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Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

16 August 2005

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

No doubt, you’re all here for me, huh?


Our guest, as you know, today will be Kemal Derviş, the new Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and he’ll be joining us to day to brief you on the work of the UNDP. And, obviously, this will be his first briefing since he took up his new post. And he will be introduced by the Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, as the Secretary-General is on leave.

** Iraq

Turning to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, today called upon all the Iraqi parties and their leaders to work together and redouble their efforts to meet the new deadline to adopt the country’s Constitution by August 22.

Qazi urged all parties to continue to hold their discussions in a structured, transparent and inclusive manner, with the best interests of all the Iraqi people as an overriding priority.

He emphasized the importance of these efforts, which would be crucial for the successful holding of the referendum in October and the elections scheduled for December.

Qazi and the UN Mission’s Office of Constitutional Support will continue to promote national dialogue and consensus-building in the drafting of a national constitution. They will also provide assistance to the Transitional National Assembly, as it seeks to fulfil its work in the coming days.

And we have a full statement from the Mission available upstairs.

** Afghanistan

Turning to Afghanistan, the Secretary-General’s latest report on Afghanistan notes the rise in the level of insurgency in that country, as well as in the sophistication of the insurgents’ weaponry. Southern and eastern parts of the country have borne the brunt of the recent upsurge in violence.

The Secretary-General says it is impossible to overestimate the importance of restoring security in Afghanistan as a condition for the sustainability of the peace process. He adds that the external sources of support for the insurgents must be tackled.

As Afghanistan prepares for elections this September, the Secretary-General says, he trusts that its people will, once again, show their keen interest in the democratic process and will participate massively in the polls.

And we have copies of the report on the racks.

**SG Statement - Afghanistan

And on Afghanistan, I have a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General:

“The Secretary-General was saddened to learn today that 17 Spanish military personnel serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan had been killed in a helicopter crash in Herat province.

“He extends his condolences to the Spanish Government and to the bereaved families.”

And that statement is available upstairs, as well.

**Security Council

Yesterday evening, members of the Security Council agreed on the text of a press statement expressing their great sadness and deep sense of loss at the assassination of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar.

The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this terrorist act. They expect that the case will be speedily investigated and the perpetrators, organizers and their sponsors will be brought to justice.

** Sri Lanka

Also from Sri Lanka, a group of 60 people forced their way into the UN compound yesterday in an area of the country controlled by the Tamil Tigers, and hauled down UN flags that were flying at half mast as a sign of respect for the assassinated Foreign Minister.

“The United Nations condemns these kinds of incidents in the strongest possible terms”, said the UN Resident Coordinator in a statement, protesting to the Tamil Tigers over the incident. “We are here to serve the needs of all the people of Sri Lanka and we expect the UN staff and property should be respected and protected if we are able to fulfil our mission”, he said in the statement.

**Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament

Also on the racks today are two reports of the Secretary-General on the UN Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament -- one for the Asia and Pacific, currently located in Kathmandu, Nepal; the other in Africa, located in Lomé, in Togo. Both are seriously underfunded, the Secretary-General writes, which has led him to consider the possibility of co-locating the Centres with existing UN offices in Bangkok in Asia, and either Nairobi or Addis Ababa in Africa.

And that report is out on the racks.

** Malawi

Turning to Malawi, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that 4 million people in that country are at risk of suffering from food insecurity. In response, the UN system in Malawi has begun preparations for a donor alert. The World Food Programme (WFP), along with the Government of Malawi and other partners, has already begun food distributions in the hardest-hit southern districts. But a large shortfall in available resources means that current food aid distribution plans are covering only 55 per cent of humanitarian needs. If adequate resources are not forthcoming, especially for the critical period, the situation could deteriorate.

**WFP - Gaza and Mali

In light of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the World Food Programme (WFP) has pre-positioned some 5,000 tons of food in 21 warehouses in the Gaza Strip. That’s enough to feed the 156,000 Palestinians, who currently benefit from WFP rations, until the end of October. In addition, WFP has started to provide all beneficiaries in Gaza with rations for July and August.

And also from WFP, regarding Mali, the agency today launched a new appeal for that country to help 175,000 children threatened by malnutrition. The agency is also now looking for $13 million as opposed to $7.4 million, to cover a total of 625,000 people until the end of the year.

And, on the situation in Gaza, we are asking our humanitarian colleagues if they could come down here and brief you on what the UN humanitarian agencies are doing, linked to the Israeli withdrawal.

** Somalia - HIV/AIDS

And just two more notes. From Somalia, the UN country team has just released a report explaining the HIV situation. It says that HIV will soon become a major health problem in Somalia, unless concerted efforts are put in place to contain the factors fuelling the epidemic.

And that press release is available upstairs.

** Rwanda Tribunal

And lastly, today, the former head of Rwanda’s tea industry surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, where he is to face genocide charges. The former director-general of the office, who controlled the tea industry, is charged with ordering his subordinates and others to kill hundreds of Tutsi civilians in and around the area of Gisenyi in Rwanda.

And, more details are available upstairs.

**Upcoming Briefings

And tomorrow, Margaret Carey and François Dureau will join us to brief you on the latest developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

And, before we turn to Mr. Derviş, any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question: There are reports that Zimbabwe’s going to restart its clearance project. Has the UN heard these reports, is it responding to these reports? And also, what’s happening to this appeal?

Spokesman: We spoke to our colleagues on the ground, and they are trying to seek some clarification, but at this moment, we’ve not been able to confirm any official statements from the Government that this policy would be restarted.

As for the appeal, it is still being finalized, but while it’s being finalized, a number of UN agencies are doing some work on the ground, including Habitat and World Food Programme and UNICEF, involving food distribution and sanitation issues.

Question: On Iraq, is it Mr. Qazi’s understanding that the delay in the Constitution of 10 days could go beyond that and is an open-ended situation now?

Spokesman: No, I think the focus, his focus is on the work that needs to be done in the period of delay, in the 7 days ahead; no indication that this would drag on. But, it’s key that all those involved redouble their efforts in reaching an agreement on the Constitution.

Question: Could I put in a request for a briefing from Under-Secretary-General [David] Veness on security arrangements for the upcoming summit, and particularly also, how they’re going to affect the media?

Spokesman: We had planned to have a briefing, I think a little closer to the Summit, on the general arrangements inside the house and in terms of access, and how they would affect you. I’ll check with security, but I think that’s planned for a week before the summit. But, we can move it up, we could ask for them to move it up, if you’d like.

Question: A week before the Summit is just after Labour Day?

Spokesman: Just after Labour Day. We could try to do it before, because I think that week’s going to be pretty busy, now that I think about it.

Question: I found out from my colleague concerning Iraq consummating the Constitution -- who originally wrote the constitution, do you have any idea? Was that somebody from New York, or from the UN, or from a private sector?

Spokesman: The Iraqis are drafting the Constitution, and we are assisting them in that effort.

Question: No foreign help?

Spokesman: It’s an Iraqi-led process, and we have a South African specialist, Nick Haysom, who’s there and who’s assisting them in drafting it.

Question: Regarding Security Council enlargement, is the Secretary-General currently in any talks with anybody, as requested, to find any kind of compromise to break through the impasse, or has he basically now abandoned the idea looking towards September?

Spokesman: No, I don’t think there’s been any abandonment, but I will check on meetings or phone calls that he may have had recently.

* *** *
For information media • not an official record

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