DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
FOR INFORMATION OF UNITED NATIONS SECRETARIAT ONLY
Ahmad Fawzi, Deputy Spokesman for Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali, began today's noon briefing by saying that the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Sylvana Foa, was not there because she had a speaking engagement in London tomorrow, 20 March, after which she would be joining the Secretary-General on his trip to China, the Republic of Korea and Japan. The Spokesman's Office put out a statement yesterday giving details of that trip.
Mr. Fawzi said that, in the morning, the Secretary-General had addressed the plenary session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. He had made a change or two to the prepared text of his statement that was released yesterday. Therefore, the Meetings Coverage Section would be releasing a revised version today. The Secretary-General had said that considerable political progress had been made on a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests and that a broad consensus had already emerged that all explosions, however small, must be banned. Therefore, there could be no acceptable threshold. That was a completely satisfactory development, and the international community expected no less. Everyone was aware of the special responsibility the nuclear Powers had in that area, and so he urged them, in particular, to ensure that the treaty really deserved its name -- that is, that it be a comprehensive ban on all nuclear tests. (See Press Release SG/SM/5927/Rev.1.)
In the Palais des Nations in Geneva, the Deputy Spokesman continued, the Secretary-General met with the President of the Disarmament Conference, Nigerian Ambassador Ejo Abuya. He also met with the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Nuclear Test Ban, Netherlands Ambassador Jaap Ramaker, as well as the Chairmen of the Committee's working groups: Russian Federation Ambassador Grigori Berdennikov and Egyptian Ambassador Mounir Zahran. The Secretary-General also met Susanna Agnelli, Foreign Minister of Italy and current President of the Council of the European Union. She had just addressed the Commission on Human Rights, which was meeting in Geneva.
At 12:30 p.m. Geneva time, the Secretary-General met Edouard Brunner, his Special Envoy to Georgia, Mr. Fawzi said. They were joined by the Secretary-General's Special Adviser, Ismat Kittani, who had recently returned from visiting Tajikistan, Georgia and Iran. In addition to the situation in Georgia, the Secretary-General and Mr. Kittani discussed the situation in Tajikistan.
The Deputy Spokesman said that, at 4:30 p.m., the Secretary-General met with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Sadako Ogata. At 5 p.m., he met Salman Khurshid, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs.
At 5:30 p.m., Mr. Fawzi continued, the Secretary-General met his Acting Special Representative for Western Sahara, Erik Jensen, who had just arrived in Geneva to brief the Secretary-General. In an effort to break the stalemate reached by the parties in Western Sahara, on Friday, 15 March, Mr. Jensen had travelled to Tindouf. He met with Mustafa Bachir Sayed, Coordinator of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). Returning to Laayoune, he met with the Moroccan Coordinator with MINURSO, Governor Mohamed Azmi, and reviewed a modified programme of work. On instructions from the Department of Peace-Keeping Operations, Mr. Jensen had initiated a reduction in Identification Commission staff pending the resumption of the identification process. Sufficient staff had been retained beyond 31 March to operate four identification centres. Under-Secretary- General Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, Special Political Adviser to the Secretary- General, had paid a visit to the mission area in January, meeting with representatives of Morocco and POLISARIO.
The Deputy Spokesman said that tomorrow, 20 March, at 10:15 a.m., in Geneva, the Secretary-General would be meeting with Permanent Representative of the United States Madeleine K. Albright, as part of one of the regular meetings the Secretary-General had with Mrs. Albright and representatives of Member States. In the afternoon, he would be leaving for Paris where he would meet with President Jacques Chirac and Foreign Minister Hervé de Charette on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, 23 March, he would leave from Paris for his Far East tour.
Mr. Fawzi said that over the past few years the Electoral Assistance Division of the Department of Political Affairs (which had helped more than 40 nations organize elections) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had been assisting the Comoran electoral process. That process had culminated in the presidential elections held on 6 and 16 March.
