DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
11 August 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**SG’s Statement on Iraq
Good afternoon. We’ll begin with a statement on Iraq.
“The Secretary-General is closely following the discussions under way on the drafting of a new Iraqi constitution. He calls on all political, religious and civil society leaders in Iraq to exercise the vision and the political will needed to come to an agreement in the next few days. He believes such an agreement will constitute a major milestone in Iraq’s political transition.
“The Secretary-General emphasizes that compromise and mutual understanding are critical if the parties are to quickly resolve the remaining issues under consideration.”
And that statement is available upstairs.
**Security Council - Iraq
The Security Council today voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq for a further 12 months.
The Council afterward went into consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Council members heard a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the work of the UN Mission in that country.
**SG on United Nations Reform
The Secretary-General, as he left the Security Council meeting on Iraq today, was asked by Japan’s NHK television about the timetable for reforming the UN Security Council.
He responded that we should try and make as much progress as we can on other clusters of UN reform, where Member States are much closer. The Secretary-General hopes that, between now and the end of August, Member States would clear up all the outstanding issues on those clusters to be able to put forward a package of decisions.
As for reform of the Security Council, the Secretary-General said that negotiations are ongoing, and ideally, “it should be done by September”.
We have a transcript of that press encounter upstairs.
The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency this afternoon began a closed meeting in Vienna to discuss Iran. The meeting just ended with the adoption of a resolution without a vote.
The resolution expresses serious concern at the 1 August notification to the IAEA that Iran had decided to resume uranium conversion activities at Isfahan. It underlines the importance of rectifying the situation and urges Iran to re-establish full suspension of all enrichment-related activities on a non-legally binding basis.
The resolution requests Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to provide a comprehensive report on the implementation of Iran’s safeguards agreement by 3 September. ElBaradei afterward told journalists that there was still a window of opportunity for negotiations to continue.
**SG Letter – Southern Africa
The Secretary-General wrote a letter to a number of heads of State this week, to draw attention to an unfolding food emergency in southern Africa. Noting that more than 10 million people will need humanitarian aid over the coming year, because of previous food shortages, endemic poverty and HIV/AIDS, he wrote that we cannot wait until the last minute to help.
The Secretary-General expressed concern that hunger was forcing children, especially orphans, to drop out of school, and causing some women to turn to prostitution to survive. The Secretary-General also asked the world leaders to do everything in their power to ensure that southern Africa didn’t become another crisis that could have been prevented.
And we have the full text of that letter upstairs.
**WFP – Afghanistan
Ahead of Afghanistan’s winter, the World Food Programme (WFP) has started pre-positioning food supplies for nearly half a million Afghans, who will be cut off from markets once the cold weather sets in. Deliveries have already begun in north-eastern Afghanistan, where winter normally begins as early as September.
A press release from WFP is available upstairs.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, today attended the swearing in of Salva Kiir of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement as First Vice-President of that country. Kiir replaces the late John Garang.
**World Health Organization (WHO)
The World Health Organization (WHO) today announced the adoption of the Bangkok Charter for Health Promotion at the sixth Global Conference on Health Promotion, which ended today in Thailand. According to WHO, the charter addresses the most pressing health challenges of the new millennium, such as how to narrow global inequities in life expectancy, particularly in the developing world.
And a press release is available upstairs.
**Payment of UN Dues
Lastly, we’re happy to announce that yesterday we were handed the 100th cheque of the year for contributions, with a payment of $391,492 from El Salvador. So thank you to El Salvador. El Salvador, obviously, became the 100th Member to pay its dues in full for 2005.
And, following swiftly on the heels of El Salvador, yesterday afternoon, Haiti became the 101st country with a cheque for $53,385. We extend our thanks to Haiti as well.
A list of all those countries which have paid in full is available on our webpage.
That is it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: On the resolution you said that was passed in the IAEA without a vote, does that mean that it was adopted unanimously?
Spokesman: Yes, it was adopted without a ... that’s my understanding of the reading. It was adopted without a vote.
Question: Without a vote?
Spokesman: Yeah, but it was adopted. I think “adopted” is the key word here.
Question: I just wanted to ask a question about UNDP funding this Iraqi news agency. Yesterday in a press release, the United Nations said that UNDP will be funding Iraqi news. Why has UNDP chosen to fund an Iraqi news agency where they have enough funds? There are other poor countries where they can fund news agencies.
Spokesman: I did not see that press release but I encourage you to call UNDP. Call UNDP and they should be able to give you an answer. If they don’t, we’ll get one for you.
Question: I just wanted to clarify ... the Secretary-General’s encounter with NHK earlier ... the Spokesman’s Office put out an unofficial transcript and then a revision. But the original was actually correct, not the revision, and it changes the meaning...
Spokesman: We listened to the tape we had and we put down what we had ... the corrected version is the one ... we listened closely to the tape.
Question: I would just urge caution to my colleagues then because it seems from hearing NHK’s tape that he said clearly that it would be unrealistic to expect any reform of the Security Council before the Summit.
Spokesman: I think the Secretary-General clearly remains hopeful that this can be solved by September. And as he said earlier today, and as he said to you yesterday, if it could not be resolved by September, the outcome document should indicate the importance of reforming the Council and the need to do it by December, by Christmas.
Question: I understand that. I’m just saying that it seemed...
Spokesman: You listen to our audio tape and ... I’m sure NHK may have had a better tape on the camera.
Question: Yeah, because it changes the meaning.
Spokesman: I understand that but I’m just laying out to you what his position ... he made that position clear to you yesterday, as well.
