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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 08 November 2012

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

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon. Welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Guatemala

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the Guatemala earthquake.

The Secretary-General is saddened by the loss of life, and the damage to homes and infrastructure in Guatemala as a result of the earthquake that struck off the coast of the country near the border with Mexico on 7 November. He extends his sincere condolences to the Guatemalan Government and people, particularly the families of those who have been killed or otherwise affected in this disaster.

The United Nations stands ready to lend its assistance to efforts already under way by the Guatemalan authorities to respond to humanitarian needs created by the disaster and to mobilize any international support needed for that response.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council received an update on Libya from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, Tarek Mitri, who briefed Council members by video-link from Tripoli.

Mr. Mitri said that Libya has moved forward in its political transformation, as has been clear from the July elections and the formation of a new Government. He discussed the recent fighting in Bani Walid, and said that he had conveyed the UN’s concerns about the protection of civilians to the Libyan President and Prime Minister and had received assurances that they would be protected. The UN Mission in Libya, UNSMIL, has provided teams to help assess humanitarian needs in Bani Walid and to help the authorities in clearing munitions there. And we have his remarks in my office.

And earlier, the Council discussed and approved the annual report it is presenting to the General Assembly.

** Darfur

The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, UNAMID, is urging the Government of Sudan to quickly conduct its planned investigation into an incident in Sigili village, in North Darfur.

On Tuesday, the Mission deployed a joint civilian and military team to Sigili to verify recent reports of alleged violence. The team found the village completely deserted, with apparent signs of an abrupt departure. It also noticed several signs of destruction of housing and property, killed animals, and burnt houses. The team also tried to reach the Abu Delek area, but was stopped by members of the Popular Defence Forces and had to postpone their mission.

** Mali

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that 4.6 million people remain at risk of food insecurity in Mali and that access to food for people living in the north is deteriorating. Mali is also faced with a major challenge — that is access to education for thousands of children in the north. In the south of the country, more than 130 schools have been damaged following floods in September and October. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that funding remains insufficient, with only 49 per cent of requirements covered.

** Lebanon

Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, visited the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Naqoura today, on the second day of his visit to Lebanon. He met the head of mission and Force Commander, Major-General Paolo Serra, and other senior officials.

Mr. Mulet was briefed on the UN mission’s activities in southern Lebanon, as well as its coordinated operations with the Lebanese Armed Forces. He made a helicopter tour of the Blue Line and visited the Eastern Sector of the UN mission’s deployment in the general area of Ghajar, where he received a briefing on the ground from mission staff.

** Haiti

I was asked yesterday about violence in Cité Soleil, in Port-au-Prince. The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, informs us that it is providing technical support to the Haitian National Police to conduct inquiries into these incidents. In addition, the Mission has increased its presence and activities in the area.

**Noon Briefing Guest

Tomorrow, the guest at the noon briefing will be Ion Botnaru, the Director of the General Assembly and ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Affairs Division of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management. And he will be here to brief you on the forthcoming Human Rights Council elections, which will take place this coming Monday, 12 November.

Questions, please? Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Today, the Foreign Ministry of Lithuania summoned the Ambassador of Belarus to Lithuania, to protest against the attack on the Lithuanian Embassy in Minsk, Belarus. Did the Secretary-General receive any information on this incident, which has been called a terrorist act against Lithuania?

Spokesperson: I haven’t heard of any correspondence on that matter, but I’ll check for you. Thank you. Yes, Matthew?

Question: Sure, Martin, I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about Myanmar. One is that the… in… in… beyond the Rohinghya issue, in Shan State, the officials there are talking about ceasefire violations and a breakdown in… in… at least in one part of this positive trend that has been painted of late. And I wonder, is the UN aware of this? What… what are they trying to… to do about it?

Spokesperson: I’ll check with my colleagues who work on that matter, I don’t have anything at the moment.

Question: And they weren’t… because I… I noticed that when… when… when Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar spoke to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural), the… maybe it’s two days ago now, he… he ended his presentation by saying he’d like to be given more, quote, “elbow room”, in… in the mandate. So, I mean, maybe there is some negotiation that you can’t go into, but it was unclear, or at least even some Member States didn’t know what exactly what it meant, does this mean… does it ref… what does it mean?

Spokesperson: At this point, I don’t either.

Question: Okay, okay, all right, all right, so that’s… that’s… I’ll put that, elbow… elbow room question out there.

Spokesperson: I’ll try to find out, yeah. Okay, if you give me some, and I’ll find out.

Correspondent: Okay, no, that’s great.

Spokesperson: All right. Hank, yes?