The Acting Director of the Electoral Assistance Division, Nour Eddine Driss, had gone to the Comoros to observe the elections and to coordinate the activities of the international observers for the first and second round of elections, the Deputy Spokesman continued. Both contenders, Mohammed Taki, the President-elect, and his opponent, Abbas Djoussof, had stated that for the first time since independence in 1975, the Comoros -- which had experienced 17 coups or coup attempts -- held a presidential election in a democratic, transparent and free atmosphere. They both expressed their appreciation to the United Nations and the international community for assisting the electoral process and for the return of stability in the country.
Concerning another election, Mr. Fawzi said the United Nations was today launching a consolidated inter-agency appeal for Sierra Leone, where successful elections were held on 15 March. Over the past five years at least, a cycle of violence had forced more than 2 million people to abandon their homes. The United Nations and non-governmental organizations were
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appealing for $57 million over the next 12 months. (See Press Release IHA/592 issued today.) It was particularly critical for support to be available quickly as the capacity of relief organizations to deliver assistance was greatest during the current dry season.
Turning to the Security Council, he said it was scheduled to discuss the report of the Secretary-General on the Sudan, pursuant to resolution 1044 (1966), as well as the situation between Iraq and Kuwait. It also had before it a draft statement on Iraq by the President of the Council, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, Permanent Representative of Botswana. It noted with concern the situation in Iraq where inspectors were recently prevented from entering a number of buildings. (The Council later adopted the Presidential statement on Iraq, and another on Sierra Leone.)
Last week, the Secretary-General had issued a report on the Sudan and Mr. Gharekhan's recent visit there. Resolution 1044 (1996), adopted on 31 January, had requested the Secretary-General to report back within 60 days. The Secretary-General's report concluded that the Sudan had not yet complied with the demand of the Security Council to extradite three suspects wanted in connection with the attempted assassination of Egyptian President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak on 25 June 1995 in Addis Ababa. The report also said that all the neighbours of the Sudan visited by Mr. Gharekhan had accused it of supporting terrorist activities within their borders.
Regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Fawzi said that Sarajevo had now been reunified. Grbavica, the last Serb-held suburb of Sarajevo, had been transferred to Federation control in the morning. The situation in that town had been reported as calm. At least 1,900 Serb residents had registered with the International Police Task Force (IPTF) to remain in Grbavica. Both the IPTF and the Implementation Force (IFOR) had strengthened their presence in that town, and they were conducting extensive foot patrols and spot checks on the local population.
Throughout Bosnia, Mr. Fawzi said, the United Nations had 629 civilian police monitors deployed, of which 405 were in the Sarajevo region. The authorized strength was 1,721. The first report of Carl Bildt, the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, would be issued as a Security Council document later today.
Yesterday, Ms. Foa had said that the second round of Intra-East Timorese talks would open today at Schlaining Castle, Austria. The talks had indeed opened, and a press release from Vienna (UNIS/PS/210) was available in the Spokesman's Office.
"No payments today to the regular budget, I'm afraid", Mr. Fawzi said. "And I, therefore, am not wearing the hat which Sylvana borrows from me to wear." The outstanding contribution to the United Nations remained at
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$3.1 billion: $1.2 billion for the regular budget, and $1.9 billion for peace-keeping.
There was some good news on the budgetary horizon, however, he added. The Secretary-General was continuing to receive letters from United States citizens wishing to make their small contributions towards reducing the United States debt. One letter had come from a group of citizens in New Canaan, Connecticut. They had enclosed an advertisement which they had published in their local newspaper, the New Canaan Advertiser. Signed by 33 individuals, it comprised an open letter to the Secretary-General: "Dear Mr. Secretary- General, the undersigned residents of New Canaan, Connecticut, enclose their checks to the United Nations, covering their share of the funds owed the United Nations by the United States, which we understand amounts to $4.40 per person. We make this gesture in protest against the failure of the United States to fulfill its treaty obligations from its membership in the United Nations. Through our individual protest, we hope to send a message and to set a small example, which we hope our Government will follow."
Fifteen checks covering payment for 29 New Canaan residents were included. A cover letter to the Secretary-General said that no acknowledgment of those first payments was desired; however, if after a proposed second phase acknowledgement seemed appropriate, "a latter to the New Canaan Advertiser thanking all the townspeople who participated would do very nicely".