Question: On that issue, the Secretary-General does tend to speak rather cautiously about these things. But introducing this notion of a December deadline as opposed to having been very firm on September seems to be a very significant change in what he’s been saying before. So could you give us a little bit more detail on what specifically has led him to now start looking to December rather than his adamant urging that this issue had gone on long enough and should be solved by September?
Spokesman: He’s been in touch, as you know, with all the various Member States involved in this issue. It’s really a way of signalling that, yes, he still very much hopes that it will be done by September but that if it’s not done by September that it is not just forgotten and left unsolved. So the focus remains on September but saying ... I think others have been saying, well if it doesn’t get done by September we lose all momentum and it’s dead in the water. The issue is to try to solve it by September but if you can’t, commit yourselves to doing it by December.
Question: That essentially changes the whole equation. I mean, is the Secretary-General perhaps increasingly pessimistic that this issue will be resolved at all?
Spokesman: No, I don’t think so. I think he still remains hopeful that it will be resolved.
Question: Two questions. Number one, the shortfall for the funding of the Afghan elections that was announced today in Afghanistan ... how serious is this? What are other potential consequences as far as the UN is concerned of this shortfall?
Also, I was just wondering, given the absolute silence on Zimbabwe from the UN’s end since the report, has basically the Secretary-General abandoned hopes that he or the UN can actually intervene politically, perhaps broker some kind of dialogue in Zimbabwe?
Spokesman: On your first question, I’ll take a look at the notes from Afghanistan and try to get you some guidance. On the second issue, our immediate concern remains on the humanitarian. But obviously to help solve Zimbabwe’s problems on a long-term basis, there will need to be a political dialogue to address those issues.
Question: Sorry, just to get clear ... the AU has appointed Joaquim Chissano as a ... has the UN, which was bidding for some sort of political role in Zimbabwe, now decided to step back following the failure of the Security Council to do anything about it and leave this to Africa?
Spokesman: It’s not a matter of stepping back but it’s also the issue of not having more than one envoy. The AU has sent an envoy. I think the duplication of political envoys can also be counterproductive.
Question: Does the Secretary-General feel that this prolonged investigation into the “oil-for-food” programme somehow affects the process of reforms in a way that attention is shifted or even slows down? What does he think about that?
Spokesman: Mark Malloch Brown, I think, went into great detail on this on Monday that, in fact, the recommendations that we hope will be in the Volcker report on reform and on management reform will give a great push to the Member States in terms of them adopting a comprehensive reform of the Secretariat, in terms of administrative and management reforms.
Question: Would the Secretary-General consider urging the Security Council maybe to request that the final report be put off until after the Summit, and after the GA, so it’s not a distraction?
Spokesman: Mr. Volcker’s inquiry is an independent inquiry, as its name indicates, and it’s up to him to decide on when the reports will be released.
Question: You just said the reason why the UN was not going to send an envoy was because it could be counterproductive. Was that the reason why the AU envoy was initially kicked out of Zimbabwe?
Spokesman: No, what I meant... I think Mark was asking why we were not also sending a political envoy. I said the duplication of political envoys can sometimes be counterproductive.
Question: When Ms. Tibaijuka was there, the AU envoy was kicked out of Zimbabwe during his investigation. So is that the reason why?
Spokesman: No, but I...
Question: Do you see what I mean?
Spokesman: No, not really, but we can talk after maybe.
Question: Does the Secretary-General consider the situation in Iran a threat to international peace and security?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General very much believes that the best way to solve the situation in Iran right now is through the negotiations between the EU-3 and the Iranians.
Question: I just wanted to find out at what stage the IAEA can recommend that the Security Council take up the issue.
Spokesman: It’s up to them to decide, but we’ll have to take a look at the resolution they just passed.
Question: On another matter, did Mr. Volcker request more funding from the UN?
Spokesman: Yes, there was a request for an additional... I’d have to check, I don’t have that note right in front of me. But that’s already gone to the Security Council.
Question: Does that mean that they have already spent all $35 million?
Spokesman: Their request for funds was based on their indication that they would work and issue their last report in late September/early October.
Question: Is that separate from previous requests for more funds?
Spokesman: No, there was just one ... there was an allotment of funds and there was a subsequent request for more funds, I think a couple of weeks ago.
Question: But still, does that mean that they spent the $35 million?
Spokesman: It just means that they will need ... they’re budgeting for work I think until October.
Question: I just wanted to make sure for the record that the Spokesman’s Office initially issued a transcript that said the Secretary-General said it would be unrealistic for Council reform to be achieved by September. And then they later released a revised transcript saying that it would be.
Spokesman: Yes, I listened to the tape again and we issued a revision.
Question: Just one other one on Zimbabwe. Does the Secretary-General consider that the situation in Zimbabwe is the kind of situation we’re talking about when we talk about responsibility to protect? Does the situation in Zimbabwe constitute a case where the international community has a responsibility to protect?
Spokesman: I think the situation in Zimbabwe is a case where the international community needs to do whatever it can to assist those in need. As for the right to protect, that definition is being worked on by the Member States.
Question: But really, maybe you can’t answer this now, but I would be very interested because does the kind of situation we see in Zimbabwe fall into what the SG is talking about when he talks about responsibility to protect?
Spokesman: Well I’ll try to get you an answer.
Question: Just to clarify all this Security Council stuff, the Secretary-General’s comments today and yesterday amount to a conclusion that this is not going to happen by September, and, therefore, December came up.
Spokesman: It’s a conclusion that we would hope things can happen by September and if they don’t, then they would have to happen by December.
Question: Because he never mentioned December before, as Nick pointed out.
Spokesman: No, he mentioned it for the first time yesterday. That’s correct. Thank you.
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For information media • not an official record
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