DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
4 September 2007
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon all. We have the participants of the 2007 Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalists’ Fellowship Programme attending our briefing today. Welcome.
**Guest at Noon
Our guest at the noon briefing today is Richard Kinley, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, who will brief you on the upcoming High-Level Event on Climate Change, to be held at the UN Headquarters on 24 September.
The Secretary-General has [announced his intention] to appoint Mr. Ashraf Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan as his Special Representative for Sudan. He succeeds Mr. Jan Pronk of the Netherlands, who left the post last year.
Mr. Qazi has been serving as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq since 2004. From 2002, he was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States in Washington, DC, and, prior to that, he held a number of other high-level appointments in his national diplomatic service.
We have more information on Mr. Qazi upstairs.
**Secretary-General in Sudan
The Secretary-General is in Juba, southern Sudan, today, where he gave a joint press encounter with the President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, in which he announced the appointment of Qazi as his new Special Representative for Sudan. The press encounter followed a meeting between the Secretary-General and Salva Kiir.
Before leaving Khartoum for Juba this morning, at a press encounter at the airport, the Secretary-General announced that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir had allowed the United Nations to arrange for the travel of Suleiman Jamous, a respected former member of the SLM movement, to Nairobi for medical treatment.
The Secretary-General is about to deliver a speech at Juba University on the importance of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Northern and Southern Sudan. While in Juba, he has also been meeting with key officials and showing his support for UN staff who work and live in difficult conditions there.
The Secretary-General arrived in Khartoum from Turin on Monday afternoon, and after a meeting with his team and the Acting Special Representative, Tayé Zerihoun, he gave a keynote address to the UN Association of Sudan.
In his speech, the Secretary-General again flagged the importance of moving ahead with the Darfur political process. “Everyone agrees there can be no military solution,” he said. “We need a ceasefire now. The violence must stop.” He added that a culture of impunity and a legacy of past crimes that go unaddressed can only erode the peace. We have his speech upstairs.
Yesterday evening, the Secretary-General attended a one-on-one dinner hosted by President Bashir at the Presidential guesthouse.
We have three sound-bites from the Secretary-General available from UN Radio if you’re interested -- two from the press conference given in Khartoum today and one following his meeting with Salva Kiir. We’ll probably have a transcript a little later on today.
**Statement on North Kivu
We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on North Kivu.
The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the ongoing armed clashes in North Kivu in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He calls on the Government of the DRC and all local stakeholders to persevere in their efforts to bring about a peaceful solution.
The Secretary-General is also very concerned by the impact of the fighting on local populations and calls on all parties to ensure the protection of the vulnerable. He urges all stakeholders in the region to focus on resolving the underlying causes of the crisis through dialogue.
The Secretary-General welcomes the positive outcome of the meeting in Kinshasa held yesterday between the Foreign Ministers of the DRC and Rwanda. He hopes both Governments will follow up rapidly on the understandings reached and that they will cooperate closely in addressing cross-border issues.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
Still on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that thousands of Congolese civilians are on the move in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s North Kivu province, amid reports of renewed fighting and rising tensions between government forces, renegade troops and rebel groups. Over the weekend and yesterday, UNHCR staff has found large groups of newly displaced people making their way on foot from Rubaya and other villages.
With the continuing displacement, UNHCR yesterday discussed the possibility of a new displacement site near Mugunga, which currently has as many as 18,000 people. The Refugee Agency fears that the pursuit of a military solution to the problems in North Kivu would further worsen the province’s humanitarian crisis through the potential displacement of hundreds of thousands of additional Congolese civilians.
Also, in Kinshasa today, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, with whom he discussed the current situation in the Kivus, the protection of civilians, and sexual violence. He will travel to North Kivu later this week.
The President of the Security Council for the month of September, Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert of France, is holding bilateral consultations with other Council members today on the Council’s work over the coming month.
The Security Council expects to hold consultations tomorrow on its programme of work for September. Then, tomorrow at 12:30, Ambassador Ripert intends to brief you in this room about the Council’s agenda during this month of September.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today is deploying a Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC) to Honduras, to support the UN Country Team and the local Government in coordinating international assistance and urgent needs assessment ahead of the expected devastation from Hurricane Felix. The six-member team has departed for the region.
The World Food Programme has also announced plans to deploy emergency teams and has sufficient regional food stocks to feed some 600,000 people for one month as Hurricane Felix prepares to make landfall.
WFP is also preparing to make food stocks available from its development operations in the region and is making standby arrangements for air and overland transport, as well as moving emergency staff into place. A key operational centre will be in nearby El Salvador, where WFP has its subregional logistics base, as well as in Panama, where its regional office is located.
Meanwhile, UNICEF said warnings and evacuations had been announced in all the countries to be affected by Hurricane Felix and the UN system was mobilized and had already pre-positioned water, shelter, water treatment stations and first-aid kits. In Honduras, UNICEF has in place 1,500 hygiene kits, water purification systems and educational materials for 100 schools.
From Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, responded to the Lebanese Army’s seizure of full control of the Nahr el-Bared camp with a statement saying that the fight against the Fatah el-Islam group was a fight of both Lebanese and Palestinians against terrorism and is a victory for all of Lebanon.
He said that, while continuing to address the humanitarian challenges of Palestinian families displaced by the fighting, the focus must also be on the speedy reconstruction of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp and support for Lebanese communities that have also been affected by the conflict. Pedersen gave his full backing to Prime Minister Siniora’s call for a donor meeting in Beirut on 10 September.
On Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, in his capacity as the head of the UN Mission in Iraq, yesterday welcomed the agreement and statements made by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and several political leaders in the framework of the leadership meeting of 26 August. He also welcomed the decision of Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr to suspend Jaysh ul Mehdi activities.
Qazi hoped that these developments would help bring about an environment in which violence could be reduced and progress made in national dialogue and reconciliation. We have his full statement upstairs.
On Timor-Leste, The Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste is out on the racks today, with his recommendations to maintain the current mandate of the Mission as it stands, with the exception of the electoral support area.
The Secretary-General said the security situation in Timor-Leste improved overall during the reporting period, but continues to be volatile and subject to sporadic violence, including the fighting on 6 August following the announcement of the new Government.
He added that, despite the recent flare-up in tensions, the advances made by the country thus far are considerable, including strengthening dialogue and reconciliation, embracing electoral processes as the mechanism for political competition and the people’s increased respect for rule of law institutions.
And on Nepal, Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Nepal, expressed his condemnation of the bomb attacks which killed and injured residents of Kathmandu on Monday.
He said that the Nepalese have shown a great capacity to resolve difficult issues through peaceful dialogue, and that he had no doubt that acts of terror will discredit whatever cause they are claimed to promote with the Nepalese people, as well as the international community.
On Kosovo, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo, Joachim Rucker, said that the United Nations Mission in Kosovo stood firmly behind the thousands of demonstrators who participated in an anti-crime march in Pristina earlier today. The march was a response to last week’s killing of Kosovo Police Service (KPS) officer Triumf Riza.
Rucker noted that the KPS had already arrested suspects in the case and he urged the local population to come forward with any information that may help the police fully solve the case.
On Cyprus, just a reminder, Tassos Papadopoulos and Mehmet Ali Talat, the leaders of the Cypriot communities, will meet at the official residence of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus, Michael Møller, in the UN Protected Area in Nicosia, at 4 p.m. local time tomorrow. This meeting follows a previous meeting of the principal aides to the two leaders, held at the UNFICYP Headquarters on 21 August.
** Côte d’Ivoire
On Côte d’Ivoire, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, begins a visit to Côte d’Ivoire today upon the Government’s invitation.
She will pay particular attention to the follow-up of action plans that are aimed at releasing children from armed groups and reintegrating them into their communities. She will also address the issue of sexual violence against children in the aftermath of the conflict. We have more details in a press release upstairs.
The planning for the investigation team on UNMOVIC (the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) is expected to be completed very soon. We’ll have more on that later.
**WHO -- Mental Health
In Geneva, the World Health Organization today is appealing to countries to increase their investment and support for mental health services. WHO’s Mental Health Atlas database shows that a majority of countries in Africa and South-East Asia spend less than 1 per cent of their health budget on mental health. Low-income countries have an average of 0.05 psychiatrists and 0.16 psychiatric nurses per 100,000 people (about 200 times less than in high-income countries).
There are several press conferences scheduled for tomorrow.
At 11:15 a.m. tomorrow, Ibrahim Gambari, Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and other Issues, will provide you with an update on the implementation of the Secretary-General’s good offices mandate in Myanmar.
At 12:30 p.m., Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert of France will brief you, in his capacity as the Security Council’s President for September, on the Council’s programme of work for the month.
At 3 p.m., there will be a press conference by Major-General Claudio Graziano, Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), on the situation in Lebanon.
This is all I have for you today. We’ll have in a few minutes Mr. Kinley as our guest. Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: When does Ambassador Ashraf Qazi take over his new assignment, and where will he be based?
Spokesperson: From what I gather, he will be based in Khartoum. I don’t have the exact date of his moving date yet. [The Spokesperson later said that Qazi ended his time in Iraq, and would begin in Sudan on 4 November.]
Question: Going on Mr. Qazi, has the Secretary-General decided on a new Envoy to Iraq?
Spokesperson: No, we don’t have an answer on that yet. I asked this morning.
Question: And you just said about UNMOVIC --
Spokesperson: Yes, UNMOVIC. Simply that the planning team is expected to be completed very soon. Potential members of the investigative team are being contacted. The investigative panel will likely be comprised of three experts, with additional support as needed. The UNMOVIC office site has been secured. In the meantime, we are still awaiting final testing results on the objects that were removed last week. As soon as we have more information to share, I will let you know. That’s all I have. Yes?