The Deputy Spokesman said he had no doubt that the Secretary-General would be sending a thank-you note. The letter to the Secretary-General concluded, "Ours is a small community and a small gesture. However, we hope it can be an example to others of what we hope is our national conscience".
Another letter had come from North Carolina: "I read that the United States debt to the United Nations amounts to $4.40 for each American citizen. Enclosed is a check for $8.80 to cover the share for my wife and me. I may not always agree with the United Nations, as I do not always agree with the United States Government. I am proud of my country, yet I cannot but feel shame at its being a deadbeat by failing to honour its financial obligations. I would expect my tenants to pay their rent, or my poker companions to pay their gambling losses, even if they disagreed with me about politics or religion or whatever."
A correspondent asked whether the letter was from United States Senator Jesse Helms, who is from North Carolina. "No", Mr. Fawzi said, "but I can tell you it's copied to Senator Helms. They copy these letters to their Senators and Representatives." The Secretary-General had now received 462 checks form 1,047 people. The total as of 18 March was just under $6,500. "It's a drop in the ocean of $3.1 billion, but it is much appreciated by this Organization."
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On a separate matter, he called correspondents' attention to a background note on peace-keeping operations that was available at the documents counter. The two-sided, one-page document gave, as of 1 March, information on all the United Nations peace-keeping operations, including acronyms, numbers of troops, and when each operation was founded.
He was asked if he had anything further to add to the Secretary- General's comments in Geneva today on the United Nations talks with the Iraqi Government on the "oil-for-food" formula outlined by Security Council resolution 986 (1995). He said no. What the Secretary-General had said today was essentially a confirmation of what the United Nations Legal Counsel, Under-Secretary-General Hans Corell, and Iraqi Ambassador Abdul Amir-Al-Anarbi had said yesterday, namely, great progress had been achieved, there was an outstanding issue that remained to be resolved, and the United Nations was confident it would be resolved.
A correspondent said he had heard that countries neighbouring the Chernobyl nuclear reactor were thinking of making an appeal to the Secretary- General for help, and he wondered how the Secretary-General might be able to help. Mr. Fawzi said he had not seen any recent appeal from the residents of that area, but would look into it. The Secretary-General had repeatedly said that incidents like Chernobyl were a good example of globalization. Their effects were not limited to one nation or its neighbours. For example, an oil spill off the coast of France could affect the beaches of Brazil, and the destruction of the rain forests would affect the climate in the United States. The Secretary-General had always consistently warned of the dangers of such incidents.
Asked what the Secretary-General and Mrs. Albright would be discussing, Mr. Fawzi said it was a routine meeting, addressing items of mutual interest and issues on the United Nations agenda.
A correspondent asked whether there was a list of issues the Secretary- General was going to discuss during his Far East tour; in particular, would he engage in preventive diplomacy concerning jurisdiction in the South China Sea? The Deputy Spokesman said the Secretary-General's visit had originally planned for 1995. The issues formerly on the agenda remained on it. He was sure those issues included the South China Sea, but it was only one among many other issues the Secretary-General was going to raise. The chief purposes of the trip were to reinforce the relationship between the United Nations and China, Japan and the Republic of Korea; to discuss ways to solve the United Nations financial crisis; and to meet with the leaders of those nations and hear what they had to say about their relationship with the international community.
A correspondent asked if the world was now a much happier place since Sarajevo was reunited and was a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi- religious as Tehran, and since Mostar was as united as Beirut. Mr. Fawzi said
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that was an unfair question, but that the United Nations did hope it was seeing the beginning of a new era in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Asked who would be representing Iraq when the "oil-for-food" talks were scheduled to resume on 8 April, he said it remained to be seen. It was not known if Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz would be coming. The Secretary-General had said in Geneva that he was willing to participate in the talks if Mr. Aziz joined them. But as yet, Mr. Aziz had not informed the United Nations that he was coming, and, therefore, it was not known at what level the talks would be chaired.
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