Question: Good afternoon, Martin, thank you. A letter from the Iranian delegation to Secretary-General Ban’s office, the President of the Security Council’s office and the PGA’s [President of the General Assembly] asking for… condemning and asking for a wider condemnation of a new Israeli threat from Mr. [Benjamin] Netanyahu, I wondered, did Ban receive… Mr. Ban receive the letter and does he have any sort of a comment on it? It’s not the first time.

Spokesperson: I am aware that a letter has been publicized; I have seen an e-mailed copy of that letter from the Mission, but I do not yet know for sure that the Secretary-General has received it officially, and so I will need to check on that. But, in any case, the Secretary-General has said many times that tensions in the region and differences in the region need to be dealt with through dialogue. And he has also expressed his concern about rhetoric with regard to this particular topic, and I don’t think that his views will have changed on that. Okay, any other questions, please? Yes, Matthew?

Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you… we’ve talked before about this, the incident that took place near Duékoué in… in Côte d'Ivoire in the Nahibly IDP [internally displaced persons] camp. I remember, you know, the… the… the last I asked you, you said the investigation remains ongoing. Now, they… they… they’ve found they say up to 10 new… new… new sites. I just, I guess I wondered was, I was never clear after Mr. [Bert] Koenders said that… that the UN did nothing wrong and dismissed allegations that the peacekeepers hadn’t defended… hadn’t protected civilians efficiently, what the… what the investigation can, you know, consisted of and now since that happened, you know, in the summer and now we are in November, is it the same investigation? Is the investigation of that IDP camp attack that took place in the summer, that’s the one that is still ongoing or is there a new one?

Spokesperson: I think this is a separate matter. It is part of the same story, if you like, these tragic events, ghastly events, that unfolded at that time. So what we are aware of at the moment, and that… let me tell you what we are aware of, and that is media reports in relation to mass graves, and the investigation into this matter is being conducted by the authorities of the country, so the Côte d'Ivoire authorities. The United Nations has consistently welcomed efforts to shed lights on the tragic events that took place in Côte d’Ivoire and on all initiatives to bring justice to victims. So that’s what I have at the moment. That, with regard to the media reports on these mass graves, as we understand it, the investigation is being conducted by the authorities of the country. On the broader question that you have asked about the mission’s own look at its own operations at the time, I would have to come back to you; I don’t have anything, any update on that at the moment. Okay, other questions, please? Okay.

Question: This will be a little more mundane, it will be…

Spokesperson: Okay, sure.

Question: Okay, a change of pace. The… the… in the… in the… after the response to… to Hurricane, or I guess superstorm Sandy, I just… I guess I want…

Spokesperson: Which is far from mundane.

Question: Right. No, no, I understand, I am… the question that… you will see where I am going with this; I guess I will be as mundane as possible. Today at the Security Council, many people were wearing their coats during the meeting, and in fact they held the consultations even with closed doors in the big room instead of the small room and I am told this is because there is no heat. So I just wondered, it wasn’t clear to me, is this… is this… is this one of the ongoing…

Spokesperson: Come to my office, Matthew.

Question: Right, I’ve seen people in here, is this… I mean, do you a… do you acknowledge or is this an ongoing effect of the superstorm, and what’s the plan to address it?

Spokesperson: It’s quite simple: many people, not just in this building, but well beyond it, and possibly you too, don’t have heating. This is because of the knock-on effects of the storm, Sandy. As we understand it, the providers of the steam heat for this building, and to other buildings nearby, are telling us that it will take some time to restore that. They haven’t given us a precise time; they are hoping to do it as soon as possible. So it is not specific to this compound. It is a service that is provided by a utilities company and that lack of heat is something being experienced by others in the immediate vicinity for the same reason, and more broadly in the area around us for other reasons. There are many people who are pretty cold at the moment. But certainly, it is no mundane matter when people cannot focus on what they are trying to focus on.

Question: I just want… one follow-up, because I… I didn’t know whether we were using… that it was Con Ed, I mean, that… that explains it and… and I understand that. There is one thing I just — and this may be again something if you can look into it — I have heard that there was… in terms of the power, when the power was turned off here on the day of the storm, and I remember Mr. [Yukio] Takasu said, you know, it wasn’t… that power didn’t fail, the UN decided to turn it off and turned it off. There are different accounts and I would just like to kind of clarify them of… of who… you know, who decided to turn it off, when it was turned off and whether in fact there was some dispute, interdepartmental or some delay in making this decision to turn it off, could we just get a kind of a… si… si… just a simple and it could be… you know, very… you know, one sentence or a paragraph of how… how the decision was made to turn off the power and which department, whether Management of DSS [Department of Safety and Security] or some other department, made the decision?

Spokesperson: I simply don’t know the answer to that, Matthew, and I would have to find out. And we will try to do so. Thanks very much, have a good afternoon, thank you.

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