Question: Yes, on that, first of all, it wasn’t clear when the stuff was found and removed whether it was active or not. Since it’s been in the lab for what, four days now, five days, do we have any answer on that first of all?
Spokesperson: Not yet. Not yet.
Question: From the federal --
Spokesperson: Not yet.
Question: And the second thing is, how long, what type contract does the nominee for the Sudan post get? Is it a year contract, a two-year contract, six-month contract?
Spokesperson: I’ll check on that. Yes. Masood, I’m sorry. You’re not through with your question. Did I miss something?
Question: No, I was asking the same thing about Qazi.
Spokesperson: Yes, okay. Fine.
Question: Michèle, the FBI is involved in the investigation. I think originally, UNMOVIC required the FBI to investigate. Now the UN is forming an investigative team. Is there something you can tell us? How did you handle this accident? And have you had any results from the FBI [inaudible] studying the chemicals? Are the chemicals dangerous or not? We haven’t heard anything.
Spokesperson: Well, we don’t have a detailed report yet on that. As far as we know, there was no danger, and this is what was said when you had the briefing last week. As far as the group that has been constituted, the Secretary-General needed answers on a number of questions concerning how long the stuff had been there, how it was recovered, when it was transported and all this. So he is asking questions, and that team is supposed to give answers. And there will be experts in there that work -- experts in armaments and other chemical weapons issues.
Question: The experts are UN experts?
Spokesperson: No, they are not UN experts. They are being contacted. They are external experts who will be contacted to join the team.
Question: Does it involve US authorities also?
Spokesperson: I don’t know. I don’t have the details on the team yet, because it is not constituted yet. Right now, they have been trying to get in touch with people who would be qualified to be doing this type of research.
Question: Yes, one more on this. Has there been any request by either city or federal authorities to do any inspections at the UN? And if there were such a request, would the UN grant them, given what happened last week?
Spokesperson: Well, the “if” questions -- as far as I know, no. There has been no request for that. I can try to get more information for you from the security services.
Question: I wanted to ask about the meeting in Turin -- if we can have some kind of a readout on what -- in terms of reform -- what reforms were discussed there. And also there was this interview that Mr. Ban did with La Repubblica, where I think he was quoted as saying, this was the first retreat of senior officials. Anyway, is that the case, or have there been previous retreats on Long Island, in Westchester and other places?
Spokesperson: Well, there was a retreat in Long Island, which was in Greentree, which was a very limited one, because most of the people had not been yet assigned to the different posts. So it was a much smaller one. And of course, this was a much larger one, with, as I said, about 54 participants, among ASGs and USGs. I don’t want to have our guest wait too long. So I’ll give you more about the retreat later on.
Question: Luis Moreno-0campo was reported yesterday saying that he told Mr. Ban to be sure to raise this issue of the International Criminal Court indictees with President Bashir. So I’m wondering, was that issue raised in the meetings that he’s had so far with President Bashir by the Secretary-General?
Spokesperson: I don’t know at this point. I can ask.
Question: On the Turin retreat, do you know if they discussed how to extend the Ethics Office across the whole UN system? And just as a follow-up on that, does the SG have any reaction to last week’s call by the Union representing all UN employees to the Ethics Office to have jurisdiction in Tony Shkurtaj case?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has received that resolution by the UN staff. He certainly is studying it. Whether this was discussed at the Turin meeting no, it was not. What were discussed were much larger issues, concerning, for instance, reforms in general. Of course, the idea of the Ethics Office, but not specifically that one issue, but the idea of the Ethics Office’s jurisdiction, of course, it was discussed among the reform issues, but not specifically on the whistle-blower issue. What was discussed again was risk assessment, peace and security issues, a more integrated UN role. They discussed the prevention of conflict, they discussed communications. They also discussed working with private sector partners. It was more of a general agenda. It was not on specific issues, like you mentioned.
Question: [Inaudible] mentioned whistle-blowers [talk-over]?
Spokesperson: No, that was not discussed specifically, no.
Question: And what was the Secretary-General’s reaction to the Union’s resolution last week?
Spokesperson: He was informed of it. I don’t have a specific reaction. Yes?
Question: You mentioned Al Maliki. Is that another position with the opposition to secure the peace in Iraq or what?
Spokesperson: There is nothing new. I’m just giving you the latest; it’s just an update. I’ll get back to you on that, on specifically when.
Question: Are you sure that the specific issue of this whistle-blower person was not discussed in Turin, and if not, why wasn’t it discussed since it was the subject of a system-wide staff union resolution? I think it’s certainly on the agenda somehow of the UN.
Spokesperson: It is definitely on the agenda, but it was not discussed at that specific meeting, Benny.
Question: Are you sure?
Spokesperson: Yes, I am sure about that. If it was discussed, it was discussed maybe in smaller units. But in the public meetings, it was not discussed.
Question: I don’t get it, I mean --
Spokesperson: Because they were talking about peacebuilding, prevention of conflicts -- there were a number of issues being discussed.
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For information media • not an official record
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