve mentioned, we’re also trying to assist those displaced.

Question: Does that mean you have no reports of any continuing demolitions?

Spokesman: We’re continuing to try and verify what is going on on the ground, and we’re concerned about reports that these demolitions may still be going on.

Yes, Mark?

Question: Well, on that, just to understand, how does it work? If you receive a report, does someone go out and have a look?

Spokesman: We’re trying to examine sites and we’re obviously in contact with the Government and NGOs.

Question: So, is that to say that of the sites you’ve examined so far, you haven’t seen evidence of continuing demolitions?

Spokesman: We’re continuing to verify. I’m not sure we can, at this point, say one way or another, but we continue to be concerned about reports that they may still be going on.

Question: I have a question about the Uzbek refugees. How long will it take for the Kyrgyz authorities, do you have any indications, to transport the other 15 people. Are there any negotiations?

Spokesman: Yes, the UN Refugee Agency -- UNHCR -- is dealing with the Kyrgyz authorities to try to secure the release of the remaining 15, who are still being detained.

Question: Do you know why that particular person you mentioned didn’t want to go to Romania? What’s the reason, what happened?

Spokesman: No, he said he wanted to go back to Uzbekistan.

Question: So Romania is a worse place than Uzbekistan?

Spokesman: The key point here is that people be allowed to make decisions freely on where they want to go.

Question: Who’s actually paying for the costs of those staying in Romania, the Romanian Government or the UN?

Spokesman: UNHCR is dealing with that. I can check for you on the financial arrangements.

[Following the briefing, it was announced that UNHCR says it will pay the expenses for their stay.]

Question: Okay, you just answered that.. I was wondering if this was a Romanian Government initiative or was it based on some compensation. How does that work?

Spokesman: I’ll get you more details, but it’s obviously something UNHCR is working on with the Romanian authorities.

Question: Has the UN checked out the report in The New York Times two days ago of a specific incident of demolition in a suburb of the capital of Zimbabwe?

Spokesman: If you give me the specific place, we can check right after the briefing.

[The Spokesman later announced that the Resident Coordinator in Zimbabwe, Agostinho Zacarias, said that, as of Tuesday, he had not heard of any reports of demolitions. He said the team on the ground had a network of organizations that c6an assist in verification.

The UN team is working with a number of churches in different places, the Red Cross, which have offices across the country, and NGOs who provide the Resident Coordinator with information. Should he hear of any new reports of demolitions, he can tap into the network to verify the information.]

Question: Was the Secretary-General discouraged that Russia blocked British and American efforts to discuss Uzbekistan in the Council yesterday?

Spokesman: My understanding is that the High Commissioner for Human Rights made it clear that she would discuss other issues during the briefing here. And we have no comment on whatever may have happened in closed consultations yesterday.

Question: On Zimbabwe, would it be possible to get a little bit more clarity on what this ongoing verification actually amounts to, i.e. could the UN tell us who has gone to look?

Spokesman: Sure, we’ll try and do that for you.

Question: (inaudible).. today, is that possible or are they closed?

Spokesman: If they are closed, we will try to open them. We will try to do that today.

Question: Secondly, the Security Council this morning looked like a parody of “Saturday Night Live” with one resolution after another, done by numbers rather than name. Anyway, for them to say that this is now terrorism, this is now Georgia...

Spokesman: We’ll try to get them better comedy writers.

Question: A question about those Uzbek refugees again. Could the UN look deeper into those accusations that the Uzbek Government is making, that those 15 people are criminals? This is quite possible because out of 450 people, some of them might really be criminals. Could you look into those accusations? Do you have any information?

Spokesman: I don’t have any more detailed information. But I think the underlying factor and what needs to be made clear is that there are international legal standards that need to be kept. Refugees should not be returned against their will to a country where they feel they face harassment or torture or worse. UNHCR is dealing with this issue and they’re trying to negotiate the release of the people in Kyrgyzstan, who should be allowed to go where they wish.

Question: This policy is applied even if there is convincing evidence that these people may have committed felonies?

Spokesman: You’re getting into details of this case which I don’t know about, but the key remains that these people should be allowed to go wherever... they should not be forced to return home against their will.

Question: Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to the Japanese Foreign Minister’s statement the other day, where he said that Japan may be constrained to cut its UN contribution if it does not get a Security Council seat? Does he have a reaction to that?

Spokesman: No, this is a time of high stakes for the Organization, as the membership negotiates and discusses the reform proposal. It’s a membership-led negotiation and we’ll leave it at that.

And on that note, I’d like to welcome the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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For information media • not an official record



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